2125 Words9 Pages
Survivor I walk. I wake. I work, when I want to. I create uneven labyrinths of letters, I word. He worded and He created what He called earth, water, and swamp. I sink as I drown in that swamp, the same slick color as my patent green boots. I stomp on my existence. My father called them Nazi boots. He wasn’t trying to be provocative; that’s how boots look to him. That’s how I look at a pile of shoes, a serial number, even a bar of soap. That’s how I look at an Aleph, the first of Hebrew letters, the sound that precedes speech; its arms grow rigid revealing the swastika tattooed upon my memory. When they teach us what it means to be a Jew, they coat the letters in honey, and coax us to lick it off. A sticky, suffocating sweetness clings to us as we learn to read and later still as we try to escape who we are, but can’t. My education is not tied to those books, but to my self, myself as I march up narrow staircases of apartments atop stores atop Brooklyn cellars, numbers on my grandmother’s arm as she washes the dishes and uses her own thumb as a pincushion. She can’t distinguish pain from life. She used to urge my aunts to keep on sewing. “Arbeit Macht Frei,” she said. Work frees. Iron gates and barbed wire. I stick myself with a safety pin and I bleed. My grandmother chuckles generously at my soft, suburban, spoiled hands. She would get me a Band-Aid but doesn’t know where she keeps them. The pressure stops the bleeding, and I get into my father’s car. Go home. Sometimes I can’t tell whether persecution is an interruption of freedom, or if freedom is just how oppression looks from the perspective of the oppressor. The massah experiences subjugation as luxury. I scrub my own arms, trying to wash off the stain of white privilege, to find the Negro slave underneath. I breathe. I bathe. I believe. Sometimes I wonder what I believe. I wonder if I’m that homeless guy that I saw clutching his Bible. Inheriting the earth. Do I truly believe that God rewards the faithful and punishes the blind? Does this anonymous man deserve only 17 cents in a cup, while I have merited my $38,564 a year?
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