Friday, February 28, 2014

Short a Lease, IV

            Servi had placed a beer on the corner of the table as Joy replaced the bottle on his lips.  The kiss was not unexpected.  He felt it in the air, like charged particles getting ready to congeal into a shock.   The beer fell over and onto the carpet and Servi stopped kissing her.
            “Forget it, Aaron,” Joy held him close.  “Kiss me…  common’” 

            He lay next to her, facing the ceiling.  The bedroom was over air-conditioned, so they were covered by a sheet and wool blanket.  Servi felt the sensation that the bedding was not fresh; or even more to the point, that is was recently vacated by another man.  But he ignored this sense of unease, as if he had stumbled upon something unclean but vital and decided to pick it up anyway. 
           He ran his hands over Joy’s body.  He followed the long, soft lines which ran down from her shoulder to her upper thigh and then began to climb back up once again.  He thought he saw something move in the corner of his eye.  But each time he tried to catch it, it quickly stole away.
            “Joy,” Servi said gently.  The young woman did not answer.  He placed a hand on the small of her back, on that beguiling littoral zone where that gradually transformed to her buttocks.  Joy snuggled next to him, breathing hard.
            “Joy, when did you last have sex with your… that guy from work?”
            Joy turned her head to look at Servi.  Her gaze was calm, but ready, like a spring coiled and held by a flimsy latch.  But then she softened, not sensing any judgment in Servi’s tone.
            “I won’t lie to you Servi, at lunch today.”
            “But we had lunch today.”
            “After,” she answered, looking away from him for a moment to place a pillow below her head. 
            “Christ, how long is your lunch break?”
            “Is that a joke?”
            “No,” Servi answered, still flatly, still groping for a hand hold.   “Your fiancĂ©, what is his name?”
            “Stan.  Stanley.”
            “And when did you have sex with him?”
            Again Joy gazed at Servi, her eyes darting back and forth across his face, as if she was measuring each and every word on the emotional scale of his features.
            “Do you think because you had sex with me, right now, you have a right to this information?”     
            “No,” Servi answered.  “You don’t have to tell me.  Only if you want to  You said you can tell me everything.”
            “I don’t know now… we’ve done this…”
            Silence.  Down below in the street, a car alarm sounded.  When it stopped, Joy inhaled deeply and placed a hand on Servi’s chest.
            “This morning.  Stan and I had sex this morning.”
            “Here?  In this bed?”
            “Yes,” Joy exhaled.  “Right on this spot.”  Joy’s hand ran down Servi’s body.  He was erect.  She took him into her hand and gave a few rigorous tugs.  Servi’s breath rose and fell.  “Your body doesn’t seem to mind this, in fact, the opposite.”
            “Is someone coming after me?”
            “Don’t get fresh, Servi,” she said gently, letting go of his member and kissing his cheek.
            Servi rose from the bed, scooped up his close from the midden on the floor, hid his manhood from Joy’s smirking gaze, and closed the bathroom door.  He sat for a long time on the toilet seat, his head in his hands, wishing to leave but unable to move.  It took sometime before there was a knock on the door.
            “Hey Servi, you OK in there?”  Then there was a knock and the same question.
            In the next moment Servi noticed the wedding dress hanging from a hook behind the door.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Short A Lease, III

July, at 24

            “Why do you think you will be fired?”  she asked.  But Servi only heard the first three words.  A bus has barreled passed , enveloping them in its diesel miasma, stoking the furnace of an already backing July Manhattan day.

            “What?” Servi asked Joy, cupping his ear.  His shirt was a soaked, sodden rag and his tie, loosened to the level of his nipples.  Joy’s blond hair, a little darker now than when he had last seem her, was up in a bob.  A summer dress hung lights off her frame, as if it too quivered with the animal sensation of touching her skin.

            “Common’,” she grasped Servi and led him into the Burger Heaven on Madison Avenue.  The air conditioner prickled Servi’s skin.  Joy pulled her hair down, and it fell bluntly to her shoulders.

            “You cut your hair,” Servi observed.

            “Oh, yes, that was nearly two years ago.  We haven’t seen each other in so long.  Its a pain now that I am working.  It nearly came down to my butt and caused me all sorts of trouble that I’d rather not tell you about, well, you know, in bed and all…”

            She blushed.  Servi smiled.  Ice water was brought to the table and Servi guzzled it down.  Joy slid her glass to Servi with a look of dreamy expectation, as if he was a vampire about to drink her blood and she his willing victim.  Servi drank until the ice at the bottom shivered like teeth.  Her red race beamed familiarly at Servi, like this days at the fringe of the Atlantic Ocean on Fire Island in their teens.   Now, after a four year college estrangement, two years of delusory work on an island of molten stone, her voice had been resuscitated yesterday on his phone.  She worked at an ad agency down the street.  Would he like to have lunch?

