High school brought about five consecutive days at school but college is another story. You don’t have class in sync with the entire student body. You don’t have to worry about preserving a social status. You don’t have to worry about making friends to the point of escaping the ‘lone wolf’ title. I’ve long since accepted the title. It’s been two years since I graduated high school and made something out of myself apart from the social grounds. Back then, you had to be what your surrounding was. If you were in a crowd of people who cared about boys and makeup and jewellery, then you had to care about that with them. If you were in a crowd that cared about grades and petty things like self-image with a mask, then you had to be that. The reason I became a recluse was not because I was weird or anti-social. I’m introverted but open to conversation. The reason I was a recluse in high school was because I was not willing to subject myself to any of these ideas. I’d hang out with one group after another but not really putting down my foot on one. In college none of that matters and thus far, my years have been great.
Spring Break is around the corner. Now I have to worry about mid-term papers and the upcoming exams which will begin in three weeks. I have two papers due Tuesday and another due on Thursday. Working towards those specific papers has not been easy either considering that the research takes more time than the actual writing process; I’ve been a bit behind. By the looks of my surrounding, it looks like I’m not the only one. The library is relatively busy but not as busy as it would be during finals week. Several computers are occupied with students rushing to finish their papers if not their research. Sitting in front of one with three books open from the online library in tabs, I take a sip from my water bottle before I continue with my notes. The taste of diluted apple juice gives refreshments to my tongue. I resume my note-taking on the Harlem Renaissance. I have to write a ten page paper on how the Renaissance impacted modern American culture and literature especially in relation to the work we read by Claudia Rankine called Citizen. American Literature is not one my best subjects. What I mean by best is that it’s my least favourite. In High School we read all kinds of literature. The school I specifically attended was an international school in Tel Aviv. The world literature, the local literature, the British and American literature and to some extent, African and Caribbean literature; out of all the ones we read, I found the Israeli-Jewish and Ethiopian literature the most interesting. It’s the patriotic side of me. Growing up in Tel Aviv as an Ethiopian Jew, I felt a lot of my identity flourishing despite the heavy international influence from school. In a sense, I owe it to the international influence to be patriotic. Living here three years and I still feel just as patriotic.
In the middle of taking notes I receive a notification on my phone from the school paper, The Quindecim (The Q for short). I started working with the student newspaper ever since I came here as a freshman and have been with them since. Now I’m one of the two editors and bloggers for the Fine Arts section. As an editor, I have to keep up with several staff and contributing writers in line for our upcoming stories for both online and the paper circulated around the school. Since mid-terms are coming up I have to finish editing the stories for the paper tomorrow ASAP. All the people that didn’t turn in their stories have until tonight to do so or else they won’t make it, no matter how good it is. Thankfully the work is split but for some reason all the emails are getting to me instead of both me and Clara Charles, the other editor for the Fine Arts section. I forward some of the emails to her really quickly and organise the ones that are mine by downloading the stories and saving them into my The Q folder in my USB. In place. Perfect. Now I can get back to work.
I finish the notes I need for the paper and close down the browser. I spend a few more minutes reviewing the notes and organising the outline that I need to write a good paper. The outline doesn’t take me long but I don’t start on the paper the moment I finish with the outline. I need a break. Packing up my things, I decide to have my lunch at the Kosher Dining in the Stimson Hall. It will be a bit of a walk but it’s worth it to have something to eat. Slinging my bag over my shoulder I walk out of the library. Despite the fact that Spring Break is around the corner, the path outside is still filled with snow. I slip on my black leather gloves the moment I walk outside. Not very many people are out but those that are walk slowly. It’s surprisingly warm for a snowy day but I’m not taking my chances. The trees are growing their share of blossoms and I spot some grass popping out of the snow here and there but no flowers. I pull out my phone and slip my earphones on, listening to an album by Beckah Shae on the way. Mouthing the words to myself, I walk to the Stimson Hall distracted by the countless planning I have to do in my head. Outlining the paper should have eased my mind but it’s during a walk with worship music on that I’m hit with all the other things I have to worry about: how many articles I have to edit and put together, all the studying I have to do for all my mid-terms and making sure that I have enough time to work on the other two papers I have for other classes. These are the times I feel like I can never get a break but I think that attempting to listen to such intuitions isn’t going to help my cause.
