Sunday, April 7, 2019

let's go back

I take one bite of what the café calls a cornetti, and it does not lie. I bite into the sweet butter of something freshly baked that tastes exactly like a café counter in Italian morning rush hour. No city wakes up like Rome, blinking and bleary-eyed, even the streets take an hour to open their eyes. I take another bite; there's no mistake: I am munching on March in Rome.

As I cross the street, the statue of whatever that L'Engle-ian, eschatological beast is on St. John the Divine's campus refracts the light of the spring morning into a distinctly Mediterranean key. If you squint, you can spy cypress and stone pine trees. I look up between bites, dipped in apricot jam, and the statue is a reminder the the world is woven of angels.

Film, my friend was saying, in this café yesterday, is a medium of memory.

Or wait—was I saying that, later, in the metallic, tinny air of the midtown diner, over milkshakes and fries? The essence of a weekend is good conversations, compounded, weaving together into a mesh of thoughts. The events are re-lived through their lens.

Living has this texture: the memories of sunlight, of angels in the courtyard, of trees in March, of the smell of blooming trees blending with baked goods in the fresh sunlight. It's the layering of Amsterdam Avenue and Via Magnia Grecia, apricot jam, flaky bread, St. John the Divine weaving in and out of the narrative, threading all the disparate beads together.

Film captures the valence of memory in living. Human stories are never just pictures—images always contain in them the memories of seeing them before, of finding in them something familiar we have seen in another place.

Theatre captures the immediacy of living, it's risk and danger. Theatre captures the knife-edge of being a person who is always in the grasp of decision. As we watch a play, we know, that even though the story is pre-scripted, although the actors follow a plotted-out trajectory, they could, at any moment fail. We sit in the theatre and watch them succeed, and their bravery reminds us that we may succeed, too.

There's nowhere like Rome in the spring. Except the Hungarian Pastry Shop and St. John the Divine, a black, unfinished diamond sparkling in the Mediterranean Manhattan sun.

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