*December, 1997 - Hanukkah*
ACROSS 22 Samba percussion instrument
DOWN 21 German auto pioneer
David skipped the Opinion Section and went straight to the Crossword but still could not sit still. He rearranged the newspaper, relentlessly starching, tightening, and re-folding the pages just like his father had taught him. He bounced his left foot, shaking his left leg so much that when he was thirteen his mother had sent him to a neurologist because she could have sworn that he had tremors. Seventeen years had passed, and maybe his mother was the cause of these jitters, but he didn’t want to let her take his agita on the chin like that. She had simply made an off-hand remark on the phone about whether or not his fiancée María—known as Maru by loved ones—had enjoyed celebrating Hanukkah. That question certainly wasn’t the root of the problem. All the roots were tangled.
It had started with the candles. Two days before, he wanted to spend time with his ‘lovey’ instead of going to his parents’. Yet, it was still the first night of Hanukkah—the most important one, even for a festival that mainly rose to popularity in order to ease the egos of Jewish children in a Christmas country. Their Festival of Lights mattered far less than say, Shabbat (the Sabbath) or Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
So David fished around the three half-closed plastic storage boxes caked in soft dust under his bed for the small, pretend-silver menorah with engraved lions on their hindlegs framing the candelabra’s eight compact candle-holders with their jaws. He arose victorious from underneath the bed. His fingers wrapped tightly around the ridged inscriptions of the Ten Commandments that hovered melded above where the candles would be in the candelabra.
“Your organizational skills are thoroughly impressive,” Maru said, eyebrow raised.
“Your taste in television is riveting,” he said. She was watching C-SPAN.
He headed out to the kitchen, the second of two-and-a-half rooms in the apartment, followed by the black lab mutt, Gigi, his daughter since college. He opened all the cabinets, the ones where he had to stand on his toes to reach and the drawers' hidden alcoves. In the back corner shelf above the stovetop, he clutched the thin, dried cardboard, almost flaking, box of candles they had bought for some birthday or other a while back. Naturally, he forgot to close many of the cabinets.
He stood beside the tiny sink and fixed the little birthday candles into the menorah. Cloying, semi-post-coital thoughts, that seemed wildly naïve soon after, ran through his head as he fumbled with the matches and tried to retrieve the prayers from the proper spaces in his mind. He mused that he’d have children to light Hanukkah candles with soon enough, no worry that his parents would miss him that evening. He inhaled the evening chill of his drafty apartment and recalled the time Maru pointed out how when the candles bent to touch, they seemed like they were kissing, but, sparkless, the match was dull and would not light.
Thus far, you’ve seen David in jittery and lackadaisical moments, but he was not a patient man. You could say it’s a genetic trait, but maybe that’s an oversimplification. The match still would not light, consistently smudging black on the pale red top nub. He grunted and threw the matchbox down for a moment. Then Gigi began barking, “I just took you out for a walk, baby,” he said, crouching down to nuzzle her velvet ears. She continued, uncharacteristically growling as well. He got up to check if the plastic bowl they were using for her water was empty and then heard the small gasp of just lit candles. It couldn’t be possible; it must have been the wind. He shut the window and blew out one candle but had to exert enormous force to blow out the Shamash—the elevated central candle that would light the rest. He muttered each prayer like a salve for a curse, *Baruuuch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, blow, Melech haolam, *breathe out / inhale, *she-asah nisim laavoteinu v’imoteinu bayamim*, inhale again to hit the following high muttered notes, *haheim baz’maaan hazeh* blow, exhale. The light went out. He must have just been imagining things.
“Honey, would you please bring me more wine. They’re talking about The Balanced Budget Act again,” Maru called. Her request was a relief.
“Yes dear,” he said in the sitcom voice he liked to use. He rushed to grab the bottle from the fridge, shivered again at the cold night and the thought of ghostly lit candles, and whistled for Gigi to accompany him as he left the kitchen. Her nails clicked upon the linoleum floors, bringing him safely back to bed.
