Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Interior Design

Entered as part of a writing contest on The Public Query Slushpile

It took four years and a brutal divorce to get to this point. I got sick of blaming her. She is not done blaming me. I need to open the windows and get some air in here before I pass out from the paint fumes. My head throbs.

The phone is ringing. Five will get you twenty that it's the realtor. I keep moving back the sell date. Little fixer projects keep compounding. Cabinets need hung, tile needs grouted, rooms need a fresh coat of paint.

Especially this room.

I've finished everything I could think of, all installations are plumb and ablaze with new paint. The house looks better than when we bought it.

All except this one room.

I remember that day we got the house. Janice was so happy and her head was dizzy with excitement of what it would look like after a few years of hard work. It was OURS. I looked at it more with apprehension, I'm an office drone, hard work is as alien to me as an intake manifold gasket. I smiled and carried our daughter inside. Maybe we would make this work.

Little Izzy picked out her bedroom and said, "I want a princess room!" My little girl got everything she wanted. I spoiled her but she deserved it.

I got every single can of Pink Pastel Princess paint I could get my hands on and covered that upstairs room. Pink ceiling fan, pink trim, pink light switches. Izzy loved it.

And now I sit on an empty industrial size bucket of Alabaster White, alone in an empty room, in an empty house.

I've bought every different shade of white available and sat watching it dry. Eggshell, Off White, Bride White, Cream, and every combination I could gather. The realtor said the only way to sell a house is to paint all the rooms neutral. If the prospective couple had a boy they wouldn't be able to picture him in this pink room.

So I've been trying to cover and erase the memory of my daughter's wishes. But every time that white coat dries, the pink can be seen. It refuses to be let go.

I scraped the walls with sandpaper, and the pink shows.

I laid seven coats, and the pink shows.

I put up white wallpaper, and it fell to the ground.

Four years I've tried to whitewash this room and for four years I've seen that paint dry to a bleeding pink. My wife told me I was abandoning my daughter.

My daughter was the greatest gift I've ever received, and I could never abandon her or let her go.

The phone rings again.

The pink fades in on the wall.

If I can't cover the pink, how am I ever to cover the bloodstain near the floor?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Riverside, California: Nazi Hotbed

My wife is a beautiful creature. I still lack the words to define her to others, somehow labeling her as magnificent or wondrous, kind and loving places limits on how much of those things she is. She is the sum of all attributes I have search for in a perfect person.

And in two weeks she becomes Jewish.

I'm proud of her. This has been a long journey for her and one I traveled with but a tiny step behind. She forged this path the same way she chose it, alone and on her own.

She's learned about Judaism from a position of wanting to learn about Judaism. She isn't some poor kid being ferried back and forth to Hebrew school. She does not take this religion for granted. She does not resent. Every piece of information has been received with bright eyes and eagerness.

Aside from studying Jewish History the classes revolving around the mechanics have struck my wife like a tuning fork. For the first time in her life she's found something, other than me, that is set to her soul's frequency.

It's humbling to see someone embrace so fully something that has always been in the background, forgotten dusted off only for holidays.

However, there is that small negative that has attached itself to Judaism like a seventh point on the Star of David.

Jews aren't universally embraced. Entire religions and subcultures have been built around the idea that Jews are evil. The entire history of the Jewish people is nothing more than: We moved here, they try to kill us, we moved there.... Rinse and repeat. For eons, we as a people have suffered and died for our religion. Now lynchings and Pogroms don't happen that often but there are holdouts to the old ways.

Last Sabbath, my wife and I got a rude awakening about that other part of Judaism. That secret, hushed, always present thorn that consistently exists, that seems to be in the back of every Jew's mind: Happiness will always end. Someday THEY will come.

To the ancestors THEY were the Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Spaniards, French on and on and on.

To the modern Jew, THEY are the Nazis.

Two weeks ago the National Socialist Movement in Riverside, California made their debut. The NSM had been in town for about two years but they were making a big public showing for the first time. Their target was a group of illegal immigrants at a Home Depot. Way on the other side of town Jews, Unitarians, Green Party members, and various others rallied for Peace. A few different groups under the leadership of the Aztlan Brown Berets raced to the NSM rally and confronted them. A few punches were thrown over a flag but all in all, 10 Neo-Nazi met up with 50 or so defenders.

My wife and I were at that rally miles away from the fight. We never even saw a jackbooted jerk. And I know for a cold hard fact that no one of Jewish persuasion was over at the fight. Mainly because the Rabbi told us all to stay put.

A week later, my wife and I are heading for Sukkot/Children's services at the Temple and guess what?

Two NSM members were waving their flags and swastikas around outside of the Temple on Children services night.

Our Rabbi asked them why they were there. The older one said they were there in response to Jews breaking the Sabbath to attack innocent like minded individuals involved in a peaceful rally against illegal immigration.

No violence happened that night, cops were called but there was nothing they could do.

I told my wife that night, this is something that comes with all that other wonderful stuff.

Through gritted teeth she said she never wanted to be a Jew more.