A Walk in the Park
A young man wears his shtreimel on a brisk walk with his daughter so that her afternoon nap be a peaceful one. I look away, I want to be alone. I walk on for a while and get to the quiet park. An old woman walks her dog, a teenage love-struck pair hold hands awkwardly. I look away, I want to be alone as do they.
An old imposing willow tree, its young freshly budded leaves and its catkins in full bloom catch my attention. It has been there for generations, it bestows insignificance upon those that care to see. A train passes in the distance, its rumble amplified as it passes under a steel bridge. I notice a sprawling graffiti signature upon a carriage. I admire the brazen artist if he can be called that at all.
I imagine how cross my wife must be for I am not home from shul yet. “What kind of a man doesn’t go to shul on a Shabbos morning?” she says, and so I go to shul. I withstood the test of time, three long and dreary hours of it. I listened silently, offering no input, as men had scoffed at meteorologists who had exercised over-caution in halting air traffic over our island. They had prevented our finest from returning to their halls of study abroad.
These very same men have Reb Shayele in the larder cupboard. He wards off their mice. These very same men proclaim the Wisdom of Solomon for identifying crossdressed men from women. Only women know to dry wet hands upon an apron. What a perfect way to woo the queen of Sheba, Ave Maria.
“What kind of a man comes home this late from shul?” she would say as I come home. It is a question I have heard many times before. One for which I am expected to offer no satisfactory answer.
A high flying investment broker awakes to find himself living the life he might have had, had he settled down with his girlfriend after graduation in the movie “The Serious Man.” He impulsively scarpers in shock, but later returns home. His wife asks him that precise question. “What kind of a man walks off on Christmas morning?”
Ah, you see, I do have the perfect answer. Men who from time to time find themselves living a life that belongs to another, a life that they have not crafted for themselves.
A solitary walk in the breezy spring sunshine, is that too much to ask? I imagine the kids at home playing on the floor acutely aware of their mother’s impatience. Who put them there, and who put me here between them?
In a daze I find myself glaring at a drunk black man who says, “You people! I am from the zoo, aren’t I?” He beats his chest, trumpeting as he mimics a gorilla just like Tarzan does. I apologise and walk on. How ironic.
The play area is quite full. I watch as a Muslim young man pushes his child to and fro on a swing. He dresses casually but well, he wears knee length shorts and sports a beard. His dialect has no detectable accent. Perhaps he is a kaffir too, who is out in the park with his kids, to see to it that they intermingle with a diverse crowd. His wife might not know that they are there.
I spot his wife sitting on a bench. She wears the niqab - the full veil. Only her pink spectacles are on show. Her son points to me and says “Dad, Why does he wear his hair like that. Is he Muslim?” The father glances at me with embarrassment. I feign a smile as does he. “Good question, good question,” I think, and I walk on.
The world is my oyster, I had thought that day. I could have taken any path.
I head for home though, where there are but few choices to make, where everything is as it should be, where I am, if very late, expected to be. I quicken my pace; I am home in no time.
My wife opens the door. “What kind of a man comes home this late from shul,” she says, and I smile sheepishly.Printable Version