Abraham lifted his leg and smashed his foot down on the glass. It was a symbolic act that his bride’s family, of Ashkenazim origin, had requested be kept. He complied but couldn’t understand the mourning for a city that was once again in the possession of the Jewish people. (The breaking of the glass in a wedding ceremony comes from the need to temper ones happiness and to remember that we are in exile and our temple has been destroyed). Just a couple of years ago a miracle even more important to the Jewish people had occurred when Colonel Motta Gur secured Jerusalem back to the Jewish people after two thousand years of exile.
It was 1970 and the Met’s had won the World Series just 6 months earlier, men had walked on the moon and planted a USA flag there, Golda Meir became the first Lady Prime Minister of Israel, Eisenhower had died and Judy Garland went home. Here he was, Abraham, smashing his foot down on a glass and then kissing his bride Darla on the lips for an extended period of time – while his friends hooted and the Rabbi’s frowned.
He turned around, took Darla by the hand and led her across the temple towards the exit.
Two years passed by and Gabriela was born.
Gabriela was smart, good looking and had a dynamic personality. When she walked into a room it was as if a light bulb had been lit. She knew it too – didn’t like it all that much but by the time she learned to like the attention – her looks began to wane a bit. Her hair went from natural curls to frizzy, he skin went from clear to blemished and her boobs were not in proportion with her body. Even her personality went from a serious smile to a serious gloom.
This changed when she turned 17 years old and began to see things more clearly. She began to dress in pretty clothing and to put on some make up here and there.
Abe and Darla had brought up their home to be a Orthodox Jewish home with some room for being conservative. When it came to keeping kosher – they were strict in house but out of house they would eat cheese even if it wasn’t labeled kosher. Most important they had brought up their children to be proud of their heritage.
Darla’s parents had been in concentration camps and had lost their parents. They met in an Israel refugee center and married behind the fences. They moved to New York in 1951 and had 4 children – Darla being the youngest.
Darla met Abe at a mutual friends brother’s bar-mitzva and hit it off from there. They married at 21 and were parents at 23 years old.
Gabriela didn’t want to get married young, she wanted to go to college out of town and become a Doctor of some sort. But when she met David she knew that her choices had dwindled down to yes or no. She said yes.
It was a year into her marriage when her father in law died suddenly. David was visited by one of the extreme Rabbi’s in the community who convinced him that in order to avoid the same fate or to understand why his father had apparently failed a test. Gabriela almost threw the guy out of the house until David hugged the Rabbi and she knew they were in trouble.
Gabriela was someone who was proud of herself. She had graduated with honors from Brooklyn College and had still found the time to look as good as she did. Although some of her goals in life were put on hold – she was smart enough to know how to think when the rain came around.
Gabriela was feeling down though. It had been a while since she had any contact with another man – it was over a year since her divorce. She was living alone in an apartment that her father paid the rent for providing she come in each Shabbat to stay at home. She had lost her job recently as the company she worked for closed down after 40 years in business.
Gabriela went for a walk towards Central Park from her apartment on sixty-first street. Crossing Madison Avenue she looked at the Barney’s building and it reminded her of when her father bought her ex a tuxedo from there. She had told her father that he was going to rent a tuxedo and her father would not have it.
“Use my credit card and tell him to buy a tuxedo from Barney’s. Armani or one of those.”
“Dad it can cost over a thousand dollars from there. He can just rent -”
“A thousand or two thousand big deal. In the scheme of what I am spending on the wedding its a couple of flower arrangements.” He kissed her forehead.
“Don’t worry – I want you to have the best of the best Gab. Your my girl!” He smiled and turned to leave.
“I love you daddy – thank you.”
She remembered when she decided to walk away from David she took the tuxedo with her – along with the engagement ring he had given her. She took the ring to her cousin who was a jeweler and told him to sell it. She then took the cash and gave it to her father – who quickly donated it to a charity for brides with no money for wedding gowns.
As she crossed the street she spied two baby strollers being pushed. The one that passed her on the crosswalk was a girl – identified by the pink ribbons adorning the carriage. She peeked inside as she passed by and noticed an alert baby with a pacifier in its mouth. The other stroller was stationed in the shade under the Barney’s awning and the nanny was speaking on her cell phone. Gabriela looked into the stroller and saw another girl, this one looking like a newborn. She didn’t dare look inside too long – she knew the tears would start and not end until she mercifully would fall asleep.
She had no regrets about what she had done – well, almost no regrets.
A month after she had walked out of their apartment and their marriage she woke up to the realization that she was late.
It was the week before Passover – the weather was still grimy outside with the winter’s snow all painted with dirt and car exhaust. She had been in a sort of post marriage traumatic syndrome since and had utterly forgotten that they had lain together on the appointed evening after she had gone to the ritual baths.*
She remembered that evening and shuddered from it when he declined to do what he had done so well before his conversion from color to black and white. She knew it was over when she couldn’t sleep after the act and found herself laying in bed until four in the morning, showering and drinking a cup of coffee on the deck they had outside their apartment.
It was cold out but the sun was coming up and it looked like it was a new day – it was that morning that she decided to give him an ultimatum. He took the ultimatum and she packed her stuff and left.
Now a month or so later and she was on her way back from buying an Early Pregnancy test kit.
When she saw the results and then tested it again with a second and third test – she knew what she needed to do.
Still each time she saw a baby, heard a baby crying or saw a pregnant lady she felt a twinge of, what was it, regret? Guilt?
“I do not feel guilty – if I had kept the pregnancy I would have been tied to that asshole forever.” She said out loud to no one but her conscience.
The park was almost summer like – trees in full blossom, children running and climbing the rocks, couples holding hands and walking and older couples sitting on benches minding their own business. The lake was alive with dogs jumping in and out of it, row boats and remote controlled sailboats. The carousel was spinning, ice cream was melting and kids were screaming. She wondered what it would have been like to have a child with her running around. She wouldn’t have stayed with David regardless – but she couldn’t help but imagine what could have been.
“Oh know here comes those tears again…” She thought to herself. She turned to go back to her apartment and as what always happens in New York City; she walked right into David and his pregnant wife. She smiled and was silent, shocked really; turned around and left before they noticed her. It was obvious he saw her – but she pretended she didn’t see him. But she couldn’t contain her emotions and found herself back in her apartment. Secure in her apartheid from the world.
Secure but not alive – just going through the motions of breathing.
Secure but unhappy – how can one be happy when emotionally crippled?
Ah but she knew – this state of apartheid would end soon. She was blessed with hope that was undying – it slept once in a while which would cause the tears to fall; but the hope never died. She knew deep in her heart her best days were ahead; most of the time.
Most of the time.
*According to Jewish law once a women has her period they are not allowed to touch until 5 days after the women ceases seeing blood. Once that is checked the women goes to the ritual baths and comes home to make love to her husband. Do not take this as a full explanation as this is a work of fiction not a testimony)