Sandy stared straight up at her ceiling as she lay on her back, which seemed a bit silly as her room was mostly dark, other than a tiny patch of light that was coming in through her window. Friday seemed particularly long this week, but this was probably related to how early Shabbos came in and that she had some people in her apartment that night for a meal.
The meal seemed to drag on for a bit, or maybe this was just her perception as she didn’t want to think about the fact that she had just gone on a date with someone who wasn’t Jewish. She started thinking about her mother, and the tone of voice she would use when she would inevitably find out about this date. Somehow her mother knew about every single aspect of her dating life, which at times seemed to be a bit too much information for one human being. What did it matter whether the restaurant she would go to on a date was dairy or meat based? Sandy often felt that her mother had no faith in her ability to date.
This was perhaps related to the fact that her mother had disapproved of just about every single person she had ever entered into a relationship with, whether it lasted a couple of weeks or several months. The one person that her mother liked, of all people, was the one person who out of nowhere broke up with her. It seemed like ages ago since that happened, but it had only been a year and a half. Plus five days, she added, wondering if there was any significance to the fact that she knew exactly how long it had been since the relationship ended.
It seemed a bit strange, in a way. Her mother would of course disapprove of the fact that she had gone on a date with someone who wasn’t of the same religious background as she. She would surely lecture her for hours on end on the phone, self-effacingly wondering what went wrong, while she personally led a life that was devoid of any religious affiliation other than the occasional candle lighting and the annual Passover meal. It was interesting, to her, how some of the most secular Jews in the world, or at least the tri-state area, were more openly adamant about their children not intermarrying than their religiously observant counterparts. Sandy thought about how, when she was growing up, there was never really a question as to whether or not she was going to be going to a good university – she knew that she was going to go. The idea of there being an alternative was not even an alternative.
It was exactly at times like this that Sandy wished that she could use the telephone on Shabbos. The person that she wanted to talk to would have no problem whatsoever talking on the phone on Shabbos, not that this meant it was okay for him to do so. He didn’t exactly question why she chose to be religiously observant, and she certainly didn’t question his lack of observance – she was in a similar place in her life a mere year and a half – and five days – ago. There were differences between their religious inobservance, starting with their upbringing. There were similarities, though, which was a nice thing to have with friends.
The tea was one thing that brought them together. Felix had also been left by his significant other around the same time that she had been left by hers, albeit for entirely different reasons and being entirely more scandalous. With her boyfriend, there was no cheating involved and no kissing of other people – twice. That it happened once would have been enough for her, she thought to herself. There would have been no second time as she would have simply broken it off at the point on the time line when the cheating occurred. This was easy enough to speculate, laying in bed wide awake Shabbos evening. She had never been cheated on – to the best of her knowledge.
Jean-Michel Pinot slowly pushed the buttons with the numbers on them corresponding to Kate’s telephone number. There didn’t seem to be any sort of mathematical pattern that could be followed on the number, and he couldn’t think of any easy way to remember it, so for now he was looking at a scrap of paper. She had given him the scrap of paper when they had their first date, if it could be called that. Could it be called that? They hadn’t given it that formal name – perhaps it was premature to be referring to it as thus. Perhaps, on the other hand, he was already giving this considerably more thought than he should have been. There was always that possibility. Pinot, give something too much thought? How could that even be a possibility? He was the one who lived in an apartment with a cat, not rent controlled or stabilized, and relied solely on the power of his writing to pay for his bills. The fact that he managed to think through all of this while dialing a phone number meant one of two things. On the one hand, he could have been the world’s slowest dialer. On the other hand, it could have just been that he had stopped dialing the number halfway through, or at least a good forty something or so percent. Jean-Michel was great with words, but he was terrible figuring out anything related to math. This held true for all things except for calculating the tip at restaurants, an area where he was exceptionally gifted for some reason.
Somehow he managed to make out Kate’s phone number. After two and a half rings, he heard her say, “Hello?” A good opener, he thought.
“Hi, Kate. It’s Jean-Michel.”
“Jean-Michel! I was just thinking about you. How are you?”
“Just thinking about me? I’m doing pretty well. What are you doing?
