Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Inside one of your gates in your land

All of sudden he appeared in front of me, but he was not a supernatural vision or an angel.
I was walking with my head in the clouds during one of the first chilly evenings of Jerusalem, letting musings about aliyah and galut roll freely in my mind. And all of sudden he appeared in front of me.
Young, mid-twenties, velvet kippah, dark pants, white shirt, and navy blue jacket. I automatically classified him as a Sephardic yeshiva student.
“Can you help me?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t have any money.”
I knew I had no coins and I wasn’t going to pull out my wallet in a lonely, poorly lit alleyway since I wouldn’t want him to grab my wallet and run away with all its content. Or a hidden accomplice of his.
“I’m really hungry…”
This statement gave me complete certainty that there was an accomplice hidden somewhere. One thing I remember from my time in an Orthodox yeshivah, in the summer of 1991: hunger was not the enemy, heartburn and binge-eating were. The students were served a generous amount of food at every meal, always the same gloppy, salty, wilted, deep-fried and over cooked but abundant dishes. The memory of the colorful plastic bowls and plates quickly conjured up the smells from those days next to my growing anxiety for this young man and his lurking accomplices.
“I have to go. Good evening.”
Then the unexpected, that leaves you speechless and throws you in a dark pit for days.
“Let’s go to your car. If I suck you off, what can you give me?”
My standard answer “I don’t pay for sex” didn’t seem to fit here. I just strode away from it all, but it all followed me. I hastened my pace, and all sort of questions about this young man started whirling in my mind. Why is he doing this did he run away from his yeshivah where’s his family does he really need money what can I give him I can’t get too involved in this but I could buy him some food at the convenience store screw the accomplices I could get him some food and ask if he needs anything else was he kicked out of the yeshivah because he’s gay and now he is hungry does he have a place to sleep did his family kick him out too no he can’t stay on our couch
I went back as fast as I could, in the hope to reach him and get him some food, but he had disappeared. I hadn’t gone too far away, less than a block, but he had disappeared. He could have walked in the opposite direction of where I went looking for him, he could have found someone nicer who had given him the little money he was asking for, he could have found someone who had  taken him up on his offer.
That night I couldn’t sleep. Three weeks have gone by since, and whenever I walk the alleyway I still feel the sting of shame for not helping someone who might have legitimately been in need. I’ve looked for him in the neighborhood; I’ve seen him in every Sephardic guy I’ve crossed; but now I’m losing hope to recognize him and right the wrong.

What if he was an angel?