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Essay: Her Name

In college, I dated a guy named Hank who was a witty fellow with a gift for language. Although the romance didn’t last, some of his droll observations have lingered.

Once he remarked, “I’ve had a lot of one-night stands with truth, but in the morning I can never remember her name.”

It was funny, of course, but I guessed it was also accurate. Now, all these years later, I can verify encounters of my own, moments of such clarity I was sure I’d uncovered the meaning of life.

Then, the next day, it was gone.

Some years ago while in London, I stood on Westminster Bridge remembering Wordsworth’s sonnet composed in the same place in 1802:

This city now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning …

Ne’er saw I, never felt a calm so deep.

(Lines 4, 5, 11)

I, too, had a sense of profound well-being—as if I had arrived where I was supposed to be and was in the presence of truth. When I returned to my hotel, however, I couldn’t describe what I’d experienced to friends.

The feeling remained but the wisdom had dissolved. I remembered Hank’s throw-away line that I didn’t throw away. A line he has no doubt forgotten and I am still grateful for. This is how we shape each other’s lives and never know.

Never remember her name.