Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Shivah

Constructive Criticism always welcome, this is what I wrote for my memoir writing class:

Shivah House
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I enter the home hearing only murmuring, I do not know where to look, , I feel blinded like a newborn, slowly, the fuzzy shapes and shadows evolve into a living room and people everywhere. There are light movements of silhouettes making sure the urn is filled for hot drinks, cleaning the counters. Platters upon platters of sweet and savory pastries decorate the long, dining room table in neat pyramids. I am not sure I am exhaling; my heart is so tormented than any movement, physical or emotional, is excruciating, I am trembling in fear as I begin the slow steps through the entrance of the home. An older woman stands there, tightly clutching a broomstick and waiting to instantly sweep any sign of dust that hits the floor, she stands there, waiting for the crumbs, giving herself some focus in this lonely home.

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This week hundreds of guests will enter this house of mourning, consoling the bereaved, consoling me.

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My stomach leads the way, not because of the smell of treats in the air but in my weak state of mind, it is the only part of my body that is responding to death. It twists and turns and flips inside of me, it crunches and folds and sprays acid up into my throat. My lips are parched from too much wine and pills that were supposed to illicit a calm state of mind during a nine-hour flight from Bangkok only hours before. When the medicine wore off, my body responded in tremors and uncontrollable sobbing. The only way I could bring comfort to my soul was by compulsively rocking myself in the notoriously uncomfortable middle seat, in the middle row of the middle part of the plane.

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My sneakers make no sound as I walk towards her, even though my entire body is trembling from my loss, the sight of her makes me realize that this loss is not only my own but everyone here. This instant realization doubles, triples my pain. I can feel it everywhere, it is bursting out of my fingertips and I can feel it from hers. Two women wearing equally distraught expressions are holding her. Her hand is limp in theirs, and she is moaning in pain. She sees me and my stomach begins a circus-like performance inside of me. I kneel in front of her and look up at her, she places her palms on my face as if blessing me but instead moans with words. “What a beautiful bride you would have been my darling. Oh my G-d!” she wails as she places my head on her lap, her hands trembling on my ears.

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My stomach can take no more; I leap up and run upstairs, finding solace on the porcelain seat of the first floor toilet. There is no food to release into the bowl below me. I stare at my saliva dripping into the water below as my acrobat stomach jerks my empty body. I flush to buy myself more time.

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I walk outside, my mouth dry from the many cigarettes I am putting in my mouth for comfort. There are so many people here; they came to look at me with their sorry eyes and their sympathetic kisses on my frozen cheeks. They ask the obvious questions: “How are you?” and “Are you alright?” Sometimes, I would blatantly look at someone and state “NO. I am not alright.” and walk away. I have no time for them. I have no time for all of this.

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The sun is everywhere. It bathes my shoulders as I sit on warm plastic green chairs. Every now and then, the sky would host the deafening engine of a jet taking off from the air force base nearby. It stains the sky above us in white clouds and cursive loops. I watch the sun beating on my exposed skin, the hair on my forearms are becoming blonder and with every millisecond that passes, new freckle constellations are forming around my skin, forming a new kind of destiny and replacing the old one reluctantly.

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I feel like my heart has left my body and now I am a robot. I must take care of the machinery. I remember to drink water but by the time I pick up the small plastic cup next to my chair, it is already warm and pieces of pollen are floating in it. I pick up the savory pastries when the trays pass under my nose but I don’t smell them. The minutes take ages to thaw and move by.

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Finally, a breeze snakes through the crowds, breaking me from my thoughts. The faint smell of the lemon trees behind me recharges my mind; I get up to find solicitude in the cool washroom of the basement. I start light conversation with the few silhouettes standing there and in a moment of confusion of the heart and soul. I make a decision. I make it standing against a Beko dryer as if it was as simple as doing laundry. My arms are crossed as if they were physically protecting myself from the inevitable future repercussions such a bold statement would make.
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“I’m staying” I tell Clifford Corney, an London born gentlemen in an electric blue buttoned down shirt as my eyes traced the specks on the white tiles below. It was only last week he was wearing the same uniform as Tsiki in the army reserve service, but now he is not like Tsiki, he is here and Tsiki is gone.

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The moment the words fall out of my mouth, they make this situation a reality. I had just reorganized my life after the death of my father weeks before. The summer was to be spent helping my mother pull her life back together, cleaning out the memories of a quarter-century marriage in selling it in a garage sale with $1.00 price tags.

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“What will you do?” asks Clifford, distracting me from the surplus of thoughts that simple statement just created. I look up at him as a different person, as if I just didn’t experience the loss of big love & as if my ring finger is not naked, representing the emptiness the path ahead of me. “I will need a job” I tell him quietly. I shrug. I stare directly at him, lifeless. “I need to study Hebrew, I need to convert,” I tell him, citing our already existing plan together before he died. “I need to eat.”