Up here it is bright, warm, and quiet, and I can flee from the constantly refreshing feeds and urgent work requests in order to settle into the stories of the Caesars. These prolonged baths in ancient history have a strange effect. When I leave the apartment I find myself contemplating the people in the streets and the supermarket shelves with the bewildered gaze of one so recently arrived from plague-ridden Constantinople. I put togas, tunics, and ruffs on passersby, and the brightly colored uniforms of shop employees seem both quaint and gaudy, a relic of a past yet to be. Before the Empire, the Romans wore wool. The Cariocas of this period favor a wide variety of spandex blends. The grain lines to the Italian peninsula could be interrupted by a commander with a stranglehold on Egypt; and the viceroys of São Paulo, if they deemed their drought severe, could sap the water from the Paraíba do Sul. Epochs reveal themselves dizzyingly distant and frighteningly close, and the pages of the Universal History appear as the dry shorthand for an a story too huge to be recounted.
Recently I’ve been driven back down my own timeline, to see what I can remember of the teachers who first told me some of these stories. My hard drive is packed with bureaucratically executed outlines and notes that reveal the monotony of 180 semi-identical school days, my own unimaginative responses and gross generalizations, and I’m cringing and wondering how I made it this far. The answer must lie beyond the records, in that which is lost: the jokes, the encouragement, the contagious enthusiasm and improbable trust. These intangibles must either discourage me entirely, by virtue of their fleeting irrecuperability, or remind me of the storytellers whose example I am challenged to carry on. Let’s go with the latter. Thank you, Mr. Kishore.