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Night Light

Michal Marcus

Miss Litwin stares at me, a gaze that seems to look right through me. “Is that what’s really bothering you?” she asks softly. She leans towards me. “The principal told me what’s going on at home. You must be feeling very confused right now.”

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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Gila’s face softens. “Look, Leah, I feel bad. Really. I know Shabbos is hard for both of you. But I’m in shanah rishonah. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be married for just two months and have your mother show up at your door in tight pants, with her hair tumbling down her shoulders? Yossi is a great guy, but this is not what he signed up for. I can’t make things any worse.”

"If the world is only 5777 years old, how come scientists find fossils that are hundreds of thousands of years old?”

The silence after I ask what I think is a reasonable question in Navi is a heartbeat too long. Miss Litwin recovers her composure soon enough. “I doubt this is a question that bothers most of the class, Leah,” she says, “so why don’t we talk after class?” Miss Litwin goes right back to the Metzudos she was dissecting.

After class I drag myself to Miss Litwin’s desk. She motions for me to sit down. “It’s interesting that your question focused on age of the universe,” she says. “I would have thought your philosophical grappling would be about tzaddik v’rah lo. Or maybe a question about how a benevolent G-d could allow the Holocaust to happen, which is an outgrowth of the same question. Something that would get to the core of fairness and justice.” How dare she make all these assumptions?

“Nope,” I say, forcing my voice to sound breezy. “Just fossils bother me. I mean, aren’t there remains dated at nearly 200,000 years old?”

Miss Litwin stares at me, a gaze that seems to look right through me. “Is that what’s really bothering you?” she asks softly. She leans towards me. “The principal told me what’s going on at home. You must be feeling very confused right now.”

 

I glare at her, long and hard. She ignores the look and plows on. “Do you still see your mother regularly? Do you discuss…” she trails off. I guess her continued enrichment classes for the dedicated mechaneches don’t have a module on “How to Talk to a Student whose Mother Went off the Derech.” I’m not about to help her out. I look down at my feet. The gold buckle is falling off the right shoe.

Miss Litwin tries again. “I’m sure you’re confused. But it’s important that you don’t spread this confusion to other girls. You’re welcome to ask me whatever you want after class. Would you like to discuss fossils, or is there something else you want to ask?”

“Forget it, forget the fossils,” I say. “Everything is just fine. Can I go now?”

Another X-ray look. Then a slight nod. I stand up and run. I feel her eyes follow me down the hall. I stare at the floor. The buckle on my right shoe is gone. Great, just great.

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