Each of us live in the remains of destroyed worlds. How many lives have you gone through? How many incarnations? You come into the contact of those lost lives almost every day. Old hobbies dropped, but the accountrements still stored in the closet in the hopes that with a seance your interest in fly fishing or tarot cards might be revived. Those mugs in the cupboard, who gave them to you? Were some of them presents from friends and family who aren't dead, but are still absent from your life now as if one passed into the great beyond? Knickknacks? Jewelry? How about stories?

My mother's new boyfriend wants me to put the past behind me. Forget that my father was raised by Holocaust survivors. Forget being raised by someone so paranoid that our house was just stained wood in the middle of the forest, and we couldn't even have pizza delivers for fear the pizza delivery boy was "casing our house." Forget all the years spent in wheelchairs and on crutches. All the doctors visits. The tests. The casts. The surgeries. Flying to Philadelphia Children's Hospital. The foul tasting Gantrisine I took every day. The scolatron. The leg braces. The back brace. The emergency hospitalizations. Being so depressed that I had to leave public school. Trying to figure out how to explain to my friends at private school that my father was committed. Just put it behind you, he says. He's Italian.

Rome tried that once. In front of the Forum, there's this huge white frothy thing. An atrocity that the Italians call "the wedding cake" or the typewriter. It was meant to signal to Italians not to look at Rome's past, but it's future. But the Italians think of it as an embarassment and point it out with scorn to tourists. But how can you put the past behind you when it's on every street corner, it's the dust on your shoes, it's the particles in the air that you breathe? Try and dig a subway line, and you have to do it through the tomb of Augustus. Walk one block and there's the Tower where Nero supposedly played the lute while Rome burned. Enter an out of the way church and find a shrine built to house one of the ropes that bound Christ to the cross. The ruins of an ancient colosseum ( not THE Colosseum) are turned into apartment buildings. Castel Sant'Angelo was first Hadrian's tomb, then a fortress, now a museum. How can we put the past behind us when it's all around us? When it's too much with us?

Everything is related to everything else. That is how all roads lead to Rome. That is how all roads lead to every town. Vegas. Detroit. Peekskill. Each one is the belly button of the universe to someone. All texts, if examined properly which may involve half a bottle of Jack Daniels and a sideways look, have connections to other texts. My students think I'm crazy because I can connect St Augustine to Fight Club or the Inferno to Lost, but it's there. And it's not just texts. Not only can you play six degrees of Kevin Bacon with other actors, but historical figures and famous books. Or really anyone or anything given a developed enough knowledge base and an abstract enough consciousness. Since all things are connected if viewed properly, it is completely understandable that seeing Jake Gyllenhal's legs make me think of His legs, that unnamable one, which makes me think of him standing in his boxers. Although, honestly, I can't really remember his face anymore, or the boxers. So I guess it just reminds me of the idea of his legs. The mildness of this winter reminds me of the harshness of last winter which reminds me of walking with him in the snow past the christmas trees stand in front of the church. I could smell the fresh pine across the street. Watching the fourth of the July at the beginning of the movie Zodiac makes me remember last Fourth of July, when I forsook my friends, not that they minded, to walk to his apartment in the balmy heat. Ignoring the fireworks going on in the park. He came out to meet me on the street. He wasn't in a good mood. I can't remember why. But I remember the burning smell in the air. And wishing, perhaps, that I had taken another route so I could see the fireworks. And thinking that only a fool would walk all this way on a summer night, on the fourth of July, to see some guy that she had to hide her feelings from.

If my father were alive today, and in a way he is as his voice still rings in my head, and I keep all those memories of him with me. How change always fell from his pockets every time he sat down or got up. How he smoked Kool cigarettes. His sad attempts at dancing.
Or how when my first boyfriend, my very first love, broke up with me and I told my father over the phone, he asked me if I would do it all again knowing what I know now. And I said "I don't know" and he said "Good." And I never asked why that was a good thing. And he never told me so I have no idea. And I remember the last night I saw him alive, and how I promised to call him, but I never did. And I know he called me, but I just let the phone ring because I didn't have the strength to pick up the phone and deal with his craziness again. Or that I drove by his house the day before he died. I was in CT and never told him, drove by the house, and thought of turning in the drive way just to say hi, but well I'll do it tomorrow. Which I wouldn't have. Because I couldn't handle another scene. Because I didn't want to see him.

If he were alive today, he would tell me that I am living proof of what the Jews believe. That sin is its own punishment and good its own reward. Could I think of a more fitting punishment for actually deigning to date some goy from NJ than to suffer this heartbreak? That I the scholar live amongst the trinkets of an age forgotten by all but myself. Not even a golden age at that. Could I envision a more horrifying punishment than not to be able to remember him clearly, but still long for him? To miss even being miserable over the fact that he didn't love me. To miss being sad over the phone calls that never came, the emails he didn't send. Because the truth is he was disappointing from the very beginning and every moment from that first one and yet I even miss the disappointment of him. That I had to talk him into it from the first moment. That he never thought himself lucky that I would take him to bed or want to him call. I was an unwanted nuisance even though as I was drowning I was trying to save him.

And I think even Dante would agree with me on this, I can't think of a worse punishment. And Lord knows, I've tried.

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