own sort of love, which was their choice, naturally, but it sometimes made me sad. I wanted my parents and an aunt and some friends who were dead to be alive again, and I could not get accustomed to, and even bitterly resented, their deadness. I wanted my brother to stop being mad because I had taken the best chandelier out of our parents’ dining room. I wanted the cats to stop napping and clean up the house. I wanted to eat ten Entenmann’s coffee cakes and not gain a pound. I wanted to climb back into my mother and try again to be born. I wanted to go completely deaf when some people were talking, and I wanted others to simply vanish. I wanted to ram my car into the minivan of Angela Price, whose son bullied mine. I wanted, how I wanted to grab hold of and repair my broken nation, before it slipped away and vanished. I looked at the congregants standing around me. They all gazed
The ringing phone was mine. I grabbed my bag. How could my phone be on? I had turned it off. We were in the middle of services! I was not this dumb. My hands were shaking, and I fumbled with the phone, forgetting how to turn it off. The damn thing kept ringing. My hands were as clumsy as enormous mitts, and somehow could not figure out how to silence the phone, so, instead, I answered it. “Marry me,” said a stranger’s voice. The members standing in the pew behind me glared. The cantor’s voice soared, grand, through the room. “Uh, wrong number,” I whispered. “Please. You know I’d be good,” said the voice. I was trembling. Everyone in the congregation knew the phone belonged to me. They were concentrating very intently on their
at the ark, faces slowly starting to open. Everyone appeared to be reasonably alert. I did not know what any of them wanted from themselves, or from our nation. But I knew what I did. I wanted a nation in which our leaders never lied and were elected to office because of their love for and adherence to the truth. I wanted a nation where, if people got sick, they would be cared for, swiftly, tenderly, and the only concern would be that they would get well. I wanted a nation that did not conjure suspicion about entire groups of people, and did not assault or kill them, a nation where everyone could look each other, kindly, in the eye and say hello. I wanted a nation that did not just roll around, naked and panting, in piles of money,
I WANTED EVERYTHING I SHOULDN’T; I WANTED A LOAD OF CASH AND A JACUZZI TUB IN OUR BATHROOM AND EVERYONE TO STOP YELLING AND I WANTED EVERYONE IN THIS NATION TO SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO ME.
and where people who held fistfuls of it were actually able to say, “Here! You have some, too.” I wanted a nation that did not order those who wanted to be here to just get out, go away, and brutally cart them off, but instead welcomed them, and learned and kindly said all their names. I wanted a nation where women could stroll leisurely through dark parking lots, city streets, everywhere, and never look behind them because they would never have any fear. I wanted a nation where a person could go to school or shopping or wherever and never worry about whether it was smarter to dive under a chair or run. I wanted a nation where people did not view one another as zombies because they were not zombies, because they wanted the best not just for themselves but also for each other. I wanted a nation where people loved one another, even strangers, because they had that much feeling inside of them, because they were that alive. I sort of wanted to repent but really I wanted others to repent. I wanted the whole damn world to repent, to stop behaving terribly, and just, for once, be good. Then a cell phone started to ring. It was a cheery, slightly irritating tune, the unmistakable melody of a device that wanted you to grab it and make it stop playing. I thought, what idiot left his cell phone on, and looked around, and then, I realized with a jab of horror that the melody was coming from somewhere around my feet.
holiness—oh the pure focus of their blank faces!—and I had interrupted them. “Stop!” I said, and hung up. I pressed the button on the side, the Power button, so the phone would turn off and I could get back to my quest for a higher self. The phone rang again. What the hell? The phone was off. Seriously. Now the cantor was looking, none too happily, at me. I answered it. “Yes?” I whispered. “I’m calling about the job,” said a woman, sounding nervous. “There’s no job,” I hissed. “But I need it!” she said. “Please! Give it to me! Now!” I hung up. I looked around. The activity by the ark had ceased. There was no pretense of worship anymore. I shrank to a puddle of shame. Happy Rosh Hashanah from me, the idiot whose cell phone had gone off. Twice. “Honey, don’t you know how to turn your phone off?” asked Eva, whose husband died a year ago. I held out the phone, as evidence. Eva’s best friend, Harriett, who ran a catering business, sat beside her; skeptically, she eyed the phone. “Apparently, she does not,” Harriet murmured to Eva. “It’s off!” I said. “I swear!”
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