My lovely apartment is empty now.
Evie intended to laugh, but then she realized that she didn’t remember how she had been before. Not anymore, anyway. There had been a time the past had been less vague, but now she reached backwards and grasped only darkness. Her memory was a maze of rooms like this one, crowded and dim, connected by passages like shunts. She had wedged them crudely into place, a surgical insertion of purpose where in truth there was none.
“I suppose I’ve always been this way. But time has its own way of bringing us to light.”
Lazy Projector - Andrew Bird
If memory serves us, then who owns the master?
How do we know who’s projecting this reel?
And is it like gruel or like quick drying plaster?
Tell me how long til the paint starts to peel…
Is it like Pyramus or Apollo or an archer we don’t know?
Though history repeats itself, and time’s a crooked bow
Come on—tell us something we don’t know.
Now who’s the best boy and the casting director?
And the editor splicing your face from the scene?
It’s all in the hands of a lazy projector:
That forgetting, embellishing, lying machine.
That forgetting, embellishing, lying machine.
They say all good things must come to an end;
Every day the night must fall.
How it all came to this, I simply can’t recall…
Too many cooks in the kitchen;
How the mighty must fall.
But I can’t see the sense in us breaking up at all.
Oh! I can’t see the sense in us breaking up at all.
I can’t see the sense in us breaking up at all.
Breaking up at all…
And it’s all in the hands of a lazy projector:
That forgetting, embellishing, lying machine.
Stephen watched the three glasses being raised from the counter as his father and his two cronies drank to the memory of their past. An abyss of fortune or of temperament sundered him from them. His mind seemed older than theirs: it shone coldly on their strifes and happiness and regrets like a moon upon a younger earth. No life or youth stirred in him as it had stirred in them. He had known neither the pleasure of companionship with others nor the vigour of rude male health nor filial piety. Nothing stirred within his soul but a cold and cruel and loveless lust. His childhood was dead or lost and with it his soul capable of simple joys and he was drifting amid life like the barren shell of the moon.
-James Joyce, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”
(by Amelie Andrezel)
When Arnold was unwell, Jane went for long walks though their old neighborhood. She kept her camera in her back pocket and her eyes on the ground. Arnold was not often well, and Jane became familiar with the details of the pavement.
The stains on her shoes grew wider as she sloshed through wetter days. The grass grew taller in the cracks where the concrete had broken to provide a path into the soil. An old building on the corner across from the deli had been razed, leaving in its place only an empty lot where weeds grew in tufts among the rubble.
Everything was growing, even the silence of Mr. Blum.
She went to visit him on Monday mornings, when the bookstore was closed for inventory. Bea paged through the boxes of new books; Jane made the pilgrimage to Arnold’s bedside to page through old memories.
Arnold would sit in the bed, or the chair beside the window, wearing a red sweater one of the nurses had chosen for him out of his drawer of things. Jane would open the drawer and run her hands along his belongings as though she were reading Braille.
One drawer remaining from his beautiful house. One drawer to speak for his beautiful life.
One by one, Jane would take out the holy relics and sit at the edge of Arnold’s bed. She would hold up his binoculars, or one of his maps. She would spread out his photo albums and show him the pictures.
“Do you see these postcards?” she asked, holding up a few yellowed sheets of card stock. Most of them were black and white photographs of the Viennese skyline. One boasted an ink drawing of dancing bears, in the main ring at a circus.
Sometimes Mr. Blum would nod. Other times he just looked out the window.
“These are the postcards,” Jane would say, spreading them out on his lap or gently unfolding his fingers so he could hold them, “That your wife brought back from Austria after the war.”
Arnold would study them with pious devotion. Or look out the window.
“You were stationed in Vienna,” Jane would explain as Mr. Blum had done to her that afternoon in his apartment:
“She brought all her best dresses,” Arnold had said that afternoon, drinking his coffee very slowly, “And a new black hat with a cream ribbon.”
Arnold’s eyes would always get very wide when he talked about Shoshana.
“Can you imagine it?” he’d told Jane, “All of Vienna, lying in ruins, and Shana standing there in her best dress.”
Jane didn’t think she could.
Arnold had laughed.
“We gave away our cigarettes,” he had explained, walking to the window. ”Shana even gave a pair of stockings to a lady we found washing her hair under a bridge.”
“My German wasn’t very good,” he’d continued, “But I think it was what was left of her kitchen. There were bits of china among the glass and the bricks and metal. And a sort of tent made from a table cloth where she was living out of a suitcase. At any rate, there she was, washing out her curls with some rain water she’d collected in a coffee pot.”
“Shana gave her the stockings,” he had said proudly. ”I handed off my last carton of American cigarettes. That was all I had to give.”
“On Friday nights,” Jane said to Arnold, so small now in his red sweater, so silent beside the hospital window: “Shana would pin up her hair and you would put on your dress uniform. You’d go down the the dance hall, which had been badly hit during one of the Russian air strikes.”