The next morning he found the menorah encrusted in candle wax and the wicks of the two birthday candles burnt to their nubs. They must have been burning all night. He peeled the semi-hardened candle wax off the fake silver to calm his nerves. It must have been something in the air, from the smokey, old Chinese food drafts wafting in from the street below their rickety Lower East Side apartment. He would avoid the candles for a time after that because they must be a fire hazard, but he wouldn’t say that to Maru because he assumed doing so would make her (or him) too nervous.
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David was so stuck in his nerves about the candles that he called in sick to work and ignored the phone ringing, only trilled awake by the echo of the little red voicemail light flashing from their landline.
1 New Message from ‘Parents’:
“Hi sweetheart, it’s your mother. Don’t forget we have dinner with the Levensons on Friday, and please do call me back,” beep.
His parents began to lean more heavily on their baby boy, the little scheinapuntillah, ever since his brother Adam had come out and moved to San Francisco. As the cute, younger boy, with blonde ringlets that turned dark with time, David was almost like a daughter, but that was also the style at the time. Little boys wear little overalls. Gay boys go to San Francisco. The primogenitor chooses before the second son. His brother had been able to pick out his bedding first when the boys went off to Canaan Summer Camp together, leaving the floral sheets for his littler brother. “But they’re blue flowers,” his mother wrote him when David circled where his teardrops that had fallen on his letters home and dried in the mail because his bunkmates had called him queer for the floral blankets.
Adam’s actual queerness was, somehow, more of an afterthought than one would expect from his Nixon, Reagan, Bush voting parents. About two years ago, Adam had come back from spending the summer working at a jazz festival in Chicago and told his parents and David at the Chinese restaurant they'd go to on Sundays and on Christmas. After quick hugs and cheek kisses, all together again after three months, they ordered some duck. Adam was shaking his leg like nervey David for a change.
“Adam darling, you’re awfully quiet,” his mother said.
“I’m gay,” he said. The delivery was blunt and awkward, but the children were not scarred secret-keepers in the family like their “It could’ve been worse,” “Life can be a real drag, but I never complain,” (except about service at restaurants) refugee Mom and Dad.
“Oh,” she said and began to cry after a brief yet long pause.
“I should’ve known when you got that ear pierced,” his father said, shaking his head. Yet, the comment was so absurd and Adam’s worldview so dry that he began to laugh. David just repeatedly shoved those fried appetizer crackers into that orange, viscous duck sauce and then into his mouth to avoid thinking too much. Adam’s initially genuine laughs more apparently shaded his pain at their implicit rejection and at the fear that rises when you see a parent cry, and he requested, in an unintentionally loud voice, that the waiter take it all to go. His mother muttered something about loving him “anyways” as he swept off holding four red, white, and crinkled Have A Nice Day! :) bags.
“It was kind of a blur,” David remembered telling Maru about the unexpectedly jarring dinner later that night as they stared at the ceiling in the dark. She held him and speculatively reassured him that his parents’ main concern beyond their inability to comprehend, was that they didn’t want his brother to have it hard, even if they loved him. He still didn’t know why he was crying, though he tried to prevent her from seeing, but it hurt that he was so caught off guard, that Adam hadn’t told him. She told him, in the wry, tender tone they had adopted after years of on-off dating,
“Not to be a total asshole, but it’s nice to see you cry a bit. It’s probably healthy for you to cry more than like twice a year.”
“I do cry! I just don’t always cry in front of you,” he laughed with snot.
There was a five month cold period where Adam would call his little brother and confess how he felt alternately free yet alone. His father, who was unsurprisingly quite comfortable with the word fagelah, called David and said he had come to peace with the situation through conversations with other synagogue-goers and a brief meeting with the rabbis. They said the status of his son’s Judaism was questionable, weak, but overall not dire. Besides, Hans Herzl, like his sons, was not the most spiritual man, though he valued community. Lauren Herzl, David and Adam’s mother, talked to her bridge friend with the gay son and the other friend whose husband left her for a man and felt more at peace, “It’s 1995, and it’s not like you’re sleeping in my house. Besides isn't that whole gay illness thing under control now?” she said.
