Out of the Box

All beginnings are tough, but many of those difficulties become endearing moments in time. Moving to a new city is an example. The list of the personal adjustments you go through is endless and may last months, even years. The basic adjustments are common to all moves. Get to know the new neighborhood, locate the good supermarket. Find work. Learn traffic patterns to and from work. Make friends, and master the local customs. Now imagine doing all that as an immigrant. A new country and a new language. EVERYTHING is new.

Immigrants landing in a new country take these efforts and more to make their new home feel like one.  It may take them years to bridge language and cultural barriers and begin inhabiting local conventions. The first few weeks and months are the most volatile for the immigrant. Every aspect of life is foreign and odd, and the learning curve is at its steepness. Such was my experience when I arrived in the United States soon after graduating college.

The time was the late eighties. Flying overseas still carried a unique aroma. The information age was in its infancy, and physical distance played a significant factor in isolating people and cultures. Global trade meant something entirely different than the diverse bounty we enjoy on every store shelf today, not to mention the advent of online shopping and its far universal reach. Most of the products you were able to purchase at the supermarket, the pharmacy, and the furniture store back then were items produced locally or regionally. For those reasons, anyone who made an international trip was expected to bring back fruits of the foreign land they visited. Exotic chocolate, cheese and alcohol from Europe, stylish T-shirts and shiny sneakers from America, and hand-made crafts from Africa. So in that spirit, I left for the United States packing a request list, a short one at that. In fact, it had only one line – a bottle of Excedrin caplets, requested by my mother-in-law. “Mail it when you can,” she said, “no rush.” I promised I will do that as soon as I could.

And so I did. I have been in the country for a couple of weeks, and gradually became acquainted with basic Americana. I began to understand the differences between the dozens of choices of bread lining the supermarket bread aisle, or really just learned to identify the one we liked. I became tolerant to the constant aroma of burnt oil coming from the McDonald’s restaurant across the street. I enjoyed the freedom of turning right on a red light and the challenge of left-turn on green. Everything was new. After years of watching American life in the movies, I was finally living it all. So following a trip to the supermarket, I walked into a nearby drugstore looking for a bottle of Excedrin. And just like the bread aisle, I found it offered in many choices. Different forms of pills or gel tabs. For a headache, tension or a migraine. Different bottle size and different strength, for daytime and nighttime. Impressed and confused, I deliberated for a while. Finally, I settled on a value pack bottle of regular strength in a red box. Back at the apartment I wrapped it in brown paper and scribed the address on its side. Next stop, another first. U.S. Mail.

The suburban post office was neat and organized. Morning light filled the space through blue horizontal blinds. Dark rope directed the moderate line of customers toward three awaiting clerks. People stood quietly with ample space behind each other. Soon it was my turn. The large man with the shiny bald head standing in the far right station looked at me with a blank expression as I stepped over. I placed my box on the counter. “Package to Israel,” I said. The clerk lifted a custom-declaration form from his side and readied a pen in his left hand. “What’s in the box?” he asked with a black stare.

The question and the clerk’s menacing presence stumped me. I suddenly forgot the brand name of the pills and was not sure what to call my parcel. I tried to think of how to translate the Hebrew term for “medication” to English but was uncertain which word to use, as there is more than one. Think fast!

And then it occurred to me. I bought it at the drug store. Of course! “Drugs,” I said.

Everything froze. The clerk standing in front of me, the people in line, the other clerks waiting on customers, the dust particles glistening in the slowly moving air. The entire post office stood silent.

I looked at my clerk. I knew I said something wrong, but could not think of what exactly. I rushed back in my mind over what I said, but everything computed back to the same result. I was right but something was wrong. Badly wrong. I did not dare to move. My clerk did not move either. He only scanned the room with his eyes, then took a deep breath. He had a situation on his hand, and everyone waited for his next move.

With his shoulders still locked in a tense pose, he lifted the package by his left hand and looked at me. “What do you have in the box?” he asked again.

I knew better than to repeat the same line. I had to think fast and give the right answer this time, to save myself from further embarrassment. Simplify! Where did I buy it? No, never mind. What did I buy? Yes, that’s it! “Medication for headache” I managed to say.

Everyone in the post office exhaled together in collective relief. Motion returned to the room. The dust particles resumed their slow movement. My clerk relaxed his shoulders and wrote something on the custom-declaration form. I paid and turned to the door. There was a lot I had to learn out there in the new country.

