When I was born, Gretchen Miller was already 5 hours old.
I knew this ever since the 5th grade, when for some reason or another we revealed to each other the precise moments of our respective births. She was born on August 8, 1972, at around 10:00 at night, and I was born early the next morning. I don't know exactly where she was born (probably knew at one time or another) but I came into existence at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley.
The interesting thing about Gretchen is that ever since I understand how close temporally she was to me, I've always considered her to be something like a twin. Of course, we're not related in any way whatsoever, but little personality traits and predilictions that we both share always reinforced the connection I felt.
Before I go on about her, let me add a little background. When I was younger, particularly the time that I occupied at Fairmont Elementary School in El Cerrito (3rd to 6th, a period which I will inevitably keep coming back to), I read the daily horiscopes in the Oakland Tribune (and the Richmond Independent when it existed) "religiously", for lack of a better term. I didn't necessarily believe that such a blunt tool could say something specific about my life, so I approached it like a daily fortune-cookie, pieces of advice that were relatively safe to follow. Not one even remotely significant event in my life was mentioned before hand, but the periodic shoulder-nudges of "you will be lucky in love today" and "now is the time to change direction" always gave me something to look forward to, a little island of control. So, when it came to birthdays and the like, I was predispositioned to believe that some sort of correspondence between people could exist, either if their births were close enough, or they fell in the accepted spheres of compatable signs.
So, when I found out about Gretchen, I naturally began to look for the similarities that had to exist in an astrological, ordered universe. True, we both liked cloudy days, and rain was an extra special treat. Monty Python always cracked us up (a fact we didn't share until High School), cats were objects of worship, and we generally could complete each other's thoughts. There were other small things that it's hard to quantify out of context and in retrospect, but sufficed to say that we are strangely equivalent, if not compatable.
I use the term "compatable" in a very specific sense, divorced from all thoughts of romance. True, I did have a thing for her in 10th grade, and even back at Fairmont she always occupied a special place in my life. But that role was never designed to be that of a person I "liked", someone to become involved with if at all possible. No, she was my external reflection, a variation on the concept of the doppleganger - the fabeled "other you" walking around in China or some place as remote. I considered Gretchen my "looking glass" other, a fragmentary yet whole self that was as close to me as you could get, only different and uniquely individual.
The concept of "Gretchen" is me 5 hours removed, and Gretchen Miller was the person I had to meet sooner or later, as fate foretold. Lucky for my sake we met across a table in Room 9, when both of us were young enough to still appreciate the signifigance.
I don't read the horiscopes anymore, except for a good laugh. And I haven't seen Gretchen since we graduated from High School. But every August 8, just before I go to sleep, I always think of her as I brush my teeth. Is she there in the other room to the left of the mirror me? Does she still remember the time of my birth?
Probably not. But that's O.K., as long as I remember hers.
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