g r a v e l
A L I T E R A R Y J O U R N A L
Artwork by Helina Million
Peas and Carrots
When I first played soccer in the mountains and wrote a poem about peas and carrots, she cheered me on.
She was the most beautiful girl at the Zionist seminar and didn’t resemble a Zionist.
I dreamt last night that we slept together, never kissing, but embracing, after she was disappointed by her trip to Israel.
“The conditions were horrendous,” she proclaimed while Mother’s ghost leaned on my door, “can I sleep with you?”
We lay there, close, and she said, “Why don’t you come closer?”
I meandered until we were making love without touching one another.
Then she called me, inexplicably, and asked me to be her girlfriend. Her lover.
I was astounded, but pleased that it had not been a momentary lapse on her part.
This morning I woke up and read that she was married. She also received her doctoral degree in entomology from Heidelberg University. I wondered if, like me, she had a professor named Donald E. Sutherland who made her determine if a cockroach in a petri dish were left-handed, right-handed or ambidextrous.
We had not spoken since I insulted her from a pay phone booth during college.
“Is this Wendy Holtzman?”
“Yes, who is this?”
She didn’t know me. “Remember the peas and carrots poem?”
“Were you there?”
“Of course I was…do you have Alzheimer’s?”
This conversation occurred after I phoned a boy in my Arab-Israeli conflict course. He wore a yarmulke with “Phil” sewn on it.
“Is this Phil?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“I’m Sheila Gold, and I’m in love with you.” It was one in the morning and I was utterly drunk, but this didn’t preclude Phil from slamming the phone and ignoring me during a heated discussion on the Suez Canal Crisis the following Wednesday.
I used state university pay phone booths to harass men and women, usually at Ivy League colleges. To proclaim loudly: I love you and if you want, I’ll take a Greyhound to your dorm room. I even spoke with John Kennedy, Jr., at Brown, but have no interest in celebrities. I appreciate those with aristocratic origins who are not famous but talk with me regardless of my mother having been an office manager for an import firm of chicken water fountains.
Bringing nice prepositions to the pay phone, however, was not part of my charm back in the day. I could barely prevent anger from lurching through me like diabetes mellitus.
I have nightmares where Wendy Holtzman despises me. She owns an ad agency, and when I show up she calls security.
This is not the woman who cheered me on during soccer—“Go Gold! Go!”
I am standing on Madison Avenue, and there she is, President of the ad agency, who still has not forgiven me for spitting mean proverbs.
“It completely ruined my day,” she says while touching my breasts.
I rub her neck and hum to sleep.
My apartment is in my parents’ home, though they are dead. They hover near the electric ceiling fan. Sometimes they get cut in midair and their translucent cells bleed.
I thought, oh my God, she will never caress my breasts, but there she is a little overweight and dancing in my bed.
I didn’t want Wendy to return to Israel. I wanted her to stay with me in NJ.
My mother, who is now a ghost, and peruses all the females I date, does not approve of Wendy. Nonetheless, I relax with Wendy and inhale her pristine odor in the midst of Jersey swamps and bowling alleys.
I write her an amends letter via Facebook. They now charge $1.00, whereas in the old days, they’d never charge you a dollar for your amends letter.
You were so humane in summer camp.
Remember how other girls traipsed over my ego whereas you sent unconditional love violets in my direction?
More than likely, you will recall how I contacted you at your Cornell dorm and released profanities that even Hugh Hefner wouldn’t utter.
Your friend, Yvette Clarkson, also sweet to me, gave me a stern look soon afterward. She saw me along Greenwich Avenue in a French bistro. She stared but meant to say, ‘You vilified my Wendy via the Cornell pay phone.’
I am so sorry if I caused you any pain. While you counsel dispossessed fruit flies with your PhD, it is unlikely you will recall when I, the Zionist on the lower end of the rectal thermometer, insulted you. It was because you did not remember me.
In addition, we slept together last night, but my mother walked in on us, and as she’s a ghost I hope you will forgive her.”
Images of Yvette Clarkson giving me indigestion before I eat expensive French bistro food, and Wendy, President of the Wendy Ad Agency on Madison Avenue, frowning at me like I shot her father, who had been a sheriff, do not permit me to send the email.
We met at a weekend seminar in the Catskills where crisp leaves fell and John the Baptist of Manhattan led us to the lake.
I looked at her.
She smelled like lilacs in my mom’s house, which the hospice staff brought.
I wanted to kiss her, but John the Baptist had an inability to shut the fuck up so we kept laughing at his jokes about radar machines.
When we got to our cabin, I wanted to climb in her bed, but instead offered her cheese doodles.
At Columbia University, where I was a secretary, I wrote this poem:
Cheese Doodles in the Wind
can recall the crisp leaves on
On the mountain
were trees of orange and red leaves,
the sun against them,
an encirclement of trees
by the lake.
beside the water,
while a man with long
hair threw rocks
that broke the
In the evening
I could feel the
cool air inside of you.
We walked up the
In the cabin
you lay in the corner.
I took out a bag
of cheese doodles, while
the wind struck harshly.
“Could I have some?” you asked.
“Sure,” I replied, while
you snuggled in a green army blanket,
a bed below mine.
Wendy was a congenial Zionist. Most Zionists from our camp treated me like a homeless person entering a Long Island City, New York horror movie set or an off-Broadway stage production about the Bubonic Plague.
Not that Palestinians were any kinder; a West Bank resident, reading my satire (over my shoulder on the subway) about bar mitzvah standards falling to an all-time low in Ramallah, nearly sliced my neck.
Wendy now resembles Jane Fonda, and you can tell—as with most kike-Waspy ladies from privileged backgrounds past 50—that her skin is molding. She doesn’t have that youthful prima donna appearance of Deutsche Mädchen marching in Heidelberg for the Führer. She’s more a post-Jane, after she’s undergone plastic surgery. Mind you, Wendy does not resemble a lioness the way Joan Rivers does, there’s just no allure—no fixed income look of I will hump you till happiness bleats from you like a dead goat preparing for its sacrifice at the altar, pre-Jesus.
As we are not on speaking terms, and she would only know I’m stalking her if I actually looked at her LinkedIn, I linger in the melancholic moments of last night’s dream.
Mother never wanted me to have a girlfriend, even a Jewish one. She would certainly have tolerated a shagitz, but not a shiksah. Too many Jews killed during World War II for her daughter to mount poontang. Like the Hasidim, my mother believed that we should have babies to make up for the six million. Mom was deeply offended when I said, “You have grand dogs,” though she’d regularly extend a “Good yontiff” to my Jack Russell.
Wendy does not appear on the Internet, so I stare at her 37 friends on Facebook. It’s like we haven’t been apart in years, and that green-eyed waif, who quickly kicked the ball and encouraged me to do the same, kisses me on the cheek. I rest in her arms and put the milk away.