 

February 17, 2018

The Ukrainian

Igor and Anna in 2005

I have known Igor for many years. But to be precise, I did not know him at all. I knew Igor the same way you know many people at your synagogue. You know their name and who they are. A face in a familiar crowd. Enough to say hello when you meet them on Shabbat, during holidays services, and other synagogue activities. Igor was quite a bit older than me, and was perhaps better known at our synagogue as Anna’s husband. And everyone knew Anna. She played piano at many of the synagogue services and activities. Still, Igor remained just another face in the crowd we call our congregation.

All that changed one day a few years ago. Igor and I happened to sit next to each other at a Shabbat lunch, and naturally, we struck a conversation. As is often the case when two Jews meet for the first time, we played a game known affectionately in certain circles as Jewish Geography. Who are you? Where are you from? Where is your family from? How did you end up here? Jewish people are numbered by a few millions around the world, and this game offers its players an opportunity to discover common connections and relations through their Jewish ancestry. I was born and raised in Israel. Igor and Anna were members of a Russian Jewish group of people who came to Omaha following the fall of the Iron Curtain. Except that they were not from Russia, they were from Ukraine.

Igor asked about my life growing up in Israel, and about my family history. When I mentioned to Igor that my father was born and raised in Chernovitz, Romania, his eyes lit up. Chernovitz, Romania? That turned out to be a defining moment in our relationship. The moment we became real friends. Igor, as it turned out, knew Chernovitz quite well.

My father was born in the winter of 1929 as a single child to a sheet metal fabrication plant supervisor father and a homemaker mother. The Second World War found his small family as an oppressed minority caught between the Axis forces and the Red Army. Following the reincorporation of Chernovitz into the Ukrainian SSR, the remaining Jews who lived in the area left. I know my father’s family spent four years as refugees in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, before finally setting sail to Israel. And that was all. I knew little else about my father’s life and childhood. The most I dared to ask him about that time period was for a Holocaust Remembrance day paper I worked on in fourth grade. My father brushed off my inquiry, and I learned to not ask again. This was not unusual. Many Holocaust survivors chose to leave their past behind, and concentrate on their new life in in the young State of Israel. My father was an educated man who spoke seven different languages. But with us, he only spoke Hebrew, a language he learned for the first time as a twenty-one-year-old when he made Aliya in 1950. Dad spoke perfect Hebrew, without any trace of a foreign accent, the same way he spoke the other European languages he was fluent in. Chernovitz, Romania, and the life he had before he immigrated to Israel were left buried in a heap of a forgotten past.

Igor was younger than my father by a few years, but their makeup was similar. Both men grew up in the same region, and as young men suffered through oppression for being Jewish. They each were fluent in a number of languages. They worked and succeeded as engineers to build the world and better secure it. They both had multiple areas of interest, and possessed a vast knowledge in a number of intellectual fields. Above all, they were both loving and devoted fathers.

By the time Igor and I sat for that conversation, my dad had already passed. But here next to me sat a man in my father’s likeness. In his heavy Russian accent, Igor told me of the birthplace of my father, and of the life of a Jewish community gone for a long time.

Igor knew Chernovitz well from his many business trips to the region, while he lived in Kiev. Igor’s stories were informative and funny, and our many conversations interesting and enlightening. Igor’s homeland tales opened for me a new window of knowledge and understanding about a place I knew little about. They added form and details to my own family history, and gave me a new way of appreciating my father’s early life. Our conversations continued to soar beyond that town from a different world and time. Igor and I talked about politics, Jewish life and customs, world history, and many other topics Igor knew a lot about and was happy to engage on. Our conversations were akin to those I enjoyed with my dad at earlier times. Meeting and talking with Igor was always enjoyable.

There was another thing. Following that first conversation, Igor had a nickname for me. “Ukrainian.” A term of endearment. Each time we met, he would greet me with a big “Hello Ukrainian!” and a big smile. It sounded great in his Russian accent. He often introduced me to others in that way. Not everyone got the joke, but we had a lot of fun bantering in this way.

All this ended unexpectedly in January 2017. Igor passed away suddenly following a short illness. His untimely death left a hole in the hearts of many, first and foremost his wife Anna and his loving children and grandchildren. After his funeral, I sat down and wrote a note of condolences to Anna. I included part of this story in the note, and handed it to her during his Shiv’a, the seven days of the mourning period in the Jewish tradition. I am now happy to share this story here with Anna’s blessings and encouragement, as a testimony and honor in Igor’s memory. May his or her memory be for a blessing.

