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cancel the hill

The elevator arrives at the fifth floor. Eight people fill it. We wait.

Four M trains come, then an F. We need the B train. We wait.

Inside, the train is crowded. It's wintertime. People who biked into the city decide to take the train home and spare themselves.

Tired people, bikes, and a cold night means no seats. We stand.

The train stops on the Manhattan Bridge. The Hudson is so frigid and iridescent, it looks like oil. We stare.

Dekalb Avenue, next stop Atlantic. We get off.

We climb the stairs from the platform and the stairs to the street. We arrive.

Vanessa eyeing the walk ahead of us yells, CANCEL THE HILL. We laugh.

The hill stands its ground. We climb.

We live at the top of the hill on either side of Fort Greene Park. This is the end of another very long day of graduate school. It is 2010. Vanessa and I are classmates, neighbors and friends. I live in her husband's old studio. She and her husband now live together, in a one bedroom with Jupiter and Rocky. I live in a studio because my life fell apart. Climbing the hill reminds me that life can be hill-like.

The wind blows us into the wine bar, mid-hill. Libations warm us and make us forget the hill. We unfurl.

Graduate school is life through a kaleidoscope. The things we know and the things we don't, the old way of doing things and the new way are coalescing; we can see some pattern, some beauty but there's no real perspective. We are studying ourselves; it's a closed circuit.

I take my last sip of Malbec. We pay. We leave. We climb.

We say goodnight in front of Bittersweet; we'll be back there sooner than we can accept for morning coffee. We part.

Please, cancel the hill. A bypass is better, the other direction is better, the wine bar is better, anything is better than the hill. Avoiding hills means fewer calluses, looser hamstrings, less panting. Plus, I got broken up with on a hilltop in Point Reyes and the sea and height and the braying elk only amplified my humiliation. Cancel the hill, cancel the heartache.

The expression, I will die on this hill, I know has something to do with standing ground, unrelenting resolve and probably martyrdom. In a hill battle, the enemy is elevated, fortified in advantage and the cost of life is seldom worth an attack.

Or is it?

There is cost of life in turning away. This hill I learned to climb, the one I did battle with, the hill where I got dumped, the one I met myself and others on, the hill I stand on and will die on is my life; a life I didn't cancel or flatten or forfeit. A steady unimaginably precious climb.

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