Two thirds up the Eiffel Tower

Paris, 1999.

I am climbing the Eiffel Tower with my friends. We are 18, and this may be our first trip on our own. Safe to say that besides them, I know no one else for miles.

We climb up the metal grating of one of the enormous legs of the tower until we get to where they join and we continue climbing as the platforms get smaller and smaller.

From a distance away I hear my name called. Again, louder this time. Then louder still.

My friends motion to a trio of golden girls on the other side of the platform. 

Three American ladies around retirement age are on a trip together enjoying their adventure in Paris. Maybe they got tired at the Louvre, it’s such a big museum, after all, but at least they got to see the Mona Lisa, and they loved the cafés with the warm baguettes and the madeleines and the perfectly poured lattes.

Suddenly I recognize who they are, and I walk towards them across the metal grating of a particular platform somewhere up the Eiffel Tower, as they come down some narrow steps from the platform above. It is dark—nighttime—lit by a million dim lights, in copper, gold, yellow, and white, all fabulously scattered about the terrain as though in an impressionist decorating tantrum.

The three ladies I recognize are from my high school. My counselor—Dr. Garfield, my keyboarding teacher, Mrs. Schaeffer—I once asked her if she was Jewish but she said no she wasn’t—and for some reason, I’m not really sure why, she was one of my favorite teachers in high school—and one other, whom I recognized but I am not sure from where, a friend, I presumed—

Oh my god what are you doing here? Such a small world! What? No, yeah, we’re just traveling together—I am just with my friends from orchestra—we finished our tour in the Netherlands and some of us decided to hook it to Paris for a bit

The excitement was palpable and then the moment was consumed and it was time to move on, to continue climbing up the Eiffel Tower to the top of the world, or so it seemed. The trio began to regroup towards the steps and I am not sure exactly what I said or what happened before I went back to my friends, who were all just watching this happen from a distance, when Mrs. Schaeffer turns to me and says these 9 words that I shall remember for the rest of my life, which I feel appropriate to pass along to you, dear reader—making sure she paused just enough before she delivered—for emphasis: you are the most important person in your life.

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