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25 year old crisis, p.1
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       25 Year Old Crisis, p.1

           Ana Garay
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25 Year Old Crisis

  25 Year Old Crisis

  Ana Garay

  Copyright Ana Garay 2011

  Chapter 1.

  - You're gonna get your ass kicked a lot, so you'll better prepare for it.

  - Is that it?

  - What do you mean "is that it"?

  - You're not going to tell me anything else?

  - What were you expecting? that I said you were gonna meet your "other half"?

  - No... well...

  Well, to be honest, when you pay 25 euros for someone to read your hand, having no faith whatsoever in the art or science or whatever you want to call it of palmistry, the least you'd expect is a couple of white lies, such as "you're going to meet the man of your dreams" or "you're going to win the lottery". Nothing too original, just a couple of clichés to make you feel a bit better, to get your money's worth. Had I known this, I would have gone to get a facial, which might not have helped me to sleep better but at least would have concealed the rings under my eyes.

  And the worst is that she might be right. Leaving aside the fact that - after seven years living together- my boyfriend has left me and that my first class masters degree as interpreter and translator has got me a badly paid job translating user manuals for erotic toys of some unknown Chinese maker... as I was saying, leaving all that aside, I just got stuck to a chewing-gum!

  Everyone talks about the famous "middle age" crisis, but what about the 25-year-old crisis?!

  Take me as an example: not so long ago I was a self-confident person, in a long-term relationship and with prospects of a successful career as interpreter for the UN. And now... I can't even get the discount for the "youths" at the cinema!

  Chapter 2.

  On my birthday, a rainy Sunday of the month of December, I decided to treat myself by going to the hairdresser's. My satisfaction with my new haircut got completely spoiled when, as I was paying, the hairdresser asked me: “how old are you?” Pleased to have the opportunity to share with someone the happy news that it was my birthday, I readily answered “I'm twenty-five today”. “Oh! Shame! We make a special discount UP TO twenty-five”. No point in smiling, begging or flattering my eyelashes as if I was a seductive “Tweety”, he wouldn't make me the two euro discount I would have been entitled to had I chosen to have my haircut one day sooner.

  That was the first time I realized I had left the lucky “youth” club. Since then, I keep being reminded everywhere: on the bus, on the tube, at the cinema, the theater, museums, parks, saving accounts... even some pubs have started to make special discounts for “under twenty-fives”!

  So here I am, literally stuck to the pavement, not knowing very well which way to go. It turns out that is another symptom of this ill-researched 25-year-old crisis: indecision. Yesterday I spent half an hour at the supermarket trying to decide which toilet roll to buy, aware that – if I were to make the wrong decision- I would have turns and turns of twelve rolls (plus 2 complimentary ones, how generous!) to remind me of my mistake. In the end, incapable of making a decision, I bought the same as always and this morning I had to go down to the Starbucks round the corner because I couldn't stand the idea of sitting there, staring at Dave's favourite toilet roll. Seven years buying his bloody three-layer lavender-scented toilet roll! Seven years at a roll a day – because I'm afraid he was Bran Flakes regular and not too concerned about tree-felling- make... two thousand five hundred rolls!, which multiplied by 2,35 euros the packet makes... But then we would have to take into account the special offers of 14 rolls for the price of 12, discounts, inflation... five thousand six hundred... no, seven hundred... Bugger! You see? I can't even do simple maths! Apparently, from the age of 24, brain cells start dying faster that they reproduce, and mine seem to be doing it at top speed!

  A piece of advice if you think you might suffer from this atypical crisis: don't search for comfort in science, it won't help. According to scientists, we have already left behind the best years to have children, lived half of the average life of a human being in most countries of the world and our body has started an irreversible deterioration apparent in the death of cells and ageing of tissues... all that before having worked long enough to be entitled to unemployment benefits!

  Anyway, I'd better make a move because the waiter from the café across the road is starting to give me a bizarre look. And no wonder, I've been standing here looking lost for about twenty minutes now... to the left? to the right? bloody indecision!

  Chapter 3

  She was crying. Sitting in front of me in the underground carriage, her hands shaking, her eyes red, she was crying silently. Surrounded by people: a girl absorbed by the music on her headphones to her right, a man reading the newspaper to her left, a mum trying to get hold of two children running in the corridor… and yet, she looked completely alone. The dozens of people who shared this constricted space with her seemed to completely ignore her sorrow. As for her, she didn’t appear to see through the mist of sadness that covered her eyes.

  I hadn’t seen her getting on and had only noticed her presence when the curtain of people in between us started to get off as we approached the city centre. However, since then, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I felt like a voyeur peeking into a private life without the right to do it and, at the same time, with the duty to do something in front of a tragedy no one else appeared to witness.

  You’ll think it’s silly, but no one has needed me for a long time. First, it was my children, they found a job, a wife… they made their own lives; then, at work, I started to refer my patients to other colleagues until I retired and, five years ago, my husband died. Since then, don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of people to help me: the young lad at the supermarket who always offers to carry my shopping; my daughter in law, with her “tupperwares” of lentils, which - I don’t have the heart to tell her - are a bit too salty; the social worker with her weekly meetings; the porter, who waters my plants so that I don’t have to lift weights…- and yet, no one needs me. No one, except for this stranger sitting just a few inches from me.

