My friend Steven is a philosopher.

By that I don't mean he's the kind of guy who says "that's life" when the ATM machine swallows your bank card.

No, Steven is a fully tenured professor of philosophy at a local women's college.

He recently told me he was teaching Kafka this semester.

L "Jennifer Kafka?" I asked, "the shortstop from Catonsville?"

He said I was hopeless.

"Naw," I said. "I've got hope by the bus load. Hope for the downtrodden, hope for the disenfranchised, even hope for local access cable."

L He suddenly turned philosophical on me, which happens a lot.

"Why do you seem to have more hope than most?" he wondered aloud, easing himself into a park bench.

"Easy," I said. "It comes from the woman with six eyes."

He stroked his chin. "How long have you been having this triple-vision problem?" he asked.

"I have no such ailment, professor. I happen to be referring to the woman who appears almost every week in Sun Magazine, the wavy-haired model in the United Optical ad. Through some quirk of nature -- or clever darkroom trick -- she has an extra-long forehead and three sets of eyes: one with glasses, one without and one set behind that weird contraption optometrists use to torture patients. You know, when they say, 'Which is clearer? This one or that one?' Every once in a while they throw in a lens from the Hubble space telescope. Just to see if they can make you fall out of the chair."

"Come to think about it, that six-eyed-lady ad makes me dizzy," Steven said. "I have to hold onto the breakfast table when I get to that page."

"Just pray that she doesn't register for one of your classes," I said. "You'd need to get a vertical chalkboard."

"Tell me why this woman is your wellspring of hope," Steven said.

"She's been in the magazine since 1984," I said. "Think how much has changed since then. The Berlin Wall. The Soviet Union. Michael Jackson's kisser. Liz Taylor's bathroom towels.

"You can't count on much anymore, but I can count on the woman with six eyes. As long as she's there for me every Sunday, at the bottom of that clip-and-save ad, I know there will be a tomorrow. She makes me happy, she makes me want to get my eyes checked at United Optical, she make me eager to go to work at the magazine Monday morning and seize the day."

"Carpe diem!" said the philosopher.

# "That too," I said.

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