            “I said, why do you think you’ll be fired?”  Joy gazed at him quizzically, as if he was a new species of man.  She pursed her lips gently, as if she was about to throw this new species a kiss.

            “Fluorescent lighting.  That drone.  The blue.  A screen with a little green blinking cursor.  It is gonna give me a seizure.” Servi stopped and sighed.  “A high rate of absences… even I agree it is egregious and can’t go on.”

            “I never thought banking was for you,” she answered, pulling the glass back from him and plucking out a piece of ice to suck in her mouth.  “You're the artistic type,” she said passed a numb tongue.  Servi just raised his thick, weary eyebrows.

            “Because of that gesture,” he said, pulling up his sleeve, revealing a thin red line, faded white at the edges like a piece of chalk inadequately erased. 

            “God Servi,” Joy answered, lifting up her head. “I didn’t mean that!”

            “I’m sorry,” Servi answered, pulling down his sleeve decisively.  “I’ve had a shitty week.  And it’s only half over.  And all indications point to next week being shittier.”

            “My week has been terrible too,” Joy confided, leaning toward Servi, revealing the long, appealing line which stretched from her neck to her collarbone.  Something heavy and unspoken leaned between them, like a column of immovable stone.  Yet they could touch each other, and they did.  Joy reached out and grasped Servi’s hand.

            “I’m engaged, Servi…” she whispered conspiratorially.

            “Why, congratulations,” Servi answered, somewhat taken a back.  “Who is the lucky man?”

            “I cheated on him, Servi.” Servi, almost imperceptibly, loosened her hold on his hand.

            “Why are you telling me this?”

            “Because you are the only person I can tell everything too… That was always the way it was.  Even when we were kids.”  Joy scrutinized Servi’s face, which was fixed somewhere between agony and frustration.

            “What’s wrong?  Why is this upsetting you so much?  I didn’t cheat on you.”  Then there was silence.  Joy plodded on.  “I love Kevin, I really do.  But these is this guy at work.  He has an apartment three blocks from work.  We meet at lunch…”

            “Is this lunch preventing a rendezvous?  I wouldn’t want to be…”

            “Servi, don’t be a dick,” Joy snapped, letting go of his hand with emphasis.  “You always had that streak in you.  Seeing this in black and white.  Most of us live in gray.  Maybe that is why your life is so…”

            “So what?  Say it please.”

            “No,” Joy answered, shaking her head vigorously.  “I’m attacking you like you are in the wrong when it is me that is doing something wrong…”

            A bus boy dropped a tray of glasses in front of their table.  Glittering glass and ice lay before them, like a shattered, melting glacier.

            “Jesus, this place is a mad house,” Joy mumbled.  “Come to my apartment tonight Aaron,” she said, scribbling an address on a napkin and passing it to him.  It lay there, between the menus and the glasses, unclaimed.  Joy stoop up.  She pulled down her dress and tried to correct its wayward pleats.

            “Please come Servi,” she coaxed, placing a hand on his shoulder.  “I miss you in my life… I need you in my life.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Short a Lease, II

               Don’t tell him,” she said, a towel draped over her shoulders, her head low, nearly sandwiched between her knees.

            “Tell him what?”  Servi asked.  He had his arm around Joy’s shoulders.  She was shivering but refused to go home.”

            “That I almost drowned.  That swam when he said I shouldn’t.  That you saved me life.  That I kissed you again and again and again…

Monday, February 24, 2014

Short a Lease - Eric Maroney


July, at 19

            “Are you sure you can swim?’  She asked, leaning toward him.  Her blond hair, nearly white from continual exposure to the sun, was wet and gleaming against her scalp.  Her blue-black eyes, set wide apart and always brimming with lively motion, moved from his left eye to his right and back again, as if the answer lay on one side or the other of his inscrutable face, behind the veil of his brown, dropping eyes. 

            “Of course, why not?”  He answered.  Joy Shein gazed down at his sutured wrist and then up again to his dark, sloping face.

