Twins: I don’t know why I remember one particular topic which my twin sister and I argued about. We paid our dues to disagreements and head butting on a daily basis. The topics were as simple and as universal as could be: ‘He did it’, ‘she started’, ‘It’s your turn’, ‘and you said that you would if I did’, ‘I was reading that’, ‘No you were not’. There was no end to the pettiness and insignificance of it all. Every now and then we would push an adult over the edge and cause them to lose their composure. This would bring on a forced tie. We did not like forced ties. We would freeze our arguments in time, and thaw them instantly no sooner had the meddling adult left the scene. It was all so perfectly normal. All the bickering and haggling meant nothing and were forgotten as we matured past them. It is therefore strange that one such argument remained etched in memory: ‘Do twins complete their cycle of life together? Do they pass away at the same time?’ Why of all topics would one so obvious and trivial not be forgotten? Perhaps it is because to a twin that the question is not as simple as it seems.

אני לא יודע למה זה אני זוכר עניין מסוים אחד שאחותי התאומה ואני התווכחנו עליו. הלוא במחלוקות ובהתנגחויות עשינו את שלנו יפה יוםיום. נושאי המחלוקת היו פשוטים ואוניברסליים מאין כמוהם: “הוא עשה את זה“, “היא התחילה“, “תורך היום“, אמרת שתעשה אם אני אעשה“, “אני קוראת את זה עכשיו“, “לא את לא קוראת את זה עכשיו” – דברים של מה בכך שאין כמוהם לקטנוניוּת. מפעם לפעם היינו מעמידים בניסיון את עצביו של מבוגר ומניעים אותו לאבד את שלוות רוחו. זה היה גורר תֵיקוּ כפוי. לא אהבנו תֵיקוּיִים כפויים. היינו מקפיאים את הריב במועד ומפשירים אותו מיד עם צאתו של המבוגר החטטן מן הזירה. הכול היה נורמלי לחלוטין. מכל ההתנצחות וההתמקחות הזאת לא נשאר כל רושם, והכול נשכח והלך ככל שגדלנו. לכן מוזר שמחלוקת אחת כזאת נשארה חרוטה בזיכרוני: האם תאומים משלימים את מעגל חייהם יחד? האם הם מתים בעת ובעונה אחת? למה זה דבר ברור וטריביאלי כל כך, דווקא הוא ולא אחר לא נשכח? אולי מפני שבעיניו של תאוֹם השאלה אינה פשוטה כמו שהיא לכאורה.

The Milkman: I don’t know why I remember the milkman. When I was a child he would arrive every Friday morning to collect his fees. I could hear him climbing to the door, stepping heavily on the stone stairs. His knock was as gentle as his footsteps. He was a heavy set man in his forties, with a red face and enormous hands with rough skin. The rest of him was hidden in a bluish-gray overall. His boots seemed as if they were designed to protect his foot should a truck run over it. ‘He could probably make a statue jump in pain if he kicked it with them’ I would think to myself. His facial features were exaggerated somewhat like a gargoyle’s. He lisped heavily and would look at his feet when he spoke, hiding his features, perhaps not to scare me when we stood at the door waiting for my father to pick up the conversation: ‘Vas Hertzach Rebbe Yitzhak’ (Yiddish for ‘how are you Rabbi Yitzhak’) my father would greet him. ‘Baruch Hashem, Hayim’ (Living, my god be praised) he would answer in Hebrew. As he spoke he would pull his accounting booklet from his pocket and proceed to tally what we owed. He used the inner refill of a pen which seemed more like a needle in his huge hand. He was either very good with numbers or my father didn’t mind paying a little extra. He would accept any denomination of bills and had no problems with change. In a little leather briefcase which hung from his neck, he carried a wad of bills as thick as a phone book, and his pockets were laden with coins. After the financial transaction was done, and our debt scratched from the booklet they would switch to world events, history or philosophy. ‘If Yitzhak could talk to my father about anything, why was he a milkman?’ I would wonder as he jingled with his coins back down the stairs. I don’t think anyone knew the answer.

