Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Man With the Holy Stomach
There he is, arching over me in the aisle. The strings of his tallit dance before my eyes, brushing my shoulder as they sway to the tune of scuffling carry-on bags. His beard reaches down to the collar of his firmly pressed Western white shirt. The beard is dark gray with a few brown strands. They long for the days of youth, of peeking over the partition on Shabbos, trying to catch glimpses of Rachel Friedman's ankles. When she crossed her legs, her shoe would tug at her folded socks. Soft skin would breathe and wink at the young holy man and cause him to forget the words to the mourner's Kaddish. The pilot growls something over the intercom. The machine chips his voice and turns his words into that of an ancient tongue. The holy man sighs heavily and shuts the overhead compartment. He rests for a minute with his hands on the plastic, his body still arched over me. The Western white shirt has freed itself from his waistline. A round belly hangs in front of my face. The hairs are a youthful brown. They sprawl in all directions, moving to the rhythm of his breaths. I sit in my aisle seat on a Boeing 747, a once modest stomach jealous of my youth.