 

January 18, 2018

The Way to Jerusalem

I am on my way to Jerusalem. I am heading to the Jerusalem Cinematheque on an invitation to attend a screening of a movie produced by a friend. I drive from Tel Aviv, and chose to leave a bit earlier for the trip. Three and a half hours early to be exact. That is a long time. Most days this drive takes about an hour. But this is holiday time, and I chose to play it safe. My early departure proves itself worthy as soon as I leave the neighborhood. Traffic is a nightmare all around. Swarms of cars congest every street, merging in a slow and tense crawl into intersections and struggling to exit them. When I finally make it onto Netivey Ayalon, the highway that crosses Tel Aviv, I find it too overcrowded with traffic. More than an hour of stop and go traffic passes before I get on Highway 1, the road to Jerusalem. The situation there does not fare better. Traffic is mostly a standstill. The logjam gives rise to road stress. Drivers cut in traffic, change lanes, and tailgate for the mere illusion of getting there faster, anywhere they might be heading.

The pilgrimage to the holy city is a ritual thousands of years old. From a time when the Holy Ark stood inside the Temple on Mount Moriah, and a succession of kings ruled Israel and Judah. Taken three times a year, during the holidays of Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot, the pilgrims went up to offer sacrifices to God, and tend to some stately matters such as paying taxes. In those times pilgrims from the port city of Jaffa area would travel several days to the city gates. Today, the only standing remain from the Holy Temple is a portion of its retaining wall. The Western Wall, the most sacred place for Jewish people, attracts thousands of daily visitors. Many come to visit or pray. Some leave notes of personal wishes between the massive stones. The times are modern, but the tradition of pilgrimage is popular as ever, and it is in full force tonight.

After another hour of a slow crawl I reach Sha’ar HaGai, the first uphill portion of the road. Traffic is at a standstill again. Blue lights appear behind, and a police car zooms by on the right shoulder, rushing to address whatever is blocking traffic ahead, or so I hope. Three lanes of bumper to bumper traffic climb the hill at a walking pace. Quiet music on the radio and red taillights for as long as the eye can see. Tall pine trees lean in from the hills on both sides of the road, hover like dark giants against the silk black sky. I look at them and my thoughts drift away.

During the war for independence in 1948, this path remained dangerous and bloody. Many supply and rescue missions to Jerusalem, the besieged city, were defeated by armed Arab gangs hiding in the hills. When I was a kid I loved this road. Every time I would put my nose to the window and look for the armored vehicles remains that sat here as monuments to the people who risked and gave their lives trying to reach the city. You still need to know where to look in order to catch a glimpse of those vehicles, but it is nearly impossible to see them in the dark.

News flash on the radio. I raise the volume to listen.

The time is a quarter to seven. Less than an hour to T-time, and I am still in Sha’ar HaGai. I begin to doubt I will ever get the Cinematheque on time. There are no exits off the highway anytime soon, no alternate routes to take. I am certain that even if there were any, they too would be crowded with traffic. I do not remember highway traffic this heavy ever, and wonder if this snarl could reach all the way to the Jerusalem. Cars on the opposite side are flying by downhill, perhaps looking at my side with pity and dismay. I could have taken the bus instead, resting in my seat the whole way. I rode busses all the time when I lived here, never realizing what owning a car meant. I gaze at the glare of tail lights in front of me, and wonder how many drivers here are nervous about their diminishing gas gages, hoping to make it to a gas station before their engines sputter to a halt. The Motza exit, the high point in the area is near. I hope the downhill drive from there will run faster.

In the autumn of third grade, my dad took me on an Israel Nature Society guided trek to this area. A passenger truck picked our group early Saturday morning from the central train station of Tel Aviv, and dropped us at a location I cannot pinpoint. We walked through dirt roads, wild fields and wooded areas for a few hours. Then, as we made our way through a quiet pine forest, a roar of speeding cars became gradually noticeable. In a few minutes, the road to Jerusalem appeared through the trees at the bottom of the hill. Our truck waited by the side of the road, right about where I am now. Following the setting sun on the way back to Tel Aviv, members of the group praised me for keeping up with the pace. I was the only kid on the trek that day. I woke up when we reached the train station. It was dark outside.

