Real Israelis

A36 semgirl

The next morning, as sunlight stuttered through the curtains of my dorm room, I surfaced from an empty heavy dream. I thought of Sami carefully, waiting to see if thoughts of him would bring pain, or the soft ache of a bruise, but they did not. And then, getting out of bed and moving through the day I found myself stacking all of the Jewish parts of my life up around me in a way that left no space for him.

It felt a little bit like cheating, telling myself I couldn’t be with him because I was too invested in the Talmud, and the Bible, and the rabbis and rebbetzins who taught my classes, but it was the only reason I could think of most of the time. Had I been using him without really knowing it? I didn’t think so, but the trembling sweetness in my stomach didn’t come back again. When the window on my cell phone announced that Sami was calling, I didn’t feel excited or nervous the way I had when he’d called before. Instead I caught myself forcing an enthusiasm that wouldn’t come, like when I’d gotten acceptance letters from colleges I didn’t really want to go to anyway.

After a few days Sami stopped calling.

That weekend Uncle David took me out to dinner with his girlfriend, a blonde Russian woman named Natasha. We went to a steakhouse and were served big pink slabs of beef that seemed to grow and pulse in the dim restaurant light. I ate slowly, and allowed a few sips of red wine to soften the edges of my thoughts. Afterwards we walked together back to the center of town and Uncle David and his girlfriend spoke to each other in rapid low Hebrew.

As we reached the bottom of Shamai Street Natasha laughed softly and my uncle smiled, pulling her against his side. “What am I going to do with you?” he said. A cab was stopped on the street in front of us, and I tried to look inside, catching a glimpse of an unfamiliar face before the traffic light turned green and the car accelerated away.

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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.