Sunday, September 27, 2009

Party Girl

She was smiling. She looked cute and content while entertaining her guests. She liked to make sure everyone was ok, pouring them vodka and adding to it according to their preference. I looked around. The place was pretty, fancy and unusual. The people all looked happy and engaged in the rhythm. I would've skipped this. In fact, I tried to skip it but she wouldn't budge. "It's our 30th we must do something to celebrate." Now all eyes were on me as I tried to keep everyone occupied. Talking hid my embarrassment, allowing me to loosen up a bit and forget the attention for just a moment. She tried to get me to dance, practically begging me to get the groove on. Putting her arms around me she looked to make sure the others saw. To get her point across. I was hers and that was final.

Great, even more attention poured my way causing my face to get redder. I couldn't hide from it so I had another drink. This night would be over soon and then it would just be the two of us in our sanctuary. Peopled started fidgeting and looking at their watches. Could they see I wanted them to leave? Could she see? She didn't mind me; she knew me inside out and knew the exact words that cancelled my discomfort.

Just a bit longer and we could avoid nights like these for a whole year. But then came the pictures. Endless clicks and poses reviewed and perfected for the audience, her audience. She liked to document moments, for me it was all in my head...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Primero Memory

The corridors were long and endless. There were many doors and we kept walking not knowing where to stop. The whiteness filled the space and created a certain glow. I was holding his hand real tight. We were both very excited to meet her. Suddenly we reached a large waiting room filled with sunlight. There were many Dads there, sitting and waiting patiently while watching the never-ending news on TV. We hesitated. Should we sit or keep searching. "Ah" my Dad said to the nurse. "Can you help me please?" We were abruptly guided back to the corridors and kept walking. Finally, my Dad opened one of the doors a sliver and called for my Mom. I ran up to my Mother and her tightly. She was tired but smiling. She led me towards a small glass bed and gently lifted me up to see the contents. I was surprised and awed at the same time. There was my little sister Abby and she looked nothing like me.


The sun is beginning to peek out of the grayish clouds. I should go now before the weather becomes irrational yet again. I put on my cute little outfit to get me in to the sporty mood. IPod- check. Keys- check. As I walked towards the enormous green haven called Central Park, serenity began to settle in. I passed by strong, tall trees, kids playing baseball, squirrels scurrying about and fellow eager joggers. Walking up the slanted passageway the images became apparent. I take a deep breath and take it all in. Exquisite skyscrapers juxtaposed to a large clear reservoir. A few ducks swam in pairs, cruising along and glancing at the joggers. A tourist with a fancy camera takes a snapshot. This is my special place in New York. Where nature and industrialism live alongside one another. I stop to drink some water, breathing heavily. As I turn the corner, the long row of pink blossoms come alive. Each tree is different from the next yet they all come together harmoniously. The sun begins to settle and I see fewer figures circling the perimeter. This is the only sport I enjoy. The only sport I will do willingly. With such inspiring diversion, who can even call it a sport?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Shot in The Dark

It was pitch black as the bus lazily swerved around the corner. My heart raced and I began to internalize the purpose of our trip. We drove up winding roads what seemed like an eternity until we reached a high point in the mountains. The bus stopped and we stepped out one by one, making sure we each had our weapons on us. The heavy and bulky Uzi hurt my shoulder. I had tried switching sides but that didn’t help ease the pain in my lower back. We had been carrying a weapon for a few days and we were finally going to shoot it for real. We practiced shooting with blanks, disassembling it, cleaning it, oiling it, naming it and putting it back together. Uzi was to be our closest companion for the next three weeks of boot camp.

