If I lacked food and drink / the taste of your name in my mouth / would be enough. —Judah Halevi
In response to my last post, Henry writes: “Awesome answers. You transcended the bubblegum nature of the list, which your lady thinks is beneath her. Eat it, Ruth! Let me have my fun! Seriously tho, what does ‘emet’ mean?”
Emet means truth. It is my ur-word. It is the essence of Hashem, the impetus of creation, the midwife of the Covenant. These are poor words, but they will do. I could go on for hours.
Ruth has advised against that.
Also, Ruth told me what Tiger Beat is. I asked her how such a publication came by an evocative name like Tiger Beat. She didn’t know. It sounds like a detective novel.
Ruth’s friend Carly didn’t think my answers were “awesome.” They struck her as pedantic, “not in the right spirit.” She asked if I really talk like that. “We’ve gone out a bunch of times and it doesn’t sound like him. Not that he says anything.” This was meant for Ruth’s ears only, but Ruth doesn’t see potential conflicts in her casual revelations; she believes honesty conquers all. Emet.
Carly is correct. I don’t talk much. When I’m out with Ruth, it resembles a bodyguard/client relationship. People have actually stared at Ruth as if she were famous enough to need protection, and of course she plays it up. “No autographs,” she shouts.
“And what was all that about his mouth??” Carly continued. “Shouldn’t he get that looked at?”
It was hard to learn apologies. My will was not my own for so long, there was nothing to apologize for. Now I have to know when and whether to issue them, and to whom. And then there is the fake apology, the sarcastic apology. I’m in a hopeless spiral even considering those. Accountability is like algebra.
At dinner the other night, Ruth’s eyes went from my plate to my mouth every time I moved my fork. She looked as if she wanted to ask me about the teeth, but stopped herself. Ruth never stops herself.
I unwrapped the bands around my head. They watched the surface emerge, and they saw the truth. It had been covered so long—it was so much cleaner than the rest of me, yet already older than any man alive. Ruth had a job as a community worker. She arrived unbidden at the home of an at-risk youth to give his parents a list of behaviors to stop. They nearly pushed her down a flight of stairs. She was fired. She had a volunteer position at a daycare. A boy asked her what it was like to not have a thingie. She answered, in great detail. Some policemen were called, most certainly an overreaction, but Ruth raised her voice and informed them that law is a deterrent to crime, not to gender. She is no longer welcome at the daycare.
We’ve lived here two years. In that time, she has never asked about my bathing habits. When her head is on my chest, I can feel her sniffing. Just sniffing. Some might ask, Why don’t you smell like other men? She presses down with her cheek, never asking, Where are your nipples? Those friends you sometimes talk about—when did you know them? Why do you have so many hats and do-rags?
Now here I am, writing a blog that probably only she will read. Is this her way of getting answers? Wouldn’t it just be easier to shout, Do you need to eat?
Instead, she asked me what would happen to reincarnation after a global apocalypse. “Billions are dead, but there are only a few thousand people left on earth to have babies. Where do all the dead souls go to get reborn? Are they just floating in space till the world repopulates? Do they become alien babies?”
I chewed extra slowly to avoid answering.
Last night while Ruth was in heavy sleep, I got out of bed. I went to the kitchen for a wooden spoon. Stood over the toilet and scraped out the food mashed inside my mouth and throat. Dissolved as much as I could in the water and flushed.
Looking in the mirror, I took the cloth off my head and revealed what erosion hasn’t blunted.
There was a night aboard ship, off the still-virgin Prince’s Island, when the stars loomed from horizon to sky and even the old hands went all drunken-poet over “a carpet of diamonds.” A few of the men turned inwards, quite out of nowhere, and gradually spoke all their deepest soul’s secrets, railed against everything good and bad in heaven, shouted things to the ocean that would have stroked an archbishop. Each man had his say, and no oath was mocked, no matter how silly, and every confession was given weight. There was liquor, but not much. This strangeness lasted barely two hours, and in the morning, proper men’s talk was restored; the night before was forgotten. But I had been with them, and when I thought it was time, I unwrapped the bands around my head. They watched the surface emerge, and they saw the truth. It had been covered so long—it was so much cleaner than the rest of me, yet already older than any man alive. I could feel distant suns on Hashem’s work, throwing the etched letters into relief. This was what nakedness was like. This was the part of me that lived. The sailors looked on. Not fearfully, not in awe, just seeing the white light and three Hebrew letters none of them could read, the mystery of everything growing deeper in their faces. There was nothing to say.
Legs, I’ve lost. Fingers. They’re all just clumps. The brain, I thought, was the one to protect, but I know better now. It’s this word, scratched with the iron of Al-Andalus. It may be all the brain I have. And if it goes, I go.
Today Ruth asked the following: “Could we be saving some money on food?”