Here I am. Sitting alone in this crowded restaurant. I feel bad for the people waiting for a table outside, although my table has only two places. I look through the window and I see a normal day, there is nothing special about today, at least, to me, it doesn’t feel special. However, you would be able to feel there is something unusual about this day because every shop and most part of the restaurants are closed.
Today is the Christian Easter holiday. Most of the people in my hometown are Christians — something like 85% of Brazilians are Christians — and today all families leave their homes to celebrate a family lunch in a fancy restaurant. No one eats meat today. As a Jew who’s kosher diet is based on milchig or parve food, I shouldn’t be feeling alone today.
I feel alone.
I feel as if I’m not part of the spirit of the holiday. It is somewhat uncomfortable. I look around me and see many families, foreigners, young couples and their babies, but it feels like there is a wall of glass between me and them.
On days like these, I think about Israel. I saw the pictures of Purim parties on my friends Facebook pages and I thought about living there. I know that live isn’t dream-like over there, but maybe I would feel less alone as Jew. Alone as Jew. It is a strange and awkward feeling to explain.
“Would you like one more Coke can?” The waiter asked.
“Is the other person still going to come?” He asked me while pointing to the plate and cutlery in front of me.
“No, please, you can take them,” I said.
No one would be joining me today. I look at the empty space in front of me and think about what the rabbi said about the schidduch process. Remembering that always makes me laugh, but, today, I don’t laugh.
“Really?” She says.
I turn my face to the place where the voice came from. There is nothing there except the portray of a young prostitute standing naked with her burst covered with strands of her wavy hair, while her hands delicately touch the beautiful and the luxurious armchair besides her. Memories of the beautiful young women who worked in this family restaurant when it was a less respectable and more sinful place in the 19th century.
“Really! Some shy and religious people, like myself, feel the need of a matchmaker and a dating process impregnated with modesty rules”, I tried to seem confident, while admitting my desire to overcome my limitations.
The young prostitute sits on the armchair inside the painting. She tidies her wavy hair in a bun tangle on the back of her head with her delicate fingers. Now, her bust is visible, as everything else was already.
“I just think there are easy ways to find a boyfriend, a husband… Or a one night deal,” she said.
“I’m sure that you do,” right after saying that, I started to overthink if I wasn’t being disrespectful by saying that.
“What I’m trying to say is: the schidduch process in Brazil is controlled by Orthodox rabbis who are obsessed with the most strict interpretation of the Halacha. Therefore, it’s safe to presume that they will look to the Teudah of a convert with a Hubble telescope, rapidly throwing at the garbage those with a non-Orthodox conversion or unfairly scrutinizing the Jewish practices of those with an Orthodox conversion. Also, I can’t imagine that they would help a Conservative religious Jew, for instance, to find a match. If I were a rabbi, responsible for the only respectable schidduch channel in the country, I would try to help all Jews by matching them with others who have the same level of observance, spirituality and halachic status. I believe that would be my great contribution to the fight against assimilation of your people in this country. As I’m not a rabbi, there is one thing left for me to say is: there are easy ways to find a boyfriend or husband then to have someone scrutinizing your Jewish observance and spirituality, don’t you agree?”
“Well, you certainly have a reasonable train of thought. Also, it is fair to point that if you were the one responsible by the matchmaking inside the Jewish community, most certainly our levels of assimilation would be lower. However, I think you’re being too critical on the rabbis. The rabbis…”
“Wait”, she said, “I love this song.”
And yet before the evening is over
You might give me the brush
You might forget your manners
You might refuse to stay
And so the best that I can do is pray
Luck be lady tonight
Luck be lady tonight
Luck Be a Lady Tonight, played by Sinatra. I love this song too. I can’t imagine what this place was like in your time.”
“In my time… I remember a young Jewish gentleman. He was Russian, he came to Brazil in order to escape the Russian pogroms and Revolution. Most part of the Jews had just arrived and they were from Morocco, which is one of the reasons why I remember this Russian gentleman. He was different. Funny, smart, European. He left, went to the south of the country, never heard from him again. I still remember him, what a incredible lover he was”, her eyes were distant, shining and moist.
“Anyway, my point is: love is a very complicated and intimate thing between two souls. Ideally, people’s heart and minds shouldn’t be left described on a paper to be analyzed by a group of rabbis. However, as I know very well, life isn’t ideally. So, if you think you can find love through a matchmaker, then, find love and someone to share the book of life with becomes a priority instead of the damage of the broken system through witch you’re finding love.”
“Interesting perspective”, I said.
“If you allow me to say, there is one thing I will never forget about my Russian gentleman. Although, he looked less Jewish than you, he seemed as lonely as you. After he shared my bed, he would sit on a chair and look through the window. It always seemed as if he was trying to find someone. He told me once that he missed his parents who were murder back in Russia. He used to say that the eyes of a Jew are always looking for someone, while the heart is always trying to heal the recent wounds and the legs are doomed to never stop moving or create roots in a place. Your eyes, they remind me his eyes.”
“Would you like to see the menu of desserts?” The waiter asked.
“No, thanks. Can you bring me the bill, please?” I answered.
“Sure, just a minute.”
I looked to her portrait. The prostitute was standing still, naked, with her long wavy hair covering her bust. Hiding memories from a long forgotten time.
Maybe my eyes will find that someone I’m looking for.