Tamar was late.
She was in her apartment on east 2nd and avenue S and she was running to make an appointment in the city at 1030. It was already 845 and time was moving too quickly. She grabbed her pocketbook, cell phone and threw on her winter coat. Apparently there was a chance of a snowstorm today so she also pulled on her boots in place of her shoes.
The door slammed behind her; she locked the top lock and ran down the two flights of stairs to the street.
Outside it was cold and overcast; the public school across the street was just starting it’s day as was the Yeshiva around the corner. She saw the kids walking to school and she thought about Er. She stopped, collected her mind and threw on her headphones to distract her from thinking about him.
On her phone came a Billy Joel song called, “Get it Right the first time,” she smiled and clicked “next song” button. The phone was on random so the next song was up to chance. Of course the song that came on was her wedding song with asshole. She pulled out the headphone jack and pushed it into her pocket book. At the same time picking her metro card from her purse.
Tamar ran up the stairs of the Avenue S entrance to the F train. No matter how often she exercised, these stairs always left her out of breath. She swiped her metro card and walked through the full height turnstile, up the stairs to the platform.
Tamar was born and raised in the small enclave of the Sephardic community in Brooklyn where people were overly obsessed with perception. She attended a yeshiva high school and found herself breaking the rules with a wink and a smile, one by one. She had smoked in the boys room (Yes the boys room) and had lost her virginity in the backseat of a strangers car. She had a drinking alcohol phase and had tried pot once or twice but was not impressed. Using her looks and her charm – she was able to complete the four years and secure her diploma.
After she graduated high school she went to study abroad in Florence, Italy for the semester. Her parents were supportive or maybe just ambivalent. They weren’t the most “hands on” parents and that had helped her get away with all the crap she pulled off in High School. Which is not to be confused with uncaring. Her parents loved her but were too busy while she was growing up to be as attentive to her as most first borns require.
Tamar was far from stupid – she was as intelligent as she was reckless. The social worker in Italy said her intelligence is what spurred the behavior. It Italy she cleaned up her act and stopped drinking and smoking. She was labeled a “Nerd” by her friends; but she didn’t care. She liked who she was and had somehow matured years in the three months she was away.
She returned to Brooklyn and her family and friends were amazed at her transformation; a Seattle “Grunge Girl” when she had left home; she returned a lady with a self confidence that bordered on arrogance.
Tamar possessed a splendor that was not simple to define. She had olive skin, high cheekbones, a small nose and thick lips; topped by slight curled jet black hair and dark brown eyes. Her shape was athletically toned, a classical hourglass who would cause inspire lascivious thoughts among the women and men who would see her walk pass.
The train began to roll into the station; making sounds she imagined a thousand hammers working simultaneously would make. A man with blond hair and prescription glasses all dressed in dark green was singing a song about “Jesus,” as he was picking up trash from the platform. She caught a glimpse of an acquaintance of hers named Wanda; usually she would have went to sit next to her – but today was not that sort of day.
As the train departed the station she saw that snow had begun to fall from the sky; she could see a dusting on the grass below and on the rooftops. She always loved when it would snow; it made her feel like a child again – hoping there would be no school and she would spend the day in her pajamas drinking hot chocolate with her mother. Even if that rarely occurred; the feeling of wanting a snow day never ceased. She wanted a time out from reality instead of spending days and nights in a cycle of misery and regret which is where this “Snowy day” found her.
She closed her eyes and thought about the song that had come on randomly earlier. “It had to be you,” was the song they had danced to at the wedding. She tried to convince herself at that time that she felt they were as one. Once she kissed him, she could still feel his lips against hers; cold blooded and dispassionate. It was then she felt a pain inside of her as if a hypnotic spell had been cast and now it had run it’s course. She whispered that she needed to go to the bathroom.
Avenue N station and the commuters were all gathering to run into the train as soon as the doors opened.
She remembered running into the bridal suite and sitting across the heart shaped mirror crying. Kelly came in the room and asked her what was wrong.
“I don’t know – I feel like this is all wrong.”
“Er and me; why are we getting married?”
“You got married two hours ago; it could be you are just having an anxiety attack. Let me get you a drink.”
She didn’t want a drink, there was something inside of her telling her something was wrong. She went back onto the dance floor and played the role of the happy bride – she would enjoy the wedding and ignore the anxiety.
Ditmas Avenue Several Hasidim walk on the train and stand across from her. One of them looks familiar but the truth is, she doesn’t know any Hasidim. So she blows it off. Closing her eyes as the train descends underground she recalls the next afternoon and the phone call she received from her father.
“Where are you honey?” Her father asked her.
