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

Some experiences glow all the brighter for being gone. Youth is like that. Years take away the gawky pain, leave 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 cold," 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 lovers we've left. Here then are a few tales of former times, ornaments from the attic, shadows of the future.

There I was on a Friday night, sitting peacefully in my corner reading my Proust when the phone rang.It was for me, my son said.

I picked up the receiver. Nobody calls me at night except the office.

"Hello?" said the soft, breathless soprano. "This . . . is Louise!"

"Louise!" I shouted. I hadn't seen Louise for 30 years. She was my first serious girl. We used to swim out to the island in Lake Moraine and talk, side by side in our dripping bathing suits, both of us a little breathless because it is a half-mile swim.

"Louise! How are you? I can't believe it."

She giggled.

We drifted apart after high school.Later I fell in love and married, and I am still in love and married, and Louise married somebody I didn't know. I wondered what she would look like now. She used to have slanty Nordic eyes, high cheekbones and a long, very blond braid.I wondered: Would she want to see me? Would it be sticky?Was she maybe divorced and trying to rekindle the flame? I began to feel slightly uncomfortable.

"Yes, it's Louise," said the voice, suddenly sounding defensive. "On the night desk. We wanted to check on that date you gave in the Stokowski story. nThe copy seems to be garbled."

I must get to know those people on the night desk better.