I pass the Bait Meir and Shoresh exit. The road is leveled, and traffic flows faster. I see no accidents or other issues that could explain the traffic back up. Must be the overwhelming number of pilgrims today. Heavy tractor trailers, busses, and countless passenger cars. The narrow lanes are tight with drivers competing to enter the city. It is the third night of Hanukkah. Hanukkiyot lights twinkle in the windows of homes in Neve Eliezer to the left. On the right, a dark canyon rests, like a giant pool of dark ink. I have passed the midpoint of my trip. I succumb to the probability that I may not reach my destination on time.

It is a few minutes past seven, and I enter the city. The traffic snake passes under the Chords Bridge, and by Binyanei Hauma – Jerusalem’s International Convention Center. I continue downhill through the festively lit neighborhoods. The Cinematheque is located a walking distance from the Old City walls and the Tower of David, across the city from where I am. I will need to find a parking spot in an area that sees tourist activity almost twenty-four hours a day. More red lights ahead and I decide to bypass the busy city center. I navigate by general direction and soon find myself in an unfamiliar area. I pull over and roll down my window. The first pedestrian apologizes for not being familiar with the area, but the next one is more helpful. He quickly suggests a route. I thank him and follow his advice, but after a few minutes a sinking feeling is growing inside me. I pull over again to ask for directions. A couple rolls their eyes politely at me and sends me back in the direction I came from. Their directions are solid, and in minutes I am near my destination. The Old City walls glow in the yellow night lights. A clear and cool December evening rests upon the beautiful city. People dressed in warm coats walk the scenic boardwalk. I find a parking spot almost immediately, and quickly descend the wide stairs toward the Cinematheque entrance. The theater is packed, and I sink myself into a seat in the middle of the auditorium just, as the director of the movie takes to the stage and taps the microphone. The movie is a documentary of a struggling dairy farm in the Negev, and can be interpreted as an analogy to life in the Israeli microcosms. I think of my afternoon, my three plus hour commute, and write down a few notes. I may write a story about it sometime.

 

December 22, 2011

Free Fall

Herod sat on the floor, hugging his legs tightly between his arms. Cold air seeped in through parts of his outfit, puncturing his skin with spills of tiny thorns. He surveyed his surroundings. All alone. The floor moved beneath him. It’s time he knew. Decisive, he rose, his body heavy. He covered the distance to the door in four quick steps, placed his hands against the opening, and jumped. His stomach refluxed as he fell. Cold air pressed his body, arching his limbs behind his back. The thoughts that plagued his mind seconds ago had vanished. Deep calm overcame him, flooding his psyche with near euphoric happiness. The ground rose toward him like a giant silent mammoth. He felt free, happy, and painless. A hundred miles per hour falling star.

One evening, when Herod was seven years old, he went to plug in the reading lamp in the living room of his boyhood home. Unbeknown to anyone, danger loomed inside the wall. Rainwater seeped through the ceiling, and soaked the aging electrical wires. When Herod came to insert the plug into the mustard-colored outlet, it happened. An unseen force shot through his hand, grabbed him like a million tiny needles, and threw him back. His little body sailed through the air and landed on the floor six feet away. The shock and surprise froze him. He rested there for a second. That brief state of surprise quickly changed to fear. His crying brought in his mother from the kitchen. The practical woman stopped at the door, touched her wet hands to her apron, and quickly evaluated her son. Herod held his left hand close to his chest, crying at a high pitch voice and looked at this mother with a blank stare. The young boy did not understand what had just happened to him, and could only offer a fearful cry as an explanation. After repeating her question twice to no avail, his mother surveyed the room for clues. Her eyes rested on the blackened outlet, and she understood. The quick conclusion relaxed her mind somewhat. She stepped forward, picked up her son, and checked his body for signs of injury. Herod was physically fine, but emotionally scared. The power outlet stared at him from the corner with darkened, squinted eyes, like a devilish creature ready to strike at him if he came near it again. His mother walked with him to the next room, and soon Herod found himself immersed in his Lego’s. The pain and sensation of the electrical shock quickly rescinded, but the memory remained with him for a long time after.

