It says something about me that on a Saturday evening in Jerusalem, about an hour before sunset, when I stepped outdoors to take my dog for a walk I couldn’t for the life of me figure out just who all these people were and where, exactly, they were going.
And then it dawned on me: It wasn’t the good townspeople of Anatevka fleeing a pogrom but rather Torah-observers, dressed in their Sabbath best, hurrying to shul to daven mincha/maariv.
What kind of a Jew am I, anyway?
Just then, someone called my name. It was a guy I had tried, unsuccessfully, to date the previous summer. A fellow who never really went away in that every so often he resurfaced, via email, but nothing ever came of it.
And so we said our hello’s in the middle of the street, this being Jerusalem and there being no cars on Shabbat, although he really only paused to give me a quick hug as he hurried towards the synagogue that, it seems, has always been on the end of my block.
“I saw Kevin and then knew it was you,” he said, smiling.
“Trevor,” I corrected. “My dog’s name is Trevor.”
“Kevin, Trevor, same name,” he said, that cheery smile never leaving his face.
“But you’re English,” I countered, “And Trevor is such an English name.”
Suddenly, I realized it wasn’t Trevor who was so very, very English, but rather the gentleman before me, he with his cordial smile and ironic twinkle that suggested a hidden stash of wry observations beneath his polite armor.
Did I mention his shoes? Very shiny and spiffy and Shobbosy.
Suddenly self-conscious, I said, “I look crazy.”
“A bit like a bag lady, eh?” he said. “But you can get away with it in Jerusalem.”
He was right. The fact that I was still wearing my nightgown at 6 pm was not so weird in Jerusalem because I wore it over a pair of pants.
And the thrift shop powder blue coat and knitted cap? Could mean I had not showered all day and was getting on a midnight flight to the States.
But it could also mean I was a modern Orthodox, hippy, kabbalistic spirit seeker who loved Dave Matthews, the Grateful Dead, and some famous dead rabbis.
Which is to say, I was getting on a flight to the States.
As we finished up our goodbyes on the street outside the shul I never noticed was a shul, I made my final peace with our not working out. I understood from the inside out that we were not two people who belonged together.
Not last summer, not now, and not ever.