“It's called AIDS, Mom,” David said. They would tell him these things somewhat hushed, the twirled graying cord of the telephone tightly clutched around their veiny fingers. Of course his parents didn’t really talk about it with each other, likely just yelled at each other in German more than usual about what kind of detergent to use on the plates before behaving once company came over for dinner. Sometimes David wondered if the real travesty, the real distance, the real betrayal at this point was that Adam had moved out to the West Coast and didn’t look back.
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David kept a dreidel at his desk at the law firm where he worked—yes, he had risen to one of those beacons of corporate law with tiny white cubicles inside gilded yet minimalist buildings that promise more from the outside. He played with the Hanukkah toy on the holiday and for when he was particularly fidgety. He could’ve sworn the top spun without his touch, but he’d been messing around with it so much that he could ignore it until the dreams came.
He was on a beach. In fact, it was the same beach as back in Ecuador where he had looked at Maru and had decided to (finally) propose. It had been an awfully corny sunset—so corny that he knew he couldn’t ask her to marry him right then and there on the beach in front of the loud British family a few yards away. The windswept pre-glow of coming night darkened them to look their best. They also already were looking their best, he at thirty-one, she at thirty, a time when you’ve outgrown the gangliness and just barely restrained thirst of your twenties.
In the dream, however, it was high noon and startlingly sparkling on the beach. Maru would’ve been slathered in sunscreen under a big white shirt because she improbably hated the sun even after growing up in the South. His Northern European parents would wear SPF 2 and, unpredictably swarthy as some Jews are, wrinkle happily in the heat, but David, naturally tan, was alone and had to squint to look around it was so bright. There was a graveyard on the beach. The gravestones were subtle, squared sandcastles covered in finely carved Hebrew letters and symbols— Stars of (not this) David, menorahs, those holy-ish water jugs you use to clean your hands before the shabbos. They could wash away at any moment.
He was wearing the tan suit his mother had forced him into on his Bar Mitzvah, the day he became a man, which clung awkwardly to his crotch and left his ankles bare as he had fortunately grown to a respectable 5’9” at this point. David started to take off the tight pants when he heard someone cry with a cough, “Please Dah-veed don’t take off your pants for Christ’s sake! Did I ask to see your schlong I mean my god!” He looked out at a wheezing, pasty, and sweaty man in a white button down shirt and thick black pants. The tightly twisted prayer strings dangled knotted below his hips and the yamurkle on his balding head was askew, but he was still somehow stately.
The modern Orthodox figure was exactly like the "real Jews" Gentiles envision. David didn’t actually know anyone who spoke with that emphatically rhythmless staccato even if they used the same Yiddish terminology or had that woolly salt-and-pepper beard and thick framed glasses. The man looked and acted like the intense kind who would sing the loudest, out of tune, and with notes drawn out far after the rest of the congregation had stopped singing at synagogue services. Yet, the man spoke in the tone of an uncle’s schmoozing Bar Mitzvah speech about choosing the New York location, location, location of the post Torah reading celebration that his brother Adam always liked to imitate.
“Who are you?” David asked the man.
“Why, I’m your Ancestor! You know, the great-uncle whose name you always forget who the nuns hid in the bottom of the fishing boat across the Baltic Sea," he said, and David stared back blankly, "What? You think I’m here on vacation? We didn’t have time for *vacation* in the *shtetl*. This is where I washed up in Sweden!” he exclaimed. David vaguely remembered a story where his Grandma Amalie made one of the escapees who met them in Stockholm shower four times after they arrived, smelling of herring, but where were there such stiflingly hot beaches in Sweden? “So do you remember me or not, handsome?” the man grinned maniacally.
“I remember hearing of you at least,” David stuttered, “I know of you, but I don’t really know you.” The Ancestor frowned.
“Well, I want to let you know that you’ve been a good boy David, dare I say a nice Jewish boy,” he winked, campy as ever. He asked himself if this man could be any more of a stereotype and grunted his thanks. “But I wanted to warn you about something, about making the right decisions with our futures, the future of our memory, so to speak, both yours and mine,” he was losing patience with David’s quiet. “I see you’re building this sandcastle?” David looked at his feet and saw the base of an elaborate home, incomplete with moist, pirouetting sand mounds sprinkled on for texture. He looked at the sand grit deeply sewn into his palms from the indentation of the bucket.