“I am in the city at the hotel, why what’s going on?”
“Is Er with you?”
“He is in the bathroom right now. What’s going on?”
“I need you to not ask any questions and act as if we are talking about the wedding. I need you to stay relaxed and I need you to tell Er that you want to go for a walk alone, make a up a reason but please, stay cool. I am on my way to the city now; there is a Starbucks on 58th between 3rd Avenue and Lex. I will be there in a ½ hour.”
“Daddy, what’s the problem? Why can’t Er know or come or what’s going on?”
“Please just do as I say and I will speak to you when I pick you up.”
She knew there was something wrong at the wedding and now it seemed to be confirmed. She put whatever valuables she had in her pocket book; threw on her coat and walked to the bathroom door.
“Honey, I am going for a little walk, I want to get some air.”
“I will come with you.” Er responded defensively.
“Do you mind if I walk alone? I need clear my head and enjoy the moment. The stress is slowly melting away; we can meet in a couple of hours? Please understand.”
He looked at her and she felt that he knew she knew something. But in truth it was only a hunch and she was still in the dark about what her father was alluding to.
“OK, I’ll go to the gym, take a shower and then we can meet for lunch?”
“Yes, yes, just feeling a little overwhelmed.” With that she opened the door and left the room.
Her father had picked her up and told her what he had found out.
“There are questions about his identity – we are almost certain he is not who he says he is.”
“If there are questions about his identity, how do you know he is not who he says he is?”
“You know Frankie M, right?”
“Of course the guy that comes to watch the Met’s games?”
“Right, what you don’t know is that he works for Homeland Security.”
“At the wedding he took a picture of Er and sent it to his office to have them see if they could match him up. There was something in Er’s demeanor that brought out a suspicion. He also gave Er a glass of water and then took it as a DNA sample.” He was silent.
“Dad, what are you telling me?”
“Right now there are around 20 homeland security officers in the hotel where you just were. They are or have already, taken him into custody.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He is a wanted terrorist. He is not Jewish, he is Muslim and he is a big player in ISIS.”
“You mean to tell…You are saying that…Oh my god I am going to get sick.” They pulled over and she opened the door and threw up on the curb. Her father was standing by her now and holding a bottle of water. She was crying hysterically.
“I am sorry…” He began to cry and knew there was nothing he could say or do to make her feel better and that’s what hurt the most.
His phone rang; he stepped away.
“Yeah.” Sniffling then. “What? How could he get away? You better have security sent to our home, right away. I am on my way home – I will be there in 20 minutes.”
“Tamar, we need to leave and now.”
“Er left the room and evaded the officers. They don’t know where he is.”
“Track his phone.”
“I am sure they know to do that.” He responded and then called Frankie.
“Did you try and track his cell phone?”
“Ok great.” He pressed end and said to Tamar. “He left his phone in the hotel room.”
“He was going to the gym, he said. Did they check there? How do they know for certain that he is…” She was in a state of shock as they drove away. He made his way down Broadway towards the Battery Tunnel. She closed her eyes and began to cry.
“Dad, I am so sorry…” Crying, “I had no idea…”
“Of course you didn’t; he is a professional con artist – he evaded immigration and must have some connections somewhere because he was able to get the marriage license.”
“That’s why he wanted to stay in the country – he couldn’t leave.”
“What do you mean?”
“I wanted to go to on a honeymoon in the Caribbean or Mexico; just somewhere the weather is almost guaranteed. He said he wanted to rent a winnebago and drive across country.”
“OK, well for right now try and relax somehow.”
“Are you kidding? I have been through a web of bullshit for the past 6 months – I fell in love with freaking Osama Bin Laden and married him. How could I have been such a dumb asshole? What the hell? I knew it – I knew there was something wrong at the wedding.”
“What do you mean?”
“Out of nowhere I got this bad feeling inside of me as we were dancing. I felt sick.”
“That’s when you ran into the bridal suite?”
“Yes – Kelly came in and told me it was just nerves or anxiety; made sense. It’s as if I was under some sort of spell and suddenly it stopped and I found myself married to a stranger.”
Her father’s phone rang.
“Ok that was Frank they have a position on Er, he will keep me updated. In the meantime there will be around the clock security on us and you in particular.”
She looked out the window; the snow was really coming down hard now; there was snow all around. She knew that the Statue of Liberty was across the river but this morning, the snow seemed to have erased it from view. Which was just as well. She felt a pang of pain inside of her and shrugged it off as nerves. She was late and knew that it had something to do with the pain inside of her.
Er had proposed to her right outside of Lady Liberty.
