The little girl, around five or so, carefully adjusted the camber on the ramp, with is to say that she moved a few bricks around to what she felt was a safer launching point. The little boy, his head amass with brown curls and thoughts of motorcycles, pouted a bit, but internally agreed that it was probably less susceptible to catastrophic failure than the angle he had scornfully placed it. They both solemnly watched the sun set over the Appalachian Mountains, their faces bathed in the late fall warmth. The smell of apples, dried corn, brownies and soup beans with fatback was redolent in the falling temperatures, accompanied by the sound of leaves brushing against one another as they fell. The end of one season, the beginning of another.
Some forty feet or so above the launching pad, as the boy had started to think of it, astride his brand new Green Machine, the wind stirred again, blowing his long hair aside as he looked with wonder at the little girl. She was tall for her age, with the wisdom granted to some in their early youth normally reserved for adults in the last glow of their trips around the sun. Her long blond hair was bleached to almost white by the sun of the mountain tops and the pounding waves of the mighty Atlantic, where she spent her summers by the seashore. Her tanned skin was smudged and she studied the launching pad a bit more, her brown eyes frowning as she considered the vectors involved in launching an unwieldy piece of plastic after it’s decent had increased the speed far beyond any design anticipations of the engineering staff, who were mostly leftovers from the failed attempts to build stealthy munitions from engineered material.
The little girl, after the contraption passed her begrudging approval, turned and gave the boy a thumbs up. She was pretty already: A network of barely visible sun freckles across her nose and cheeks, with a stubborn look-adults-straight-in-their-face attitude that spoke of independence and distrust of authority that became the hallmark of our generation. The boy was also a prophecy of his years to come. Thoughtful and intelligent, although not quite as capable as the girl, he had the ability to create smoke and ruins wherever he went, with a tendency to sit in astonishment in the aftermath of his calamity, calmly wondering what had went wrong.
He crossed his legs on the Green Machine so that they wouldn’t get caught on the pedals, settled firmly into his seat, tossed the apple he was eating to the core aside and grimly, gleefully, launched himself off the side of the dirt embankment. The rest of his life lay before him. His to do as he pleased with.
We were mostly rebels, all of us who are members of the single most shrinking generation of human beings in the U.S. The members of our previous generation, the flower children, the hippies, the stoners; finally caved with little to no resistance to the very systems that they had opposed for so long. The welcomed the move to suburbia in mass numbers and begat the largest growing and wealthy members of a wide-open open economic boom that lasted beyond anyone’s expectation.
Their parents, the great generation, the ones who fought in World War I, the Native American extermination and world-wide ethnic cleansing that shattered the world as nothing else before it, gave birth to extremist beliefs: Racism, social, economic and socioeconomic stratification on a whole new level, beyond slavery and its consequences. Instead they shifted to a new paradigm of ultimate power, a system of assimilation and extermination of unique races, religion and opportunity for millions of people and simply took over the world on a scale never before imagined or orchestrated.
We were the first forgotten generation, abandoned by our parents and as they relentlessly pursued the American Dream in an environment no longer tolerant of such dreams. We matured and grew despite school systems that didn’t care, fostered by our own intolerance of previous generations who betrayed us with nuclear warheads, starvation, and government-sponsored takeovers of basic human rights. Energy and basic services were micromanaged not only in the U.S., but even more aggressively in what was a rapidly shrinking world. We watched in total horror on our T.V.’s as the media showed us in the last gasp of free press the grisly details of a world that was at last controlled completely, effectively and totally taken over by a select group of old white men who were hell bent on taking their last grievances to their graves. This method of control gave birth to a new power, one that existed in the shadows, silently controlling world events and the media’s interpretation of them. These new conquerors wanted only one thing: Power. With that control the wealth of the world became available and shared by a select group of individuals, all white, all male and all with a united agenda: Take over the economic engines, by whatever means necessary, of the entire world.