The smell of roast beef and potatoes attacks me the moment I step into the Kosher Dining Hall. Being Pescetarian I find the dishes that are fish related. I decide on a grab-n-go sushi packet with a soda bottle. Paying up at the front I find a seat on one of the empty tables. I quickly make bracha then pull up the next episode of Alias on Google Play. Despite the show being old I’m into it. No wonder it was very popular for its time, it’s actually really good. This is pretty much my entertainment as I’m the girl who’s always seen by herself. It’s me and my phone or books if not my computer. My parents haven’t exactly found me the best when it comes to having a social life and it’s even worse when they try to interfere. I can stand social gatherings of any kind for so long which is why I’m sort of glad that that our synagogue does not have a young adults’ program or a youth one for that matter. If it did, my parents and my younger brother would use the opportunity to force me into making friends of some sort. I know because that’s the kind of life we had in Israel.
It was a burden then and I refuse to make it a burden now. Mom especially is worried about my not having friends. She didn’t have many growing up. Plus my parents didn’t have the luxury that they claim I have: to be relaxed in terms of having a good environment and to be free of any burden. They’re wrong. The only reason we came to America from Israel is because we’re Messianic Jews. As Ethiopian Jews, we already had a problem proving our Jewishness to the rest of Israel. But when you add Yeshua into the picture it becomes another problem and our Ethiopian community feels a lot more distressed about their own situation. Leaving Israel was not an escape from the persecution and threat of deportation we faced in Israel but it served that purpose too. Both of my parents were given the chance to work with the Maryland Israel Development Centre and took it as quickly as it came. They stressed our faith differences and were still accepted on the spot Baruch HaShem, and moved us here two years ago. Even with all the success of academics and jobs, my lack of social stability has played a number on my parents and that’s why they’re pushy about me and my brother. I think that they’re beginning to understand that me and friends don’t go together very well for too long because I’m introverted. I don’t know. I can’t stand company for too long, it literally drains me and I need to be alone to be able to breathe as soon as possible. Which is also why I wonder how I’m able to keep up as a journalist. When I go to events and I interview as many people as I can for the article I’m writing, I’m able to put up the persona and show enough interest in the person to get them to talk. When I leave the premise I’m practically gasping for the air I’ve lost. It’s easier to receive articles that I have to edit than to interact with people for the articles I promised to write.
In the middle of watching I receive a notification on my phone from Skype. It’s a message from my cousin in New York: Absalom. I click on the message and read:
You busy right now Tee?
I type back: No. Eating lunch. Wat up?
He responds a minute later: Nothing much. Finishing up my mid-terms soon.
T: How many do you have?
A: Three more and then I’m done. You?
T: Mine aren’t for another couple weeks.
A: Oh. So do you think you’ll be free during Purim?
T: Spring Break fits right into Purim.
A: Baruch HaShem! We’ll be headed your way then.
T: Great! Baruch HaShem. It’s exciting to spend Purim together this year. Wish we could do the same for Passover.
A: If only. Anyway, gotta go. Ttys?
T: Yeah. See ya.
Absalom is born a couple months earlier than I am and thus far, the only one I can consider myself close with. His family had left Israel long before ours and had moved here a while back, settling with the group of Ethiopian Jews in New York City. Not everyone in our family is Messianic like us, and his family is the farthest from it. It’s a miracle that we keep close to one another and that Absalom is allowed to come visit us for the holidays. I can’t wait to see him this Spring Break. Maybe we’ll go to the beach in Ocean City after Purim since his Spring Break does merge with mine. I wonder why he has his mid-terms early.
I finish my lunch along with the last few minutes of the episode of Alias before I head to my final class of the day: Creative Non-Fiction II. It’s another long walk to the next building, the Van Metre Hall but getting a thirty minute head start should help me. The cold air hits me strong and I remind myself to stop by the café in the building to get a warm cup of mocha if there is still time. I scroll through Instagram on the way there to see if there is anything new from former classmates or from any of the celebrities I follow. Most of the stuff I find is regards to the personal lives of the celebrities which is a side of them I’m not really interested in. I usually hunt for something newsworthy regarding a new project that they’re doing and why the rest of the world should know. In terms of the personal stuff, that’s up to Clara to care about. Clara runs the Fine Arts section of The Q like she owns the paper which may have something to do with the fact that she’s dating our editor in chief, Jackson Rhodes. Jackson’s such a lenient editor which does not mean that he’ll let late assignments pass but he is understanding of any given situation of late assignments; the total opposite of Clara. I’m in the middle. The editor for the Sports section is more like Jackson. We at the paper take our jobs seriously but how we go about taking those jobs is another story entirely. Our faculty advisor for the paper, Mr Jones, says that he feels like we make a great team but our differing views on deadlines can get in the way of agreements. Working in the paper this long, I see his point.