“So David, help me out here,” the Ancestor cleared his throat, “when we’re building our futures, when we’re building the bonds to carry us forward, it’s nice to follow a blueprint, to carry out the line, to carry the line onwards for continuity.” The man lumbered around a bit, curling his hairy toes with long, uncut yellow toenails inwards to flex his big toe and carve a heart into the sand. “When a Jew dies, we bury them quickly. You don’t want to let your children rot like stinky goyim, do you?” David was taken aback by the six-year-old stinky lexicon but, as dream logic suddenly but predictably forbid, he couldn’t speak. As the Ancestor confoundingly yet comfortably descended into quicksand because dreams leave nothing settled, David thought with bitter affection, about how Old Ghost Jews wouldn’t have had the patience to dig themselves out of dirt, so they chose sand for this burial in dreams. He had the dream the following three nights with slight variations and uncomfortable hints at keeping with the faith, which made it feel too relevant to waking life though that’s really just how dreams work because they know you.
The Ancestor’s thinly veiled, harsh yet joking implications brought David back to the tone of his Hebrew School. There had been that terrifying teacher who constantly re-stuffed and re-buckled his shirt into his high-waisted pants. Mr. Anschel (or something like that) made up for a lack of a nativity play with theatrical guilting and heavy homework assignments such as memorizing the Amidah and having a spelling bee a week later based on retention and spoken speed. *Eloheiyizhakeloheiracheleloiheileahhh*. David had an excellent memory, and the prayers whose spiritual and linguistic meaning he didn't really understand stuck with him. He was very focused on the physical world that reason oriented. He didn’t have the patience for irrational trains of thought, but Tradition still mattered to him. It made sense that Judaism was matrilineal because mothers carry children. It was only logical that the religion ordained that you should not eat a cheeseburger because the milk of the mother, the cheese, should not sit with the blood of the child, the meat patty. Fortunately, he didn’t like cheese anyways. Maru still found this blasphemous after seven years together.
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“She’s not that religious,” he explained to his father when he had heard that his Uncle Stephen and Aunt Irma would not attend the wedding because Maru wasn’t Jewish. Adam, who escaped both outing himself to his cousins along with any questioning about bringing Jewish babies into the world with his also Jewish boyfriend (an accomplishment as they are harder to come by in San Francisco) said that Uncle Stephen had phoned him out of the blue one day. “He said that it was my obligation as a Jew to advise you to stop the nonsense marriage because you and Maru would be weakening the race. And when I told him that was some Hitler bullshit, he pulled the RABBI card. Like am I a fucking schmuck on the street who doesn’t know his own uncle isn’t a goddamn rabbi? He’s just an oldass man who likes the sound of his own voice,” Adam said so rapidly that David barely knew how to reply. They were never as accustomed to the preposterous differences between the branches of their small family as they liked to believe. The cousins were competitive about their Judaism. Talking about or with the token Orthodox relatives was like talking about Israel—an implicating, guilt-inducing topic that could only lead to arguments and quiet.
The only properly religious thing about Maru was that her mother had lied on her birth certificate to say she was born at 12:01 on November 2nd instead of 11:57 on November 1st because that was All Saints’ Day— a bad luck, ghost holiday back in Argentina. This was a question of superstition—perhaps more deeply sown than religion—not of Christianity. Of course, she also went to Catholic school for a stint, but that was because it was the best middle school in her corner of New Mexico. So, her religion manifested itself in insisting she was agnostic rather than atheist and through a subconscious compulsion for doing the right thing, and the right thing often aspired to some kind of chastity. She actually lost her virginity to David when she was twenty-one, but her late blooming was tricky to trace. Had she not slept with other people because of some residually Catholic guilt? Or was she a good girl, a romantic who didn’t go out too much because she threw up once at a high school debate party? In fact, when they first started dating, she told him about a dream she had where her token evangelical aunt’s small painting of María by her bedside sang “Like A Virgin” to her, wrapping her tightly in a white sheet until she couldn’t move her legs.
