- Swift Entanglement:renovations of memory in the realization of "you"
Day and night, at every instant, on all the Mount Moriahs of this world, I am doing that, raising my knife over what I love and must love, over those to whom I owe absolute fidelity, incommensurably.—Jacques Derrida, "Whom to Give to," in The Gift of Death
In late August of 2001, Muhammad Atta was seen buying bread in Micucci's Grocery on East India Street in Portland, Maine. Prior to the attacks a few weeks later, "there were sightings all over," according to Chief of Police Mike Chitwood. Micucci's is only a few blocks inland from Songo Shoe, the old factory where my father got his first job in this country. It's only two blocks and a half east of St. Peter's Church, where my sister, my brother, and I were all baptized by Fr. Romani—and I was imprinted with the mysteries of my faith. Micucci's was a church of another sort. When I was eight or nine (before extensive renovations in the '90s), it was one large and musty room, nearly windowless except for the two that were high up and never cracked. There was a table with the old register, to the left of the deli case full of cheeses and antipasti, and up behind this, a loft with sliding window, where Leo Micucci did the accounts. This may never have happened, but I remember the old man sliding that glass open to shout orders and jokes down at his wife and nearly grown children, or to reach a long arm down to point at a cheese. "Give him that one," he said to my father or whoever was next in our imagined line (as this was before they discovered the ticket dispenser). [End Page 53]
Twenty years later, say Atta is next in line. It never happens, but I imagine the old man, from his loft, noticing the quiet Egyptian and befriending him.
This may be true. I am recently back in the country from a year in Italy. I get all of my stuff out of storage in Iowa City, cram it into my truck, deposit most of it in Galesburg, Illinois (where I'll begin teaching in the fall), and start out on a road trip to reacclimate to "ordinary life" and see all of my people along the East Coast, from Maine to Florida. I drive up to Maine first, to see my sister and nieces in Waterboro. Inevitably, after a few days of hide-and-seek and little chores around the house, I go spend an afternoon in the Old Port, browsing the music and bookshops. Maybe I take the ferry out into Casco Bay. I could make an afternoon of it, out on the bay, riding as far as Cranberry Island and back. But before this, I decide to get lunch at Micucci's, to carry along with me. The old store now exists within a new one. At least I can summon it up, darkening the clean aisles, replacing the barrel of vacuum-packed salamis with dried cod by the door, remembering the sliding window, of course. A quiet man, around my height, gets a ticket right after mine, no. 25. Hair like my father, I think, from his passport photo in 1960. I have a panino that I want made into a sandwich with mortadella and scamorza. No. 25 has a bag of pita bread, which I didn't know they sold. He sees me looking and doesn't smile to excuse it. We watch other people make their orders. Both irked by the widow just ahead of me who buys a whole five minutes' worth of thinly sliced capocollo.
Later in the week, when I take the girls to Two Lights, I spot No. 25 sitting on the rocks, with a friend. They are sharing a large fried clams and looking out at the Atlantic. I stop and nod at them. I can still see the girls, inspecting a tidal pool a few feet a way. "Ah, yes," he says. "From the store." I smile, "Those are the best...