“They say that the Lady in green holds the torch to signify that liberty will light up the way for the people. It is why I stand here and I ask for your hand in marriage; for your torch will light up the way to paradise.”
When she remembers those words she cringes and wishes it was all an actual nightmare and not a nightmarish reality.
When Er was surrounded by homeland security he acted the only way a coward could. He set off the vest he was wearing – suicide vest they call it. They should call it the coward’s vest because only a coward would kill innocent people while taking his own life. The explosion tore him into pieces and set him on his path to Islamic paradise. Thankfully; the vest only detonated a small explosion and only Er was killed. What a religion – she thought. No one knew other than her family and Homeland security that Er was a terrorist and had died due to him blowing himself up. The newspapers spoke about an explosion that had killed an innocent man while he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The explosion, they reported, was caused by a gas leak.
Jay Street Metrotech
Six months later and Tamar met David; an Ashkenazi (European descent) Jew with light hair and green eyes. Prior to the first date Frank had a full background check done on him and he was cleared. So, despite it being a “Blind date,” it was anything but from her end. Now it was one year since they had met and she was just permitting herself to be happy.
Now, as David is in Las Vegas for a industry show – she is willing the train to go faster even though she is right on time. She doesn’t know what the future is with her and David. He is the opposite of Er and she knows it. He works hard and is transparent about everything he feels, does and sees. Her parents love him as do her siblings. They never cared much for Er and still accepted him as her groom. This time around her father was not taking any chances. Also his family lived in the area and she had gone to the same school as his sister.
“I like this guy, he is a good person.” Her father said.
“How do you know?” Tamar responded.
“He is real, you can sense that he is confident in himself and has no impulse to lie about anything. Plus, you know I had him checked out twice.”
That was her father’s way of telling her that she must love again, she must move forward. She wonder how much, if anything, he knew about her past two weeks.
34th Street Herald Square
She thought about the days, weeks and months after her wedding night and felt a sigh of relief. She had dodged a bullet with Er. Homeland Security had found out that Er was part of a massive cell located in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights area. She didn’t know the details only that the cell was gone and apparently, so was any danger to her or her family.
Somewhere between 34th street and 42nd street
The train had stopped moving now, caught somewhere between 34th street and 42nd street. People moaned, sighed and cursed under their breath when the announcement was made that the train ahead of them on the tracks; an M train; had issues and was waiting to be pulled out of the station. “It should be less than 10 minutes – we apologize for the inconvenience.”
She looked around the train and spied an Asian lady pulling kernels off a corn on the cob. One by one, quicker that most people would eat popcorn out of a bag; she would pull one off and then stuff it in her mouth.
A very white man began. Indiscreetly, cutting his nails as he sat against the window with full view of the passengers. The sound irritated everyone and the flying pieces of finger nails sealed the deal for one man to tell him to stop. He kept on clipping and flinging and the man stood up and warned him once again.
“Stop cutting your nails or I will kick the living shit out of you.” The man was over 6 feet tall and was wearing an army winter coat.
The very white man looked up at him, took off his left sneaker, pulled off his sock and proceeded to cut his toe nails. The tall man threw a punch at the self-pedicurist and the man went flying onto the floor. His nail clipper flew out of his hand and right into an old lady’s lap. She slapped it off of her lap and she screamed. The train moved and the tall man fell on top of the self-pedicurist; the train stopped abruptly.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the inconvenience but they seem to be having trouble removing the disabled train from the station. We will keep you informed. Thank you for your understanding.”
“Who the hell is understanding? I need to get to work.” suddenly the doors from the next car opened and in came walking a mexican mariachi band. Singing in unison a song;
Míra que el día que de mí te enamores
Yo voy a ser feliz y con puro amor
Te protegeré y será un honor
Dedicarme a tí, éso quiera Dios.
When they saw the men on the floor they simultaneously stopped, turned around and walked to the next car. As they left a tall skinny black man wearing a bow tie, a stetson and horn rimmed glasses came in with a too huge to be normal smile. A book in his hand he began to read; And remember, the time that we are living in is the end of the world we have known and the coming in of the world of Allah — the world of peace and security.
A man stood up and told the guy to, “Get the fuck off this train or I will personally take that bowtie and strangle you with it.”
The man stood and looked at him saying defiantly; “But as for those who disbelieve, garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads; Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted; And for them are hooked rods of iron.
With those words he turned and walked out the same way the Mexicans had come in. The two men on the floor stood up and went back to sitting at their seats without a word being exchanged.
She laughed to herself and thought about the Muslims and tried to remind herself that there are good people who are Muslims. Just as there are people in all religions who can be bad and good – it’s same across the board.
