was divided neatly
in two: one side was gentile, the other, an orthodox Jewish enclave… summer
transplants from village of
Servi sported a round belly. He hid it beneath the bar counter and ordered a beer. When that was done, and then he ordered another. Finally, with the third sloshing about his insides, he could face the unforgiving sun hanging low over the hazy island, the silent but insufferable witness to all his sins.
He tottered down the cedar board walk to the Jewish side of town. Faux wires ran from fences and telephone poles so the Jews could push a baby carriage to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Men in various states of Jewish garb where walking to the synagogue, a low bungalow with a Star of David weather vane gracing its sloped roof.
For the first time in years, Servi felt the urge to walk to Joy Shein’s family bungalow: a stunted salt box cape hedged in by stunted cedar trees.
Servi was upon the house before his eyes could focus on the scene. He knew from common acquaintances that the Shein’s had been renting it out each summer for several seasons. Woman strolled with head coverings, long skirts and blouses, even in the heat, so Servi was not surprised to see such a woman on the stoop of the Shein’s place. A girl of about ten was at the woman’s side, asking her a question. A boy or three or four played in the sand. So when the woman saw him and called him by name, he was taken aback.
“Servi? Servi? Aaron?” The woman rose up and approached the gate. When she reached it there was no mistaking the blue black eyes. But the ruddy, round cheeks, the thick, un-plucked eyebrows, nearly threw Servi off the scent.
“Joy?” Servi asked, smirking. “You’re Jewish!”
“Servi,” she laughed. “I’ve always been Jewish.” On hearing this, she waved her hand.
“I know. I mean. You’re observant now? No more bacon wrapped around scallops? And you have children? Beautiful children! A husband…”
“Divorced, Servi,” Joy stated, looking down at the gravel path beneath her and then up the cedar board walk toward the synagogue. “I’m divorced.”
“I found God. I returned to Judaism. But that didn’t make a good marriage.”
“I am so sorry,” Servi said, hearing the quiver in her voice, the ragged edge of a cry. “This means nothing to you, but I’m on the fast track to divorce myself.” Joy laughed and then covered her mouth.
“I didn’t even know you were married, and now you say you are getting divorced, why?”
“Because I never wanted to be married,” Servi announced oratorically. “I only ever wanted to get divorced.”
“Oh Aaron,” Joy shook her head. “How can you say such a thing? Are you drunk? I smell beer?”
“No,” Servi answered. “I’m painfully sober. I’m achingly sober. So sober I…
“It’s OK Aaron,” Joy reached out, and covered his hand, which had been resting on the old cedar fence. Then an orthodox couple walked by with a stroller, and Joy bit her upper lip and pulled back her hand. When the couple fully passed she scanned Servi’s face.
“You don’t look good, Servi.”
“Well,” Servi looked up at the hazy sun. “The light today is terrible. I always look better indoors,” Servi grinned, and then smiled. “It is as it should be. I’m the sum of my bad choices. Should have stayed single. Should not have married a woman from
Queens. Should not
have should not have and so forth…”
“Servi,” Joy whispered, leaning toward Servi’s head. “I shouldn’t be seen talking to you like this. Can you come by after dark? After the Sabbath? Can you meet me behind my house? On the beach? We can talk…”
Servi took a step back. By now, Joy’s children were watching her as she talked to the drunk gentile. Servi answered, yes, yes, of course yes.