            “But Servi,” she began, only to smother her sentence at the bud.  She looked away from the boy and his brown, implacable face and at the line where the horizon and sea improbably met. 
              She called Aaron Servi by his last name, in different styles, moods and inclinations, that  told him he had old soul; a soul which had been used and battered in some previous avatar, and now here, back in the boy of Aaron Servi, the soul was forced to reenact its masochistic rituals, the purgation from some former sins. 
           And his young body, already besmirched by this distraught and turbulent soul, had already been harmed.  And now she had kissed that boy Hunter.  Kissed him and allowed him certain liberties above the waist, while Servi was only given token physical gestures, which Joy often appeared to regret.  A long kiss in front of her father’s bungalow which teetered and verged more ardently toward something else, something pulling them both toward an abyss.  But mostly she canceled  these dark moments, these secret mummers which boys and girls channel to each other across a primal medium by an incessant stream of verbal intimacy.

            That and the kiss had pushed Servi to tamper with his wrist.   Servi’s parents then informed Joy’s father in the hushed and reverential tone one uses for those who try and take their lives not with real intention or gusto, but as a ‘cry for help.’  So Joy stopped seeing the boy.

            But Joy Shein did not listen long to their admonitions.  She surreptitiously gazed at Servi down the street, as he walked out of the old A&P.  She spied on him as he sat on the yellow sand, a white bandage wrapped around his wrist as if some Egyptian priests has started the process of mummification, only to end it with the first application of gauze.  Then one day the bandage was gone, and Servi was by the sea, not moving much, shifting his backside listlessly in the sand.   Eventually Joy narrowed her orbit around Servi until she was sitting next to him, and he suggested they take a swim.

            “I’m not sure I should swim today, Servi,” Joy answered after suggesting he should not swim and meeting with a cold glare.  Her voice trailed off at the end, in the vast, penetrating light of the wide, windy beach.  She kept glancing down at the stitches in Servi’s wrist, bluish and faded like a tattoo.  They were just tiny, fragile thread, holding back the flood of his life.

            “Why not?”  Servi poked.  “You are a better swimmer than me."
            “Dad said there's a storm off the coast,” Joy answered, squinting into the bright water, which heaved like a cup of frothy foam in a great, unsettled basin.  It was as if the ocean was angry at the land, and could not purge its hate from its unsettled heart.

            “Common’” Servi taunted.  “Since when do you do what your father says?”  And Servi rose up and sprinted into the surf.  Joy lost sight of him for a moment as a swell rose over his head.  Servi was nestled in the valley between breakers.  When she stood up, adjusting her bikini, she could see his  black head, just beyond a line of commanding waves.

            Joy dove into the water and could feel the powerful current against the long line of her body.  A wave towered over her, and she dove into the water, cutting through its sheer bulk.  When she emerged out the other side, she was surprised to find herself next to Servi.  He smiled lightly, mockingly.  The slight trace of derision on his face made her fearful, as if he had led her out here so they would both drown together; so that he could complete the act he had failed to do two weeks ago, but this time take her with him.  She swam toward him and they kissed.  When they parted, he frowned.  High above them, gulls swooped and screeched above them speaking in their mad argot.

            “Don’t kiss me, damn it!” Servi hissed.

            “You’ve got too many hang up, Servi,” Joy scolded.  “I kissed Hunter.  I kissed you.  What difference does it make?  Don’t get so upset.”

            “I’m not upset…”

            “But Servi,” Joy cried, pulling him toward her by both hands.  “I need to know.  You didn’t do that, do this,” she indicated Servi’s wrist, “because of that stupid kiss I gave Hunter, did you?”

            “I didn’t do it because of you… because of the kiss…”

            “Why then?”

            “I… I don’t know.  Maybe it was the kiss.   Maybe it wasn’t, all I know is…”

            Servi swiveled his head.  The current had carried them, in only a few seconds, so far from the land that all they could see was the brown tower at Robert Moses State Park poking over the choppy water.

            “Jesus, we gotta swim back now…” 

            Servi and Joy began the long, painful crawl back toward the shore, against the tide.  A line of chalky clouds had blown in from some unseen point on the compass and the cool wind began to nip at their exposed arms and legs. 

            “Servi!  Servi!”  the boy turned his head.  Joy, who was there one moment, was gone the next.  Her blond hair was plastered to her head, and her lips were fixed with an expression of agony and fading hope.  She was below the water.  Servi dove for her. 
             In the green-black darkness, he extended his hands outward, afraid to move, fearful of choosing the wrong direction.  But then he lunged forward.  In the cold depths he felt the electric sensation of warm flesh.  He grasped it and pulled .  He had Joy by the waist.  She began to cough. Servi kept repeating, with machine like precision:  its alright… its alright.   

