Showing posts with label No Chance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label No Chance. Show all posts

Dec 17, 2018

No Chance

Tuesdays I volunteer to teach English to tenth grade kids.  For breakfast before I catch the bus to their school I’m having an egg, yogurt, and a YouTube harangue from an American university freshman. The interviewee jack-hammers her dogma: no one she deems a fascist has the right to speak on her campus. She makes quite clear that top ranked among fascists would be me, Lady Occupier of Jerusalem. Her hair is different, but her indoctrinated speech, her militant pitch, I heard decades ago, my freshman year.

The introduction to my campus was an oily, torch lit rally against the university administration by students masked, outlaw style, in paisley scarves. They chanted damn the fascists close it down, damn the fascists close it down.

A leader of the march was Paul; grad student in philosophy, Jew, and the boyfriend of my roommate Margo. The school did not close down, and the next weekend I found myself standing next to Paul, paisley snaking from his belt loop, waiting for the next spin in a night of international folk dancing. With the last stomp of a Balkan line dance (felt boots, sash, fur cap), the emcee queued an Israeli song. Paul said, “Oh ick,” lit a cigarette, studied its dirty smoke, and finished his thought, “There is no Israeli folk dancing. It’s all stolen from real cultures.” 

I was too green, too cowed to reply. It would be years before I’d learn that a likeminded European fascist, who pruned all but two twigs from Paul’s family tree had said, propemodum, the same thing.

Now Paul’s analogue, this woman on the internet, laces into me; me with spilled yogurt and icy feet, my socks having slipped off and gone missing in my little apartment in Israel.

The door to Natalia’s English room is locked. I grab a chair and sit in the hallway. A collection of female teachers and students is entertaining a chubby bruiser of a baby. They hand him around, make him say goo-goo words, and coo when he does. Here comes Natalia. The whole school wears sweats and jeans but Natalia dresses for winter Pushkin style, in slate cashmere and jet beads, with a bracelet of dozens of tinkling keys. 

“Whose baby is this?” she asks. 
A student kisses Bruiser’s fat cheek. “Ours,” she replies, and hands him to Natalia. Natalia makes a fish mouth and pumps the baby’s cheeks, “Do like this.” The whole group goes goldfish. When Bruiser gets it, his fan club goes wild.  

Two things happen as Natalia carries the baby to me. First, my face, a smiley emoji, is about to crack. Second, a male teacher, short with a short beard, shouldering a stuffed brief case on one arm and a diaper bag on the other, locks up the science lab, spots his son, and beaming, accepts his baby from Natalia’s arms.

Two of my favorite kids pop up around me. They pick up cold from our lesson last week; we are learning comparative and superlative.

Maya, a large boned girl, the tallest kid in the class, says. “I have decided,” she says, “The best job for me will be to program computers.”

Daniel, whose hooded eyes make him look sleepy but whose brain wins marathons, pushes aside his long bangs. On his third finger he wears an onyx ring engraved in silver with a Magen David.

“Computers? I’m a technophobe. That would be my worst job.”

“What would be your best?” I ask, amazed at this kid’s vocabulary.

“My best would be to get married.”

Maya rolls her eyes. “Getting married is not a job.”

Daniel yawns, “It would be for my wife.”

I’m caught between needing to teach and impatient to know how these kids think. “Comparative! Superlative!” I insist.

“It would be the very worst job for my wife because she’d have to do the maximum amount of work. I will do the least. Is that how you say it?”

“You have the least choice in the matter Daniel,” says Maya. “You will be an engineer or your father will be most happy to kill you.”
She’s put her finger on some button because Daniel starts to retaliate, but Olga’s keys clang, her door opens, and in Hebrew she says something to my duo that scoots them inside.

Throughout each lesson, from day one, I’m aware of how much I love these kids. Today I’m also aware how the world will rip them apart.  I get through the hour with the fake energy of a depressed comic. When the bell rings, I make believe I have to sneeze and bury my face in my hands.

Instead of a direct route to the bus stop, I detour through a weedy park. Its hills remind me of a small Riverside Park, except here no one will crack a bottle and lob it at my head.  

At a turn near the sliding pond I give up and drop onto a bench. I cover up my mood by making believe I’m consulting my cell phone. An elderly couple, the woman steadied by her husband’s arm, asks me in Hebrew if I need help. I say I’m looking for a bus. They ask me, which number? and I say randomly, fifteen.  They sit on either side of me, pull out their phones, and find apps with all the gazillion bus lines in Israel. They say, “One second, one second. We’ll find it.” They click this key and that, “One more second; almost got it.”

I want to tell them not to be kind. I want to tell them that Bruiser will not grow up, that Daniel will never marry, that my duo, living in this country the world detests, will not live long enough to have jobs. I want to tell them that none of us has a chance. I sob.  

The woman pulls me to her, tight and close. “Why are you so worried?” she asks. “We’ll find your bus.”