Following

He followed her everywhere. On Twitter, on the various blogs she’d started over the years, on Facebook and Google Plus. He followed her down the street, into the supermarket and out again, up to her office at work and back down to the parking lot at the end of the day, out to bars where she met dates and was disappointed and then back to her apartment where she went to sleep, often in tears.

He followed her moods, whims and crazes. He followed her progress when she decided to learn French, when she took up violin, when she began to take aerobics classes. He followed her as she gave each up carelessly, pretending the hobbies and skills she tried to acquire meant nothing. He followed her hand as she scratched frantically in her journal, bemoaning her latest failure and wishing to be someone else.

He followed her across the country when she ran away, hoping that a fresh start would make everything different. He followed her dizzy spiral of hope and contentment and its fizzle back down to the familiar low ebb of desperation.

He followed her up the building but held his arm out so she couldn’t jump. He followed her into the bathtub and took away the razor-blade so she couldn’t cut. He followed her into the garage and unplugged the exhaust pipe so she couldn’t suffocate. He followed her gently, quietly, invisibly, a guardian angel in her atheist world, wishing he could tell her how wonderful she was.

Acceptance

Acceptance is a good word. For starters, it has two kind of “c” sounds, a delicious “p” and a lovely ticking “t.” It’s a fun word to say. I accept the fact that not everyone agrees with me about the deliciousness of words – for which I must, again, thank Fry, S. J. – and so I’ll elaborate beyond the mere clicks of tongue and lips together. “Acceptance” is a good word because it has good connotations. It sounds positive in every respect:

We talk about accepting someone for who they are – accepting their faults or quirks, their weaknesses and passions. We talk about feeling acceptance from others – becoming comfortable with people, being who we feel we really are with them, shucking off the shells we build around ourselves to guard our hearts from strangers. Children are taught to accept others who are different than themselves, to ignore skin-color and race, cultural barriers or freckles.

“Acceptance” also brings to my mind the feeling of my stomach leaping upwards in a sweet rush when I find out that I’ve passed a test to get into a program, or gotten a big envelope from a college. It means being good enough, proving myself both to others and to the inner-critic.

But “acceptance” can also be a horribly sad word. When someone dies, we need to learn to accept their passing – not necessarily for anyone, but merely because there’s no choice. Life can’t go on unless we accept the death of a loved one. Even if we fight it, life has a knack of getting in the way and forcing us into realizing that we’ve accepted the horrible truth that someone we love will never hug us again, never smile at us, never blink or speak or cry. It’s natural, though, to accept this. If we wouldn’t, we’d go mad with grief at every death, every breakup, every parting.

And yet, there’s a part of me that rages at the acceptance, that feels as if it’s an insult to myself and my emotions. A part of me wants to scream out from the rooftops and subject the neighborhood to the keening sounds I hear only in my mind. A part of me wishes to give up entirely, to lie in bed and never rise from it. But that part is stuffed down, hushed up, quieted, because life goes on whether I want it to or not.

All is Fair in Love

“I don’t want to.”

“But we have to.”

“I know…”

“I don’t want to either. I love you.”

“Do you?”

“Of course I do! Don’t you believe me by now?”

“I do… It’s just me and my issues, you know.”

“I know. Believe me, I don’t want to either.”

“But we have to.”

“Yes.”

“At least for a while.”

“Exactly. I think it’s important.”

“I do too.”

“You really do, though, right?”

“Yes, I swear! And we’re not closing any doors, right?”

“Of course not. No closing doors.”

“And we’ll always be there for each other.”

“Always.”

Mandy Meets the Goblins (Part 1)

The day that Mandy met the goblins was, from dawn to dusk, perfectly normal.

She woke up, as usual, with the crowing of the rooster. She went around the farm with her brother, and they both did their chores. Sometimes they asked Mother or Father for help, but mostly, they knew how to milk the cows and collect the eggs and check up on the sheep in the pasture. Mother and Father would have helped them if it was a year ago. But it wasn’t a year ago, it was today. So it was normal for Mandy to cry a little bit when she heaved a pail of milk into the kitchen. It was also normal that she had a silent but violent tussle with her twin brother over the ripest apple from the forlorn apple tree.

