Real Israelis

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A36 semgirl

As soon as we got off the highway Sami pulled onto a side street and stopped the car. I had no idea what was going on, and for the first of many times I felt a lightness in my chest, a loose cold fear at what I might have agreed to, what could happen next. He got out of the car and opened the door for me. I stood up slowly, feeling stupid and naïve and wishing I could remember anything I learned in the self-defense classes they made us take in high school. Sami closed my door for me and then led me to the other side of the car and opened the front passenger-side door. When I realized what was going on, I smiled, relief loosening my body. I sat down next to him and buckled my seat belt as Sami reversed us back onto the road toward my seminary.

“It’s so much nicer to have you here, where I can see you,” he said at the stoplight. “You’re very beautiful.”

Of course I was not beautiful, but I appreciated the possibility that my lack of beauty didn’t matter to Sami. I paused for a moment, trying to decide if he was lying to me, or just mistaken. I could not decide, so I laughed.

“You’re very nice to me,” I said. “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” he said, and I examined his profile as he drove. He was not beautiful, either, I decided, considering the flat wide arc of his forehead and the fullness of his lips. But he was pleasant-looking, and I liked the waves of dark hair that reached down the back of his neck, grazing the top of his collar.

We were close to my seminary then, in the neighborhood where all the streets are named after prophets. Sami swung us around a roundabout and said, “Should I call you tomorrow?”

“Send me a text message,” I said.

He pushed a button on the meter that was keeping track of our journey from the bus station to my seminary, and it spit a receipt at him, which he tore off and handed to me, along with a pen that was sliding up and down the dashboard.

“Give me your phone number,” he said.

This was where I could have given him a fake number. The possibility was there, and as I started to write I looked over at him and saw him worrying, saw that he knew I had this option, too. I put the pen back on the dashboard.

“If you tell me your phone number, I’ll just call you right now, and then we’ll know that we have each other’s numbers,” I said, and took my cell phone out of my purse.

A few minutes later we pulled up in front of the crumbling grey building where I lived with 57 other girls. The daytime security guard was a woman, and she squinted at me as I got out of the front seat of the cab, then leaned back in toward Sami. I had money for my fare in my hand, and I tilted it towards him, but he shook his head.

“I’ll talk to you soon,” I said.

He grinned. “Bye-bye.”

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Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.