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  • The past can work up quite a hunger.

    You'll find Harry's Pizza on a corner in West Hartford, CT, not where it was twenty years prior when my brother and I ran wild in its old location's back lot while Mom and Dad relished moments in a booth to themselves, our pies coming alive in the ovens at the back.

    We moved from central Connecticut decades ago, but Dad and I took a summer day to satisfy our nostalgia. We drove up early from the NYC exurb my parents now live in; as we pulled off the highway, we immediately found pieces of ourselves strewn about the roadsides as we meandered the smooth rolling hills around the Farmington River Valley. Old clippings of memory came loose from the neurological folders they'd been languishing in and fell into sight- like transparency paper from our 1990s lives projected and overlaid onto a familiar and different world beaming through the windshield. This built environment brain-trick evoked a past-life experience: my Dad, the newly middle-aged man waking up to and working hard for a family life radically unlike the swinging 70s and early 80s he spent in Mexico; me, the youngster of that family voraciously learning my English mother tongue and growing an independent ego-self to eventually navigate and reflect upon the world independently. As the car carried us across space, we narrated memories aloud and predicted upcoming sights with an almost reflexive urgency.

    We were trying to make sense of time, where it went and in what form it was returning to us that summer day. We covered all the old routes: the thirty-minute commute to elementary school that Dad would maneuver us through to just barely make the 8:00 homeroom time, and then continue onto his office; the country roads that spilled out onto the sprawling retail outlets and malls, where Mom would bring my brother and I to make our coveted (and boyishly inane) movie night selection at Blockbuster; neighborhood lanes where our neighbors no longer live sparked the recollection of Halloween excursions, snow-day sled rides and my earliest, abandoned attempts at sleeping over at friends' homes, Dad retrieving me when I panicked in what seemed like the middle of the night but may have been 9 o'clock; and finally, over backroads and through dilapidated, impoverished and rejuvenated communities of this so-called Constitution State to Harry's Pizza, near enough to the quaint capital to see the spires of its few skyscrapers in the distance.

    With the comfort food in front of us, timeless in its satisfying simplicity, we traveled back beyond my lifetime, to when changing circumstances and my parents decisions blended to pull them out of their expat existence in Mexico, the country I was born in, and drop them and their small children in the wooded suburbs where I grew up. Nothing can be said about what truly could have been. But what became is also hard to put into words, try as my Dad and I had to draw up as much from the well of our now distant, fragmentary memory.

    We both were younger then, each learning roles for which we'd never rehearsed. Inevitably, we've flubbed our lines and missed our marks, but because of this, something completely human has played out amongst the props and artifice of an ever-changing set of civilization.

    Nothing's set. Nothing's solid. And the pizza's still good.
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