- Vol. 09
- Chapter 10
I’ve become more risk-averse as I get older. As I waited in the Toronto airport to return home after my mother’s funeral in northern Ontario, I noticed an unattended bag plopped on the table in front of an ordering tablet. I waited for its owner to appear; when nobody claimed it, I alerted security — the eventual removal elicited clear relief for others waiting for their flights. Whew!
A few months before that risk aversion, I’d remonstrated with an infatuated individual reluctant to bid goodbye to their lover, even after the second flight attendant’s instruction to turn off all mobile devices. ‘Turn it the **** off!’ Other passengers looked around in surprise, but I accomplished my objective. I tried to settle into repose, but mostly failed.
So I was startled, rather, to encounter a Mountfield mower blocking the tube doors on London’s Central Line, and an apparently abandoned rucksack slung against the other side. Nerves twitching, I opted to walk a little further along the platform, hoping to jump aboard another carriage before the doors closed again.
As I hastened forward, I glanced through the windows. A couple were enwrapped in a desperate embrace, tears streaming down the cheeks of the individual facing out. The other one pulled back, as I watched, and covered the crying one’s face with kisses. The kisses, over and over again, elicited a response, within a moment, and soon their mouths were glued together. It was a private, passionate frenzy of love making, within a tiny second of time, heedless of any public perception, in the otherwise deserted carriage. Abashed at the depth of emotion between the two lovers, I hurried on and slipped into a seat out of sight as the doors closed.
I thought back to my youth, examining the risks I had taken, all unfearing, all spontaneous and threatening fate. The times I’d jumped on freight trains, or hitch-hiked across America. The unprotected sex — it was the time, then. The time I rode my racing bicycle across Jamaica to Negril Beach, or down the Champs Élysées and around the Arc de Triomphe. The time I moved toward my destiny, my own life-time lover, our family yet to come. I bring these moments up when I feel I’ve become too risk-averse, when I’m feeling staid and old.
I hoped the couple had rediscovered a passion they thought they’d lost forever. I hope that embrace went on forever. I hope they never grow old, never become averse to taking risks, never betray the passion they’d ignited between them.
But I’m old enough to know that life goes on, that new risks arise and it is wise to listen to caution. I watch my step now, fearing to injure my hamstring again, fearing loss of personal mobility.
With age comes a decreasing sense of immortality, a realisation that the final aversion is increasingly impossible to achieve. Life is a risky adventure, but each moment can be lived in its own time.