The language of acceptance

Revision

We were visiting our sister movement.
Hundreds of Jews traveled
from Canada, America, and Israel
to gather in the homeland
together, to have discussions about our faith, beliefs, and social justice.
We met up in a forest
where the pine needles blanketed the ground and
the stars could be seen if you shifted around while
squinting through the tree leaves.

The Americans and Canadians circled up
on the cement blocks
that were designed for tents,
but we didn’t bring any.
I tried to talk to them, tried to
join in their loud laughing and assertive caressing,
but I couldn’t match their expressive flirting,
so they ignored me and spoke with their friends.
I sat on the dirt
right outside of their circle
and felt like a mirror
as they looked straight through me,
noticing only themselves.

I didn’t stay with them long.
The feeling of not really being there
was filling me up and I left.
I moved to where the Israelis were sitting,
away from the others,
under the trees and in the shadows.
We talked quietly,
learning names and attempting each other’s language.
I couldn’t follow the whole conversation
but I understood them better than the English-speakers.
I was the only American
who came to sit with them,
speaking broken Hebrew and trying
to tell them what I was feeling.
It was like I was watching a movie,
listening to them conversing,
catching a few fragmented phrases and words
and enjoying the mystery and comfort of not understanding
and them not fully understanding me.

It wasn’t that my friendship between the Israelis
was emptier because of the gulf between our languages,
or that we only stayed with them for one night.
Time and language do not always form
stronger, lasting friendships.
I had known the Americans for seven years
and they were huddling up with each other,
closing their circle and shutting me out,
speaking a language I hadn’t learned.
The Israelis didn’t ask me to flirt, they didn’t
prod me to prove myself or speak up,
nobody can hear you, you’re too shy, too quiet, too introverted.
They didn’t ask anything
from me.
One of the Israelis told me
being there with us was an honor,
a moment he didn’t want to ruin
by kissing an American girl who followed him
into his sleeping bag.
No, he kindly told her in his accented English,
I don’t want to kiss you,
you understand why—
of course, she didn’t—
because this whole thing is like an honor to me
I don’t want to mess it.
You should have told me, she said,
this is embarrassing for me.
The Israelis were there as friends,
wanting to create relationships
with us, but the other
Americans and Canadians didn’t try
to break out of their language.

I looked back at the Americans and Canadians,
they were sitting closer,
hugging, laying on one another, and telling jokes.
The Israelis were singing
Red Hot Chili Peppers songs and
strumming guitars and blowing trumpets they had brought.
The whole night I remained with them.
We lay our sleeping bags on the dirt,
pine needles poking into the zippers.
I scooted closer to them,
wanting to belong
but knowing I was still separated
by our different languages and less time
than they had spent with each other.
I fell asleep among them,
with disjointed conversations
flowing in my ears.

***

We were visiting our sisters and brothers.
Hundreds of us traveled
from Spain, America, and France
to gather in the homeland
together, to have discussions about our faith, beliefs, and social justice.
We met up in a forest,
where the pine needles blanketed the ground and
the stars could be seen if you shifted around
while squinting through the tree leaves.

The Americans and French circled up
on the cement blocks
that were designed for tents,
but we didn’t bring any.
I tried to talk to them, tried to
join in their loud laughing and assertive caressing,
but I couldn’t match their expressive flirting,
so they ignored me and spoke with their friends.
I sat on the dirt
right outside of their circle
and felt like a mirror
as they looked straight through me.

I didn’t stay with them long.
The feeling of not really being there
was filling me up and I left.
I moved to where the Spanish were sitting,
away from the others,
under the trees and in the shadows.
We talked quietly,
learning names and attempting each other’s language.
I couldn’t follow the whole conversation
but I understood them better than the English and French-speakers.
I was the only American
who came to sit with them,
speaking broken Spanish and trying
to tell them what I was feeling.
It was like I was watching a movie,
listening to them conversing,
catching a few fragmented phrases and words
and enjoying the mystery and comfort of not understanding
and them not fully understanding me.
It was a harmless trial.

I looked back at the Americans and French,
they were sitting closer,
holding each other and telling jokes.
The Spanish were singing
Red Hot Chili Peppers songs and
strumming guitars and blowing trumpets they had brought.
The whole night I remained with them.
We lay our sleeping bags on the dirt,
pine needles poking into the zippers.
I scooted closer to them,
wanting to belong
but knowing I was still separated
by our different languages and less time
than they had spent with each other.
I fell asleep with disjointed conversations flowing in my ear.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s