Time Travail
fragments of bones, we recreated
it, two old men in a cellar, at least one of them with tears in his
eyes, adding their own quaver (his a pathological whisper) to the
old voices:
     
    Pepsi-Cola hits the spot
    Twelve (ten) full ounces
    That’s a lot
    Twice as much for a nickel too
    Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you
     
    “Remember?” he croaked. Croaking myself from
emotion I said of course I remembered. Why those tears? We got up
and did a kind of dance all the while chanting it, yes, Harvey too.
It acted like some potent incantation bringing back his voice a
little, this tiny victory over time stymieing the crab for a little
while. I stumbled over the flight bag and kicked it out of the way.
Why did I do that? And why those tears at a soda-pop jingle as at
the Credo of the Bach B Minor?
    “ Twelve full ounces,” I corrected. His memory was really
bad. He shook his head and held up both hands with all the fingers
spread apart. We sang it over and over even after the jingle had
made way for a moving commercial (house-moving but moving too in
the other sense): the comically threatening cavernous voice:
“ Don’t make a
move! – without calling Lincoln!! ”
    Exhausted we finally collapsed on his cot and let
the waves of varying lengths, the voices and the years cover us.
The reception improved.
    We heard (reheard) the vibrant potent male
voice inquiring, ostensibly about Manichevitz Wine, “Do you like it?” and the whispered woman’s
voice: “I love it,” and
marveled at what they’d been able to smuggle into commercials in
those up-tight years.
    We heard a voice saying “thirty-nine”
repeatedly and getting studio-laughter for it, then sour
fiddle-music and knew it was Jack Benny, (born Benjamin Kubelsky
1894-1974) lying about his age, for a decade holding on to his late
thirties, minting the slow tragedy into golden laughs as a poor
consolation and I pulled out of oblivion Sunday evenings listening
and laughing with my mother and father and recovered a Sunday
dinner down to the dessert: red apple-sauce with heavy cream. My
nostrils were filled with the pungency of the cinnamon and cloves
in it.
    We pulled in the acid nasal voice of Fred
Allen (born John Florence Sullivan 1894-1956) and the singsong
Russian-Yiddish voice of the woman, what was her name? Neither of
us could recall her name but I recalled the exact pattern of the
carpet I used to lie on belly-down, listening to her and the
others.
    We heard the organ prelude to a soap opera
called “Young Widow Brown,” the commercial and the first minute of
the episode. Her son had just come down with polio. The doctor,
with a resonant actor’s voice, expressed hope for him and clear
interest in the mother. I pictured them as I’d seen them, my
mother’s friends, devastated by afternoon boredom, housewives
beyond adultery, listening, staring sightless at their shabby
living room walls. I felt like weeping again despite the poor
materials my country afforded for nostalgia.
    Now Teddy the Poet murmuring verse in the
most outrageously faggish of voices to camp twirls of his organ
(the musical instrument). It chuckled slyly in glissandos at his
coy jests. Those same housewives marooned in the slow afternoons
used to eat him alive.
     
    We stayed there the rest of the morning. At
each voice he exclaimed, “I remember!” and asked, “Remember?” and
when I hesitated it became a command: “Remember!” Once he said that
it all came back, just that little bit was enough and everything
else came back.
    It was true. Those familiar distorted voices
recreated lost worlds. It was like the old experiment in the shack.
The water stood clear in the glass. You added the tiniest of
crystals. Suddenly the clear water revealed what it had been
holding in invisible supersaturated solution and you had a glassful
of crystals like diamonds, millions of them. I couldn’t (and
mustn’t) begin to enumerate all the scenes, experiences, objects
and people, dead now but alive

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