It's very human to begin looking for something and then forget what you're looking for.
Tennessee Williams tells a story of someone who forgot -- the story of Jacob Brodzky, a
shy Russian Jew whose father owned a bookstore. The older Brodzky wanted his son to go to
college. The boy, on the other hand, desired nothing but to marry Lila, his childhood
sweetheart -- a French girl as effusive, vital, and ambitious as he was contemplative and
retiring. A couple of months after young Brodzky went to college, his father fell ill and
died. The son returned home, buried his father, and married his love. Then the couple
moved into the apartment above the bookstore, and Brodzky took over its management. The
life of books fit him perfectly, but it cramped her. She wanted more adventure -- and she
found it, she thought, when she met an agent who praised her beautiful singing voice and
enticed her to tour Europe with a vaudeville company. Brodzky was devastated. At their
parting, he reached into his pocket and handed her the key to the front door of the
"You had better keep this," he told her, "because you will want it some
day. Your love is not so much less than mine that you can get away from it. You will come
back sometime, and I will be waiting."
She kissed him and left. To escape the pain he felt, Brodzky withdrew deep into his
bookstore and took to reading as someone else might have taken to drink. He spoke little,
did little, and could most times be found at the large desk near the rear of the shop,
immersed in his books while he waited for his love to return.
Nearly 15 years after they parted, at Christmastime, she did return. But when Brodzky
rose from the reading desk that had been his place of escape for all that time, he did not
take the love of his life for more than an ordinary customer. "Do you want a
book?" he asked. That he didn't recognize her startled her. But she gained possession
of herself and replied, "I want a book, but I've forgotten the name of it."
Then she told him a story of childhood sweethearts. A story of a newly married couple
who lived in an apartment above a bookstore. A story of a young, ambitious wife who left
to seek a career, who enjoyed great success but could never relinquish the key her husband
gave her when they parted. She told him the story she thought would bring him to himself.
But his face showed no recognition. Gradually she realized that he had lost touch with his
heart's desire, that he no longer knew the purpose of his waiting and grieving, that now
all he remembered was the waiting and grieving itself. "You remember it; you must
remember it -- the story of Lila and Jacob?"
After a long, bewildered pause, he said, "There is something familiar about the
story, I think I have read it somewhere. It comes to me that it is something by
Tolstoi." Dropping the key, she fled the shop. And Brodzky returned to his desk, to
his reading, unaware that the love he waited for had come and gone. Tennessee Williams's
1931 story "Something by Tolstoi" reminds me how easy it is to miss love when it
comes. Either something so distracts us or we have so completely lost who we are and what
we care about that we cannot recognize our heart's desire.
Signs of the Times, June, 1993, p. 11.
Blessed are those who give without remembering. And blessed are those who take without
The Rest of the Story p.141.
Forget each kindness that you do as soon as you have done it. Forget the praise that
falls to you the moment you have won it. Forget the slander that you hear before you can
repeat it. Forget each slight, each spite, each sneer, whenever you may meet it. Remember
every promise made and keep it to the letter. Remember those who lend you aid and be a
grateful debtor. Remember all the happiness that comes your way in living. Forget each
worry and distress; be hopeful and forgiving. Remember good, remember truth, remember
heaven is above you. And you will find, through age and youth, that many will love you.
Physician to patient: "If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times--I do
not treat amnesia cases!"