She called us in to the barracks, yelling for us to stay in form. One by one, we filed in keeping our heads down to keep our eyes from meeting her evil. I had befriended two nice girls similar to me, yet different. “Dona, come this way”, Yael whispered, pointing me towards the end of the barracks. We had decided to be last in order to avoid any mistakes. That Dona is such a dreamer, Yael thought. That’s what it’s like when you’re guided through life. She is so lucky; I wish I grew up in a mansion like her. I wish I didn’t have to work a day in my life. Yael had mimicked me several times for not paying attention in the courses. I had been sent out to wash my face earlier that day on account of falling asleep during weaponry class. Yael's thoughts were interrupted by my squeal. Dana pinched my butt and I jumped up. “Shhhh”, Dana said, “you don’t want to be yelled at again do you?” She loved teasing me since it was so easy to get me going. I will show that spoiled girl what it’s like to be an Israeli. Furthermore, an Israeli soldier, Dana thought. We lived in neighboring towns though mine was more upscale. She was constantly competing with me, trying to prove she was wealthier and cooler than me.

“Stand in a line horizontally and make sure not to fall into the fields”, our commander snarled at us. I sifted through the group of girls and found a comfortable place to stand. I looked up to see 30 white targets nailed on wooden poles, one for each soldier. I could barely make out the number of circles on the paper. Yael stuck to my side on the right and Dana on the left. We trembled simultaneously while holding hands. “Lift your weapons, get down on one knee, put your elbows on the floor and lay flat”. The commands kept coming at us like knives thrown by a Japanese Iron Chef. Dana looked at me is if to check I understood the Hebrew. She stroked my back to reassure me it would be over soon. We lay on the floor waiting to fire our guns. I thought of all the bad scenarios that could come true. We had been told horror stories every day leading up to this day. These regulations were written with our comrade’s blood. The anticipation was high and we all prayed it would go smoothly.

“FIRE FIRE FIRE!!!!” My ears were ringing from the thirty loud semi-automatic 9 millimeter machine-guns going off at once. The bullets whistled by me. I fired three bullets in the direction of the target but could care less if they hit it. “Hold your fire!” I was near tears, my ears burning even with the thick earplugs protecting them. I couldn’t see further then the person next to me. “Don’t move”! The commanders came by and verified our weapons were off. They checked that the barrels were clean and the stocks empty.

We were instructed to stand up and file into a line again to exit the barracks. I obeyed the commands like a robot, my body still too sore to control its movement. “I bet you never thought you would be doing this” Dana teased and smirked. She made a point of reminding me where I came from as if to put me in my place. She will never be one of us, she thought. Dana's super-Israeli look and personality were intimidating while Yael was more gentle and soft-spoken. Dana stuck her chest out, stood tall and marched out of the barracks into the field. I tried to recollect what I had just been a part of. I stood and stared at the targets being held up by the commanders, trying to guess which was mine. I knew I didn’t even get close since I fired mostly with my eyes closed, too scared to look at the fiery sparks coming out of my gun. Yael took my elbow and dragged me towards the meeting point. “Come eat” she said, “even though I’m sure you don’t have an appetite”. We walked towards the group of girls opening pre-made cheese sandwiches and cans of coke. I proceeded to pick one up and unwrap it. I guess I might as well eat since this will be the most food I’ll be getting today. Taking a bite of my sandwich I reminisced about my previous life of innocence and ignorance, trying to put the dramatic momentous experience behind me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Laid-off Thriller

As I walked in to the office everything seemed as normal. The same people drinking the same tasteless coffee chattering away. I sat at my desk and surprise- my username still worked. It all seemed too peaceful and mundane. And then…the phone rang. I snatched it up, the voice on the other side said "Dona"? The voice was all too familiar. "Yes", I said. I hung up the phone. It was really happening, the moment I had been dreading since this mess started. I looked around my cubicle. People looked the other way or kept their heads down. I walked out of the office to the elevator. My heart was racing. How much would they give me? Who would be in that horrid room? Entering the third floor, I was guided to a room. A sad room with sad people in it. This was the end and I was soon to be pleasantly surprised and calm.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Aliyah: The Big Move

