Tuesday, September 7, 2010
This is my Roumanian cousin; her name and story, both lost, though I believe she died in the Holocaust.
A Jew Girl, like me.
Upstate New York, at puppy class, I stood next to the corpulent, ruddy man, each of us with our dogs--his an improbable yappy "morkie." He told me with an eye roll that his wife had picked it at the puppy shop, lest, I suppose, I should believe he'd emasculated himself deliberately. I had the manly hunting dog, handsome hound Remus. I know he wished we could swap dogs.
He asked me "where in Brooklyn you from?" and told me he had been a truck driver, often delivering to Flushing, Queens. He hated, he said, to make deliveries there. Because, you know, those people ran the warehouse there, "those people of the Jewish persuasion," his lip lifted in a wet sneer, his face too close to mine.
I looked at him.
"You know," I said mildly. "I'm Jewish."
He flushed a dark, ugly red.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean anything by it. You've gotta understand, I didn't mean you anyway. I meant those ones, you know, the ones with the weird beards. But not you."
I was tempted to stomp on his foot, tempted to pull my blonde hair back from my forehead and show him my horns, tempted to curse him with a very evil Yiddish curse and spit on the ground in front of him.
But I did none of those things, thinking of Ella, and myself, and then for a moment, in an unexpectedly clear memory-flash, of the beautiful nameless Roumanian cousin...
...horned, hook-nosed, sheydl-wearing, stingy money-horder, smelling of pickles and the Old Country, praying in a language that no one understands, that keeps me separate and strange...