“There was a tarp made of scraps from abandoned German tents,” she continued, spreading the post cards in a fan on Arnold’s lap so he could see them better, “That the local ladies had stretched across the large hole at the back of the dance floor. Behind it there was a kind of alley, where the American soldiers romanced Viennese girls. Beyond that, the alley widened into the remains of shop, flattened in a blast, then overgrown to form a little courtyard. You took Shoshanna out past the tarp, into the bombed-out garden.”
“You could hear the music playing from inside,” Jane explained, “And there was a breeze from the abandoned boulevard. The two of you would dance in the clearing. One night you found the postcards, lying in a pile with some empty bottles and other discarded papers.”
“The bears,” Arnold blurted with a shout of joy and recognition. He looked up into Jane’s eyes and grabbed her hand as if he might never let go. ”Dancing in the circus!”
“Yes!” Jane exclaimed.
“We would go and find them,” he said tenderly. ”That’s what you said that we would do.”
His eyes were so bright in his sunken face; Jane couldn’t help but look at them.
“Oh, Shoshana,” he told her softly, “You are so beautiful.”
(by Amelie Andrezel)
It’s the dark of the night. A salty breeze blows in from off of the sea. Ferdinand cannot sleep. He rises from his cot and out the flap of the tent he shares with Marcus. Outside, the stars glimmer and scintillate in the Heavens. Restless, he wanders down along the cliff trail, watching the moonlight reflect off of the waves below. Instead of turning down the footpath, Ferdinand follows the trail of trampled grasses into the forest. The trees are very young, and bend blithely in the breeze. He listens intently to the rustle of the silvery leaves whispering secrets to the night. Enthralled by the foreign scenes of the midnight wilderness, Ferdinand wanders a long distance from the camp. At length, he emerges into a clearing bathed in the white glow of the brilliant moon. At the center of the clearing, an enormous mound rises at least two meters above the flat ground. The trees cast weird shadows on the grass-covered slopes of the monolith; the wind in the highest boughs sings strange songs of a hundred thousand nights past. At the base of the monolith, lying in a high copse of grass is Jordan. She resembles a creature out of time, suspended like the dust trailing down from the stars, floating in the wind above the clearing. Ferdinand steps loudly upon the undergrowth; she turns, like a startled doe, at the sound of the intrusion. Seeing that it is only Ferdinand, she settles back into the grass.
FERDINAND: I couldn’t sleep.
JORDAN: I didn’t want to.
FERDINAND: It is a beautiful night.
JORDAN: If you believe the legends, this country is littered with the graves of giants.
FERDINAND: If not legends, what is there for a man to believe in?
They sit in silence for a moment. The wind passing through the trees on the edge of the clearing is the only sound.
FERDINAND: There are so many things we’ve lost; so many secrets buried in the ground, never to be excavated.
JORDAN: When I was a child, there was a tree I would lie beneath in my mother’s garden. It was a cherry, I believe. In the spring, it would explode in a multitude of blossoms, and the petals would fall, one by one, like rose-colored snowflakes, blanketing me in a carpet of milky-soft perfume. Looking up, the branches seemed so high, the boughs so wide that I was certain the canopy they formed shrouded me completely from the outside world.
It was so long ago, and I’m glad I’ll never see it but through the eyes of a child. To sit in that garden now, I would see it as it is—a little cherry in the corner of a garden—not as it was to me then: the grandest tree that ever grew.
Ferdinand makes no reply. He deeply considers what Jordan has said.
JORDAN: The past is like that; everything looks more majestic through the filter of time. In the absence of scale, the world has room for giants and gnomes. Out of the haze of the forest emerge the solid shapes of our imagination.
She made the coffee. The scent of the grounds filled the empty apartment. Coffee esters launched from the counter like caravels, sailing to the corners of her New World like molecular Magellans. Like Magellan, they would never return. Instead, someday, she would open a shoebox or unfold a sweater, and the smell would remember her. It would swallow her like a maelstrom, carrying her down to the bottom of the ocean of time, spitting her out in this lonely apartment at the base of this stove. She imagined her surprise, the rush of excitement in the pit of her stomach to be transported back to this moment, with the promise of uncharted waters at her tingling fingertips. Smell was the most powerful link to memory.
Jane poured a cup and drank a toast to her fallen comrades. Their sacrifice would not go unnoticed
“Where are the matches?”she asked,
with your eyes—
the ones cut from a photograph
—taken in Winslow and stuffed inside
your sample kit
with the wrappers of secrets that would not unfold
and a pair of extra laces.
I catch her taking them out sometimes
to hang in trees
by colored thread,
bathe in pools of mercury, or lash
to pinwheels that turn in the wind.
She lights a fire and we watch it burn,
all through the cottonwood, licking
of the camera
that captured your soul.