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I’ll go to the wedding, like I told Asher. But I never said anything to him about dancing with Dassi
Wednesday, April 05, 2017
T he invitation is printed in simple black ink on plain cream paper and weighs like a hundred pounds.
“What’s black and white and red all over?”
I turn slowly to Asher. “Are you sure you want to finish that joke?”
“Your face with that invitation.” He reaches over and plucks the invitation from my hands.
With much gratitude to Hashem we invite you to the marriage of our children, Hadassah to Yitzchak Meir…
“Ah,” he says. “Sorry.” He hands it back and retreats.
I flip the card over, searching. The back is blank.
“Will you go?” Asher asks.
“Of course I’ll go,” I snap. “She’s my cousin. I’m not that kind of person.” I shove the invitation back into the envelope. “Besides, I would never do that to Savta.”
The return card flutters down. I step across the floor to pick it up. Asher raises his eyebrows when he sees the footprint. “I slipped,” I mutter.
“A Freudian slip,” he mutters in return, quietly enough that I can pretend not to hear.
On the back of the return card I finally find what I’m looking for: a few scribbled words in Dassi’s handwriting. Can’t wait to dance with you!
It’s obvious that she doesn’t mean me. At 33, Dassi has about seven million loyal single friends, former students, and ardent followers to write special messages to. She probably scribbled this note on a bunch of cards and had some loyal foot soldier stick them into whichever envelopes seemed appropriate.
Must have been a relatively new loyal foot soldier or they would never have made this mistake. Can’t wait to dance with you?
How about, can’t wait to talk to you?
How about, can’t wait to explain so the world makes sense again?
How about, can you ever forgive me?
I’ll go to the wedding, like I told Asher. But I never said anything to him about dancing with Dassi.
“What was I thinking?”
Asher looks up, his eyes weirdly distorted through the protective goggles. He looks like a fish. A fish with a miter saw. Before I got married, I didn’t even know that “miter” was a word.
“You were thinking how much money you could save if you were married to someone who could build his own furniture.”
“Oh, is that furniture you’re building?”
“No, of course not, it’s a succah.”
“What was I thinking?” I start again. “I’ll tell you. I was thinking it was so simple and made so much sense.” Asher nods encouragingly from behind the fish mask, so I continue. “We were 28 and still single and we had money saved up…” At the word money my chest tightens. Every time we need to put something on the credit card, every time I see the folding chairs in the dining room, every time we need a bigger place and move to yet another rental, I think about Dassi all over again. “I figured, so easy, we could pool our savings to buy the house and divide it into two rentals. The rental income would pay the mortgage, and we’d own property!”
“Makes sense,” he says over the roar of the saw.
“And I even thought our strengths complemented each other.” Oh, gosh. I remember standing in the kitchen with Ma and rhapsodizing about how perfect it all was. Dassi would handle the paperwork-bank-lawyer stuff, and I’d manage the renovation and tenants. What could go wrong?
Ha. Like, everything?
“Makes sense,” Asher says again. The miter saw is still mitering. He can’t even hear me.
“I’m going to call Savta.” Not that I’m in the mood for that, but she’d never stand for me missing a day. And she’s the only one on that side of the family who still speaks to me.
As always, Savta picks up on the first ring. “Nu, Racheli, you got the invitation?” she asks crisply.
“Yes,” I say, through gritted teeth. “Don’t worry, I’m going to the wedding.”
“Of courrrse you’re going.” She rolls her rrrs imperiously. “I never drrrreamed you wouldn’t. That’s not why I ask.”
She never dreamed I wouldn’t. Going to Dassi’s wedding is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but she never dreamed I wouldn’t.
“Why do you ask?” I manage.
“Racheli, you know what you have to do before the wedding, right?”
“You have to forgive her.” Pause. “The kallah has a Yom Kippur. My granddaughter does not hold a grudge when my other granddaughter goes to her chuppah.”
“Racheli, you hear me?”
Where’s the miter saw when you need it?
My voice comes out in a croak. “I hear you.”
“Nu, you call her and let me know when you tell her.”
“I should call her?”
Savta snorts. “Don’t make me excuses. It’s bad for my heart. Tell her you forgive her. And then tell me you did it.” She hangs up.
Forgive Dassi? Not a chance.
I’m furious at Savta for even asking that of me. But I’m also glad she did, because after all these years, at least someone has finally acknowledged that Dassi did something wrong.
I dab foundation under my eyes and give one last swipe to my bangs. One of the many miserable things I learned that crazy summer was how to hide that you’ve been crying. It’s much easier with a sheitel, I discover now; the bangs are thicker.
“I’m going,” I announce, bag over my shoulder and keys in my hand. “I’ll be out for a while. Call me if one of the kids wakes up.”
Asher looks up from the wood panel he’s working on. It doesn’t really look like a succah. I think it might be a bookcase.
“Where are you going?”
“I need something to wear to the wedding.” I don’t specify whose wedding, which gives it away.
Asher’s face breaks out in a glowing smile. “Racheli, that’s great!”
I look at him strangely. “What’s so great? I’m going shopping for a new dress for a wedding. I’m going to spend a lot of money we don’t have. Why aren’t you reminding me about the dress I wore two months ago to Sarah’s wedding? It’s still in style.”
“Okay, okay, kidding! I just meant” — he gets that happy smile again, it’s really making me nervous — “I’m so happy you’re finally over it.”
“Over it? Over it? I am never going to be over it. What in the world makes you think I’m over it?”
“What? I just — you don’t usually buy new fancy stuff for weddings of people you don’t like. Only for sisters, close friends, whatever, right?” He’s really confused, he’s not faking it.
“Listen, Asher.” I put down my bag and face him. “I know this is hard for you to understand. You weren’t in the family when it happened, you don’t know how things used to be. You didn’t watch it all play out blow by painful blow.” I shake my head. “You wouldn’t be in the family if you had been there.” My chest tightens because I know this too well. I remember how the Bergers fled — literally fled — when it all started coming apart.
“Okay, fine, Racheli, don’t cry, I believe you.” Asher rubs his beard, trying to backpedal. I turn around and swallow hard, trying to push that rock in my throat back down to my heart.
“I’m going,” I say, reaching for my keys again.
Asher carefully selects a wrench from an extensive array of identical wrenches. “I probably shouldn’t ask this,” he says. “But if you hate her so much, why do you need something special for her wedding?”
“I have to look my best,” I say, with all the dignity I can muster. “The whole family is going to be there. And they’re all going to say, ‘Did you see Racheli?’ I have to make sure I look perfect.”
Asher shrugs. It doesn’t make any sense to him.
Nothing about it makes any sense. (Excerpted from Calligraphy, Pesach 5777-2017)
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