  Chapter 4

  Right? Left? Short of better ideas for a boring Sunday afternoon, I decide to go home and do some work. The inspiring prose of the instruction manuals might cheer me up:

  “- Introduce the device carefully in the vagina or anus.

  - Introduzca cuidadosamente el aparato en la vagina o ano.

  - Introduisez l'appareil avec précaution dans le vagin ou anus.

  - Introduca con precauzione l'apparecchio nella vagina o ano.”

  It is often said that University doesn't really prepare you for the workplace. Granted, this is not exactly the type of text I envisaged myself working on while I translated Shakespeare at college. Still, I must admit that it probably has a much more international public than the UN reports.

  My problem is that I wasn't very adventurous in this kind of exploration to start with and all these translations of manuals explaining how to produce an orgasm as if they were explaining how to do the laundry of delicate fabrics with or without spin-drying has completely killed it for me.

  After seven nights in a row without sleeping when Dave left, having tried counting sheep, changing pillows, drinking lime tea and hoovering (all unsuccessfully), I decided to try one of these devices whose marvellous properties (and possible risks if used inappropriately) I am so familiar with. Since then, I can't help but agree with my nan's long maintained theory that washing machines can't compare with hand wash. I am aware that I am a disappointment for the generation of modern and self-sufficient women I'm supposed to belong to, but that's the way it is.

  - “And she won't move, eh! Look at her, standing there in the middle, not letting anyone get off! How rude!”

  Suddenly, a voice
takes me out of my day-dreaming. She's right: I'm standing in the middle of the train's doorway, clearly blocking the exit. I try to apologize and explain that I hadn't realized, but the woman who had spoken is looking at me with hatred. Everyone seems to be frowning at me. And I feel really bad, guilty, I'm really sorry, truly... as I walk down the aisle to hide at an available seat, I can't hold it anymore and I burst into tears.

  Chapter 5

  It's official. I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Lately anything makes me cry. Last week, I finished a whole packet of tissues after finding all my white laundry had turned into a nice pinkish colour courtesy of a forgotten napkin in the washing machine (a further argument for my nan's theory about hand-washing).

  In the middle of an existential crisis prompted by the realization of my failure as a woman (who should know how to do her washing properly), I called my older sister for advice.

  There you go, another symptom of the “25-year-old” crisis: ten years fighting to make your own decisions and, when your mum has finally stopped telling you which shoes to wear with that lovely dress aunty Rose gave you for your birthday, all you want is for someone to tell you what to do. And you do it. No questions asked.

  So when my sister advised me to go to an acupuncturist, something which – in normal circumstances- I'd have thought completely out of character, I simply asked her to get me an appointment. Apparently it works really well for her anxiety when she's on a diet – which is almost always. So, even if an existential crisis might seem slightly more difficult to treat, I thought I'd give it a go.

  Everything was going well, I was laying on a stretcher in a room painted in relaxing shades of blue listening to water streams and birds, when – as he inserted one of the needles- the Chinese guy decided to get to the root of the problem:

  - You not practice enough exercise.

  - Why, on the contrary! I go to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday and on Saturdays I go walking. Ah! And I don't use lifts, and I live on a seventh floor, mind!

  - Yes, yes. But you not practice enough exercise in bed. Exercise in bed very important for health.

  - Hmmm...

  - Pretty girl like you not have boyfriend?

  - Hmmm...

  - or girlfriend?

  - Hmmm...

  - Oh! what happen? Needle make pain? No, no, not cry, me take off needle quickly! You not cry, you not cry...

  Chapter 6

  The advantage of being a 1.50 m. tall woman of seventy six is that no one distrusts you. So, when I ask a neighbour if he could tell me which apartment a young unhappy-looking girl lives in, he immediately answers:

  - Sixth floor left.

  Slightly worrying that she is so readily recognised by that description. I'm definitely going to have to do something about it!

  - Is she your granddaughter? Do you want me to come up with you?

  Bugger! Where are all these kind well-mannered people when you need them?

  - No, no, don't worry, I can manage.

  So as not to appear suspicious I get in the lift while he leaves the building. The trouble is that, now I'm here, I'm not quite sure what to do. When I saw her getting off the tube, I followed her instinctively but now I'm going to need an action plan. I can't just knock on her door and say: “may I help you somehow?” I risk ending up at the hospital accused of senile dementia. Oh, yes, when you get to a certain age, you have to be very careful with these things. For instance, these days I never make comments such as “Oh! I'm awfully sorry, I completely forgot about your party”- which would have been perfectly harmless a few years ago. I'd much rather say “I knew perfectly well about your party but I rationally chose not to go”. Likewise, I have started a little diary where I note down all the relevant - and not so much so- details about the lives of my daughters in law's friends and relatives. Before every family reunion, I revise them carefully and then I take every available opportunity to drop in a remark such as “Sure! Your friend Kate! Of course I remember her! Isn't she the one who graduated from the University of Manchester with a final mark of 7.3 and then opened a chemist's on 25 Hamptom Street?” They might doubt my manners, but not my mental health.

