Like many milestones and turning points, the transformation into an invisible vampire has no fixed crossover date. How gradual the metamorphosis seems impossible to ascertain, how detectable before 50 entirely subjective and the exact when probably dependent on whether or not you lost your first parent before or after middle age and if after how far into . The two abilities seem more parallel than intertwined, but however coincidental they’re one of the few aspects of aging genuinely empowering.
So, physical transparency – an unnoticed until now ability not to be seen – discovered only when you became aware that you suddenly needed to insist people younger than you notice you’re there. First sign was earlier in your 40s than you admit to when you realized that flirtations are not just being ignored, they’re not even blipping on the collective radar of anyone still fertile. Soon all strangers have no care whether or not you’re there at all. Avoid throngs and you navigate in and around the moving masses more smoothly than ever. You’re no longer noticeable enough to be hassled. Which is great for people watching, another living-in-the-city joy.
That’s when I noticed the new level of unintentional vampirism. I was in Washington Square Park in mid-July and student groups galore and dozens of smaller cluster of recent adults. This latest 25 & younger folk having their summer in the city. My friend is turning 60 in February and she’s younger than I. Utterly unbothered, we sat on the stone benches of the circular perimeter between the fountain and the arches and dozens of young people were there, chattering away. Dancers were performing, a guitar player led a sing-along next to vendor tables of jewelry, art and cannabis product. On the other side of the walkway was the space around the arch where skateboarders crisscrossed, flipping their boards while twirling mid-air.
Everyone happily milling and meandering. Around obviously foreign necks were lanyards displaying photo-IDs but even their guardians with the tablet-clipboards were decades younger than my friend and I. The crowd wasn’t thick, nobody was bumping into each other, and diverged into two layers – the outer one nearest the performances, tables and fountain side and on the other rim was the skateboarding space and its own ring of spectators –everyone in this more static orbit lingered, watched and lollygagged, in no hurry to disperse.
The other, inner concentric belt of humanity only a few feet from we on the stone benches, flowed… moving not in any rush but consistently, youth strolling purposively but with undiluted leisure, not missing the moment.
We fed long enough to glow. I slowly realized that was why I felt like I just got a shot of Vitamin B as the time-released adrenaline kicked in. So much youth in one place. Not just any, but masses of pure young adult. Those hormones and pheromones, the biological power somehow now an unstoppable burst of intangible energy absorbed through our pores.
Beautiful to look at it, because humankind is beautiful but in terms of peak physical beauty the crop this year has no rival. One’s more pleasing to the eye than the next. Their collective fecundity emanates an aura you can taste.
Like a drug rush, that’s how their youth felt. I could imagine a story of this power running amok, young folks instantly aging as the Parasite grows stronger – how will Superman subdue him this time – no one was being drained, nor were our heartbeats elevated or skin flushed with sweat – but we were soaking up something palatable. Not for the first time for either of us. Being in crowds like peak-hour subways is no longer the joyride of years ago, but hovering on the edges of friendly folks in public spaces has become a pleasure intensifying over time.
True, we were once our version of those kids in this park. The bar we drink in every Christmas is near this neighborhood. Wistful nostalgia though this was not We made it to another summer now just have to make it through. No one feels their time we’re stealing being here they’re already in the eventual tomorrow we’ll never know, but we know we’re doing more than just grooving or jamming on the vibe. The nourishment may not be measurable, but it’s not merely metaphorical either. We’re the day-walkers barely seen, and in the right time and place, we’re free to feed as much as we can stand.