“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
I was going to write a piece called “Why Kosher Pizza Sucks.”
Tonight I feel battered.
Tomorrow, I won’t. But tomorrow is tomorrow, and tonight is now. And whenever I get pensive, melancholic, and withdrawn, I find my thoughts centering on those I’ve loved in secret. In secret not because of fear, but because the words are not meant to be spoken, are meant only for clutching to the heart as scraps of intimate poetry, to haunt and uplift me in the night. These people wake up and walk around and go to sleep, and they don’t know that I love them.
It’s not that they mustn’t know. It’s that they can’t know.
It can’t be expressed.
For me, it’s easier to salve my intellect through writing than my heart. “The chambers of the heart cannot be written down,” says the Talmud.
But I’m going to try.
In the merit of feeling broken open, witness those who draw me across the infinite divide:
She was my friend in middle school, and as we got older we drifted apart until the only rope between our tugboats was Facebook. She is quirky, from a family of quirkies, and has a smile like sunshine. She was more into drugs than I was…I may have said some things. What did I know?
What do I know now?
One day, I commented on something she said on Facebook, something small, a stupid TV show. And a mutual acquaintance of ours attacked me (the first thing he said to me in any form in perhaps a decade) for being religious. And there it was, all laid out: we used to be similar, with similar interests, and we grew apart, and maybe it’s all my fault for running away to Israel and ensconcing myself in Yeshiva and this life and if she wanted she could twist that knife.
But she didn’t.
She came to my defense. She said he should leave me alone, that I’m a Jewish man trying to be Jewish, and that it deserves respect.
Never in my life have I felt more vindicated.
I step down Jerusalem sidewalks, watching Jews flutter outside my sonic enclosure, drummer breaking the beat they don’t know they’re stepping to. As is Jerusalem custom, they stare notes through the cracks in my walls.
A Yiddishe crone creaks in the breeze like a flagship, a mother to fleets wrapped in black sailing, crow’s nest wreathed with faded pink flowers, aged prow tacking at the spray of the changing tide. She goes about her business.
At the sound of my heavy footfall, she glances aft, and looks away, probably without a thought. She can’t know that I’d die for her at 3:30 on a Jerusalem Sunday.
I wouldn’t die for Moon or Mercury, nor for Harrison or Page; they paint my stars but won’t carry my weight. But she…she is everything, for an instant. I watch over her until she finds a safe harbor.
He got on my nerves, always tagging along, laughing at my jokes too often, saying “Hi” more than was reasonable, twice in an hours’ span.
We just saw each other, what do you want?
We’d learn together, and he wouldn’t understand how I like to casually drift in, to feel comfortable, to take the situation’s temperature – he was too eager, too fast, unable to keep from looking over at me ten minutes before lunch was over, silently questioning my preparedness.
I started dreading the time we spent together. He threw my rhythm off.
One night, I felt downtrodden and exhausted, angry with everything, and especially that I’d have to learn with him. As I recited Hebrew words with a heavy heart through gritted teeth, he grinned and made one of his unfunny jokes.
And, because I felt broken and downtrodden, it was funny. It was wry and penetrating. It brought a grin to my face that I couldn’t understand.
He is an orphan.
It occurrs to me that I didn’t understand him because my heart wasn’t broken enough.
I sat, begrieved and aching from the mess my life became. He approached, walking lightly, as if his body was weightless.
That’s what he does for a living. He takes the weight away.
He asked me what was wrong.
He told me I should listen to happy music.
I told him that the world said I was tone-deaf, and sang too loud.
He shook his head in disgust. “Tzvi,” he said, “you don’t even want to know what I think about them.”
My voice choked and my eyes watered.
As he walked away, his feet didn’t touch the ground.
He knows, and he never says anything.
How does he do that?
She is the embodiment of my every doubt; not about people, but about G-d. She is a good person. She is nothing but kindness and benevolence, and in case you think that’s blind, I’ll tell you this much – she does as best she can.
Well, she did.
Because it all fell apart, and it can only be put on G-d, and how can He do this? It’s worse than war and world hunger and even Nickelback; it’s personal, and one thing after another, and in direct proportion and a consequence of her kindness.
Suffering in direct payment for goodness.
Yet she goes on.
I guess I must, as well.
Image from Flickr
Originally posted on Hevria.