She thought about Er and how he had convinced her about the story of his life. Maybe she convinced herself it was true; in any case she should have known better. According to him this is how the fairytale went.
Er was born in Syria in 1990 to an Orthodox Jewish family in Damascus. When they were finally given the approval to leave the country, they went to Paris since his mother had family there.
He grew up living in a small town Dinan, in the Brittany Region in France. They lived in an apartment not far from the Theater of the Jacobins on Rue Carnot; he told her. She was romanced by the sound of his description of the small town. He promised her he would bring her there to meet his parents, who were too sick to travel. He had siblings who had moved to different spots across Europe and he had lost touch with them.
She thought about the state of mind that must have kept her in denial about any misgivings she had about him. How can anyone lose touch with their siblings in this moment in time? Social media and inexpensive ways to communicate across the world and still he had lost touch? She didn’t question it. When no one from his side of the family showed up for the wedding her father just shrugged and said with a laugh, “Less expensive this way.”
After the wedding and the explosion – she was able to annul the marriage so no sitting shiva or restraints on who and when she could marry based on Jewish religion. Not that she was running to get married again so soon. Not that it was so easy to accept any religion after that episode.
The train began to move and finally pulled into 42nd Street station.
She quickly got off the train and found her way to the Doctors office. She went to the receptionist and signed her name on the welcome pad.
“Hello, Tamar? I see you made this appointment yesterday?”
“Yes, I spoke with the Doctor on the phone and he told me to come in.”
“What’s the problem?”
“I am late.” She responded.
“No you are on time, actually.” Tamar looked at her and the receptionist tapped her head and said, “I am sorry, this is a Obstetrician’s office I should be able… Ok have a seat and the Doctor will see you shortly.”
She sat down and she wondered how stupid she must have been to allow herself to go to a bar by herself. Not just any bar but a rooftop bar in a hotel. They called it “The Dream” hotel – to her it was a fucking nightmare. She was hit on by several men and women; she was not interested in the women and the men were kind of sleezy. She stayed to herself, pretending to read something on her phone. But as the drinks kept coming her way she slowly stopped looking at her phone and went to sit on one of the couches against the wall. When the tall, dark and handsome man made her laugh once or twice she was taken in. That was all she could remember. Frank filled her in on the details the next day.
“Apparently he was the brother of Er, his name Onan.” He was following you for a couple of days; we have yet to determine why.” But this is what they knew; she had thrown up and he had thrown her out of his room. Somehow she found her way to the bathroom downstairs and called the phone number Frank had given her in case of anything. He answered on the first ring and within minutes there were men and black cars swarming the hotel.
They took her to a hospital, took a urine sample from her and saw that it contained Rohypnol, a date rape drug. She could not remember what had happened; whether it was a nightmare or a reality. It was all very vague – sort of like when you wake up from a dream and you try and remember what happened only the harder you try the more you forget.
She woke up several hours later and she was back in her apartment in Brooklyn. She had a terrible headache and felt body aches – but could not recall what had happened or even how she had gotten home.
It was three weeks later that she realized that she had not gotten her period on time and in fact was two weeks late. She could not stop crying and wondering if this was in fact, Onan’s doing and not David’s.
Her and David had been sexually active and he had slept over her place on several occasions. He wanted to marry her but she was scared to even think about it. It was three weeks before that she had found herself spiraling in a depression and had even told David she needed to be alone for a couple of days. It was three weeks since she found herself on the floor in the lobby bathroom which meant she could be two weeks along.
She stood on the platform and waited for the train to arrive. There was a lot of people waiting for the train, possibly because of the snow outside and the forecast for up to 14 inches by tonight. There were some high school kids laughing and talking loudly. Three girls and two boys – each wearing some sort of uniform under their coats. The three girls were typical cute and flirtatious teen girls while the two boys were typical clumsy teen boys. The F train came in through the tunnel and the outside of it was still wet from the snow outside. She was feeling a sense of sadness and a sense of anger.
“Where was God during all of this?” She thought to herself. “Weren’t you supposed to watch over me.” She said, in her mind as she stood on the train as it pulled towards 34th Street.
A large amount of people left the train and she secured herself a window seat and continued her conversation.
“I know I wasn’t the best of teenagers but I never hurt anyone.” She felt her eyes welling up. “You put my naivete on display by allowing me to marry that fucking terrorist. You couldn’t warn me or spell it out to me not to marry him?” She put her face in her hands and realized there were so many signs that she didn’t see…why couldn’t something had happened to warn her? Something tangible? Something that would have woke her up from whatever stupor she was in.