Who said this guilt was a Catholic thing? When David was experiencing teen angst of his own, his father had really taken a turn for the worse. The odd part was that Hans Herzl was a man who never even mentioned God but had an all-fearing dedication to keeping the family practicing though his wife was one of those assimilated before-the-war, cosmopolitan High Holiday Jews. David distinctly remembered the Fall his Dad took after his grandfather Siegfried died. The repression, sadness, anger, attempted repression, Survivor’s guilt swallowed right below the surface, and more repression was almost laughably unbearable for the rest of the family. Hans coped with these near-Ancestral visits unhealthily, to say the least. He’d guiltily sit watching the morning news, wildly hungover, towel over his head as he leaned on the left arm of the uncomfortable leather couch in their living room. Once David toasted a breakfast bagel to blackness for him just as he liked it, and he yelled, “No! Don’t bring me a bagel. I don’t deserve it.” He could hear his father whistling the mourner’s Kaddish in the shower as if it were a pop song. It was sadly easier for the rest of them when Hans returned to his functional alcoholism.
David wondered if his father hoped that making his children and his children's children Jewish, at least culturally, would carry the bloodline forward and make up for the murdered Jews of yore. He also wondered if he was projecting his own qualms onto his father. Maru and David hadn’t discussed their potential children's potential religion, but David knew that They, the Ancestors / the Ancients, made it difficult for non-Jews to join their tribe. Maru appreciated Jews because they were underdogs, but becoming one would be too far a transgression from the picture her parents had for her future, the wedding albums they drew up in their heads.
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David headed off into one of those treacherously melting winter evenings where ice and powdery snow fall from the sky without warning. A droplet melted from an awning onto David’s head and splashed a bit of clarity as he walked from his apartment to the C train. Yes, his mother and father were fairly tame for immigrant parents, but, no, they were still slightly homophobic. In spite of his rational views, he usually conceived of luck and his luck as favorable. No, his mom was unluckily born in Nazi Germany, but yes, the family wealth helped her escape. No, Maru had the minor controversial quality of being Catholic, but, yes, his parents liked her, and, yes, he met the love of his life on the first try, never needing to have a proper heartbreak in order to love with good sense. David considered this with an uneasily comfortable smile as he gazed at the crumbling brick walls and impatient passengers waiting at the subway stops on his way uptown.
He was headed to his parents’ to approach the family history kept in their living room and passed through the cheek kisses and happy salutations from his mother in a daze. Guessing at whoever the Ancestor had been could maybe help rationalize his night sweats, name the man's face in his dreams. He no longer needed to stand on his toes to reach above the fridge-sized safe holding Lauren’s jewelry and god knows what else to rifle through the family documents. He flipped through the stack of his father’s old household goods flyers that, from Maru’s proper tutelage he had now realized, ranged from mundane to vaguely sexist to mundanely vaguely sexist. His favorite cringe-worthy piece featured a cartoon-sexy, square-jawed man in an overcoat seductively cocking his eyebrow at a buxom, hourglass-shaped plastic bottle with plump lips, and spindly eyelashes on its cap. The punchline was, “Long Day? Herzl’s Decanter Cuts the Banter.” He poked through until he found the long, narrow tin he was looking for that held the genealogical scrolls that were actually just color printed on glossy paper at a local photo store—not quite so Ancestral.
He set it on the floor and pinned his knees on the stubborn, curling edges of the barely used, often rolled up sheet and crouched down onto his elbows to take a look. The pale blue and yellow and purple and green rectangular boxes had different shades for each generation, graphed from one to the next. He was surprised to find his mother’s name misspelled as Loren and to see how many of his cousins fled to South Africa, to France. It wasn’t all that helpful really. The Herzls didn’t leave so many traces. Of course, there had been the Holocaust, but there had also been a fire from a malfunctioning Wronkowicz Washing Machine, which his father blamed on, "those fucking anti-Semitic slobs, incompetent Slavs.” There was much to be made of his ways with words.
“My God, you look like a little boy sitting like that,” his mother said. He gave her a look like she had caught him in the middle of doing something naughty in the living room. It was uncomfortable.
“Oh, hi Mom. I was just looking at the genealogy thing,” he said, clearing his throat.
