17…just off the plane and I’m miserable.
I call my eldest brother.
I haven’t seen him in years.
He went to yeshiva when he was 13…I was 8…I got his room.
When he came home for the occasional weekend or chag, I had to join my sisters in the attic.
I don’t really know him but I don’t have anyone else to call.
He’s there within the hour.
We walk around and around the mountain because he smokes and can’t do stairs and I smoke and haven’t told him yet.
I tell him I hate it.
And also that I’m not really religious and that I drink…and stuff.
He tells me he also hated it…even though it wasn’t like he had a better place to go.
I suddenly know him.
And then I’m in the hospital and he’s there because he’s the only one I have and I realize that he’s the only one I want there.
He tells me to lie to the social worker so I don’t get locked up in an institution.
He helps me get better.
Then he spends time with me.
Sometimes it’s on a bench on the side of town he’s not that comfortable hanging out in.
Sometimes it’s with him and his friends…jamming in the Yellow Submarine.
Sometimes his friend brings him by on the back of his moped…his friend smiles at me even as he averts his eyes because the black and white uniform he wears dictates that he must.
Sometimes it’s in front of the dorm.
Sometimes we go away together…to my people…or his.
Always, I talk…in my baggy pants…my cut t-shirts falling off my shoulder…
Always, he listens…in his white shirt…black pants…
We share Marlboro reds…lights when he’s trying to quit.
He never judges.
18…he comes to see me in another place.
I am wearing wrap around skirts that sweep the streets.
He’s added a scarf.
Sometimes we cook together.
Sometimes we walk.
Sometimes he talks.
I have learned to listen.
19…I want him to meet a boy.
Then he wants me to meet a girl.
20…we spend so much time together.
My head is wrapped like his wife’s.
His beard is growing in like my husband’s.
We are almost equal now.
We are both having babies.
His is 10 already.
30…we drifted apart.
Now I meet him on the streets of Jerusalem again.
I haven’t seen him for a long time.
I am with my family…and I am so different.
I am scared of what he will say…how he will react.
I prepare an explanation.
He is here.
Now he has an electric bike with a child’s seat on the back.
He still wears black and white.
I walk towards him.
He looks at me…with my hair uncovered…my jeans back on…
He talks…I talk…
31…almost…scared of losing my family…scared my hair…my jeans…mean more than they should…
But he smiled…and he did not avert his eyes…
So I can turn 31 and say I don’t care.