When I walk to the top of my hill each day, reach the end of the road,
there is one object that draws my attention first.
It’s a fire hydrant, a newish one with a bright yellow coat of paint.
I never thought about it, looking at that fire hydrant day after day,
and then it dawned on me: the City and County numbers our fire hydrants.
This makes absolute sense to me, a perfect way to refer to a hydrant that needs work,
maybe fixing, an adjustment, or maintenance of some kind.
The one at the top of my hill, I saw, was number 5719.
After finally realizing that it had a number, I thought about that number.
Why I thought of this, I don’t know, but I realized the numbers were a reversal or 1957.
When this registered, the first thing that leaped to mind
is that 1957 is the year a good friend of mine was born.
Scott and I attended the same school, the University Laboratory School,
and he, I, and a third graduate, Leighton, co-founded
the University Laboratory School Alumni Association.
Scott is also the person who introduced me to qi gong in 2009.
So every day, or night, I walk to the top of my hill,
I always think of Scott when I see that 5719.
Yesterday, in the midst of these crazy times,
I saw Scott live and in person for the first time in a very long time.
We met, along with the Principal of the Lab School,
and another grad, Abe, to take a photo celebrating
a donation made to the Lab School by Abe,
the kind of photo with the Big Check presentation.
Our friend Leighton passed away, so Scott and I represented
two-thirds of the ULSAA co-founding team.
While we were waiting to take the photo,
Scott and I talked about a number of things,
and as I listened to him, I realized that I’d been mistaken.
Scott was not born in 1957, he was born in 1958.
Now this may seem unimportant, but it actually is significant.
At that aha! moment, immediately for some reason, I thought,
Of course, it’s __________ who was born in 1957.
__________ also attended the Lab School.
She’s the first woman with whom I had a relationship
where I knew I knew what it meant to be in love.
Last night, when I reached the top of my hill and saw 5719, I sighed.
From the moment I reached the bright yellow fire hydrant last night,
the only thing I could think about was her.
All other thoughts flew out of my head.
Try as I might, trudging back down the hill in this singly-focused fog,
I couldn’t think of anything else.
As I was staring off into space, remembering her,
a brilliant streak of light suddenly ran across the sky.
It startled me, and I shifted mental gears.
As luck would have it, there was a bicyclist slowly peddling up the hill,
maybe thirty feet away, perhaps choosing not to downshift to lower gear
because he wanted a tougher workout, to sweat more if he were going to put in the time.
“Did you see that?” I asked, pointing in the direction of the flash.
I think I startled him as much as the light had me.
Jamming one foot on the ground, he turned that way. “See what?” he asked.
“That flash of light, that . . . “, and words failed me.
“That bright thing.” I moved my arm in a line to imitate the streak.
“You mean like a jet plane?” he asked.
“No, you know . . .” I continued to move my arm.
This had not dawned on me. A UFO. But no, that wasn’t what I was searching for.
“No,” I said, “a . . .” It was the worst senior moment I’ve had, maybe ever.
“Sorry,” he said, foot back on the pedal and launching himself forward, “can’t help you.”
I gave out a kind of frustrated laugh and resumed walking,
shaking my head, trying my old standby alphabet game
to see if I could find the letter that gave me the word I wanted.
And then it hit me.
“Shooting star,” I said aloud, turning to see if he were within earshot.
He was not, but now my laugh was genuinely humorous.
You’d think after having suffered perhaps the most awful aphasiac attack in my life,
I’d not be finding anything hilarious in this.
But I burst out laughing, how ridiculous,
not being able to remember the term “shooting star.”
My walk time is coming up in a bit, and it’s the darndest thing.
I haven’t begun, haven’t reached top of the hill, haven’t seen that fire hydrant,
and already I’m thinking about her.
I wonder if it’ll be like this all the way to the top, and all the way back down,
unless I’m distracted by another shooting star, or a UFO,
or anything that knocks her right out of my head.