The wind was barely shifting the seventy degree weather. It was pleasant, the kind of summer’s evening where couples walked down 13th Avenue, children were relishing the warm night air, and I went untzniusdig to a friend’s apartment for a meal and conversation.
I never venture into your neighborhood. I never want to be in your neighborhood. As the car crossed to 36th and we came around to 13th, the familiar minivans and black vests covering tzitzis loomed into view. My heart already in my throat as the stores got more familiar. The lens through which I viewed this trip down memory lane was very different, and I tried to feel more detached as I pulled my sweater over my head and buttoned up to the collar.
I fumbled with the buttons. My hands shook more and I admonished myself for letting it get to me. As soon as I opened the door of the car, sounds of my native language washed over me. The scene I was so familiar with, except I had changed.
Dinner was great. I wanted to be there, I wanted to taste the delicious food so appetizing to my stomach and my soul. It didn’t disappoint.
And then I walked out. Like a paparazzi you were there, staring out of a familiar minivan. Using your child and your wife as a shield. Taking my images to prove something to someone. Using a baby’s attire as an example of everything wrong in the velt.
How dare you.
How dare you take what little calm I had being in that neighborhood and push me so far over the edge I want to crack open bottle after bottle after bottle so the pain goes away. How dare you make me feel uneasy to see friends. Uneasy to be there at all. Uneasy to be myself.
How dare you do this. I know why. I know it’s not at all about me, that mine will be a small photo in a sea of perceived missteps.
Was it you? You are everything that is wrong with the velt.
How dare you ruin the calm. Ruin the night. Ruin my good place.
Was it you?