A lot of people came on the train now and not many left. It was packed and she was happy she had seat and was not facing people. A black lady was eating out of a bag something that smelled really strong. A white older man was picking his nose as if he was searching for the holy grail. The black lady kept giving him looks that could kill and he just kept on searching. Another lady, was plucking the hair from her chin, one by one. Two asian women were screaming to each other God knows what and a group of high school kids were horsing around by the front of the car.
Tamar was still taking in the scene when she spied a poster at the Broadway station, “If you see something, say something.” She whispered, “Fuck you” as the train slowly departed towards Brooklyn.
The snow that had fallen and that continued to fall, made the surroundings look like some sort of fairytale land. Her phone beeped with a message; it was her mother. A second message; David. She smiled. The message said that he had landed in Philadelphia because of the snow; he would be taking a train to New York and should be there by four or five. “Do you want to grab some dinner?”
She responded, “Yes.”
She responded to her mother, “All is well; nothing to worry about. On my way home – call you then.”
A group of school kids laughing and obviously dismissed early because of the snow; came on the train. They were still young enough to be respectful to the adults on the train but still be playful with each other. She asked them if school was out.
“Yeah, they let us leave at 12. I love it when it snows like this.” She was a 13 or 14 year old Hispanic girl and was adorable. Right behind her was a lady with a newborn child in her arms sitting down. She covered her baby and herself over her chest and fed her baby. She winced once or twice and laughed when Tamar noticed.
“He bites sometimes. Even without teeth it can hurt a little.”
“How old is he?”
“Two months old; I had to bring him to the Doctor; he had a little fever last night. I didn’t want to drive so this is the next best thing.” She winced and smiled.
“What’s his name?”
The lady smiled and said goodbye, still holding the baby. Tamar smiled back at her and wondered why she looked so familiar.
She looked out the window across the Brooklyn roads, Washington Cemetery and then Friends Field. Snow having fallen and continuing to fall made this place look so magical. She couldn’t wait to get off the train and just walk in the snow; to feel the snow as it fell on her lips.
She walked off the train and the man who was singing songs and cleaning earlier that morning, was still there. Khaki clothing and 1970’s glasses. He was singing, “Walking in a winter wonderland,” while telling people to be careful walking outside. It felt as if this morning was a year ago or perhaps a different lifetime. She had left her apartment in a hurry and now was walking slowly, enjoying the snow blowing on her face.
She was stunning with the snow as a background; like a painting from a thousand winters ago; pure beauty no static, no noise; simply Tamar.
Her phone rang, it was Frank.
“We are clear Frank; the Doctor said I am not pregnant and that being late can be attributed to my nerves. Plus, I wasn’t raped, at least not in the literal sense.” She thanked him and he apologized to her for the dirt in the world.
“Why do you think they chose me, Frank?”
“Have you heard of a levirate marriage?”
“No, what is that?”
“When a man is married and dies before he is able to have children; if he has a brother he is obligated to marry his brother’s widow and to procreate with her.”
“Since Er had a brother also involved with this stupidity they used him as a backup should something happen to Er.”
“Why me though?”
“We don’t know. I take responsibility for this and I will get to the bottom of it; in the meantime I am sorry.”
“I don’t blame you. But let me know what or if you find anything out I should know.”
“Keep my number; someone is always watching over you.”
The snow had hidden all the trash, all the stains and all potholes from view. She decided to keep on walking.
He was silent for a couple of seconds and then said, “Thank you, Tamar.”
“Thank you Frank; I hope to only see you during Met’s games and celebrations.”
“Amen to that, kiddo.”
She walked passed her apartment and kept walking. She walked to Ocean Parkway and took in the scene. All white; no static, no noise. She didn’t know what life had in store for her; she didn’t know if she was still a target for Islamic extremists or if God was ignoring her or punishing her for some reason. She had no ideas, no answers and no premonitions. She knew she needed to take life one day at a time. She had no idea how to do that.
She was walking across the street when she slipped and fell on the pavement. She stood up, felt stupid and laughed at herself.
“OK, time to go home,” she said to herself with an embarrassed smile. “One step at a time,” She thought. “In order to avoid falling again I need to take it one step at a time.” It was then she realized that a message had been sent to her. In order for her to avoid falling again, she needed to take life one step at a time. “Baby steps; as long as I keep moving I will always be one step closer to whatever my destination.”
The snow was falling, some kids were playing and a car was driving slowly up Avenue S. If you looked straight up you could see each snowflake joined by billions of others which together created a dark sky. There was a dog barking, a child laughing and a young lady was walking gingerly towards her home, one step at a time.