We listened to several Holocaust survivors. One man told about his brother, and the terrible way he had lost him, and that was the one that got me. Strange, I don’t remember the story. I could still cry at the memory, though, just at remembering the word “brother” was a part of it. At the end of his talk, asked what the difference was between anti-Semitism and disagreement with Israeli policies, replied, “There is no difference.” The walls around us were capped with roccocco moldings, and the gold drapes along the windows were more expensive than everything I was wearing and carrying in my bag. I was eating red jellybeans at that moment, which gave me something to do other than look alarmed and pleading.
When we had a day off, I met a friend for dinner, and we ordered these fish stick shaped patties made out of chickpeas. They sounded interesting, but they really weren’t very good. I was so glad to be alive and eating and able to discuss things of scanty importance. “They’re good,” we both said. We sat at the bar, which was all sleek navy and black and mirrors. We had eaten at bars together for many years, because sitting at a table was too much of a commitment.
One night, after they let us out of my Holocaust class, I threw myself across the paths of Central Park, and had no idea where I was going except away. I ran into the line for Shakespeare in the Park, and plopped down in it. After an hour or two of lounging on the sidewalk, listening to street musicians and working the crossword, I got a ticket and went in. I bought a plastic container of chickpea salad, and I took it to my seat. I ate all the chickpeas coated in herbs, but left the cherry tomatoes, which rolled into a herd in the bottom of the plastic bowl. The man next to me, who I’d met in line, was a cyclist. He had gone home to shower, so he wouldn’t stink all through the show. I sort of hoped he would fall in love with me based on our brief conversation, but then, he was bald, so I sort of didn’t.
My sister met me in New York. My usual hotel is just around the corner from the Natural History Museum. I bought a red apple from a street vendor on the way. I sat on the steps by Teddy Roosevelt on his horse, and I watched the mothers and nannies struggling with strollers. I rarely eat an apple whole, and I was remembering what a job it was, what scrutiny and navigation were required to get at all the flesh you wanted. I waited for my sister.
Many years before, I had been in New York with my boyfriend, and I was amazed watching him step off the subway, others behind him, and then others, and others, and then he was just like anyone else, not someone who could change my whole inside with a word, for good or ill. So quickly he was gone, and I was safe again, and everything was grayer, and it made me both sad and happy.