Jun 3, 2019

Superman's Gym Bag

I’m just over five feet in kitten heels which is what I was wearing the night Mercury flew past me in a CVS pharmacy in a Brooklyn slum. The man, in muscle, was twice my weight. He ran faster than I drive. But when a cashier yelled “Catch that guy!” I jumped him.

I had him around his alpha neck. In retrospect, it must have been hilarious to see a woman in a velvet cape riding this Hulk piggyback up the makeup aisle, out to the parking lot, and dumped, like Superman’s gym bag, on the blacktop. I was all shook up. I was not  particularly safe living in New York.

A decade later I flashed on that cape as I waited one freezing Shabbat afternoon for my elderly neighbor, Mrs. M., to drain a last drop of Kirschwasser from the only household item to survive her Warsaw girlhood, a red lead crystal aperitif. She had disturbing news before Shabbat from a more elderly friend vacationing in Antwerp. A doctor there refused to treat the woman’s broken rib, because, give him H for honesty, she was a Jew.

“Can you believe it?” Mrs. M. asked. I almost said, “You have trouble believing it?” But she was slumped forward, shoes off, her stockings bunched at the toes. It was no time to get mouthy, and it was not the right time to tell her what just formed in my mind, seemingly from nowhere but in truth subterranean years in the making. I would sell my house. I would pack up my furniture, my books, my clothes, and my cat and I would move to Israel, before I lost the choice.

Late after Shabbat was over I peeked through the shutters. The lights in Mrs. M’s bedroom were still on. I turned up the heat, wrapped myself in heavy blankets, and plopped down to make a list of all the things I needed to do to move my New York body and soul to Israel.

At first I thought the abnormal screams were icicles scraping my windows, until I realized they were coming from further outside. In my bathrobe, with no brains and an old flashlight, I threw open the door to my backyard.

On the winter limbs of my only tree swung three skeletal raccoons, raving, howling, staring me down.

My house was sold to an optimistic young couple who planned to expand it and fill it with children. One morning in early spring I handed them my ring of keys.

Later that night I stepped off the plane at Ben Gurion and handed my paperwork to an immigration counselor from Uruguay. Hysterically, we conducted my State of Israel citizenship interview in Spanish. I signed there and there, received a suitcase full of rainbow writing papers and brochures, and have not left Israel’s tiny boundaries since.

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