  Chapter 7

  When I get home, the phone is ringing. Which one of the one hundred and ninety-six jobs I've applied to in the last three months (not including the “unpaid voluntary opportunities”) might they be calling me about? Considering it's Sunday afternoon, the options are limited. However, that doesn't completely discourage me. It could always be from a Muslim country... maybe that job in Libya for 200 Euros a month without insurance or travel expenses? Given the current situation of the country, there might not be many people wanting to go and live there, thus lowering the usual ratio of applicants (normally around 1000:1) and giving me a chance of getting at least to the interview stage...

  No such luck. It's my mum. Should I pick up? I'm depressed enough as it is, no need for my mum's reproaches. I turn round and I start taking off my shoes. The phone rings again. I ignore it. I get in the shower and try to relax under the hot jet. But it keeps ringing! As I dry myself, it starts again. Sooner or later I'll have to face it.

  - Hello? Oh, mum! Is that you? What a surprise!

  - I've called you eight times today: at five, at five past five, at ten past five...

  (I'm sure that'd be considered harassment in the States. I never thought I'd say this, but “If only I was American!)

  - … and I can never get hold of you (I could suggest trying on my mobile, but I might regret it later on). You're never at home! It's as if you weren't happy anywhere!

  (I should mention that my mum lives in a two floor house with five bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living rooms, a dining room, garage, terrace and a garden the size of a football pitch. I live in a 14 m2 three in one apartment. I believe it's understandable I might need to go out a bit more).

  - Well, I went out to ...

  (Better not to mention that the reason I went out was to visit a palm reader who predicted a very black future for me. Anyway, she doesn't give me the time to finish my sentence).

  - Yesterday, I saw Mary (a neighbour I spent all my childhood with) and she asked me about you.

  - Oh, really? (Wait, that's a safe and pleasant topic of conversation, we'd better not lose it!) And how's she doing?

  - Well, you know, she's here, as always. Not everyone is always running around aimlessly like you! (Bite your tongue, Claire!) She is settled, living with her grandmother and her boyfriend. She's at home all day. I see her when she goes out to hang the clothes and I always tell her: If only my daughter was a bit more like you! No one would believe you grew up together! What shame, this daughter of mine! Lost in the world, without a house, without a boyfriend, without a job... (Because, obviously, what I have doesn't qualify as a “proper” job for my mum).

  - But does she have a job? (It was her who started with the comparisons!)

  - What does she need a job for! Her boyfriend works. She looks after her grandmother and the house.

  Just the thought of being in this position that my mum describes as “ideal” makes me shiver. For the first time since the beginning of my 25-year-old crisis, I feel too young. Too young to be so “settled” and with such a “clear” future. Could that be another symptom of the crisis?

  Chapter 8

  What if she has slashed her wrists? The phone keeps ringing in her apartment and no one is picking up! She hasn't thrown herself out of the window or I would have heard the bump in the street... What should I do?

  Oh! I know! This must be one of those “emergency situations” my children keep telling me I need a mobile phone for. No problem. After years fighting for my principles, last Christmas I had to give in and accept one of those things as a present for the sake of family peace (the things a mother has to do for her children!) Today is the day when it finally comes in handy.

  Not knowing who to call yet (if I try the emergency services, we go back to the same problem that
it could be me who gets in trouble), I get the phone out of my bag...

  Out of battery. I knew these machines weren't the miraculous solution my children seemed to believe!

  Anyway, I might not be needing it in the end. The phone has stopped ringing and I think I've heard a voice coming from the apartment. I get closer and listen carefully. After five endless minutes, I finally hear a “no...” and, a bit later, a “hmmm...”

  She's alive. She still doesn't sound very happy, but she's alive. It's a start. I look at the name on the door: Claire Robinson.

  Feeling a bit like Miss Marple (yes, I know, embarrassing, but we all have our guilty pleasures and mine was always Agatha Christie's novels), I decide to go back home to prepare my action plan. Only then do I remember that I was supposed to be going to the cemetery to take some flowers to my husband and that I've actually been carrying them all along. Oh, well! I'm sorry, Frank, but I think this girl needs them more than you. I put them on the doormat and leave.

  Chapter 9

  “You look beautiful when you've cried”. Dave always used to say that. I should have guessed then that he wasn't the right guy for me... and the worst is that he might have been right!

  After another sleepless night, a new crying fit took place in my apartment at eight in the morning after realizing that I wouldn't even have the comfort of a good morning coffee because I had just spilt the last bit of milk all over the kitchen floor.

  Therefore, in case the picture of my misery wasn't complete, my day started kneeling on the floor, cleaning up the milk between sobs and trying to stop my mind from establishing any kind of parallelism with the milkmaid's tale. It was bad enough that my morning was ruined, I didn't want to turn it into some kind of prophecy about the failure of my dreams and aspirations (I have the fortune teller for that).

  With the floor clean and my hiccups more or less under control, I opened the door of my apartment to go out and face the world in search of a litre of milk, only to find an unexpected bunch of flowers on my doormat.

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