At noon, almost the whole family gathered around the table for a very quiet meal. Mandy kept her eyes down and ate quickly so that she could get back to her chores. Chores made it easy not to think about the beautiful, teenage girl who had been lying on a bed upstairs for the past year; a girl who also happened to be Mandy’s big sister. She was also the reason that Mother and Father didn’t do much anymore – they were always upstairs, or running down to bring up broth, or running into the attic for some old and moldy doll.

After Mandy finished eating, she and her brother did their afternoon chores. Some of it was weeding the garden, but only when the sun was going down and it wasn’t so hot. Another chore, which they did right after they’d eaten was attend to their lessons. Every weekend, they went to the school that was five miles away and had lessons there along with many other children who lived on other farms. During the week, they’d need to study those lessons, and their parents used to be so strict about it that the habit stuck, even though Father and Mother weren’t strict about anything anymore. This was Mandy’s favorite chore, since she had to think very hard indeed about what she was doing, and couldn’t think about the invalid upstairs.

Dusk came, and with it, the end of Mandy’s day. She went up to the room she used to share with her sister (her brother slept in the room next door). She got ready for bed, like she always did, and climbed into it, like she always did, and put her head down on the pillow, like she always did. Except that now things stopped being normal. Because there was something very hard under her pillow that went “Ouch!”

Sitting up, Mandy reached a hand under the pillow and pulled out… what looked like a very strange, greenish rock, with pointy bits. Then she saw it wasn’t a rock, but a small, man-shaped thing that was curled up tight, trying to look like a rock. The pointy bits were its horns, and he couldn’t apparently, curl those up tightly too.

“Who’re you?” Mandy asked, laying the little person-thing down on her pillow.

“Mnthngjstrck” it said, without opening its mouth.

“Listen,” Mandy reasoned. “I know your not just a rock because rocks don’t make sounds. So you can stop being all scrunched up like that.” A tiny eye blinked open in what Mandy assumed was the thing’s face, and it looked suspicious. “Don’t worry,” she added quickly. “I’m not going to scream or anything.”

“Oh,” the creature unfurled, tried to stand on the soft pillow but lost its footing and settled for sitting. “Well, I suppose you’d better call me… Erm… Rocky.”

“That’s a sort of funny name. Did you just make it up now because you were pretending to be a rock?” Mandy was a very inquisitive girl, really, and this was the first time in a year that her curiosity really perked up. She was acting, technically, with what her parents called “bad manners” but she didn’t mind. It was good to do that again.

“No,” the thing answered, sounding a bit peeved. “It’s the closest translation of my name into your language.”

“So you’re from another country?” This was exciting – Mandy knew all about other countries (well, she knew that there were some and that people were a bit different there) but she’d never met someone from them before.

“You could,” hesitated the thing. “You could say that, yes.” Mandy stared at the thing, and it stared right back at her, neither saying anything for long moments.

“Um,” Mandy knew she was about to be very bad-mannered, but she couldn’t help it. “What are you?”

Not Enough Colors

The sky outside is so black.

The light inside is so yellow.

It’s so damn hot that I feel red all over.

The screen in front is blindingly white.

My hair really is brown, no matter what they say.

I wonder if I’ll ever have the guts to color it purple…

Maybe then, my eyes will look more blue again.

It’s amazing, but I’ve actually managed to avoid having anything pink in my entire room.

It’s odd, but the only green that I can see is on Dr. Seuss’s Yurtle the Turtle.

The speaker on my left has a silver glint to it with the light on the way it is.

Gold? Well, my bracelet is rusting and looks pretty gold now.

I’m quite unimaginative at the moment, so I must be missing some colors. I’ll keep looking around. Anything to distract me from the dead grey of the stone sitting in my chest.

Apologies and The Tale of the Book Fair

First of all, I want to apologize to you all – I haven’t had time to read any of your wonderful posts yesterday and today, and I feel awful about it. I always do, you know. I feel such a respect and appreciation for all of you who post so faithfully and who make me laugh, think, weep, and smile in turns – and I hate not having the time both to comment and to read your posts for my own pleasure. I do, however, have a good reason for not having had time yesterday and today to catch up.

