Allison Arc II: Us; Undefined
Part I: Faith
Three Weeks Later
Thankfully, the next few weeks were much more relaxed. For one, our classes with the Rook focused on teaching us how to properly throw a punch or kick, defend from grapples and the fundamentals of hand-to-hand combat instead of just kicking our asses.
As it turned out our gym teacher Ms. Carver was not only Jewish herself, but a trained reform rabbi, so she hosted a little group for the dozen or so Jewish staff and students at Ravenhold every Saturday morning, so that had become my Saturday morning routine.
“Are you going to the prayer group today?” Sage asked as I came out of the bathroom, my hair still damp from the shower.
“Yeah. Still have some time before I go though.” I answered, giving them a smile which they returned.
There was something between the two of us, I could feel it and I knew they could too, but neither of us had managed to openly acknowledge it, leaving us as friends. I had Sheila, whom I still hadn’t had the courage to mention, and surely Sage had their own reasons…
“So I was wondering if I could go with you today… If I’m allowed that is.”
“So, do I need to wear something special?” They asked, looking down at their hoodie and jeans. They were having one of their more masculine day by the looks of it.
“Nah, we do casual attire. So you’ll be perfectly fine like this.”
“So, how about breakfast? I heard Caroline made pancakes again.”
“That sounds amazing.”
At the back of the administration building was a small non-denominational chapel for people to use. It wasn’t a huge room, just enough for a dozen benches, but every Saturday morning, it was ours to use. As we came up to the entrance, Ms. Carver was waiting at the entrance, wearing her Tallit.
“Good morning Sage.” She said. “Joining us this morning?”
“Yeah, I hope that’s alright.”
“Of course, everyone is welcome so long as they accept my rules; Cell phones go off and everyone wears a head covering.” She picked a kippah from the rack and gave it to them which they awkwardly put on while I put my own one. As soon as they moved their head, the kippah fell off, making Ms. Carver and I laugh.
“So… How do you keep it on?” They sheepishly said, holding the kippah with their hand so it wouldn’t fall again.
“With my hair, I just have velcro.” I said.
“I just clip it.” Ms. Carver answered with a smile.
They nodded silently and glanced inside at the few benches where some of the others were already sitting. In total there was a little over a dozen of us who’d come every week.
“So, is there anything I should know?”
“There’ll be a lot of reading and singing, don’t worry you can follow along in a siddur, we have spares inside. After service is over, we usually have a small buffet together, you’re free to join.”
“Alright. Thanks for having me.”
Sage seemed a little paralyzed so I took their hand and gently guided them inside. Taking a seat and giving them one of the spare prayer book, showing them how they worked; the English, Hebrew and Latin-spelled phonetic Hebrew, the commentaries and everything. They glanced at it for a while before putting it down on their lap.
I introduced them to the others and we quietly chatted in the few minutes it took before the last of us arrived and Ms. Carver called us to order, opening the shabbat service with the morning blessings.
Through the service, Sage just looked at everything eyes wide with wonder. When Ms. Carver invited me to read from the Torah, their eyes followed me all the way, focused entirely on me rather than trying to follow the meaning of the words from their siddur. After over two hours the service finally concluded with kiddush and blessing of the Challah.
“So, how was your first shabbat service?” I asked as Sage swallowed the piece of challah bread Ms. Carver had given them.
“It was really nice. I had no idea what to expect, but it was really beautiful.”
“I’m glad to hear that, although I noticed you weren’t singing. Such a shame, I was looking forward to hearing you.”
“Yeah… I hope it was okay if I didn’t, I just didn’t want to get it wrong.”
“If that was a problem, they’d have thrown me out ages ago. You have no idea how terrible my Hebrew is.”
“Is it? I thought you sounded so good when Ms. Carver asked you to read your part.”
“I might have practiced the verses all week so I wouldn’t sound too bad. So, are you hungry?”
I took them to the small buffet that we communally prepared and gave them a bit of everything, taking the time to explain some of the things present as I doubted Sage was knowledgeable about Ashkenazim, Mizrahi or Sephardic cuisine, Shabbat prohibition on cooking and the finer points of kashrut.
“So you can’t mix meat and milk products?” They asked, after I explained how we alternated between cheese and meat weeks.
“Nope. Exodus 23:19 says ‘Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk,’ so somehow this means that we can’t. Oh but in case you’re wondering, fish is one-hundred percent not meat according to tradition, so it’s okay to mix with cheese in the same meal.”
“Okay, I guess…”
“Welcome to Judaism where there’s a lot of random rules and we’ve been arguing about their true meaning for thousands of years.” I said with a chuckle.
After a quick brunch, where Sage insisted on asking Shimon for his eggplant hummus recipe, we headed back home to enjoy the rest of the day.
“So, what do you want to do now that you’re done boring you to death with faith-stuff for my sake?”
“It wasn’t boring, it was actually a nice experience. I haven’t really had any religious experience before. My parents aren’t big believers, they only go to church on Christmas eve and Easter Sunday so it didn’t rub off on me.”
“You know, I wasn’t always a strong believer, I was pretty much like you for a long time. Just like my dad, I was born into Judaism so for most of my life it was just that thing we did on saturday mornings. Something in our culture I never really thought about it. It was just that instead of getting christmas present like most kids, we got them on hanukkah.”
“What made you change?”
“My mom…. For her it was different. You see, she was born in very conservative christian family; you know the fire and brimstone kind… When she met my father in the army, she became interested in Judaism and eventually converted. For her Judaism was a liberation from the guilt and fear she was born into so it was very important to her… And after she passed away, I spent a lot of time at our synagogue. In a way, it became a way for me to be closer to her.”
“It’s alright, it was years ago. And I’m glad I found that connection in faith. I hope that wherever she is, she’s watching over me and I’ve done her proud.”
“I know I didn’t know her, but I think she’d be proud of who you are; a good person who just want to help others.”
The thought of her and Sage’s words brought tears to my eyes. I missed her so damned much. Sage didn’t hesitate to wrap their arms around me and hold me close. I just lost myself in their arms.
I guess it still hurt a little…