9.31 Shades of Grey

It finally happened. The other night, I was in the bathroom at a pub washing my hands when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror under those terrible kinds of fluorescent lights. There it was - two strands of long grey hair that made me audibly gasp. For about a year, I had been getting small grey hairs on the sides, right along the top of my ears. So, grey hair wasn’t new to me. But, I thought that perhaps just the sides would go grey, at least for now, and I’d have a few spare years left of it overtaking my entire head.

I was wrong. The invasion had started happening.

I shouldn’t be so ageist, especially towards myself. What’s the difference? I mean, I am getting older and this is just a reality. It’s inevitable. Unavoidable. And I certainly don’t picture myself as one of those guys who dye their hair.

This was definitely a sign that the times were changing and I sometimes like to place myself on to a continuum, just to see where I was along the trajectory of life. Was I on the right track? Were things still evolving and unfolding in the ways they should be? What does that even mean anymore? As they should be?

A few months ago, a close friend of mine came to stay at my house for a couple of days. For various reasons, all which are not necessary to detail here, he left his apartment on short notice and had not found a new place. Along with himself and a few required items that could not be put in storage, he brought Frank, his Norwegian Forest Cat.

Now, I’m not opposed to animals, I had dogs while growing up. However, living for a few years in a condo building that not only allowed dogs, but was full of them, I had very quickly learned something important about myself. I still really did like dogs, I just did not like their owners. From owners who can’t seem to understand the concept of a ‘leash’, to working from home next door to a dog that sounds as though it’s getting tortured - I never blamed the animals, I blamed the humans.

Anyways, I digress.

At first, my feeling towards Frank could largely be classified as ‘mild indifference’. As the days went on, he started wearing me down. Sitting on my lap when watching a movie, crawling over my keyboard when working and spraying a line of - fkadfsdlfnasfdnasdflasjflasdlfaslkdfsakmdflakd. My friend was out looking for apartments a lot, so Frank and I got a fair amount of quality time together.

My friend was having a harder and harder time trying to find an apartment in this dreadful Toronto market, we started getting on each other’s nerves. Old resentments blew up and arguments came out of nowhere. Finally, one night after an especially difficult conversation, I went out for a long walk. I finally had to ask my friend to leave, even though he really didn’t have anyplace to go.

I am really thinking that it is me, all these broken relationships, broken promises. Things that had so much potential at the beginning, but just end up broken. Was it me? I am the common denominator in all these things. But, as we get older, aren’t we all our individual common denominator? When you’re around long enough, aren’t there going to be things and people that just can’t work? Can’t be sustained? Is there a time where we stop being able to understand why we do things, and instead just live amongst the broken things, not able to put our pieces back together?

At the very least, he asked me if I could keep Frank, at least until he was able to find a new place. Frank is still with me. I feed him, take care of him. We talk about our days. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Maybe the grey hairs are humbling. Some nights, when I’m watching something or working, Frank sits next to me and stares. I pet him, thinking of specific things and just general things, of people long gone and those still here, and I repeat over and over, “Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me.”

Paul Dore