“Ah, well, I’m sorry if I interrupted you darling. I’m just a mother. I don’t want to be overbearing. It was nice of you to give us a visit," she said. Their family was not one to venerate the dead so much. Maru seemed more excited to re-tell her family’s migration from Portugal to Brazil, from Italy to Argentina along with stories of his family escaping Germany than his own father was. He would ask him about the Holocaust during the customary weeks of Jewish remembrance at Hebrew School, and his father said he simply refused to talk about it at night. For David, that was enough of a discussion. He didn’t want to snoop around too much.
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When David was eleven, he had come home with a little paper booklet about Nostradamus that made him sweat. He normally ignored those who peddled their wild opinions or institutional ideologies in alternately rote, rehearsed, and enthusiastic voices on New York street corners. However, sometimes the avoidance— ignoring, crossing the street, making up doctor's appointments he was fake rushing off to —tired him. It had been the first day March really felt like Spring, where people wore shorts though there was still a breeze, and he found the petite Mormon woman wearing one of those confectionary pastel church-going hats very endearing.
“Good afternoon young man,” she said in a sweet, hard to place accent, “Would you like to learn more about saving your soul?”
“I’m Jewish,” he said.
“Oh, well son, there’s definitely some Old Testament scripture in there,” she said. He didn’t know why he took it. It looked like a picture book with such sharply drawn, blue-eyed men talking about meetings and the end of days.
Late that night, while his mother was folding his laundry, she found the paper pamphlet in his pocket and gasped. She shook him awake, aggressively whispering, “David! I haven’t the faintest idea where you found this nonsense, but you must NEVER, NEVER EVER speak to strangers pushing this schlock on you.”
“What?” he said. Lauren rarely got so frantic as she was more keen on verbal rather than physical affection. She clasped him to her chest suddenly and sighed.
“I saw a nightly special on Channel 4 the other day about how those people will convert you along with your family, against their will.” This reach into the past sounded ghostlike and scary to a young boy, so David promised his mother, the woman who carefully instructed him to put sugar in tea before hot water so that it can melt, not to speak to strangers handing out pamphlets. The broader implications only made sense to him now with the sudden memory. David consoled himself with how soft Catholic prosletyzing seemed in comparison as he stared at the ceiling and tried to fall asleep. By the time he had arrived home from his parents’, with the trains running slow and local on the late night track, Maru was already sleeping on her side, stealing the sheets and blankets as usual.
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That night, he and the Ancestor were on the side of a highway with vaguely German signs that he must have subconsciously fished up from photographs. The Ancestor was already waiting for him with a some booze in one of his father’s patented decanters. They were lying on their backs looking at the clouds before evening.
“Do you ever think that we aren’t as spiritual because there are so few of us that we don’t need to set ourselves apart?” The Ancestor asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that we don’t want to attract other people. We don’t have the gold or the choirs. We don’t have the María candles,” the Ancestor said to which David offered a pointed glance.
“You mean we don’t have much imagery?” David asked.
“Well, we technically aren’t supposed to have idols,” the Ancestor added.
“To each his own,” David said.
"When people hate you, you have to get practical," the Ancestor said.
“*That* actually makes sense to me, historically speaking,” David said.
“Well, it’s not just about culture,” the Ancestor pointed out.
“It’s not just about blood,” David countered in his most satisfying dream debate yet.
The next evening, Maru came home from her shift at the clinic early, hefting a flattish but apparently heavy, moss-green box. David was sitting at the small dining room table brooding over his dreidel like a little boy who kept losing chocolate gelt to his cousins. “Why the mopey face booboo?” She said, giggling at the weight as she lugged the box to the table, “I think we got our first wedding present! Why don’t you open it?” she kissed his head.
“Oh, most interesting,” he said with a smirk, “They don’t mess around.”
“No, sir,” she said. He began uncrinkling the thick paper edges with his short nails, and it was only then that he noticed The Jewish Museum script on the reflectively white box. It held a modern yet clunky table sculpture that was half a clock and half marble. “It’s kind of...surrealist?” David said to his former art history major bride to be. He picked up the card and read aloud in an accented old woman’s voice:
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“It looks like something my abuela would’ve bought at an antique shop,” Maru smirked. At least the message was approving, he thought.
