We have 8 years before it happens to him.
If time has taught me anything, it’s that she waits for no one, sneaking up behind you while you plan and ponder and erroneously assume she will be generous and accommodating.
22 is the magic number.
The ledge is always there. In the beginning it looks so small you have to squint to really make it out. You’re too busy hoping and dreaming to really notice it anyway.
Each year though, it gets easier and easier to see until you’re so close you can’t take a step without falling and then that birthday comes along and someone shoves you all off before you can say, “Wait! We’re not ready!”
Oh but they try so hard to make it a happy occasion; caps and gowns in royal blues, tassels for those who manage to tolerate them. Sometimes there are two or three students at a time, sometimes just the one. No matter how many, the stage is always too big, the audience too small.
There is no valedictorian.
No one announcing Johnny’s college plans or Becky’s sports scholarship award.
The music is faint, the applause scattered.
I once sat next to the parents of one of the graduates.
They tried so hard to look happy and proud and in their own way they probably were, but their exhausted eyes deceived them, weathered hands gripping each other, knuckles white against the strain.
I wanted to make small talk, but I couldn’t summon “Congratulations!”
I probably should have kept my mouth shut.
In the end, the words came out anyway, awkwardly slipping past my lips before I could stop them.
They started back blankly.
I wanted to climb the stage, take the microphone from the teacher’s hand.
Instead, I made promises I couldn’t keep to people I didn’t know.
“It’s going to be okay.”
Then I counted backwards in my head
We still have 8 more years.
Maybe things will be better by then.
Maybe someone will think of something by then.
Maybe they’ll get rid of the ledge by then.
We only have 8 more years.