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This is your source for NPR author interviews, recent broadcasts from the Traverse City National Writers Series, and IPR's radio series Michigan Writers on the Air. You can also find NPR authors & interviews here.

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.