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Inspirational Contemporary Fiction

Unlike most people who believe the world owes them a thank you, Aunt Haviva believes she needs to be grateful for what she has, regardless of how little it may look to an outsider. 


In the morning, when she walks to the intersection near her house, she shakes hands with drivers and sometimes asks them to get out of their cars so that she can give them a brave morning hug.


Drinking morning coffee, watching her from a sidewalk table, one realizes her behavior is certainly borderline, and even crosses the line for sure. 


However, aunt Haviva has a simple explanation. After all, she thinks confidently, "Who knows, perhaps this driver I hugged this morning won't drive too fast. He won't curse another driver. He won't overtake. He won't steal a lane. He won't be angry at himself. He won't cause an accident that will change the lives of one wife and two or three children as well as a friend and acquaintance and also a grandfather already my age..".


Around ten o'clock, Aunt Haviva finishes making the sandwiches, which are divided into three groups. Those with jam, those with chocolate, and those with other spreads. First, we have a variety of jams spread thinly but evenly on slices of bread. In the second group, sweet or bitter chocolates with nut crumbs or pieces of biscuit, all melted using the French bath method and cooled. Lastly, the free spreads. These can be legume spreads or freshly mashed vegetables that have been peppered with oil. 


Then, during the summer holidays, Aunt Haviva walks to the grassy hill next to the city garden and offers her sandwiches to the children there. They can't get enough of it. Kids love her sandwiches. They take one after another and ask if they can have one more before going home. Whenever they ask, she assures them that there is enough for everyone. The only one left without a sandwich is her. 


She's got a forty-five-year-old daughter who tells her, "Mamushka, you spend a lot of money on bread and spreads, but you still stay hungry." Haviva replies, "I have always eaten sandwiches, but I've never felt as full as I do when I see them eat." 


Then Haviva mentions the two kids who belong to her daughter's friend. “The big one puts two sandwiches in his mouth and smiles his sweetest smile. When I make the sandwiches, I think of his smile. His sister smiles the same. If I hadn't bothered, nobody would have treated them in the exhausting heat of summer." 


For this reason they have parents, her daughter tells her. Despite not exactly being in line with what the girl is saying, Haviva answers something that leaves her feeling good.


Aunt Haviva, a little tired at noon. Before taking her afternoon nap, she goes up one floor to Rabbi Menasherovich, who has lived in their buliding since it was built, to read to him from the Gemara shelf. 


When she pushes her way into his apartment and insists on reading to him from the scriptures, he scolds her. The rabbi is explaining to her again and again, and with the patience of one who has read many pages of Gemara throughout his life, why it is not permitted by Jewish law for a woman to read to a rabbi from the holy books. 


She says, however, that since his holiness (as she calls him) knows so much about Jewish law, it would be prudent to carefully consider his knowledge and take it one step at a time. “The most important thing is to keep you intact so that all the laws that live inside you will continue to exist."


Rabbi Menasherovich pretends not to listen to her words, but because his eyes are almost blind and he only has his ears to guide him, he cannot help but hear her voice and listen to her words, so forbidden yet so sweet. 


As evening approaches, she soaks her feet in a blue soaking tub filled with boiling water and soap and brings her phone closer to her. Once she feels a pleasant feeling of peace spread throughout her tired and hungry body, she calls one of her friends and tells them how many souls she saved this morning on the roads, how many children she delighted and fed, and how she once again convinced her neighbor to let her read to him from his most beloved book.


When she notices that it has grown dark, she gets into bed with her husband and lies down. He is never seen during the day but always at night, as if he were a ghost. However, he is not a ghost. He is alive, but is not particularly interested in her.


The only time he told her he loved her was when she made him a sandwich (it was on their second date). Once he said he wanted to marry her, and once he said he was happy to have children with her. That's about it.


As for her, she kept telling him how much she loved him all these years, and how happy she was that they were married and that they had a girl. This did not change him. Nothing changed about him. One who never says anything, or if he does say something, then it is never what she wants to hear. “I always knew I would have more than one child. But you gave me only her."


Each day, she tells him what she did that day. Drivers who came out of their cars to hug and thank her, hungry children from the neighborhood near the city square whose mothers don't always let them take sandwiches from her, and the blind rabbi who plays melodies on the balcony above them most of the day that no one hears now. As for her husband, he asks her not to confuse his mind with her tales.


Nevertheless, she insists on telling.

Clearly, he's upset.

Then she clears his mouth of food.

He intentionally spits on the sheets.

Even so, she still loves him.

When he is weak, she changes his diapers.

There was never anything special he did for her.


And at nights.

Aunt Haviva still dreams at night. She usually dreams of people who need help. She feels obligated to help them. To not waste time sleeping, but to spend it with those she loves most. During those dreams, she helps so many people that sometimes she wakes up exhausted. In her dreams, her husband only occasionally interrupts her and turns off the lights or blows up the balloons she prepared for their grandchildren or shouts at her that she is crazy in front of everyone.


Anyhow, she knows it.


She's aware she's a little crazy. When cars stop at a traffic light, nobody opens their doors. Nobody gives food to children on the street. No one bursts into the neighbor's house to help him, even when he's begging, really begging, not to be helped.


What does she tell herself?


Since he, the man she will always love, says he counts the days to his death, at least she has this madness that helps her feel so alive. 


Therefore, she is grateful to feel, to breathe, to exist. She is grateful to God and to everyone. Her gratitude strengthens her even more. But she's still going crazy. She's still so alive.


There’s one thing she hopes she’ll never lose. Her memory of the sandwich she gave him on their second date, particularly his reaction to the bread and jam she spread on it. He laughed and said that no one had ever brought him a sandwich on a date, and then (after he ate it) he said, "I love you, Haviva, and I wish that this smell of the orchard, and your great smile, and your dimples, and your long hands, and my heart pounding like crazy, that all of it would never end. Never. Never. "


February 07, 2022 15:41

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