I miss being sixteen. Not for the obvious reasons, but for a very specific feeling, I seem to have lost.
I didn’t get a driver’s license until I was nineteen or so. It wasn’t a huge deal because I had friends with cars, and I had my bike. I spent a lot of time on my bike, and I knew the area around my house well.
One spot I used to visit on a regular basis was on the edge of office park near my house. It was some sort of building with a secure entry, so the smokers were given a little patio with an 8 foot high cinderblock wall that ran all around it. The only way to get in was from the building or climbing the wall.
I used to go there around sunset and climb that wall to just sit there. The view was sort of east, so it was in shade but I could see the mountains and watch as the light turned more and more pink as the sun set behind me. That was my spot as a teen and I loved it there. It was a great spot to go to think about things, and it was out of the way enough that no one was likely to see me there. I wasn’t normally the type of teen that had issues with the police, and I knew from experience that just getting caught there wouldn’t get me into any real trouble.
None of that is why I’m feeling what I’m feeling as I write this.
Many of the best times in my life have been due to the summer rain. From riding one, lone shopping cart back to the grocery store while “singing” Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyrie (Ba ba-ba BA ba, BA BA-BA BA ba, ba ba-ba BA ba, ba ba-ba baaaa) at the top of my lungs as the thunder crashed all around me, to working with a kendo partner in a grove of trees in a local park, the sky so dark we could only see each other in faint silhouette until the lightning flashed and lit the area like daylight. Even the road marches in basic training were better I the rain, until we had to put on our ponchos.
I loved the rain. I really loved thunder and lightning. One afternoon, I went to my building and sat on my wall as a summer thunderstorm moved through and I loved every second of it. It took me out of my head and away from real life. All my problems, minor though they were, were forgotten. Grades didn’t matter. I wasn’t freaking out about whether or not that girl really liked me. I didn’t care that I didn’t have a car. I was alone, and I was fine with it.
As I type this, I sit about 300 yards from that wall. It’s still there 25 years later. I’m still here, too. It’s 2 AM and I’m at work. Most importantly, there is a raging thunderstorm outside. I can see the flashes and hear the thunder. I’ve got the sudden boomers, and the lower, distant rumblers, and if I were 16, I’d be out there in the middle of it.
Right now, I’m not feeling anything. I can see the flashes. That last one was just over 400 yards away. I made it to “one-one thousand, two.” Not only did I see the white flash, but some blue and pink as well. There is no reason I should be anywhere other than standing in a dark room watching it, but I’m not. I’m sitting at the desk, writing about it. Where did the magic go? Why isn’t this as cool as it used to be? I know lightning didn’t change, so it must be me. But why?
Growing up sucks. I miss being sixteen.