The depth of leaving Orthodoxy is hard to explain to you, and even harder for me to process. I hate that you can only know if you know. It feels like I am somehow perpetuating their exclusivity… no, but you wouldn’t understand… you don’t know how it is… and it wrings itself around my identity as a mark of Cain. When I see them in the street, and I hear you excuse them without really understanding them, I feel it tighten around me and force me into a familiar place of screaming into an abyss where no one will ever hear me.
It’s the old house feeling, the one where I enter a space I have repainted in my memory, and the souring of nostalgia wells in my throat as the colors assault me with their mismatched hypocrisy.
Where are the walls I remember? Where are the trails of my wandering feet? Where is the smell of familiar? Where is evidence I come from here? Who tampered with this scene, dotting corners with fingerprints that do not belong to me?
I know this house so well…
I smell the stuffed cabbage simmering on the stove. I am rushing to get ready. I yell a warning through the hole in the floor to the kitchen below, accidentally knocking Q-tips down as I threaten anyone who thinks of flushing for the next ten minutes. I am excited.
I will be dressed and ready as we rush to get there before the curtains come down. The best seats are the closest to the men, within range of the candy man. At some point, I will take a risk and crawl under the table so that I am officially on the men’s side. I will eat too much candy and get hyper. We’ll be dragged home tired and hungry and scarf down a steaming bowl of stuffed cabbage that I will unwrap and splatter on my dress. I will fight with my siblings and probably get sent to my room and then be called down again to pretend to recite the blessing after meals. I have perfected the mumble with just a slight bit of enunciation, and perfectly timed page flips. It would really be less effort to recite it thoroughly, but I’m still only ten.
There is joy in the air, and it washes over me, cleansing the loneliness from my soul. Tonight, I belong. Tonight I am a member of the tribe. It won’t matter where my thoughts wander or that something is churning dissidence through my veins. I am part of something bigger than myself, and it feels wonderful.
And then the cold water jolts me awake as my request is ignored, and the downstairs toilet flush races through the plumbing of an old, familiar house and shocks me out of my dreams.
This house is falling apart, and I will be buried alive.
You know what I mean?