| Treeo Serial |

Remember Me: Chapter 5

At least I still have the notebooks. And I’m not taking any chances; they’re here in my knapsack with me

The thing is — really, really, despite what everyone is thinking — I’m okay.

Yes, you heard me. I’m okay, I’m fine. I haven’t grown horns or had a personality transplant, and believe it or not, I even still like to play ball.

Which is why it’s ridiculous that the bell rang for recess two minutes ago, Rebbi’s gone for his coffee, and my classmates are sitting around with miserable faces, as if they’re waiting for something terrible to happen.

And from the way a few of them keep sneaking sidelong glances in my direction, I come to the logical conclusion that the thing they’re waiting for has to do with me.


Like, what did they do for the past week, when I wasn’t in school?

Maybe they didn’t play ball. Maybe they stood in hushed circles, discussing whose turn it would be to visit Yair today. Maybe they compared notes, I went and he wasn’t crying, he looked fine, it was just weird that he had a torn shirt, poor kid, he must be devastated. He probably just put on a brave face for us.

My mouth contorts into a grimace, which I quickly straighten, because, yes, Shimmy Gruber, who loves hanging around near my desk between classes even though we have nothing to say to each other, is watching me.

And then, because they’re still all waiting, awkwardly, some rummaging for snacks or s-l-o-w-l-y clearing their desks, I stand up and turn to Yoss, who I’d call my best friend if it wasn’t a ridiculously girly concept, and I say, “Hey, everyone forgotten about b-ball?”

Yoss is great; he catches on immediately.

“Nah, no one’s forgotten. The games weren’t the same without you,” he says easily.

And suddenly everyone’s unfrozen again, standing and talking and heading out to the cold playground, because it takes more than some icy wind to keep our class away from a basketball game.

More than icy wind, and more than a hole in my heart where Abba used to be.

I don’t know why I’m thinking of Abba now. I’m playing ball with my friends, a welcome change from obsessing over the men sneaking into the house and what on earth they’re doing with my papers.

At least I still have the notebooks. And I’m not taking any chances; they’re here in my knapsack with me. Not leaving anything unattended at home now, no sirree.

But all that can wait. Hadn’t I waited to play ball again all week, while solemn-faced men from shul filed in and out, while my classmates came in shifts every day to make awkward, awkward conversation?

I’d sat there, repeating the same tired lines I kept telling everyone, and then turning the conversation back to school, what’s new in class, has the date for the basketball semifinals been announced yet.

Yoss had come every day, and he also hadn’t said a word when I recycled the same old sentences to each batch of boys, which is probably the nicest thing he’s ever done for me.

And Rebbi came by, too, every morning for Shacharis, every afternoon while my classmates were still in school. Still not sure if that part was super nice or super awkward.

The cold air hits me in the face as we head outside. It’s good to be out, wow. We divide into teams and then someone threw the ball past me and we’re off — me and my classmates and the ball and the court — and nothing else matters.


The game was good. Not just because we won — that was nice, too — but because that thing that was sitting between me and my classmates, that thing that made my neck prickle all throughout class — who’s staring at me now? What do they think they’ll see? — just seems to have melted away.

If he can still play ball, they’re probably reasoning, he must be fine.

And I am. Sometimes, like when Rebbi’s telling a great story in the middle of class, I can even forget.

Like for a moment or two. And then I remember, but okay, I can remember and also be fine.

That’s what I tell Rebbi when he motions me over after class. I remember to smile when I say it, because it was a good day, class was okay, even if I had to figure out what I missed while I was out, recess was great, and that story Rebbi told was awesome.

“I’m glad to hear your first morning back went well,” Rebbi says slowly. Behind his glasses, his eyes move searchingly around my face. What’s he looking for? “Would you like to learn b’chavrusa sometime, maybe on Motzaei Shabbos, so we can catch up on what you missed in class?”

Learn b’chavrusa with Rebbi… nope, not on my watch.

And I know why he’s talking about Motzaei Shabbos.

I’m not stupid.

“We could meet in the shul,” he says, confirming my suspicions.

Because winter Motzaei Shabbosos in our community’s shul means Avos Ubanim.

One hour of learning accompanied by yummy baked goods donated each week by the local bakery, and then Rabbi Taub, with the fiery red beard and the energy to match, gets up to do the raffle. Each week it’s different. No one knows beforehand if they’re going to raffle off a can of Coke or an e-bike; it’s all part of the fun.

It’s not like I always went. Abba’s business trips meant I didn’t have anyone to go with half the time. But when he was home for Shabbos, we never missed it. I loved it, and he loved it, too. We chazzered the Gemara I was learning in school, or we learned midrashim on the parshah together, or we chose a topic like tefillin and delved into a bunch of seforim about it.

Yeah, it was… nice. And something in my throat feels both swollen and tight when I think about it. But that doesn’t mean I want to sit with Rebbi instead. Doesn’t he have his own sons? Am I supposed to tag along with them or something?

“Thanks, but I have plans already,” I blurt, quickly deciding I’m going to have an early night Motzaei Shabbos. I have plans to sleep; that counts, right?

Rebbi gives me a look that makes me suspect he’s on to me, but I look right back at him; I even give another smile.

I guess he’s convinced, because he lets me go, saying something about coming to him if I need anything (which I don’t) and letting him know how things are going (what things?).

“Thank you,” I say politely, because I suppose he’s trying to be nice, but I’ll be happier when they all realize — classmates, Rebbi, friends, all of them — that I’m really, really okay.

And then I make a speedy exit because there doesn’t seem to be any point in extending this conversation any longer than it needs to be.

The afternoon blurs by. I’m not sure anything we learn is actually sticking, but hey, time enough to cram it all before we have a test.

Meanwhile, I have other things to think about.

I’m thinking about the notebooks and the scraps of paper and the empty, empty study all the way home, so deeply I almost walk straight into two stiffly suited men with radios and ear pieces and suspicious bulges under their jackets, who are walking out of our front gate just as I arrive.

They barely seem to notice me. And they’re not the same men as the ones who broke into the study that night.

But they must be connected to it all — the missing stuff, the intruders sneaking in to search….

The men get into a car down the block. Without stopping to think, I grab my bike, and pedal after them.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Treeo, Issue 1000)

Oops! We could not locate your form.