I have ten minutes to get to class by the time I arrive and the line by the café looks too long. It might take the whole ten minutes. I proceed to class. It’s shaped like a seminar room with all the desks pulled together in a rectangle so that we can all face each other. The professor sits at the other end of the classroom looking over some papers. He is young, in his mid-thirties at latest, and is moderately handsome: his dark brown hair styled in a side-quiff that’s sort of relaxed, his face shows some scruffs of his growing beard. He looks up at me and smiles as I walk in. ‘Tehila, hey!’
‘I have your essay from a couple weeks ago, finally finished grading it. I loved how you wrote about your faith in this piece. You allowed it to sound like a character of its own.’
‘Thank you,’ I say as I take my seat a couple seats away from his.
‘I have to ask though, the parts that you write about living in Tel Aviv confused me a little, do you miss it there despite the things going on?’
‘Absolutely. I would like to go back someday you know.’
I hardly remember writing that essay. It was all before the start of the crazy pre-midterm weeks. Now that he mentions it though I can’t wait to look at it and see what I got. It’s his comments that I’m most excited about. Professor Moreno is also an editor for the Baltimore Review, a literary magazine, for the creative non-fiction section and to have him as a professor here and reading all our drafts and final posts, it’s an honour.
I look at the door as Logan comes in. He combs part of his quiff styled dark brown hair as he approaches his seat. Usually energetic, he looks tired today, some bags visible under his small blue eyes. Logan sits next to me in class and we openly talk while here just never outside of class (unless we’re both waiting in the hallway before coming in). He smiles as he sits next to me saying: ‘Long day for you too?’
‘Is it that obvious?’
‘You look like you could use a break…if not sleep.’
‘You’re not wrong,’ I admit.
‘Yep. Three of them due next week.’
‘What about you?’
‘Two quizzes next week and before mid-terms. I don’t know what the heck my professors were thinking doing that to us.’
‘I want to say “it could be worse” but I’m not sure that helps.’
I glance back at Professor Moreno. The gradebook is out and he takes attendance, scouting the room carefully so not to miss a student. White walls, one large screen behind Professor Moreno with the computer in the same spot, the classroom is a good environment for open discussion. The students in the room mostly keep to themselves, looking at their phones or finishing up with reading the assigned text which I have to fish out of my bag now that I think about it. I pull out the new work we’re discussing in class, The Complete Persepolis. Though the entire thing is written in the form of a comic strip the story is not easy to miss. Some of the earlier works we read in class consisted of a series of essays compiled into one book. This is the first full length ‘story’ in the creative non-fiction sense that we’ve read. I find the writing and narration filled with humour, drama, and even romance. Marjane’s life seems to mirror my parents’ to some extent, in terms of escaping a country that is reduced to rubble by a government intent on suppressing all forms of expression. I can’t say that Islam is all I see in this book. My parents don’t go a day without reminding of us of what it was like living in Ethiopia during the time of Derg. I don’t remember any of it because I wasn’t yet born when it happened. Mom didn’t have me until after she and Dad arrived in Israel. But the memory remains fresh in their mind. In fact, any Ethiopian who left Ethiopia thanks to Derg or who lived through the country during the time of healing will mention it. The Ethiopian Jewish community in New York always has a something to say about it just as much as the Pentes and the Orthodox that left. We all have a piece of it in us despite not having experienced it and to me, all of that is being replayed in the story I’m reading. Even if I never knew about Derg personally, I can see my parents in Marjane’s situation now.
‘Okay,’ Professor Moreno says. ‘Alright guys so we’re almost done with The Persepolis. And then after this you have your reflective essays and second piece for the workshop due right?’
We all nod in agreement, glancing at one another.
