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, 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 that beer REAL cold," moans a country and western song, "put it 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.

Everybody is somebody's ex-lover.

Take Bill, for example (the names have been changed to protect the guilty). He was married to June. They almost got divorced once when June ran off to Paris with her boss and Bill consoled the boss' wife. Then June had an affair with one of Bill's best friends whom I had also dated. Bill and June got divorced. June broke up with the best friend and started living with Tim.Bill and I lived together. June and Tim lived across the street. Jack and Jill were our friends. He had been married to a woman before who left him to become an actress. Jack met Jill, who is the ex-lover of a prominent Washington writer. Jack and Jill got married.

Bill and I broke up. I moved to a friends house for a while. Bill started dating her. She was also dating the ex-roommate of my future husband. My friend eventually wound up with Kent, who had dated a woman my husband had dated.

Jack and Jill had a party recently. My husband and I were part of the early shift (7 to 8:30). Bill and his girlfriend would be arriving for the late shift (8:30 to 10). The early shift also included Sally and Rick. She had left her former husband Sam for Sam's best friend Rick. Sam (who dated Bill's ex-wife June afer her divorce) and his new girlfriend) and his new girlfriend would be in the late shift.

Jill, a modern hostess, says its easier this way.