Friday, August 12, 2005

The Center of it All - Part III

I woke up early the next morning, and went down to the exercise room. I briefly looked at my T’fillin, which I had taken out of my carry on bag, but decided against davening. Since my divorce, prayer no long came easily to me. For years I had mindlessly put on my t’fillin, and davened each morning. Ever since Karen and I split up, though, I couldn’t do it.

I still kept kosher, and Shabbos, but davening was no longer part of my daily regiment. I couldn’t face God, and talk to him in that one on one forum that prayer provided. I don’t know if it was anger or apathy toward God, but for now, my T’fillin bag gathered dust and waited for me to sort through the clutter that halted the conversation.

One of the treadmills was available, and I climbed on. In my yeshiva days, Yoni and I would run for half an hour down yeshiva lane, a private half-mile road that connected the Yeshiva to the real world. Or in the minds of the people who designed the yeshiva, separated the Yeshiva from the real world.

I began running, and tried to sort through the facts that I knew. Yoni died of an AIDS-related disease. Yoni animated a pornographic gay cartoon. Yoni was one of my best friends growing up, and liked girls. Really liked girls. Was he really gay. Or not? And did it even matter anymore?

There was a party in the summer after tenth grade. I was visiting him in Chicago, and one of his old friends had a friend whose parents were out of town, and they were having a huge blow-out party. There was a pool and music and food and beer, and we had a great time. As I ran past the half mile mark, I could picture the party as clearly as if I was there.

We got to the party at around nine, and could hear the music from outside the front door. When we walked in, it was madness. It seemed like every orthodox Jewish teen in Chicago was there.

We saw two girls sitting off to the side, and daring each other, we walked across the room to talk to them. Their names were Rachel and Fran. Fran had long black hair, wore glasses, and had this really sweet look about her. She was wearing a straight denim skirt and form-fitting yellow top, and I couldn’t stop staring at the Kotel necklace that dangled from her neck just above her breasts.

Rachel wasn’t nearly as attractive as Fran. She had short, curly hair and wore a button-down shirt over a white blouse. She was wearing a flower-print dress, and had dark nail-polish. She didn’t have the body that Fran had, but she looked friendly and interesting, and I knew that Yoni was going after Fran.

We all talked for a few minutes, and then Rachel wanted to dance, and I wanted anything Rachel wanted. We filled our plastic cups with beer from the keg, and walked into the dining room, where music was blasting and young couples were pairing off and dancing to Laura Branigan’s Gloria. I looked back and saw things were looking good for Yoni as well. Fran had reached out and held his hand, and it looked like they were going for a walk outside.
Eternal Flame started playing, and Rachel and I put down our drinks and started slow dancing. I had never danced before, not by myself and not with any other person, and holding hands to dance terrified me. I had no idea what I was doing, and just prayed that God would overlook my hand holding and talking to girls for long enough to guide me through the dance.

We talked while we danced, and I found out we both had birthdays in November, and were both going into eleventh grade. We would both be kicked out of school if we were seen at a party like this, but neither of us felt threatened. No one who was at the party was ever going to snitch, and no one was going to find out they were there.

Another slow song played, and while we danced, Rachel leaned her head on my shoulder. It felt so wrong, but so good, and I knew then that I would always choose what felt good over what felt right. When fast music started playing again, she kept her head on my shoulder, and I listened to her soft breaths and felt her warm body on my chest.

I remembered thinking that I could dance forever, but the beer I had drank earlier had finished running through my body, and needed to come out. It was screaming to be freed. We walked out of the dining room, and found the bathroom. I don’t know if I ever would have stopped dancing if I didn’t have to pee so badly.

Rachel waited outside the bathroom for me, and when I came out, we held hands and walked outside. It was already after 11, and I wanted to check in with Yoni. The party seemed to be thinning out, and I knew we would have to be leaving soon.

Rachel and I walked around the house, but we found no sign of Yoni or Fran. We walked through the backyard, and when we didn’t see them we sat at the swing set and kept on talking. At first, she sat on the swing and I pushed her. After a few minutes, she was facing me, and we started to kiss.

I had never kissed a girl before. We started out with closed mouth kisses on the lips, and very quickly, were both trying to push our tongues in each other’s mouths. It was sloppy and wet and something I have never forgotten. If I was grading it on technique and sophistication, I am sure it would score a one or two, but for pure glee and excitement, our makeout session scored a perfect 11.

Our lips were locked when I heard the smoke-thickened voice of Rabbi Rosenblum. “Eh Bochurim, what do we have here.” I seemed to stand up and freeze at the same time, looking around for Rabbi Rosenblum, my mind racing as I wondered how he could have ever found me here.

And there was Yoni, arms around Fran and laughing hysterically.

“Screw you, Winters,” I laughed.

We made plans with Rachel and Fran for the next night, said goodnight, and drove back to Yoni’s house.

When we were in the car, Yoni went right back into his Rosenblum voice. “You looked like you were having a good time,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said, “Rachel was pretty cool.”

“How did you do with Fran,” I asked.

“A gentleman never tells,” he said.

“But you’re no gentleman,” I challenged.

“Taka, your right,” he said, stroking an imaginary beard. “Two words, Tuli, two words. Second base.”

I could feel the smile in the dark car, but I wasn’t going to let him off without more details.

“Over her shirt or under,” I demanded.

“Under her shirt, over her bra, and then, under her bra.”

“Only hands?”

“Yeah, we didn’t have any private swing set like you had, Romeo.”

“What’s second base feel like,” I asked, instantly feeling like a loser for asking. I made a mental note to get to second base with Rachel so I would never have to ask that question again.

“Remember when we were playing baseball, and you drove in the run to beat Ohr Shalom,” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, annoyed that he was changing the subject.

“That’s what second base feels like.”

I looked at the timer on the treadmill, and saw I had been on for forty minutes. I slowed my pace, felt my heart rate drop, and stepped off the machine.

I had two hours to get ready and go to the hospital.

The preceding work is fiction. The first two parts of this story can be found on the previous posts.

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    Blogger swiftthinker said...

    CRACKING UP at the fictional names.

    4:36 PM  
    Blogger Air Time said...

    i knew yuou would like those.

    4:38 PM  
    Blogger Veev said...

    Ar- You're (not your) a genius.

    4:56 PM  
    Blogger orthomom said...

    I looked back and saw things were looking good for Yoni as well. Rachel had reached out and held his hand, and it looked like they were going for a walk outside.
    Eternal Flame started playing, and Fran and I put down our drinks and started slow dancing.

    Love it. Writing's fantastic. But didn;t you switch the girls' names here by mistake?

    5:00 PM  
    Blogger Air Time said...

    thanks for the catch.

    5:02 PM  
    Blogger swiftthinker said...

    I also noticed that.

    5:36 PM  
    Blogger swiftthinker said...

    Did rachel or fran, whoever it should be, put her leg up on your shoulder at all while you were dancing? I believe fictional rachel is very flexible.

    5:38 PM  
    Blogger Air Time said...

    you should have mentioned it swifty. And I don't think Rachel on the dance floor was quite that flexible.

    6:48 PM  
    Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

    flexible?but can she pee in a sink?

    3:38 PM  
    Blogger Just Passing Through said...

    sems that we ARE thinking about the same fictional characters.

    1:31 PM  

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