Friday, February 21, 2014

God of Becoming and Relationship: The Dynamic Nature of Process Theology by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson


God of Becoming and Relationship: The Dynamic Nature of Process Theology  by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, applies ideas of process theology and thought toward Judaism, in an attempt to reformulate some time honored Jewish practices and ideas.

Process theology is taken from various streams of pragmatic thought, involves the interconnectedness of all things, and how nothing exists in isolation of other things.   In process theology, this includes God.

Rabbi Shavit Artson presents some fineideas here, and no doubt there is a great deal to take away from process theology.  I tend to be more eclectic in my Judaism, prefering to think or imagine God as process, as thought, as Love, as Father or Mother or energy, when and how I need it.  This book tends to be a bit more ridged in its approach.

But for someone wanting to expand their notions of what God and Israel mean, this is a fine book to broaden one’s understanding.


Monday, February 17, 2014

To Blink or Not to Blink

Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Trying, attempts to do a very difficult task.  Gladwell wants to show when it is most efficacious to make snap decisions without gathering very much knowledge and information, and when it is best to make very deliberate decisions.

Of course, many times we don’t have a choice.  We must make quick decisions without complete information, and under extreme stress.  Gladwell gives numerous examples of how snap decisions can often be the best decisions we can make.  He also gives a wealth of examples on how they can lead to our doom. 

But equally, gathering too much information can foul up decision making.  Gladwell gives examples of such occurrences, and also positive examples of fully informed decisions.

So, Gladwell walks the tight rope in Blink.  He wants to prove a point: that very often, our first impressions about people, events, ideas, are the correct one.  Gathering more information only fouls up that initial, correct assessment.  Yet this can go wrong as well, and he gives a wealth examples of how we carry our prejudices with us during our quick, uninformed decisions.

This will leave a casual reader a bit confused about Gladwell’s point, because his point his subtle.  Sometimes deliberation is in order; sometimes we must make decisions in the blink of any eye.  A great deal depends upon context.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Into the Silent Land

Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation, by Father Martin Laird, explores the basics of meditation, concentrating on the silent repetition of a single word. For Martin, it is the Jesus Prayer, but this kind of silent practice, this stilling of the mind with the aid of a repetitive word, can be found in nearly every faith tradition.

Laird stressed the stillness, the quietness of the mind as the way to enter the silent land, the place where God dwells.  The simplicity of his practice points in all sorts of interesting directions (directions shared by many other contemplative traditions) that God and the divine are very near, even within us; that there really is no work to do to find this God-ness within and around us.   

We are really simply remembering, or re-remembering, our never severed connection with God when we practice silence.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Seven Pillars of Faith and A Day in the Life of a Breslover Hasid

The Seven Pillars of Faith and A Day in the Life of a Breslover Hasid are very early basic introductions to Bratslav thinking and practice.  They were written by Yitzchok Breiter, who was born in 1886 and died in the Shoah sometime in 1943 in Treblinka.

Both books cover a great deal of ground, both summarizing and quoting Rabbi Nachman and his chief follower, Rabbi Nathan.  They both read surprisingly like works one would find today in the Jewish Renewal movement; they stress the “big-hearted” element of Bratslav, the joy of worship and living and doing for others that is such a wonderful mark of the movement.

This is a fine book to get your feet wet in Rebbe Nachman’s teachings.  It also bears a stamp of authenticity, as if was written by a card carrying Bresolver, in the days just before most of European Jewry was annihilated.


Friday, February 7, 2014

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference offers a provocative model of how change occurs in human systems.  He posits the idea of the tipping point, first used in the study of how infectious diseases spread, and uses that model to explain how certain behaviors spread across human populations.

It is an exciting idea, as most of us think of change as incremental, and also imagine that change must be systemic to work.  Gladwell makes a convincing case that little changes, when applied correctly, can create a tipping point to set in motion lasting change.

Gladwell’s book has a wealth of examples of how this works, perhaps too many.  The reader may get bogged down in the details and forget the point that Gladwell is trying to make.  Luckily, his summary ties everything together.

Whether his ideas about change in society are wholly correct I am not qualified to answer.  Certainly the book makes a great deal of sense across a wide range of phenomenon.  Whether it holds for all, I am skeptical.