‘Perfect. Okay so today’s begins the discussion on the final part of The Persepolis. We read from her return to Iran to the end of the memoir right?’
‘Yeah,’ a girl next to Professor Moreno answers.
‘Perfect. Okay. So far we’ve tackled at her craft, choosing to tell this story as a form of drawing and words rather than the typical memoir in which we tend to write our own stories with a bit of imagination. So let’s today’s discussion with how you felt the memoir allows time for creative description despite mostly using pictures.’
For a while the room remains quiet. We all look at each other to see who would dare speak their opinion first. Professor Moreno encourages us with a smile but all some of us can do is smile back until someone brave breaks the ice. I glance at Logan before glancing at the girl on the other side of me. The awkward hill is rising and soon it will tip the top and explode the lava of voices in the room. Some just has to be the peak that needs has to be blown off.
After a few more minutes of silence, Logan finally breaks the ice: ‘I liked how the pictures are as much left to the reader’s interpretation as the words are. Though the words are there to help us interpret the pictures, they kind of stand on their own allowing the reader to see the picture as a projection of the story rather than to fill in the description that’s missing.’
‘Good, good,’ Professor Moreno nods. ‘Anything else?’
‘I agree with Logan,’ a girl across from me interjects. It’s Rivkah, the girl that’s my only tell to all the events happening at Hillel. ‘I think that the way she sets up the pictures with the story allows the readers to interpret everything for themselves while we’re getting to know her. It goes to show that not all creative non-fiction is related to writing alone but that there are plenty of other ways to express what you want to say.’
’Right. I like how you pointed out that Creative Non-Fiction is not just about writing alone although it’s a huge part of it. Up until The Persepolis, most of the stuff we’ve read about is written work and a handful of them were essays. Now if we have to broaden our horizon into writing memoirs, Marjane Satrapi shows us another way to convey writing and pictures together in a way that won’t side-track the writing itself.’
‘Yeah, I see it that way too,’ says another girl seated by the door. ‘I think that writing with pictures doesn’t mean that you have to depend on the pictures which kind of gets us into the idea of abstract art. Although that’s not what Satrapi is using here we can apply that to the pictures she uses. Who knows if the people looked basically like this right?’
‘Perfect, perfect,’ Professor Moreno nods. ‘This is good guys.’
‘I think that she also writes to make the story relatable,’ says the most talkative boy in the class. Sitting at the opposite corner from where I am is Quill, a boy literally born into writing especially with a name like that. He sort have deserves the name too, with his dark brown hair and pale skin, he looks like he does nothing apart from locking himself away somewhere and writing for life. ‘Usually when they choose to write comic strips like this they go for pure entertainment and it’s up to the fans to analyse the story. I mean, we can all think off every DC Comic book superhero out there and how many conspiracies people can come up with.’
He gets a laughing agreement from the rest of the class.
‘You’ve heard some yourself Quill?’ Professor Moreno asks.
‘I have a younger brother obsessed with The Flash and Wonder Woman. You have no idea.’
That must be quite the life. My brother and I don’t do anything with superheroes besides Power Rangers for him and lately RWBY for me (although you can’t consider the RWBY franchise superheroes so, never mind).
‘Anyway. With the way she writes this though, you can tell that she wants you as the reader to understand what was in her head all this time. We talked about how we fictionalise our lives when we write memoir sometime back and in application to that, I think that she is also focused with allowing the story to be more real to her readers.’
‘Yeah,’ Professor Moreno agrees. ‘This is all good guys, very good.’
I park my car, a black Rav4 minivan, definitely sold used and cheap for when we arrived, in front our building block in Towson Woods Apartments. Next to my car is my Mom’s car: a practically new Nexus or something like that. I’m not good with cars; I just care that they can get me from point A to point B with little trouble. If Mom’s car is here that mean’s she’s home early from work but my dad might still be there. Shrugging it off, I lock the car and walk into the building, climbing up the stairs to the third floor. Unlocking it I step into the room to find the TV on and my younger Iyasu sitting on the couch watching an episode of The Originals. ‘Really?’
‘Hey Tehila,’ he nods without looking at me.
‘You come home from school and you’re immediately hooked on Netflix.’
‘It’s cheaper than buying entire seasons on Google Play,’ he jabs.