I’ve had a rush of doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds [stomach and throat – I’m not pregnant or anything!] and errands in the past two days. On top of all that, starting yesterday, June 2, I’ve been working at the Hebrew Book Fair, which has been one of my goals since I was tiny tot.

Now, I don’t want to be too discriminatory, nor too prejudiced, but Israelis are often not the easiest crowd to deal with. This is common knowledge amongst Israelis, too, and as I am one, I’m allowed to say it. But Hebrew Book Week is ten full days in which fairs go up all over the country – fairs dedicated to BOOKS [yeah, I know, why call it a week when it’s ten days? It’s one of the grand mysteries of the world.] If you don’t know already, books are my life in more than one sense. They’ve been calming, comforting presences, friends when I needed them, entertainers when I needed a laugh and teachers when I wanted to learn. I love books. I love their smell, their feel, the crack in the spine when you first start reading a book… I love books.

So finally, this year, I’m working at the biggest of the fairs – the one that goes up right in the center of Tel Aviv – and I’m working for one of the major publishers. I never thought that I’d actually manage to work there, and I’m so glad that I have! I was tiny when I started going to the annual book fair, and I remember the excitement of leaving with bags laden with books [there’s 20% off all books during this time, of course, plus numerous other deals] and reading one of the books right that night. I remember going to the children’s corner to hear storytellers or writers reading their books.

And now I’m there, looking at it all from the other side. It’s an interesting experience, seeing famous Israeli writers or not so famous ones; seeing the way different writers deal with their own books [some, for instance, promote them shamelessly and aggressively. I can’t imagine ever being able to do that with anything I’d create…] ; seeing the different buyers, whether they’re families or couples or friends; meeting the people who work with me who are just as into books as I am… It’s an education, and the time flies.

The fair is in the evenings and into the night. I just managed to get out tonight by fifteen after midnight, and I’m exhausted. This may explain the non-existent eloquence of the post, as well as the not-so-pervading neatness and flow. Forgive me, for I’ve been on my feet for seven hours, and I think my brain might have dripped down meanwhile. Tomorrow, and Saturday, I will have freer days and will finally get back on track with y’all.

Pity Party Poetry

Would you say a pity party

Is exactly what you need?

Pity parties are always on,

Always around, you know.

Pity parties can be a damn good time

If you know when to flow

But also when to go.

Pity parties can be flashy,

Full of drama and tears and moans.

But pity parties can be quiet, too,

Self-contained, strangled, alone.

Pity parties are partly parties

Perhaps because they’re pretty?

But no, that’s wrong, they’re pity parties,

Not some dance-a-roo.

Although, who knows?

Some may be. Maybe some people dance.

Maybe they dance and pity around,

Like doing the Hokey-Pokey.

They put their common sense in,

They take the sadness out,

They keep the sadness with them then,

And that’s what it’s all about.

Right?

Dorothy

It’s a well known fact that if you drop a piece of buttered toast, it will land with the butter side down. Dorothy stared at her toast, lying there on her new, pristine white carpet and felt her world collapse around her. It had been one of those days, and her clumsiness at dropping the toast had been the last straw. If she could have seen her face in that moment, she would have been shocked, and maybe even annoyed. Her face had fallen, gone into a look of deep grief, and suddenly looked twenty years older.

She had to remind herself, every morning, that there were days like this. Days where everything went wrong and it felt as if every single mistake, misstep or blunder were the equivalent of accidentally setting off an atomic bomb.

Dorothy crumpled to the floor, and sat sobbing over her piece of toast. She knew she’d wake up fine the next morning. And she knew that her day, like every day, would end like this. Crying.

Victoria’s Secret [Part II]

Victoria stood stock still in the dark of the elevator. She felt one of the people with her fumble towards the door, brushing her sleeve as he or she went. The unmistakable sound of buttons being frantically pushed followed, until the man [for, apparently, it had been the man] swore loudly again.

“What do we do?” asked the woman.

“Call someone – do either of you have your cellphone with you?” the man sounded hopeful.

“No,” said the woman, just as Victoria said “Yes,” and whipped her cellphone out of the pocket of her coat. She flipped it open, and the screen lit up, suddenly illuminated the scene. The woman was leaning against the wall opposite Victoria and looked, for all the world, bored. The man was still standing by the door and trying to press the elevator buttons. He finally found the alarm button and rang it – a tinny bell sounded, but not very loudly.