A week before his fourteenth birthday Herod jumped from the window of his bedroom, sixteen feet above the ground. He landed in his mother’s flower garden, and rolled on the ground a few times. His injuries included a broken ankle, two cracked ribs, and some minor bruises, mostly on his hands. The physical injuries did not alarm his parents so much. Their concern rested with Herod’s unwillingness to explain the reason for his leap. That reluctance, combined with his general gloomy mood in the days leading to his jump gave them reason to act. Over the next three months, Herod spent every Tuesday afternoon visiting with Dr. John Wayne, a local child psychologist who came highly recommended by their family doctor. Dr. Wayne had an impressive array of framed diplomas and professional certificates decorating his clinic wall. Unlike the real John Wayne, the doctor was a short, balding man, with a voice that better suited a young girl than a grown man. Following their twelfth meeting, Dr. Wayne invited Herod’s parents for a final consultation, and informed them that in his professional opinion, their son’s act was most likely experimental rather than suicidal. A type of behavior he described as “something that adolescent boys are sometimes prone to”. Herod was cleared to continue freely with his youth.

Herod’s eyes widened. The air pressure on his face pushed his skin up against his cheekbones, forcing his expression into an awkward smile. The earth below resembled colorful covers on a giant bed. The landscape seemed frozen in place, void of motion and life. A pillar of dark smoke arched in the distance, painting the horizon with a narrow line of disappearing black ink. The line reminded him of Helena’s hair. Dark, long, and wavy. Throughout their long romance, and even before they realized their feelings toward each other, they loved to explore physical challenges together. Helena’s room at her parents’ house was larger than Herod’s, and missed the suspended light fixtures that decorated his ceiling. One spring afternoon, they sat on her bed, working on their chemistry lab report. While Helena marked coordinates on graph paper, Herod walked to her large dresser, cleared aside some makeup paraphernalia, and climbed on top. He leaped into the air, and landed in the middle of the bed, sending Helena and their schoolwork into disarray. “You crazy dummy!” Helena screamed. “What are you doing!?” Herod grinned at her, exposing his teeth in a teasing smile, and without a saying word climbed again on the dresser. By his third jump she joined him, and together they spent the next hour challenging each other to which of them would make the highest jump, do the best air flip, or stay the longest in the air. The sound of a car door slam outside sent them rushing back to charting pH levels. By the time Helena’s mother peeked her head into the room, their breath rate returned to normal. The following summer this same bed would become a nest for their young love, but through it all their game remained. They became addicted to it, perfecting their mid-air acrobatics with each session. On the last Thursday of their senior year, they laid on the bed, resting in each other’s arms. Small drops of sweat rolled from Helena’s neck, down her breasts, and onto Herod’s chest. “I don’t think we’ll ever outgrow this game” she whispered. Her eyes narrowed in a thin smile, and she landed her lips on his. The memory of her taste flooded Herod’s body now, and he smiled, matching his expression to the forced smile the air pressure sculpted his face into. He turned and looked down. The ground was closer now. Only a few more seconds, and it will be over.

It has been years now since he and Helena parted ways. Their relationship continued on and off during college. In the years following that, they made a couple of attempts at making it work, only to realize it just was not meant to be. Helena moved on with her life with greater ease than Herod. It took him more than a year following their final breakup to try for a new relationship. He managed to lead a few successful affairs since, one of them even landing him close to the altar. Still, every once in a while he found himself traveling beck to his time with Helena. Remembering, missing, and wondering. Jumping, even alone, felt better than anything else he could think of. It was almost time. He was ready now.

Herod brought his hands together to his chest as if preparing to pull his heart out. He took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. He pulled the ring, as if ripping a bone out of his rib cage. A great force grabbed him, punching at his crouch and chest, and compressing his guts into his bladder. His lungs emptied at once. It was over.

He opened his eyes. Bright light blinded him. He squinted. He raised his hands over his shoulders, and followed them with his eyes. Dark green lines grew from his body, like perfect stems of a large flower bouquet. A white canopy bloomed above him, ferrying him down like a large wing. Life had returned to the landscape below. Small cars trailed on a road like busy ants out on a harvest. A train horn sounded from afar. The distant smoke pillar was still visible on the horizon, but Herod turned his attention to the green smoke signal near the landing marker below him. He pressed his ankles together and bent his knees slightly. It was time to land.

 

March 23, 2011

The Visit

The first message arrived by the way most personal messages travel these days, via email. It announced the passing of my friend Sylvia’s sister. I called Sylvia immediately. The phone barely rang twice before Sylva answered it with her usual happy greeting.