‘That’s beside the point. Don’t you have homework or something?’
‘Done with what I need to do.’
I roll my eyes. ‘Where’s Mom?’
‘In her room. She’s praying with someone on the phone so don’t bother her.’
‘Is Dad home yet?’
‘He said he’ll be late.’
I take off my shoes kissing the Mezuzah planted on our door frame and walk in. I need to get to work so I can find time to work on editing the articles for tomorrow. Stepping into my room, I set my bag down on the floor and prepare my pyjamas with new underwear for a shower. I cannot do anything before I take a shower, not even relax. Setting up my new clothes in the bathroom, I strip out of what I’ve worn today and step into the warm shower. Compared to the cold docile air outside, this is heaven. It’s not easy adjusting to the cold air after spending most of your life in a land that’s practically a desert. As the warm water sprinkles all over my body, my brain continues to plan through the rest of the evening.
With the amount of research I have I should be able to write maybe two thirds of my paper and then after I’m done with that, I can work on my other homework. Where I can anyway. We still have some parts of discussion left for The Persepolis in the next couple of weeks but I’d like to get my hands on the next book we’re reading for the class, which Professor Moreno suspects will take more time than what’s written in the syllabus. I’d heard about the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In fact I’ve seen many people read it here and there. Beyond that I don’t know much about it. Maybe I’ll google it before I start reading. I have to go to the Towson library to check it out since I put it on Hold a couple days ago. I got a call this morning on the way to school that it was ready for pick up. Apart from the paper and the book finding, I have a reflective essay to work on along with a second essay for Creative Non Fiction and a poem two poems to read and compare and contrast for my Poetry class. Drats! I still haven’t picked the two poems from my textbooks. I’m so behind! How did this happen? Does that mean another sleepless night for me? Oh no!
A loud bang at the door snaps me out of my reverie. ‘Tehila! Mom wants to know what you’d like for dinner!’ Iyasu calls.
‘Anything’s good!’ I yell back.
‘Mom she says—’
Brothers! Couldn’t he wait until I was done with the shower to ask? Speaking of which I think I’ve spent more time in here contemplating rather than actually washing my body. I go through my body with the soap and rinse out a couple more times before I get out. The room is filled with steam. Mom’s gonna kill me if I don’t open the window and let some of it out. Though I’m wrapped in a towel I’m nervous about any one of the neighbouring houses seeing me. I quickly dress up and open the window for the steam to be neutralised by the cold weather out then rush out of the bathroom. I set my clothes up in the hamper in the laundry closet then go to my room. Between now and dinner I have a lot to do. Best if I get started now.
By the time Mom does call me for dinner I’ve gotten to page five of my ten page paper. Thankfully I only need a minimum of three sources and since I was looking at three of them in the library all at once, it’s safe to say that I have achieved what I need. But whether it’s from those sources or others I still have a lot more research to do. I save what I have and walk out of my room into the kitchen where everyone is there getting ready to eat from the food options: injera with our choice of wot and vegetables. ‘Hi Dad,’ I smile at him as he pushes himself away from the counter to give me a hug.
‘Hi Titi,’ he says. ’Indet nesh?’
‘I’m good. How was your day?’
‘Busy,’ he admits. ‘But I came home as early as I could today.’
‘Is everything alright?’
‘I just wanted to spend time at home. With my family.’
‘Aww, Dad,’ I kiss his cheek. ‘I love you too.’
Mom smiles at me as she moves one pot of wot from the stove to the counter. I hug her as soon as she sets the pot down. ’Indet nesh, Titi?’
‘I’m good,’ I smile. ‘How was your day?’
‘Same as Daddy,’ she says. ‘Busy.’
I nod. ‘Sorry.’
’Anchis? Indet neber kenish?’
‘Busy as well. I have a lot of assignments I need to finish.’
‘Are they all due this week?’ Iyasu asks.
‘No, no! Thank goodness. But they’re due before mid-terms so add that to the fact that I have to study.’
’Sorry ‘bout that.’
‘What about you? Don’t you have midterms?’
‘Way later than you do. Our Spring Break isn’t even on the same week!’
‘Oh yeah that’s true!’
‘That’s what I get for having one student go to a public university and the other go to a private one,’ Dad jokes. ’Irat inibla ahun?’