The heat was sweltering; warm waves of heat came towards me and hit my face slapping me back into my new reality. I looked around me, swarms of people everywhere shielding themselves from the hot sun. I held my sisters’ hands tightly and made sure my Mom was holding my brothers. Step-by-step we walked down the airplane stairs, slowly taking in the new atmosphere. At the end of the stairs, my Mom took us to the side and started kissing the ground. “Kiss it!” she said, and we were so embarrassed. “Stop Mommy please, people are looking”. “You don’t know how long I’ve waited for this moment”, she said. She knelt down repeatedly and kissed the scorching cement. She got up, composed herself and kept walking towards the passport control area indoors. As we walked through the large glass doors, we were thankful there was strong air-conditioning in the hall. The lines were so long, even for Israeli passport holders. I was anxious, kept checking on my younger siblings making sure they were ok and cheering them up. “Don’t worry guys; I don’t think it’s this hot all the time, maybe just in August.” We stood in line for what seemed like an eternity, waiting to get to the other side and see who was awaiting us. We finally made it after my Mom answered a few questions as to why she was there alone with five children. “We’re coming back home” she said to the soldier at the counter. “Oh”, she said “enjoy”.

We walked towards the baggage control; all the while people passing us by, speaking loudly and brushing by us rudely. I felt as if I was in a movie and all these visions were part of a fast-paced scene. Suddenly my Mom yelped! Her two brothers and brother-in-law jumped on her. “Hadassa”, they cried. “You’re here”. They then proceeded to kiss us all on both cheeks and hug us tightly. The whole thing was overwhelming. We were still in shock from leaving our beloved home behind. Packing up all our things, giving some away to our Mexican housekeeper, and saying goodbye to our friends. They were asking us loads of questions- “How was your flight?”, “Are you happy to be in Israel?”, “When is your Daddy coming?”.

I had to sit, my feet were shaking and I couldn’t cope with all the excitement. I would be ok, I said to myself, but what about my four younger siblings? How would my baby brother Akiva who was only 5 at the time cope? He didn’t know any Hebrew and was joined at the hip of my Mom. What about Ofra? She was only 9 and oh so fragile. The thoughts and worries floated around in my head like thin cumulus clouds. “Don’t worry”, my uncle said in Hebrew, “It will be ok”. I was reassured by his remark as he patted my leg. How did he know what I was thinking? I guess this is what family means. He could read my mind and he knew exactly what to say. I was getting excited to meet all of my twenty some cousins and seven aunts and uncles.
We finally gathered all our things. My uncles carried all the suitcases and my Mom held us close to her. We were going outdoors again. Brace yourself, I said, the heat will hit you like a slap in the face. We walked outside into a screaming pack of people. People were calling out names, jumping up and down, holding colorful signs and waving. The welcoming area was a madhouse and we were all frightened. We slowly pushed ourselves through the crowd and made it to my uncle’s van. We loaded our entire luggage, sat in the back seat and looked around us. And that was it; we were home once again, this time for good. I turned around to look at the airport one last time and realized I wouldn’t be seeing it for several years.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

About Me by Jayne Neverow

When Dona speaks, her smile betrays her reserved manner. Her eyes are warm and more than happy to tell you where she has been. She is fortunate enough to have grown up in two lands. Los Angeles, land of glamour and glitz. Israel, a place I am totally unfamiliar with- but am instantly drawn to when she says that is where she would raise her children. Her entire family still lives there. I marvel at how she relays this. Just another factoid. I would cave in without the comfort of my family close at hand. Blocks away. She is New York through and through. Resilient. So interesting to me that she moved from numbers to letters. From Morgan Stanley to here, Gotham Writers Workshop. Amid brokers and financiers one day to poets and novelists the next. Gone are the shocks from a troubled economy. Gone is the tedium of soap operas. She says this as if the slightest part of her misses that guilty pleasure at least once week. She writes. I listen. We learn. “The most difficult part is getting it out…” After that, the writing acts a salve. Healing and illustrating, painting pictures vividly from days in Israel. “It’s so free there. It felt safe.” Her eyes wander for a moment. It looks as though her two brothers and two sisters may be living in a land they are unaware of how to appreciate. No obsessions with perfect plastic surgery and swimming pools where the HOLLYWOOD sign is visible. No subway trenches or occasional sewer rat skittering by the Five Star Restaurant. No rude New Yorkers like yours truly. She appreciates the peacefulness. “They only show you what sells newspapers but the place is beautiful, really.” I can see her now with her husband. Loving this place. Knowing this place.