I haven't been in the attic in a couple months. Walking to the car I noted the rope just above my head. Okay, I am not in a hurry anyway. I had to move two boxes from the spot where the foot of the ladder lands. Done; pulled the rope and set the contraption on the floor.
Climbing the steps is not as easy as it once was; it is not as easy as it was two months ago when I last assayed to ascend above. Atrophy: it's not just for the mind; the muscles seem to be going as well. Perhaps I should attend more closely when my Sawbones tells me to get up from the lounger more often, walk a bit, he says, chop some wood. Well, it is easy for him to say.
Feet firmly on the floor and I turn down the weed-strewn path. There is the old barn where I found my clogged idea mill. But. The barn had withstood the vicissitudes of time for a century and a quarter (carved into the lintel over the main door was "1887.") But January's wind finally laid the old structure more or less parallel to the earth. Rubble was spread several yards to the east and the peak of the roof remained a bit above the dreary flatness of the landscape. "Every puppy has its day," and every barn some day shall lie supine upon the earth, slowly molder away.
Just there lying open in the dust is a small, gray hardback book, its water-stained pages riffling in the breeze. I pick it up. Symposium, Plato. Suddenly I am transported, as across a time-warp or through a worm-hole, sixty-five years into the past.
I am a philosophy major, as is my good friend Wes. Also in this class along with six other stalwart and daring souls, is Ben Moore. We are reading Symposium. Ben has taken to calling me "Alcibiades" which he continues to do long after this class is over, even to our parting on graduation day. Ben is a ministerial student, goal-oriented, knows where he is going. True. He has a chart hanging on the wall in his dorm room outlining his life for the next 25 years. When he asked me what I was going to be when I grow up, I replied, "Who knows what the morrow will bring; sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
I call Ben '"Alvin," which is his given first-name. He clearly uses "Ben" because for some reason he
does not like the moniker his parents tagged him with. I persisted in this, though at one point I was tempted to call him "Memnon." I thought better of it, and "Alvin" was sufficient for my purposes.
I liked to think that Ben named me Alcibiades because of my superb skill in debate and oratorical prowess. Wes, though, maintaining a close friendship with both of us, disabused me of that notion. "Clearly," he said, "Ben sees you as one who will take either side of any issue, picking the one most to your advantage."* Perhaps I could have twisted that somehow to my benefit, had Wes not gone on, dragging something about a snake into the conversation. Oh, well.
Ben, focused, serious minded, was from the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of Philadelphia. Wes and I had been raised "free range," Westerners, both of whom showed up on campus wearing ten-gallon hats.
(If there is more to this story it shall have to appear in another installment. I've things to do.)
Word of the day: Idealism
*Referring to Alcibiades, Aristophanes wrote, "Athens yearns for him, and hates him too, but wants him back."
^o^ Drawing, me, with apologies, sort of, to Bill Amend.