We gather together as Dad pronounces bracha over the meal. In a matter of tradition, Iyasu and I hold ourselves back and let our parents take the set of food first. Dad takes two rolled injera and spreads them out on his plate before I add some doro wot and shiro wot along with string beans and steamed cabbages to the plate. Mom does the same, except she doesn’t take the doro wot and instead adds misir wot. To my injera I keep it to misir wot and some steamed cabbages then follow my parents to the living room. Dad or Mom must have been watching the news but we never watch it as a family. The distress of the world is not something we want to witness during a family dinner so my Mom goes on the Amazon Prime Video account and sets up for us to watch one of her favourite old movies, Ben-Hur. One of the reasons Mom and Dad are attached to this movie is because it was the movie that they claim led them to Messiah Yeshua. The story of a man in shackles who learns forgiveness from a simple carpenter from Nazareth was more appealing than the street preachers that they often saw in their time in Israel. It was a while later that they would find a Messianic congregation hidden in Tel Aviv and they would dedicate their lives to Yeshua and raise us in the same way. I was five and Iyasu two when it happened so we don’t remember much. We grew up in the Messianic Faith but both Iyasu and I had to at one point make our own decision to follow Yeshua instead of just adhering to Messianic Judaism as a religion. My decision was when I was twelve.
As the movie plays I find I’m only partially paying attention. All that’s running through my mind is midterms, papers and editing. I doubt I’ll get much sleep tonight which is bad because I have class at nine in the morning tomorrow and I don’t want to be late because I tried going to sleep and ended up missing my alarm. Of course I can encourage myself by saying that Spring Break is just around the corner and that finals week is going to be worse but my inner subconscious yells at me: ‘That’s not going to work!’ and she’s right. As a result I excuse myself early from dinner, doing my dishes quickly so that I can get back to work. As I leave main rooms I catch my mom glancing at me worriedly. She feels that I’m turning into a workaholic. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not but I know that I’ll have something to relax about when midterms are over and Spring Break has begun. Since Absalom is coming over during that time, I’ll have no reason not to be an Ethiopian Jewish girl: making sure to spend every minute with my family even if I want to go to my room to recharge my social batteries. Until then, I’ll be busy draining my brain batteries with studies and papers.
Finally! Spring Break! Absalom will be here tonight and despite the snow still melting, we plan to be at the Purim service at our Synagogue on Shabbat! Iyasu will not be on Spring Break but he is just as excited about the celebration. Our congregation is about an hour’s drive away from where we live but Dad says that he loves that hour’s drive, that it gives us the time to meditate upon G-d’s Word on the way. I know what it means to just look outside the window while listening to Beckah Shae and meditate on G-d’s Word. Though Beckah Shae’s type of music is a sort of pop Christian genre, her lyrics are not like most of the other kinds that I’ve heard; they are completely soulful and calling to worship. There’s that cliché that all people who believe in G-d say: how can one look at the trees, the grass and the nature out there and not believe in something bigger? Well for me, it’s all about looking for the evidence. Not the proof of G-d’s existence per se but the proof of worship even in nature. Whenever the wind sways the trees in a certain direction I can imagine them clapping their hands and worshipping G-d. That’s the evidence I speak of. Even today, as I leave my last class, in the stillness of the winter, I sense that nature giving its due worship to G-d. I guess I look for that evidence because I want to learn from it, to be like it in my relationship with G-d. It’s what I look forward to most this Purim.
For as long as I can remember, the story of Esther has been one of the most inspirational stories in the Bible. The story of a woman courageous enough to stand up for her people; even on the pain of death, it’s a Cinderella story with a lot more drama after the happily ever after and without the step family. Adoptive family is close enough but at least Mordecai didn’t treat her cruelly. Our congregation has a Disney theme, ironically, for our Purim celebration this year and I am planning to dress up in the Princess Aurora costume but instead of the pink one I’m going in a black and blue themed one I had custom made some time ago. I hope it still fits me actually. I haven’t worn it in a while.
On the drive home from school I get a call from my mom. I patch through the speakers and respond: ‘Hello?’
’Tehila, simee. Can you go to MOM’S and get me some food items?’
‘Sure Mom, just text me the list and I’ll get it for you.’
‘No problem Mom. You at home?’
