Boxing of Parts — “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

The summer of my crush on Muffy was a summer of disparate parts (I had read a poem by Henry Reed). There were no centers to hold (we did Yeats in 20th-century lit class). I had just finished my junior year at Duke University and I was part of a quaternity (I had read Jung’s memoir in a course on intellectual history). There were four of us, Lorie, Muffy, me, and then Andy. Or maybe it was me, Muffy, Andy, and then Lorie. Or Lorie, Muffy, Andy, and then me. There were four of us and the connections were unclear.

What I mean is that Lorie was the odd one out because she was the team leader. Or I was the shadow because I was the Jew. Later Andy was the dark one. But who knows, there were so many ghosts among us.

photograph by George Foster
I am in what was once the parlor of a tumbledown and drafty wood-slat house on a hill above Campus Drive. The soft summer drizzle feels like a fine bead curtain. We have the boxing of parts. The parts are in thick-walled plastic bags but the bags have holes. We know this because the scent of formaldehyde pervades this house where a family once lived, perhaps with two pigtailed girls in sundresses fighting over a jump rope and a big brother laughing at them from a window. Father is off teaching chemistry at the women’s college and Mother is receiving Reverend Caruthers in the parlor while our nearsighted Lucy kneads biscuits next to the hot oven. Now the parlor is full of parts. The parts are in plastic bags and the plastic bags are in large rectangular Tupperware boxes and the boxes are on metal shelving that runs along the parlor walls and down the middle and they are covered in dust and ratshit. Muffy is over in the next aisle with Andy and I am in love with Muffy and outside the drizzle feels like a bead curtain and I am wearing plastic surgical gloves and cradling a chunk of pickled human liver in my hand. There is a Jewish girl who likes me but if she likes me there must be something wrong with her. I am a Jew and the parts do not fit together.

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