YEARS LATER, I pulled into a hospital car park with a poem on my mind.
Lately one line in particular had been talking: take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
I didn't know how you did that - surrendered the things you love.
The dance scene was many things, but mostly a movement of youth. From the moment you discover it, certain in your conviction it is important and it means something, the sand starts, flows. You have many years - good years, glad years - but time passes and you age and the dance scene stays the same.
And then one day you wake and you are attending engagements and thirtieth birthday parties, not twenty-firsts or farewells for mates off travelling.
An aficionado now, you know the good electronica, have a visceral dislike for the cheese and the tossers it attracts, yet jaded, also, and even in the better clubs of the deeper underground, the kiddies, with their exuberant first-time-on-drugs ways, begin to annoy.
No, you don't want a massage. No, you don't sell pills. No, you don't need a huff from their just used nasal inhaler. You believe, truly, the scene was better, less mainstream, more real when you were their age.
House parties and backyard BBQs become the norm. The music still electronic, for it was the soundtrack to your generation, but the talk now is of mortgages and children, not upcoming parties or touring superstar DJs.
You drink because the come down wasn't worth the come up, nod to the tunes because restraint has evicted enthusiasm, and late in the evening the boys still sneak off for a cheeky cone, or two.
And all this with the same faces laughing over the same stories with perhaps a shake of the head over just how far you'd come, until even they begin to fade, one by one, and you realise that, soon, there would be no one left to storm with.
It was a death, gradual but implacable, I had watched and sullenly mourned for several years; for the good days gone never to be known again.
A death I could feel at work inside as I diminished in the world, a star that had consumed all its fuel, becoming more insular and isolated, more remote - so much so that one friend felt compelled to sit me down one day and have a chat about 'no man being an island'.
And it all would have been okay, all of it . . . if only I'd had a choice, or been ready to let go. But I didn't. And I wasn't. And it felt as if, dangling over a precipice, my fingers were being forced open against my will.
I was thirty-one, single, and still in love with the dance scene as if I were ten years younger. It was the source of my best and brightest memories: mental heirlooms my mind polished like trophies over a fireplace. My fondest wish was to create more. And more.
Nothing lasts forever. I know that. But I wasn't ready to let go. Not yet. Not even if I was now prone at dance parties to attracting well-intentioned young fluffys in their first throes keen to tell me: "Man, I hope I'm still going hard when I’m your age." Their tone quite convinced they would never be that old.
I didn't know how you gracefully surrendered the things of youth. Being graceful wasn’t a big part of my make-up.
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