The past is a vast attic -- the dusty toy, the old album, the forgotten fury, must mixing with desire.

Some experiences glow all the brighter for being gone. Youth is like that. Years take away the gawky pain, leaving only the sweet taste of first times.

Other moments are so bitter that no number of years will dull the sorrow. "If you want to keep the beer REAL cood," moans a country and western song, "put it right next to my ex-wife's heart."

but we are more faithful than we know to the things we leave behind, to the spent emotions, the discounted dreams, to the Fears we've fought and the lover we've left. Here then are a few tales of former times, ornaments from the attic, shadows of the future.

So I used to be afraid of vampires, big deal.

Fear was a thoroughly reasonable response to the late '60s, and, as ex-phobias go, it was better than being afraid of heights, or open spaces, or the color red, fears that might interfere with the necessary business of living.

Being afraid of vampires isn't so bad. True, you have to remember to lock the windows at night, and the purchase of a really good crucifix can run to some bucks, but it's not the kind of phobia that is likely to embarrass you in public. You don't have to worry about vampires in the daylight, after all, and they tend not to bother groups -- one is reasonably safe from vampires at a cocktail party, for instance.

Still, being afraid of vampires had its drawbacks. operating on the theory that staying awake at night would at least prevent the creatures from launching a sneak attack meant dark circles and an unbecoming pallor. There was a tiresome search of the closets and under the bed each night, and the constant sentry duty was not designed to keep one's temperament among the sunniest.

Under the circumstances, it seemed best to stick close to Cambridge, there being few bats about, and to avoid going to the country, where a low wind whistling through dark meadows might mean trouble. Flirtations with tall, dark strangers who said they never drank wine were out of the question.

It started, I think, after watching a vampire movie. It wasn't one of those Bela Lugosi blowouts where everyone talks funny and there's a lot of repressed sexuality ruining the ambience of some drafty castle in a nonexistent country. No, this one took place in L.A., of all places, and everyone was blond and tanned and mellow, and relating the space everyone else was coming from. And still they got theirs.

Not only that, this was not one of those movies where the vampire is finally blitzed with the old wooden-stake-through-the-heart routine, where at least one does not have to fear for the future. Instead, by the end, it looked as if the entire city had taken to bloodsucking as if it were the best thing since sushi bars. No one had to tell me what happened to fads after they caught on in California. Goodbye, Berkeley; hello, Boston.

It was dark when I left the theater. I bought a night light.

The phobia lasted about a year before a long-forgotten childhood dream resurfaced and the fear was finally packed away with the anti-war posters, the Air Force flight jacket and other reminders of undergraduate angst. Still, I didn't see a vampire movie again until last year, when it seemed about time to test the waters.

Interesting, I thought, as i turned off the light that night.

Better safe than sorry, I thought, as I wondered where I'd put that crucifix.