This meant something entirely different from what it actually seemed to mean. There were very few people who wouldn’t know at this point in the conversation that Jean-Michel didn’t so much want to know what Kate was doing as much as he wanted to know how he could possibly get involved in that which she was doing, unless that thing was washing the dishes, as Jean-Michel had sensitive skin and didn’t particularly care for the pruned hands one got from washing dishes.
“Remember that guy we saw at the café?”
What did this have to do with anything? “Uhm, sure, the guy. Right. It was yesterday…” The conversation had barely begun, and Jean-Michel wasn’t sure he liked where it was going already.
“Right, yesterday. So last night I ran into him nearby The Peculier Pub, of all places. He likes German beer too, I guess.”
Jean-Michel frowned. “You asked him out?”
“Well no, not really – we just, I don’t know, got a drink. I didn’t realize I had to ask your permission. I heard that frown, by the way.” She laughed. “Loudest frown I have ever heard in my life.” Jean-Michel didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t say anything. “Is anyone there? Hello?”
He said something under his breath.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that last one. Do you want to catch a movie next week, or something? Work has been driving me crazy lately. But, you know, it’s the industry.” After a long pause, he replied, “Sure.”
“Tea?” On a Sunday morning, tea is in fact a good thing. Tea wasn’t the only thing on Sandy’s mind, though. Since Friday night she had been thinking about the situation with Klaus. Was Klaus thinking about this as much as she was? Surely he wasn’t, as he didn’t realize what was really going on in her mind. She wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. What was she thinking, agreeing to go out on a date with someone that wasn’t Jewish? Hadn’t she had enough experience with dating outside the faith from when she was not as religiously observant? There was something that appealed to her about Klaus, which she couldn’t really describe in words. Maybe he was Jewish but didn’t realize it. There were plenty of perfectly Jewish women who chose to intermarry, had daughters that were raised outside of the faith, fully believing that they weren’t the slightest bit Jewish. Perhaps his mother was one of those women. Or, perhaps he would be so enamored with the i
dea of Jewish that he would just… but that made little to no sense. Who would willingly take on so many restrictions, obligations, responsibilities… when it wasn’t necessary?
“I went on a date the other night.” This was Felix speaking. Sandy was busy pouring herself a full-bodied English Breakfast tea, not steeped too much as is often the custom in restaurants, and just the right temperature. Earlier that morning, she had picked up some milk from a local kosher deli, where she had run into one of the rabbinical students that attended services at Ohab Zedek. She knew him because she had been invited to some meals held by said student, with his wife. She didn’t stop pouring when he said this but changed the expression on her face ever so subtly. This was the sort of subtlety one would associate with an elephant in a crystal shop. “What?” She finished making the tea and looked over towards Felix. He had asked the question. She could have just as easily asked it, given what he had said prior to asking it.
“I thought you weren’t dating.” He giggled. “Yeah, I guess I wasn’t really dating for awhile there, but this just came out of nowhere. Literally, it came out of nowhere. Actually, it came out of my shoelace coming undone, and then bumping into the person that I saw as a result of the shoelace coming undone later that very same day, but in an entirely different part of Manhattan.”
“So, what is going to happen next?” she asked.
“I’m actually wondering the same thing myself. I guess I’ll see her again, and we’ll see how things go from there. What about you? What happened with you that made you sound like you went out with someone in the last week or something….” His voice trailed off. What was wrong with her dating? Nothing, of course. He was having some trouble imagining her dating people while being involved in what seemed like a thick cloud of confusion he called organized religion.
Awkward pause time. Sandy stirred the tea. She looked at the tea that she had just stirred. “I think the tea’s just about ready to drink” Another awkward pause. “I went on a date with this guy… that’s not Jewish.”
Felix looked at Sandy. “This is only a big deal, I think, because of your religious situation.”
“My religious situation? What do you mean by that?”
“Well, look, if I was in this situation, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Actually I am in this situation. The girl I went out with isn’t Jewish. You don’t see me particularly getting worried about it, do you?” Sandy looked less than happy. “Look, all I’m saying is that it seems that all you’ve done by doing this whole religious thing is to limit the people you can date, and to make your life a lot more complicated.”
This wasn’t at all the case – Sandy’s life had improved by leaps and bounds, but this wasn’t the time to explain it. Something had to be done about the relationship situation she was in, though – before things got out of control.