I want to tell her everything, but also I just can’t. And suddenly I’m angry; why am I so far away? Why does it have to be this way? Why, why, why?
Tryouts, or auditions, as they call them here, are overrated.
So we get off classes for an afternoon, big deal.
Instead of sitting in class — where I could doodle or daydream or do my own thing — I’m standing in a crowded hallway, surrounded by hyper, chattering girls, and feeling like the world’s biggest loser for having no one to stand with, or talk to.
I never had anyone to stand with or walk with, never thought I wanted or needed them, but it always felt like my choice.
Now, rebuffed by the girl most interested in being my friend, I feel… off-kilter.
I stand awkwardly in the hallway as five girls at a time enter the dance auditions room. Honestly, I don’t have much interest in dance, but I guess I can dance, and it’s better than choir. I’d probably enjoy acting, but the lines outside the play tryouts stretched down two hallways and a staircase in between, something about the play heads trying every girl out individually for five minutes at a time, so I gave up on that.
Noise all around me, none of them even my classmates, argh. In front of me is a tight foursome, probably from Year 9, wearing identical hoodies draped over their shoulders. Behind me is a short girl who looks too young even for Year 7. She also looks so nervous I want to pat her on the head, but then she leans in toward her best friend and they whisper and giggle, and every so often, dart a glance in my direction. Probably wondering why in the world this weird new girl in Year 10 is standing totally alone with no one from her class.
I try for my most casual, don’t-care air, even as I glance around for a familiar face. At this point, even Faiga Berg would do. But zilch.
I want to muster up some interest in production, this creative stuff is really up my street, but I’m feeling super self-conscious and from my vantage point leaning against the wall, it all looks so stupid and shallow, the giggling and whispers and the fragments of sentences I’m catching from the quartet in front of me: I hope I’m in the sharp dance and they better put us together, ugh, Mrs. Perr will never… she always splits up friends.
I want to tell them that Mrs. Perr is right, that play time is the best way to get to know other girls, that there would be no point in spending all those hours with the same girls you’d spend time with at home, but that would be admitting I care.
The door in front of us opens, and a bunch of younger girls pile out. Next five up, that means the foursome clique and me.
Joy, oh joys.
I start toward the door, then stop. What for, seriously, what for? To be placed in dance with girls like this? To spend the next month or so feeling awkward and friendless again?
I turn to the girls behind me. “You can go first,” I say, and witness a panicked second where they calculate if one of them should brave the lion’s den without the other for moral support. I don’t stick around to see what they decide.
Instead I head straight for the exit. If I’m going to spend the afternoon doing nothing, let me do it in Raizy’s airy bedroom, with shelves full of books and a beanbag and ahh, total privacy.
Maybe I can call Ima early, talk to her without anyone walking in on us. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
And if Aunt Chana wonders why I’m home… well, let her wonder.
I settle on the beanbag, kick off my shoes. They roll under Raizy’s bed and I make a mental note to pick them up later. Wouldn’t want to go digging under there with her around.
“Hi, hon, it’s so good to hear your voice. Finally. What’s doing?”
I think of Bubby, Raizy, Tammy, tryouts.
“Nothing much,” I say.
“Ah.” Ima waits a moment. “You’re home early, aren’t you?”
“Yeah. Finished early today.”
I stop again. I want to tell her everything, but also I just can’t. And suddenly I’m angry; why am I so far away? Why does it have to be this way? Why, why, why?
“What about with you?” I ask, inelegantly changing the subject. “Anything happening?”
Part of me is hoping she’ll bring up the political unrest thingy of her own accord, but she just launches into some story about new guests, Israeli soldiers who just finished their army service.
“Lots of Israelis recently,” she says, then sighs. “Some of the regulars have gone, though. Left India.”
“They’re… worried about what’s going on. There’s been some demonstrations and stuff. I guess they just didn’t like the atmosphere.”
I jump on that. “Demonstrations? What? Why? Is it safe?”
“Don’t worry, Shir,” Ima says. She sounds regretful. “I shouldn’t have mentioned it. It’s really fine.”
“But I heard already, Ima. Chana told me what’s on the news. It sounds really scary.”
“Everything sounds scarier from afar,” Ima says. Her voice is very calm, the way she talks to my little siblings when they wake up from a nightmare. “It’s just… there’s some group, a political party really, but not people that anyone sane wants in power in a country. They’re protesting some laws, they want to make changes. They’re popular in certain regions, but not here in the city. Just every so often there’s a rally or something. Abba knows about them, we’re in touch with the police. We just make sure not to go out into the middle of one of their rallies, know what I mean?”
It sounds pretty scary to me.
“What will they do, though? What could happen?”
Ima sighs again. “Hopefully, nothing. Protest a little, get it outof their system, let it fizzle out. These things happen, these people need a cause, need to pretend they have a plan, some power.”
I wait, but Ima’s done. “Aaaand if not? Could it become, like, a war?”
“I really don’t think so, Ashira. Like I said, they’re comparatively very few people, and they don’t have much hold in the big cities.”
She changes the subject — something about Ayelet cutting a new tooth, seriously, like that will make me forget — and I pretend to go along with it.
But I’m not fooled.
Deep down, I know Ima is worried, too.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 963)
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