‘I’ll be there in about three hours if I make good time.’
‘Do you want me to start on anything while I’m at it?’
’Uh…can you check on the lit and see if it’s ready to be baked?’
‘Uh…sure. I can start baking it too if you want.’
’Wee. Ishi. Thank you!’
‘Minim idelem. See you later.’
‘You too honey.’
Hanging up I make my way to MOM’s. As soon as I park the car, I pull out my phone. As expected, a text is waiting from me, a list of several food items ranging from fruits and vegetables to bread, cheese and dairy. I climb out of my car and lock it while studying the list. I find need for rice and sugar somewhere in the middle along with some cereal and some spreads. A wide variety of things. Pulling a shopping cart from outside the store I walk in, greeted by the cool air of the surrounding coolers filled with fruits and vegetables. Great! More cooling! As if it isn’t cold enough outside. I know I have enough money to be able to afford most of this stuff based on my salary from work and the fact that I’m on meal plan at school. Taking my time between the list and what else I know is necessary; I take my time gathering the food stuff. I pay up at the front and head out of the store, stacking away all the grocery bags in the trunk of my car before returning cart to the front of the store. Practically jogging back to my car, I slip in and up the heater as I drive back home.
Surprisingly enough I’m all alone when I make it back home which actually gives me time to concentrate on the task that Mom wants me to do aside from setting up everything that I just shopped for. After washing the fruits and veggies and practically rearranging the fridge, I take out the lit bucket from one of the bottom cupboards in the kitchen and place it on the counter by the sink. Opening it up I take a look at the liquidy dough inside. It is ready for baking the injera. Preparing one of the pans I immediately set to work. The thing about making injera is that the process can be pretty tedious. All it involves is carefully spreading the lit over the pan and then waiting a few minutes for it to bake before taking it out and placing it on a separate plate, almost like making pancakes only this is thinner and it’s not sweet. I decide to keep myself entertained with some episodes from Alias as I bake.
Despite the company of the TV series playing from my phone my mind still wanders. Midterms are over and I have little to no homework during Spring Break. The Q will pick up where it left off after the break and so will my time at school. The only thing that I will not get a break from is my job. Monday and Tuesday I usually babysit for a couple that attend my Synagogue and now with Spring Break I wonder if I’ll have to add more time. On top of that I also have my job on Upwork in which I’m a freelancing writer for a web journal that reviews the latest movies, TV shows and such. Bottom line, I have lot of work that may pile up even more with this new week of freedom from education. I can’t tell Absalom that, especially if he’s planning to take me to Ocean City after Purim. Although now that I think about it there shouldn’t be a beach trip if there’s still snow melting just outside the apartment. So what should we be doing the whole time Absalom’s here? Since I know that he’s not a fan of just staying inside the house the whole day I also know that I better come up with a way to…gah! I’m just stressing myself out unnecessarily. I only have a week to relax and we’ll find a way with Absalom.
Baking the injera takes a little longer than expected. I hear the front door opening and Mom’s light footsteps walking into the house. ‘Hi honey,’ Mom calls.
‘Hey Mom,’ I nod out. ‘How’s work today?’
’Great! You started on the injera!’
‘Yeah, I did.’
’What about the wot?’
‘Okay. We still have time.’
‘How much of this are you planning to make?’
‘I promised the sisters at the Synagogue that we will be bringing some Ethiopian food for Purim.’
’Mom, you know our teff supply doesn’t last very long.’
‘I’m aware. Remember Genet Mekdes?’
‘The woman from the Ethiopian Evangelical church?’
‘Yeah. She’s got family in Ethiopia willing to give us some of the teff that they bring from home. Generous people. Also they work with the Beta Yisrael Community in New York which is why I have the sisters do regular visits up there in the summer.’
‘Besides; we all know that Purim is a time for alms giving and celebration.’
‘We’ll hear the story in Synagogue tomorrow Mom.’
’Absalom indet nowe mimetow?’
‘Uh, your brother’s going to pick him up from the Penn Station I think.’
‘Travelling on a train during the snow.’
’Ingas? We used to do that until G-d brought the means to get us a car.’
‘Yes, yes, I know.’
’Ishi. Let’s get this done. After you the injera maybe you can bake some pizza for Erev Shabbat.’
‘Pizza night? Yes!’
