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Abram Kaplan
Holocaust
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Each day that passes I forget something else. Sometimes people say they can remember things like they were yesterday, but I was too young. It seemed too unimportant. Was it sunny or raining or cloudy, I ask myself. I can?t answer: there was just me, four years old, when grandma rolled up the sleeve of her knit sweater and showed me her number. It was blue like her clothes and blue like the rooms in her house and blue like the sky should be every day. ?Gosh, grandma, you have a tattoo!? I might have said, or ?what does that mean?? but she wouldn?t let me talk. Her hand was an index finger over her lips, ?shhhh,? and she traced each number like it was etched into a tree, which I suppose it was. ?That?s how many digits there were,? she said, ?eight,? she said, ?enough for all the Jews,? she said. Her story I remember was long and I didn?t understand the words and what the words meant, like people in cattlecars and electric fences and starving. Especially starving. Now I know why she made me clean my plate. From her I learned suffering and misery and torture, things that a four year old shouldn?t know and doesn?t know and that I couldn?t understand. Do I now? Later, I would sit on her lap and look for the number but her sleeve was always down and she looked so fragile, skin like tissue paper and varicose veins. My hand would be in her hand and she would squeeze so hard I thought that she?d never let go and she?d kiss me wet and I?d wipe my cheek on my shoulder with disgust. Now I can understand more: how she?d talk about the bunk beds and the showers and the cabbage soup. It has taken me years to understand asking to die. ?Why don?t they kill us and save so many more?? they would ask, eyes to the sky on passing bombers. Do I understand now? Sometimes she said she could remember it like yesterday, and sometimes she said it was three lifetimes ago. That is the problem with all that death is she cannot remember. All her life is escaping death; all of that death, forgetting. At her funeral she wore long sleeves so I couldn?t see the number.

(Los Angeles)
 

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