Brothers from another mother: Chaya Sarah

I was sipping a mojito at the bar at the back of ‘The High Road’ in Midtown. Technically it was called ‘Bar: The High Road’, but it kind of breaks your teeth to say it all out. My mom had just died and I needed some space. A lot of space. I knew she had loved me more than life itself. That was the problem. When she thought she had lost me—when Pops and I didn’t come back right away from an especially risky ‘outing’—she just went into a total tailspin. We couldn’t call her, there was no cell service where we were. Besides, I actually did nearly die. But that’s another story. Suffice it to say, she was never the same after that. Neither was I, but I don’t want to go there right now. She was a wreck. She moved out of the apartment back to Long Island, rented a little place for herself, drew the curtains and never came out again. Poor Pops, he really did love her. He kept sending her flowers and cards, some expensive jewelry. He even sent her a stretch Hummer with a driver to take her anywhere she wanted to go. She never set foot out of her front door. Ever. And now she was gone, may she rest in peace, and all I’ve got is the memories. Mostly good ones, but some really troubling ones, too. She was never gonna see me get married, never see her grandchildren. I can’t tell you how incredibly sad that makes me feel. If everything went as planned—Pops had sent Weezer back to the Old Country to find me a beautiful old-fashioned girl to marry—the wedding was going to happen any day. Hard to get excited, if you know what I mean. Weezer knows my tastes right down to the bone. I wasn’t worried about that. The old guy had worked for the family forever and was loyal as the day was long. Nothing to worry about on that count either.

The thing that was gnawing at my brain, the reason I had picked this particular watering hole to chill out, was that it was at this very spot that my half brother—we called him Smallie—and his mom were were nearly rubbed out, right on this very spot. I was a little kid at the time and I didn’t see a whole lot of Smallie on account of how my mom felt about his mom. The Egyptian babe. That’s what Pops’ fellas all called her. I was too young to figure it all out at the time, but apparently she actually started out as a maid in our house on the Upper West Side, working to get a Green Card which Pops had the connections for. This was all before I was born. That was also part of the trouble. Mom and Pops had been trying to have a kid for forever, no luck. Old seeds, I guess. Or eggs, whatever. Anyway, they say that all of a sudden the Egyptian ‘hag’, as mom called her, was pregnant and somehow everybody knew the baby’s father was Pops. Bad scene, at least for mom. It seems Pops tried to brazen his way through the whole deal at first, easy for me to picture that. He set Smallie and his mom up in a little suite at one end of our huge apartment, far enough away from Mom’s suite of rooms that they had no need to ever run into each other, thank you very much. That went on for years, if you can believe it. Then, wonder of wonders, I came into the picture. Mom told me she laughed when her gyne told her she was pregnant. She told me she kissed the old guy right on top of his bald head and called him an angel. But old as she was, the bald angel was right.

As I got to be a little rug rat, Smallie and I would run into each other in the maze of our Upper West Side digs and secretly hang out. Even though he was a good bit older than me, we palled around as much as we could because there were no other kids in the place. He was kind a of a goof, always making me laugh. We’d roughhouse, joke around and generally had the run of the whole barnyard. Until Mom saw us together. She claimed Smallie was laughing at me, and maybe he was, but we laughed at each other. Mom wasn’t having it. No son of hers was going to be raised under the influence of the bastard son of some Egyptian hag. What she didn’t know was that Pops and Smallie’s mom had made a secret trip a few years back. She’d gone off ostensibly to see her own mother in Egypt. A few days later Pops left for a ‘business trip’ upstate. We all knew better than to ask for details. But what really went down was that he met Smallie’s mom on Anguilla and had a sort of ‘honeymoon’ there. Pretty wild. I just found that out. Hard as it is to believe, he loved Smallie’s mom, too. Anyway, Mom roared at Pops and said if he didn’t kick Smallie and that Egyptian hag out of our apartment she was packing her bags and moving back to Long Island. Pops could tell she was dead serious. This is when the story really turns dark, really troubling.

Not only did Pops have to send Smallie and his mom packing, but my mom made sure they got nothing, not even the Green Card Pops had been dangling to keep Smallie’s mom living with us. You can imagine how tough it was on her, my mom’s hatred for her and her kid was practically dripping from the walls. I don’t exactly blame Mom, I mean for her feelings, but what she did next was nothing short of evil. She knew Pops had sent Smallie and his mom over here to ‘The High Road’. It was a hangout for Pops’ ‘associates’. One of them, who shall remain nameless was married to Mom’s best friend. She put a little pressure on those guys, followed by a healthy infusion of cash, to make sure Smallie and his mom never made it out of ‘The High Road’ alive. You know what I’m saying. It was a terrible scene, written up in all the papers. Even now I imagine Smallie’s mom watching him lying there on the floor as good as dead. I tell you the pain of that just cuts right through me. But somehow the two of them survived. The EMT’s started in right away and continued all the way over to New York Hospital. State of the art university docs pulled the two of them through. Pops’ boss actually got involved and made the arrangements for Smallie and his mom to be set up on their own, right upstairs in this building, Green Card and all. There was never any contact between our two families again. Until now. I couldn’t carry this heavy weight alone anymore. I had to do what I could to make it right.

I knew Smallie had a bunch of kids, was a big success and was getting on in years. I’m no spring chicken either, even though I’m just about to get hitched for the first time. I hear Smallie still has some real hard feelings towards us, understandably, and probably wouldn’t be interested in any kind of reunion right now. I would feel the same if somebody had tried to rub out my mom and me. Don’t know if I could ever forgive that. I hope Smallie can. I still smile when I think about him, though the pain is there too. My plan is to get a message up to Smallie’s mom, though I hear she changed her name. Some superstition about the Angel of Death. Or maybe just to be sure my mom didn’t send anybody else after her. I’m going to tell her that my mom has passed on and that Pops needs a wife, which is so true. Since she practically already is that, I hope it will work. Pops is a pretty big deal, and they really did love each other, so I’m hopeful. Maybe, when the time comes and Pops passes on as well, God willing may it be in 120 years, Smallie and I can get together again to bury the old man. It’s only right. Man that would feel good, I mean getting back together with Smallie. I love my old man and I’m not in any hurry to lose another parent. So I see the front door of the bar is opening and it’s Weezer with this cute little Old World chickadee on his arm. He says her name is Becky and she’s Pops’ great niece. That’s crazy. She has the kindest eyes. I think it’s going to work out.

About the Author
Michael Diamond is a writer based in the Washington, DC area. He practices psychiatry there and is a doctor of medical qigong. He has published occasional verse, fiction and translation in Andrei Codrescu’s journal, The Exquisite Corpse; in the journal Shirim courtesy of Dryad Press; in the online journal for Akashic Press; and in The Journal of the American Medical Association. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, an artist and illuminator of Hebrew manuscripts, their dog, two cats, a cockatiel named Peaches and a tank of hyperactive fish. He has had a strong interest in Torah since first exposed to traditional stories as a child. Over the course of his life he has run the gamut of spiritual exploration of many world traditions of meditation and mythology. For the last several decades he has landed squarely in the traditional Jewish world. His writing is informed by all of this experience, by his curiosity about today's world and by his desire to mine the Jewish experience for its hidden and revealed wisdom. Torah Obscura, as in camera obscura, from Latin, meaning "dark room", also referred to as a pinhole camera, exploiting the optical phenomenon that occurs when an image of a scene outside of a chamber projects itself through a small hole and can be seen on the inner surface of the chamber. A glimpse of an otherwise invisible world afforded by a small aperture for light. All materials herein copyright © 2018 Michael S. Diamond. All rights reserved.
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