Worse for Wear

This morning I pulled on one of my favorite pair of jeans. As I pulled them on I noted the tear above the knee had increased to the width of the front panel. The trendiness of thread-bareness is lost on me. I just like a profoundly comfortable pair of jeans. I also chose to wear a pair of light blue boxers so that some other, less modest rips might go unnoticed. But as I carefully fed foot one and foot two through the netting of these soft friends I admitted to myself that they were unlikely to endure another trip through my wash. Clock ticking.

I remember hearing from the old codgers of my youth, as though it were an insult, “Why I have ties older than you.” Now I recognize it as a grim confession. That if our socks, and sweaters and ties have pre-dated some smart Alec kid, then they are earmarks. Little indicators that we were around in 1985 or 1992. “That tie was from a student when I taught at that school back then…” My closet is full of these indicators, these “Ebenezers.” Each peice of clothing has aged some faster and some slower. Jeans age like rockstars, or dogs at about seven times our speed. Ties meanwhile age slower, like you can inherit your granddad’s ties. Shoes are sort of funny, they vary according to use, same as us. I have running shoes that are pretty well spent in less than a year, while I have dress shoes that have held up several years, and I have had ski boots since college.

I carry all of these little totems around with me and their aging reminds me of mine. Each item I outlive reminds me of how time fleets. And that is what it does, exactly. Fleet comes from the Middle English word “fleten,” (as in fleet of ships) or, Old English, flēotan to float. So when you hear the cliché that “time is fleeting,” well I suppose that is so. As boats float down streams , certainly we float along with time. Here we are unaware that time is passing and we note that these jeans have been rendered almost invisible by the ravages of time. As I consider my aging parents and my lost friends they too were “rendered” by time.

So I will wear these pale blue emblems to time carefully today and will hold off on putting them in the wash another week or two. I hope that as I start to fade and forget and slowly unravel I get few more trips out of the drawer before i am casually run through another cycle and begin to show that I am truly “worse for wear.”



Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go

followed obediently by the title, the plot,

the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel

which suddenly becomes one you have never read,

never even heard of,


as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor

decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,

to a little fishing village where there are no phones.


Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye

and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,

and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,


something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,

the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.


Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,

it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,

not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.


It has floated away down a dark mythological river

whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those

who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.


No wonder you rise in the middle of the night

to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.

No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

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