Fly Catching: I don’t know why I remember my highest fly catching score. We would spend our summers at the public pool. We would go there every day, and stay for hours. There really weren’t a whole lot of new things to do in a public pool that you visited every day. You could only swim for so long; the diving board was always crowded, renting tubes cost money, mock fist fights in the shallows tended to taper off after a few minutes and the ping pong tables are occupied by bigger and stronger guys. At the beginning of the season we could allocate more time to tanning ourselves, shedding our pale winter skins and replacing them with hues of brown. The transition from pale to dark went through red. The first few days of tanning would be the worst. It would take years before people started calling red for the burn degree that it was. But at the time it was a degree of tanning, and we bore the pain with honor and stupidity. As we would lay there in the sun, scorching and flipping and scorching some more with nothing better to do, the flies would come to the not quite so ready carcasses. Someone proposed that we catch these flies, partially as a challenge and mostly to pass the time. And so it came to be that we would sit for hours in the sun, searing skins and catching flies. Contests were soon to follow. It is hard to imagine a less productive pass time, but it seems that those who participated remained friends to this day. Perhaps it was worth it after all.

Cigarette Filters: I don’t know why I remember my father’s theories about the effectiveness of his cigarette filter. Back then smoking was not only acceptable, it determined one’s social status. The professionals would inhale two or even three packs a day. People used more cigarettes than matches. There was always a lit cigarette available to light the next one. My father had some self substantiated theories about means to reduce the risk of smoking, from ‘pipes’ through ‘cigars’ to cigarettes with ‘filters’. ‘You see my son; the filter is what makes all the difference’. He would split filters open to layout scientific evidence right in front of my eyes. ‘Notice how much darker the forward side of the filter is?’ The hard scientific evidence fell quite a few inches short of making a convincing argument. Clearly there was a difference in color between the ‘bad’ and ‘good’ sides of the filter. The bad side was colored in shades of brown; however the ‘good’ side was not a picture of health either.

My father was not the kind of man who would mislead me with a false pretence that those two centimeters of porous material effectively guarded his lungs; clearly there was more work to be done at the ‘good’ end of the filter. So my father used another filter. It looked like an ordinary cigarette holder, like the kind a lady would use, only shorter so a man could use it. This filter, according to him was a marvel of physics. It was not just a plastic tube, oh no. It contained specially crafted inner metal tubing which forced the smoke in an out of tiny holes and chambers. ‘It was these forceful changes in the direction of the flow of smoke’ he would tell me radiating with a sense of conviction, ‘that causes the tar particles to be trapped in the filter’. ‘All I need to do is clean it every now and then’. To this day I am sure that the best thing the filter did for my father, was that he did not smoke while he was cleaning it.

Wedding: I don’t know why I remember my uncle’s wedding. We were his only nephews and what a better opportunity for my grandmother to send a message as subtle as the morning sun to her son that she expected nothing less from him. Given that I was only four years old at the time, the odds that I would enjoy the wedding were stacked against me. Being so young also made me too short to ‘mingle’. A crowded hall full of adults to a child my size was a collection of knees and waistlines. A world of absolute anonymity comprised of dark pants and colored dresses rubbing against my face. All I could do in this wasteland of garments was forage for food. Long tables with white table cloths were aligned along the walls of the wedding hall. I knew they were table cloths because no woman could have been that fat. To my dismay I quickly found out that attempting to get something from the tables meant having my nose bashed against a sharp edge by some unaware full sized behemoth, picking on people his own size for the right to clench the goods from the tables. When it was all over, and we were on the way home in the taxi, my grandmother handed me three miniature cakes the size of large candies, coated with icing and filled with cream. Three out of hundreds which I was forced to abandon – It only added insult to injury. Had I known this was not to be my uncle’s last wedding I would not have bothered to come.