That Saturday, they went uptown. She held his hand all the way to the housing goods store in her red gloves with a hole in the pointer finger because she didn’t have the patience to get any more “opulently ugly” decor from her father-in-law’s business associates. They had folded to the idea of a registry. It was the 5th night of Hanukkah, Christmas or Navidad was coming up. Her family and friends would soon ate Panettone, a somehow soft, crusty raisiny bread. It was misleadingly always a little stale, more festive than a challah but less festive than those raspberry-lined rainbow layered chocolate cake-cookies ubiquitous at Jewish delis. The fresh air of buying things or sitting inside a store had come.
As David continued dissociating inside the store, Maru managed to arm them both with the beeping scan guns with red laser hatches that would pick up the barcode for the desired purchase. David stood in the bright light of the towering, wall-length throw pillow section, picking up whatever he liked. The monotonous gesture of tag scanning and its calming beep was as welcome as the nice cream space that pauses portions of long, dense chapters in a book.
“Make sure you pick some expensive stuff,” Maru said, nudging his elbow and startling him a bit.
“I have expensive taste,” he said. They picked up fancy kitchen utensils, lamps, all the nice shit, until their wrists hurt. There were wreaths and ornaments by the checkout along with a small, obligatory array of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa candelabras. She put her hand on his shoulder and put a *menorah(!)* and six candy canes in their basket. He remembered that they loved each other. It was kind of schmaltzy, and it wasn’t simple, but it was true.
They arrived home surprised at their own weightlessness given all the shopping if not purchasing that they had just done. They kissed, and, of course, the phone rang to interrupt what they could have started. Gigi barked at the phone.
David sighed and picked up the receiver, "Hello?"
"David! How are you? We missed you last night," his father said, sounding uncharacteristically chipper.
"I'm alright. Maru and I just went to do a registry, which was weird but nice that we're not spending our own money on furniture I guess. How was dinner?"
"Well, dinner and the lovely Maru were just what I was calling you about."
"How convenient," David said.
"Oh, more than convenient! Maru's last name is Pereyra spelled P-E-R-E-Y-R-A, right?"
"So, one of Ruth's cousins who escaped Russia and went to Cuba during the war is now living in Madrid and is learning all about the former Jews of Spain," Hans inhaled, "And apparently Pereyra is one of the last names conversos took to try and escape the Inquisition! Isn't that wonderful?"
"I would hesitate to call the Inquisition wonderful, Pop," David said. Strangely, her potential 1/18th Judaism reminded him how little he cared about her bloodline.
"Fuck the Inquisition, I can't wait to tell your Uncle Stephen about this! There was even some famous Yeshiva merchant with the last name Pereyra," Hans said giddily.
"Hey Maru, you may not be a total shiksa after all! Apparently your last name was pretty popular among the converted Spanish Jews," David called to the bedroom.
"Shiksa is an ugly word, and you know my black sheep great uncle was a priest right?" she replied. What they didn't know wouldn't hurt them.
"Shiksa or not, I just can't wait to see the look on their faces," Hans said after overhearing what Maru had to say.
"If that's what lets you sleep at night," David said.
"I'm gonna sleep like a fat happy baby," Hans said before hanging up abruptly.
A package arrived two days later with no card but a return address saying Herzl from Riverdale, also known as the haven of Orthodox cousins and also known as the white suburb that cloisters itself off from the rest of the South Bronx. The cousins had bought them a geometric, golden trivet with interlocking triangles that almost passed for a Star of David along with a matching series of coasters because Germans are fucking obsessed with coasters for whatever reason. David smirked. It wasn’t much, but it wasn’t nothing.
That night, David dreamt that a giant baby girl wearing a straw sunhat that was tipping off her head was holding him in her arms on the beach at sunrise. The Ancestor was nowhere to be found.
<p style="text-align:center;"> <img src="http://raw.githubusercontent.com/juliaprets/Genesis/master/1babyfromcloud.jpg"width="600"height"400"> </p>
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