Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Everything else

Before my bar mitzvah, I’d already rejected God, but on desperate nights I still prayed, face down into the pillow, before or after or maybe even during that press press press into the other pillow between my legs. Seventh grade and I started to listen to music, the Top 10 at 10 on my headphones when I was supposed to be sleeping. I rooted for “Rock Me Amadeus,” Amadeus, ooh ooh Amadeus, Amadeus. But more evidence: here is my bar mitzvah program, Shabbat morning service for May 17, 1986. My parents were the type that called themselves agnostic because they couldn’t risk the social exclusion of atheism, Yom Kippur and I told them I was fasting. My mother was worried I was going to become religious, for a moment this overrode her fears about my eating: almost a cover, but not quite a cover.

Did everyone in my Hebrew school choose a quote from Shel Silverstein for the opening of their program? I guess Shel Silverstein in bar and bat mitzvah programs was kind of like Walt Whitman in a high school yearbook: there’s nothing to choose except choosing. And so: “If you are a dreamer, come in…”

Mostly my dreams were nightmares, except the ones that happened when I was awake, flying around with all my best friends in forcefield bubbles and saving all the kids who everyone refused to see. Where were these best friends, except in bubbles? Now I’m studying this program for more clues, but all I get is my carefully drawn cover with two torah scrolls, my carefully-practiced curlicues delineating the rolling part of the scrolls. I guess someone named Heather had her bat mitzvah at the same time as mine, I mean we shared the service and it’s interesting that I designed the cover and I chose to put her scroll above mine, more to the center I didn’t want to take up too much space.

Everyone knows that most bar mitzvahs are all about the gifts, I tabulated the amounts of the checks in my head and my parents decided who had given enough and who was stingy. I saved everything, everyone always said I was good at saving but soon I would be good at borrowing money from my father’s wallet too; that was what saving really meant, maybe everyone knew that too. All I remember about the party was walking around in a big white room; talking to Robyn in a surprising moment of intimacy in the hotel hallway; watching my not-quite-friends sneaking drinks at the corner of the dance floor; meeting relatives I would never meet again.

My father loved to drink, but he loved control more, so he made sure that he would only drink on Wednesdays and weekends. Starting sometime before our teenage years he would always encourage my sister and I to join. I would stare at him with the studied indifference I was learning to craft; my sister would skip hungrily and my father would get all excited. Boys Night Out was different, that’s when I used to love the cheesecake the best but now mostly I tried to figure out how to get all my food into napkins that I stuffed into the vinyl booths of the Jewish deli. Actually this was after Boys Night Out was over, no more dreams and now it was Kids Night Out, which somehow meant dinner with my sister and my father, but where was my mother? My father would exaggerate his excitement at every bite of cheesecake -- don’t you want a bite, just one bite? It’s funny how I feel like An Officer and a Gentleman was the only movie that ever played there, but I don’t know what that means because it wasn’t a movie I ever saw.

They did have big terra cotta animals out front that we could climb on, this was way before -- maybe when An Officer and a Gentleman was actually playing, 1982 it seems, and I would stare in the bathroom store at the shag area rugs that you could get to cover your toilet seat, they didn’t look comfortable but the puffy seats did. I wanted new bath mats to match, but my father said we didn’t need them yet: this was probably an argument. Originally I just wanted to write about the beach, and drinking, and freedom, but that means writing about everything else and I don’t even know what everything else is.

2 comments:

matty said...

Hate dealing with thoughts of my father, but my current state forces me to do so under therapy guidance.

I've never had the officer and a gentleman feeling. ...more like i'm stuck in a lower budget version of Cruising.

...but, i do so hope to work my way up to a more Querelle sort of feeling and then eventually get to a feeling somewhat like Mary Poppins only without the mechanical birds.

Have you ever seen a Japanese film called "Jump"? ...I feel like that a lot.

The beach seemed sad to me today.

love from the end of SF,
matty

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Matty, it's funny because it's not quite an Officer and a Gentleman feeling, because I never actually saw that movie -- except the poster. But something about how it was forbidden, maybe that's what stuck with me...

I haven't seen Jump, but I'll look out for it...

I haven't been to the beach in so long, why so long?

So lovely to hear from you!

Love --
mattilda