A little edited now that I have more memories, but not too much so. There are others that I'm not going to include for the sake of...well, there was just no need for them; it disrupted the flow.
I can hear the word all too well, those two short clipped syllables in English, the hard "J". In Polish, though, in German, in Yiddish, the languages I knew in my past life, it would have been softer. Turn the J into a Y, soften the o into more of a u, and even then I can't *quite* describe the way it sounds, nor can I pronounce it now with my clumsy American accent, though I try.
Jacob, Jacob, Jacob...
Ever since I was young, I have experienced memories from a life previous to this one, and through waking visions brought on by meditation, dreams, and regressions, I have been able to form a partial picture of who he was. Unfortunately, due to the nature of what happened between us, a grief and trauma runs so deeply though my soul that most of my memories are foggy, and blocked by my own mind in a desperate attempt to protect itself from the pain.
But what I do know tells me more than can truly be expressed in words. According to a dear friend of mine, someone who can "read" the past lives of others, Jacob and I met when was very young, though I am not sure "met" is the word I am looking for. What I mean is that we were aware of each others' existence, passing each other once or twice in the street with our mothers. But it was not until I was sixteen that we truly ended up connected in a way that carried over sixty years, from Bronia in 1944 to Carolina in 2010.
The very first memory I got of him was our first kiss. In a paved cobblestone square in the middle of our town, my sister, Rivkah, and I were sent out to get supper. Racing each other, too childish for our fifteen and seventeen years, we drew attention to ourselves in ways that were certainly considered dangerous in 1943. In the ultimate romantic cliche I ran straight into him, looking up into his dark brown eyes. I was too tongue tied to even begin to speak, but he did.
"You're Bronia," he said, and he leaned down and kissed me. I became quite aware of Rivkah's envious and shocked stare--it was unheard of then to be so forward with a girl. Even so, he was not too pushy, just a bit of a peck on the lips, but it is nearly impossible to describe the spark between us, how deeply I felt for him.
See, I'm not the type of girl who believes in true love. In fact, it's become a bit of running joke amongst my friends. "That bitch Carolina..."
But feeling what I did in that moment, how happy he made me in such a dark, desperate time, how when he held me close that way I felt forever safe and protected, and that nothing could ever hurt me when he was by my side, it became not as far out of the realm of possibility. I only have two other happy memories of him, though both were in places that were far from ideal. The first, the anteroom to Hell--the Lodz Ghetto. The second, Hell itself--Birkenau.
In the ghetto, the two of us used to walk often, though I cannot place the name of the streets. The ghetto itself was dusty and brown in the heat of that summer of 1944, and he very lightly held onto my hand as we talked. In the case of some past life memories, while there are many sensations and details, there can be an absence of a few of the senses themselves. The most common ones I miss are that of smell (I am grateful for that) and hearing. Anything that is being said somehow ends up telepathically in my consciousness, as crazy as it sounds. In this case, Jacob was talking about the future, and that absolutely floored me. That caged up in the filthy, dank, disease ridden part of Lodz, branded with the yellow star on both our chests and back, he could talk about the future of the world with such excitement, but he did.
I could tell how intense he felt about this subject due to the very subtle shifts in his body language; how he gripped my hand just a little bit harder, and a word jumped into my mind.
Of course, back in 1944, Communism was feared in some circles, but the atrocities that would later be associated were unknown. Not that any news would have leaked to us to begin with--the Lodz Ghetto, unlike many ghettos, was nearly hermetically sealed, the smuggling of food completely impossible, among other things. The destination we were headed to next, however, was completely different, and it was then that things began to take a turn for the worse.
But there was one more pleasant memory between us then, even in the depths of Birkenau we were given a few opportunities to meet, and speak to each through the electrified fence that separated the mens' blocks from the womens'. Through some way or another, he managed to produce a white flower. In Birkenau, where all beauty died and no living things existed, it was an extraordinary act. Cradling that tiny white flower in my hands I couldn't imagine the lengths he had gone to in order to give it to me, and in that Hell, it became the symbol for how deeply he loved me.
Unfortunately, it did not take long for the effects of Birkenau to take a toll on him. He was assigned to the most horrible job in the entire camp, that of the Sonderkommando. The Sonderkommando squad lived in the crematoriums, in the attics, and it was in the crematorium that they were forced to do their grisly job of removing the bodies from the gas chamber and burning them in the ovens. Even now I cannot begin to imagine the horrible, piercing pain that must have afflicted him doing such a job; it is truly impossible to grasp. So it is not surprising that he fell into such a miserable depression that he wanted to die, and he got his wish when he gave up completely, refusing to do the Nazis' dirty work. He was killed by either a shot or blow to the head (foggy memories make this uncertain) and a different prisoner at least had the decency to catch me between blocks and inform me of his death.
It was then that I experienced one of the worst memories in any of my regressions, when I completely lost it emotionally. I was in my block in Birkenau, lying in a bunk with Rivkah, my sister, and the grief that washed through me shook me to the depths of my soul. I had gone beyond crying to pure howling as I buried my head in my arms, the long sleeves of my striped camp dress scratching up against my cheek. She held me, rubbed my back, did the best she could to comfort me. The rest of the women in the barrack, however, had absolutely no sympathy, calling out to Rivkah: "Can't you get her to shut up?!"
It was then that a little part of me died with him, and I truly began to give up.
Those are the last of my memories of Jacob, but it is far from the end of the story. Like most things in my life, time and place have been reduced to a cycle, a cycle that brought me to Seattle on September 2, 2010. A 9.30 pm, waiting outside a hotel to meet up with some of my Rooster Teeth friends, the world as I knew it changed. One by one I was introduced to figures I knew on the site, and that is when the words, so seemingly insignificant at the time, set the gears of my cycle in motion once again.
"Hi, I'm Carolina," I said, a little shy.
"Rane," he replied.
Neither of us realized what was about to happen; that after sixty years separated in trauma and pain, we were reunited.