That earns a chuckle from Mom. I love it when we have pizza for Shabbat dinner. Along with some of the Challah I got from the Hillel organised Challah Bake at school, and of course a choice of salad, that’s a simple enough Shabbat meal. After I finish baking the injera I move on to get the dough ready for the pizza. No question that it will remain vegetarian, that’s how we’ve always liked our pizza. But I decide that one of them can have some pineapple flavour since both me and Absalom love having pineapple on our pizza. We can’t easily order that in pizza places because it almost always comes with pork which, even as Messianic Jews, we refuse to eat. It’s not so much about following kosher diet or not but pork does not have a good taste or smell to it and I can’t stand it in some of the places we eat at. Gradually the house starts to smell like a mix of wot and the homemade tomato sauce for the pizza. Mom tries to get rid of the smell by putting up the fan in the kitchen and lighting scented candles all over the living room. Neither of us realises how unsuccessful it is until we hear Dad walking into the room saying: ’Betam tiru nowe mishetowe! Are you trying to make us hungry?’
’Calm yourself down ante!’ Mom playfully snaps back.
‘Hi Dad!’ I yell.
’Titi! Indet nesh?’
‘He’s on his way back from the train station. Absalom’s with him.’
‘Okay. We better hurry up in here.’
‘I think the pizza will be baked by the time they’re here.’
Everything’s set on the table by the time the boy’s arrive but it’s not dark out. ’Selam le’ize beit!’ Absalom announces as he walks in.
I run over and hug him tight which he affectionately returns. ‘Look at you!’ he says when he lets go of me. ‘You’re practically a woman now!’
‘Huh,’ I nod. ‘I guess I am.’
‘Alright boys,’ Dad says. ‘Go and wash up. It’s almost Shabbat. Absalom you know that you’re staying in Iyasu’s room right?’
‘Yeah,’ he nods.
While waiting for them to wash up and get ready I return to my room to change. It’s a moderately sized room with a single-bed in a blue-black duvet and black bedsheet underneath with a blue pillow and a black sham. My desk, a light brown mahogany desk sits just a couple feet away from my bed, tidy and free of any books I usually have around or notebooks and papers. Only my Dell Laptop sits there shut and rested at least for the whole of the weekend. A navy blue carpet round rug covers most of the ground including a reading area I have in the left corner of my room, on the opposite side of my bed. The walls are white and remain mostly vacant of decorations, save for my favourite Bible verse framed in a blue-and black background above my bed and a black and white picture of the Bronte manor in England from my visit there last summer right above my desk. The only part of the walls or doors that are busy is my bedroom door. Behind it, I often post handwritten Bible verses and quotes from songs and poems that are inspiring to me, literally changing my life. It’s an idea that I got after watching the movie War Room in our Synagogue a couple of Shabbats back. My closet is beside the door, stretching to the opposite side of the wall.
Dinner might be at home but I still want to look my best. I pull out a black skirt with a dark blue and black striped long sleeve and quickly slip into new clothes. As I fold and put my day clothes away I glance out the window, staring and the wintery night sky filled with little stars and the dark forest beyond. It’s always bothered my mom why I love the dark wintery night look. I don’t know why I like it either but I guess I’ve always been drawn to the unknown. The mysterious beyond that scares most people. I want to know what’s out there and that’s to me what makes it beautiful. Entranced I find myself opening the window and allowing the cool breeze to enter my semi-heated room. I switch off the lamp and just watch the silent night, listening in a sense, the peace and quiet it brings with it.
‘Titi,’ Dad calls disturbing the silence. ’Iyetebecknish nowe!’
He can sense the questions in her mind but he knows that he cannot answer them. Not yet. Many would leave fate or time but he knows to leave it in His hands. She’s young, inexperienced but she longs. There’s darkness surrounding her but she aims to be the light. She reminds him of his other charges, women of the past. People believe in reincarnation. Though he knows it to be not true, he senses the same spirit of the warrior Devorah in her. She is strong but stuck. When she’s ready she will take her place. When she’s ready she’ll make her decision. The dark forces will rise with or without her in the battle but her joining the battle will mean that they are complete and the time to act will finally be open. But he’s no fool. He knows that the Enemy knows. Which is why, even if it’s out of his hands, he prays that she’ll decide quickly.