The X-Generation became the first to gleefully pursue education beyond what anyone expected. We were largely unidentifiable by dress, actions, race, gender and most importantly: Money. We also scattered like small fighting chickens before an advancing and unavoidable pack or unified wild dogs. Mostly defiant, unafraid and still posturing as if we wanted to stand and fight; we instead fragmented into small and often individual groups. We embraced and gave birth to the internet, technology and knowledge. We spearheaded a cultural revolution that amounted in the end, to nothing.
We shamelessly embraced heavy metal, rock, rap and music of all types. We gleefully engaged in illegal activities on a scale not seen in the U.S. before. We formed gangs, runaways, drug trafficking enterprises: All of which began with a distinct and total lack of trust with and disdain for authority. We grew up in a world that was supposed to end in a nuclear firestorm that never happened. The exasperation of those in power with us soon waned as the realization sunk in that in truth, there just wasn’t enough of us to make a real difference and the end, we just didn’t care.
The boy, a decade later, had become a defiant young man, honed by years of living in poverty, embracing the brutal work required to survive in a geographical region which had long depended on the work ethic of its members. He and the girl had outgrown the school that finally accepted them, taking college classes on the side, rapidly outpacing their teachers and leaders and aggressively challenging the narrow mindset of a cloistered mindset dependent upon an unwavering interpretation of religion, not unlike any other environment of isolation around the world, stubbornly holding to a belief in subordination of women to the harshest of requirements, where it was deemed an unforgiveable sin if skirts did not touch the ground, toenail polish was forbidden and long hair was the mark of ultimate dedication to their husbands god and they felt was holy.
The girl had not bent nor wavered in the face of severe persecution, and had grown uncomfortably into the beautiful woman that her early years had suggested. Still both cursed and blessed by her intelligence, she still loved everyone around her with a fierceness that she could not control nor truly escape. Once again she found herself adjusting the height of a ramp in an attempt to keep the boy, hell bent on self-destruction in his rebellion against everything, somewhat intact as long as she could. He was impatiently waiting, as he had as a child, on her to give him the thumbs up. Astride his new machine, a bastard mismatch of motorcycle parts that he had assembled into the equivalent of a time bomb on wheels, disdainfully without a helmet of protective gear of any kind, his long curls still uncut in a world full of men who scorned long hair, gunned his engine as she turned and reluctantly gave him a thumbs up. Three cars were assembled in front of the ramp, headlights blaring and speakers thundering Metallica, like some futuristic computer game yet to be written in DOS by someone watching. He threw away the clutch and buried the throttle. She watched until he slid to a stop, basking in the adoration of his female fan club, all screaming his name. Then she walked away. Into another life of higher education and people who accepted her as she was.
Two decades later, they are still the best of friends. Despite the miles, broken hearts, and wildly differing paths, they still remained in touch. Somehow, she knew just when to reach out, feeling the pain as he ultimately paid the price for a life full of broken bones, surgery, addictions, big wave wipeouts and crashes. He is finally wiser, more cautious and thankful for every day he can enjoy. He carries all the scars, both physical and mentally, of a life lived in the unwavering belief that he was indestructible. He now, finally, understands. She is still the beautiful woman she had always been, with a softness in her gaze belied by a heart that never stopped caring.
They sit in the glow of another sunset, another day, another time well spent and enjoyed. She doesn’t worry about him quite so much, but he still carries the air of one who, at his core, believes he is indestructible. He still projects, despite the scars and hair that is now rapidly turning white, the easy charm that befuddles him. She glances at him and a smile touches her face. Their two children, a boy and a girl, both glowing blonde curls, dive into the oncoming waves generated thousands of miles away, laughing as only children can. They are blessed with small children, surrounded by a new generation of parents, who gasp with horror as the two kids place themselves in what they feel is like, a totally dangerous place. Their spouses, both wondering at times what goes on the heads of their dearly beloved partners, are returning from a run on the beach, collapsing with the content of the exhilaration of physical exhaustion. Kisses and hugs are exchanged and the children come running out of the surf, their skin bright with health and supervised play.
The sun sets once more. Another day awaits. Their rebellion is over, but still simmers like a banked fire under the surface of frozen clay.