“The most surprising thing,” the Boss says over dinner, “is it’s like there’s a two thousand year old you.”
It’s certainly a surprise to me. I’ve been looking tired, I know that. Let’s face it, I am tired. There’s been pressure at work recently. On top of that there are other worries, relating to friends and family. Not to mention the sense of a year dying away that you always get in the autumn; the clocks go back and the cruel joke that is English Summer Time finally owns up and darkness draws in.
All good reasons to be lacking my usual bounce. In fact, that’s why we are having this short break in the Sussex countryside. It’s why we gave ourselves this chance for dinner in front of the log fire at the local inn, following our afternoon walk through the park to admire St Margaret’s church. We haven’t had a rest in a while and we need a chance to relax.
I admit there are days when I’m tempted to say I feel a hundred years old. But two thousand years? That’s a bit harsh.
Even if I wasn’t so tired, I can’t deny there are years on my clock that I can’t wish away. I look in the mirror and I wonder where he went, that smooth-faced young man whose eyes were always smiling. When did my dad start staring back at me instead of the reflection I grew up with? But even though I’ve got older than my dad ever did, that’s still a long way from a hundred, or a thousand, let alone two thousand.
I mean, two thousand years old? What would that look like?
Or maybe, I think as I sip my beer and return the Boss’s pleasant smile without responding to her hurtful remark. Maybe she doesn’t mean I look two thousand years old. Maybe she means I act it? Maybe my attitudes are dated, could that be it? She’s never complained before, but this could be a dangerous time. Now that she’s not working and I am, do we risk slipping back into more traditional gender roles? I think back over the events of the previous few days, asking myself where I might have upset her. I can’t think of anything, but maybe that’s the way it is with a man becoming a dinosaur; you don’t notice your own archaic attitudes and behaviour as they gradually undermine the affection of the woman you love.
Two thousand years, though. That’s not Victorian attitudes, it’s Druid territory.
We finish our meal and leave the inn. Neither of us speaks much as we return to the hotel and go to bed. As I lie in the darkness, the Boss already asleep, I have a further awful thought. Maybe it isn’t me, it’s her: maybe our time together is beginning to feel to her as if it has gone on too long. Maybe I don’t act or look like an ancient relic, but that’s what she feels our relationship has become.
What would a two thousand year old marriage feel like? It isn’t a good thought.
The next morning things are still cool and quite between us. The Boss asks me what’s wrong but I shrug it off. After breakfast we pack our bags in the car and take a final walk through the churchyard. Dew shines on every surface under a porcelain sky.
There is a large tree beside the church. The Boss points at a wooden sign nailed to a post in front of the tree. “There,” she says. “Like I said. A two thousand year old you.”