“Damn cheap alarms,” he grumbled angrily. He pressed the button a few more times, and then gave up. “If anyone heard that, I’ll eat your cellphone,” he muttered at Victoria. She saw that beads of sweat were standing out on the man’s forehead. She looked back at the screen of her cellphone and her heart sank.

“No reception here – look,” and she showed the man the little symbol on the screen showing that they were in a zero reception area.

“Damn it!” the man barked. “What the hell are we supposed to do?”

“Wait, I guess,” said the woman. Then, surprisingly, she burst into tears. Victoria shuffled over to her and awkwardly patted her arm.

“Don’t worry,” she said in what she hoped was a reassuring voice. “They’ll figure out the elevator’s stuck even if they didn’t hear the alarm and someone will get us out of here.” She continued to pat the woman’s arm in a there-there gesture and then realized she didn’t know the woman’s name, although she recognized her as someone who worked on the floor above her in a different department. “What’s your name?” she asked, in an effort to distract the woman from her distress.

“Debbie,” she sniffled. “And I’m not scared or anything, I mean I’ve been stuck in elevators before and someone always comes eventually. It’s just that it always takes so long! My son is waiting for me downstairs and we were supposed to have lunch together. And now he’ll think I’ve forgotten about him, and he’ll get mad and go back home and I won’t manage to see him a-a-again!” Debbie broke into a fresh wave of sobs.

“But you’ll explain you were stuck in an elevator and he’ll understand, won’t he?” Victoria said kindly.

“No!” Debbie wailed. “He thinks that every time I’ve had to cancel with him I’ve just been making excuses not to see him! He’s an artist, my sweet talented boy, and he doesn’t understand the pressures and last minute things in a job like mine.” Debbie leaned against the wall and let her body sink down until she was sitting awkwardly on the floor, her knees bent strangely because of the tight suit-skirt she was wearing.

Victoria closed her cell and opened it again to light the screen up once more. She sat down on the floor beside Debbie, silently blessing her fashion sense that made her wear pant-suits with wide and airy pants that were comfortable to sit in, and put the cellphone in the center of the elevator so it softly illuminated the whole space.

“Well,” she said. “It seems we’re going to be here a while. Why don’t you tell me a bit about your son, Debbie?”

The Teacher

The Teacher heaved a deep sigh as she clasped her worn brown bag. Her hands, no longer slender and delicate, were riddled with swollen veins. Her wedding ring couldn’t come off her finger even if she’d wanted it to. Thankfully, she didn’t. Her marriage was the one thing that still made sense in her life.

The Teacher’s hair had been dyed red so many times that it had taken on a slightly metallic orange tint. She knew she looked like a joke, and she definitely knew the various nicknames she was known by throughout the student body, but white hair meant being a grandmother to her. That word hurt her too much. Grandmother. She had almost been one, and if the loss hurt her, she could only imagine how much it had hurt her daughter. Hurt enough that she had cut herself off from her parents because, in her words, it had been too difficult to see their eyes wander to her barren stomach and then fill with tears.

The Teacher picked up her case and walked slowly down through the empty halls, littered with crumpled paper and the occasional forgotten textbook. She sighed again as she walked. teaching didn’t make sense anymore, and for the last few years, this simple fact threw her whole life out of skew.

Her students weren’t different. Perhaps there were more cellphones in class, more kids copying essays off the internet, but all in all, high-school hadn’t changed all that much since she herself had been a twelfth-grader. No, it was some general something that irked her. Maybe it was the fact that so many parents didn’t seem to care what or how the teachers taught anymore. Maybe it was the fact that Bobby Jones and Nora Lessinger kept showing up to school with no text books because the funding for students like them who came from very low-income families had run dry. Maybe it was the fact that her daughter wasn’t speaking to her, and every teenager she looked at in her class seemed to somehow remind her of her personal life.

The Teacher exited the school building, and the sun flooded down from between a few grey clouds. In the parking lot, as always, was her husband in their old dark green Fiat. She could faintly hear the first Led Zeppelin album playing inside. She smiled at him, gave a little wave, and walked over. At least something still made sense in the world.