“I heard” I said. “How are you?”

“I’m fine, sweetheart”. Her voice sounded calm and purposeful, in oppose to her normal direct and inquisitive. Her mood appeared somber, as you might expect of someone who had just lost her only sister, but her spirit was good. I listened as she described her sister’s illness, the hospitalization, the hospice care, and her recent decline in health. I never knew Sylvia’s sister personally, and the news of her death was not shocking to me. Besides, my real concern was with Sylvia.

Sylvia’s state of mind was solid and decisive. Her focus was on coordinating the funeral arrangements, and receiving the family members flying into town. We spoke for a few minutes, promising to talk again at the funeral the next day.

When the clock turned ten-thirty the next morning, I set aside my work, and prepared to leave. The cemetery was not far, and I arrived there in less than ten minutes. A small crowd had gathered at the designated grave site, talking quietly in small groups. About fifteen minutes were left until the funeral was to start. I walked downhill a few rows, and looked for a particular grave near the edge of the section.

I remembered the morning less than two years before, sitting in my bedroom. The phone rang. I looked at the display and answered with a happy Hello. My friend Susie was on the other end.

“How are you?” she asked in a tone I failed to notice.

“Great. Doing real well. How are things with you?” I answered happily.

“You don’t know” she whispered. Only now I detected the foreign tone in her voice.

“Know what?” A chill rose inside me.

“It’s Michael” she said, her voice awash with tears.

The horror unveiled itself word by word, like a movie scene projected in slow motion, frame after frame. The death of our friend Michael revealed to be violent and untimely, and more than anything, unexpected. Susie and I combed over the past few months, helping each other to construct the story using our different perspectives. We attempted to make sense of the painful facts, and console each other through the shock we both experienced. Every conclusion we arrived at felt heavier than the preceding one, mostly because they all illuminated a past we could do nothing about now.

Later that day, after Susie and I hung up, I stayed in the quiet bedroom, letting the air cool around me. Disbelief can act as an effective shock absorber, as it maintains an appropriate amount of emotion’s drip in a situation that is ripe for overdose, loss, and blindness. The incredulity trickle continued to affect me during the funeral that took place a couple of days later. Michael’s young children eulogized him in front the dense, emotional chapel. Later, after most of the mourners had left for the reception, I stood over the freshly covered grave, and whispered into the frozen air “What have you done Michael, what have you done?”

In the months since that day I drove by the cemetery a number of times each week on my way to and from home, but never stopped to go inside. Sometimes, when I waited in the red light in the intersection adjacent to the cemetery, my gaze would wonder over to the thick line of trees that keep shade over the flat gravestones. For a quick moment I would wander back to that winter day and the times that lead to it. I would sit there, thinking and wondering, fighting off disappointment and pity.

With time came perspective and wisdom, and it became clearer to understand how life unraveled for Michael. But you never really know. I still catch myself sometimes, wondering about what could have been done to change the course. How can you prevent something from happening if you are bound from seeing it? If you missed this one, what else are you not seeing? Where should you look? How much do you really know?

You can only hope you know enough.

Now, first time in almost two years later, I walked between the graves. The ground sank softly under my feet, evidence of the recent storms. I reached the area where Michael’s grave was located, and scanned the headstones for his name. It appeared near the edge of the section, and stood out from the other markers. Two flower vases flagged the headstone, which was covered with an assortment of stones. Small rough rocks, round river stones, color decorated stones, – made no doubt by a child – covered the face of the marker. Only the engraved name and date were left exposed. A silver toy car rested atop one of the flat river stones. One vase laid on its side, knocked down perhaps by weather, a high school commencement pamphlet tucked against it. I leaned down and placed it back to its upright position.

The place remained quiet, even at this late morning hour, and despite its proximity to the busy road. I stood silent, and looked down at the plush green. The air breezing from the shaded area refreshed me from the warm sun peering between the trees. I whispered a quiet hello. The wind carried the words away, leaving only the murmur of the leaves above. No words came back. The difficult questions and hard wonders were left unanswered the same way they stayed on that cold winter day. I looked up. The crowd at the top of the hill was bigger now. A man wearing a miss-matched suite and fedora called for the pallbearers to gather at the back of the hearse. I walked up the hill between the headstones and joined my friend Sylvia.

 

June 28, 2010