The cheap, squat container of white cream makes a wild claim: the power to stretch time, to make it elastic and supple. All I have to do is grease my face nightly, submit to the sting, and it will dam the water that is bubbling beneath the surface, conspiring to burst forth and rake my face with lines. I can be the boy who saved Amsterdam by jamming his finger into the dike. If I do my part, perhaps the water won’t surge through and ravage the city. At least not yet.
My best friend, the same age and the same single, says she doesn’t care. “You can’t stop it, why try?”
Because what is a wrinkle? It’s a thin, papery canal through which your loveliness drains to the sea.
A summer camp in a magical corner of Belarus is my haven, the two weeks of the year where the future doesn’t exist because the present is giddy, unconscious Eden. I’m there to teach English, but mostly what I do is run through the virgin forest with the youth, slick with sweat and bug spray, bounding toward infinity. But even there, time hunts. When the girl learns my age, she tells me in blunt Russian, “tiy khorosho sokhranilas!” (“You’ve kept well!”)
I smile. Because doesn’t every expired good love to hear those words?
You’re still consumable.
It’s not time to throw you out. Not just yet.
Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin says, “…beauty will save the world.” Will it save mine? Because Myshkin was pure, but he was also an idiot. Maybe I am too, fighting against the inevitable because I can’t comprehend the mathematics of glory. But just in case, I’ll keep my finger in the dike.
My mother is beautiful. Wrinkles aren’t wrinkles on her, and my father knows it. Fifty-seven and smitten, he sees her with eyes of truth because her beauty is always growing in glory. Spirit of strength, a holy firmness, an unending prayer, they all bloom in her face, in lovely dark eyes and freckled skin and the laugh that is immortal.
A platitude might be true, but it can’t reach us in this empty well where we sit, cross-legged, muddy, beers in hand. “If our greatest fear is never being desired,” my friend says, “then it sure feels like that fear is coming true.” If a platitude did dangle just far enough to grasp though, we would push it away. It would only bring us to the surface, not to the unrevealed glory that will shatter our fears. In the depths where we sit on legs of quickly dimpling flesh, there is still the stretching of time, elastic and supple. The forever we chew on, seen only faintly and quickly by the light of our last match, warms our stomachs as we rest in the dark, singing, waiting.
Hope Johnson is a romantic soul who will rave about Russian literature for hours if you don’t stop her. She strives to find God’s faithfulness amidst the weight of unfulfilled desires, and she is passionate about encouraging other single women on the same journey as her. She writes at https://hopeunyielding.com.