Originally written for: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/age-is-just-a-number-1.943450
She looked in the mirror, quizzically at her own reflection. The bags under her eyes, which she had years ago, promised herself would go as soon as she started sleeping and eating better, stood out as though spelling her gloom. She smiled at the mirror and she noticed how the laugh line stayed incarnated in her skin.
She held a chunk of flesh from her cheeks between her thumb and forefinger and pulled at it. When she released it, her skin stayed pinched for a second before returning to its normal state. She peered at her neck, and stood up straight. No matter how erect she made her neck, the lines wouldn’t disappear. Her hair had started greying long before today, her 40th birthday, but gladly, easily accessible solutions in the market took care of that.
And it wasn’t just her sagging skin that revealed her age, it was everything. From the resigned look in her eyes, (a testimony of forgettable and painful experiences), to her gnarled and knotted fingers, her entire being betrayed her age. Where flights of steps were once conquered in a few carefree leaps, she now had to conscientiously handle each step, one at a time, or risk falling on her now troublesome knees.
Her eyes refused to read those woe-begotten restaurant menus, not that she could order anything besides soup and steamed vegetables — because generally there was either too much salt or too much sugar in everything she wanted. The hypertension disallowed anything with sodium and her borderline sugar level meant that the sweetmeats she had once devoured without a care (except for her previously demure waist) were off-limits.
She marvelled at how age had crept upon her. It had arrested her progress midway on the fast-moving highway of life, as her body became unable to deliver as much as before. She had never thought that she’d age so fast — age had always been something lurking in the distance, somewhat like death. And then it had suddenly turned upon her with venomous rage. First her hair, then her hands, then the numbness in her feet, then being short of breath with the least activity — like a broken string of pearls each sign of age followed the last with alarming accuracy.
Dreams. Oh yes! How she had dreamed she would change the world — her world, at the very least. She would live her life according to her own terms — do what she did because she wanted to do it, and not because she had to, confined in her apparent freedom. She would love and be loved, and she would make a difference. She would, she would, she would, but as she pushed a carefully dyed auburn lock of hair away from her eyes she realised sadly, that she never did. And what could have been a definite possibility now stood far away in the mist, no longer a real proposition. Time, and indeed youth, had been squandered. Close enough to touch with an outstretched hand, she thought to herself, is the death she once thought would never touch her. Who knew when it would arrive, and make this ageing seem like a blessing in comparison? There was still life in her veins, movement, no matter weaker than before in her limbs. There was voice in her vocal chords and the gift of sight. All was not lost.
There was hope. Hope of a better tomorrow. And perhaps, she thought to herself, as a tear streaked down her cheek, death would not be a feeling as empty as ageing. Perhaps it would mean a task accomplished, a job well done, a life lived to its best, an end celebrated for the simple perfection of its journey.
Life. She still had life. Magical, mysterious, and full of possibilities. She could still make it count, and to her, age was just a number. If truth be told, in many ways, her life had just begun.