Arielle & Fugue – Karine Silverwoman

Jeffery CairesJeffery Caires

Arielle

I felt very queer at my cousin’s Orthodox Jewish wedding, even though I wasn’t with a partner and most people did not know I was gay. I shouldn’t have underestimated the power of gossip – especially amongst my people. Word travels fast when it wants to. Oy.

I felt queer for many reasons. First of all, the women dressed in their fanciest shmata- low backless dresses that nice Jewish girls shouldn’t wear. I guess the orthodox Jews got modern and nobody told me -especially my mother who made sure to tell me a hundred times not to show any skin. So my family showed up, the Communist Atheist outcasts dressed up like covered Jews from the shtetl, while the rest are dressed like Julia-Roberts-in-Pretty-Woman-at-a-bar-mitzvah. Why am I dressed like a frum while these women look ready for a Saturday night out on Richmond Street? Not that I’m complaining. The little dresses, pronounced lipgloss, and open bar are fine distractions from feeling deeply out of place. Everything about this atmosphere felt new and I tried my best to stay grounded. I noticed, high heels clicking on wooden floors; high ceilings with torah scriptures; and stained glass reflecting off Jewish women’s perfectly ironed straightened hair. Nothing compares to the feeling experienced by a dirty femme at an Orthodox Jewish wedding. It’s an experience that I would and wouldn’t recommend. My brother nudged me saying:

“Lots of hot women here”.
Mmmmm hmmm.”

My eye candy for the night is Arielle, my cousin’s wife flown in from the holy land of Palestine. Not only do I feel excessively queer as I focus on the way her black silk dress hugs her thighs and her purple scarf matches the shimmer on her eyes, but I also feel like a terrible feminist as she ruins my fantasies every time she speaks. She spews her love of Israel (blah blah blah blah) over the loud chatter of excited heterosexuals while I imagine feeding her challah with honey whilst performing the most pleasurable sins. I eye the spots I want to touch with my mouth, trying to look engaged and nod to her orgasmic way of describing Israel. If she knew my politics she would choke on her matza ball. If only she knew I wanted to shut her zionist rhetoric up by laying her down and unraveling her. If only she knew that I would fall to my knees for her like a prayer, that I would feast on her like a piece of kosher wedding cake.

I’m sure she didn’t know I’m gay. Perhaps gossip didn’t travel as fast across oceans and checkpoints. If she knew I was, she wouldn’t have grabbed my hands and my hips to dance the horah. She wouldn’t have eagerly twirled me around to the klezmer band, laughing, squealing and throwing wine in the air.

This is all too much. In some ways I have never felt this queer in my life. I may as well be wrapped in the pride flag or hiding under the table. But in others ways I feel like I am at a gay bar as some Orthodox traditions have certainly remained the same. The men and women dance separately at different corners of the hall. I look over and there’s a moshpit of rabbis on one end dancing wildly, tears streaming down their eyes into their long beards. Have you ever seen rabbis breakdancing, spinning, high off the sanctity of marriage? I have. The women are just as rowdy and have all taken off their high heels and are throwing them to the side. They are glowing, free as birds flying south, jumping up and down without a care in the world, eyeliner smudged, sweat stains and flesh being waved around like a flag in the wind. I am at the sidelines clutching my drink. I feel like a gay voyeur and I want to take pictures to bring home to ‘my people’. It’s as if I am one of those spectators at the pride parade holding a water gun and a digital camera eager to see the gay people passing. Instead I am an awkward anthropologesque Margaret Mead-type, tipsy absorbing the gayness of this parade of heterosexual orthodoxy.

There was such wild pure happiness that permeated this setting. Happiness so thick and strong like the song of a shofar. Bubbies and Zaidies beamed with pride, with relief that they survived and their children and their children’s children are bright reminders that they had survived. There was so much happiness here wrapped up in songs, in traditions that had been sung and told and played out for thousands of years. I could see my Grandma. She was weeping privately in the corner and, for a brief moment, I saw her smile for the first time.

This is a wild exuberant soccer match, but with Montreal Jews who can’t hold their liquor taking to the pitch. Everyone is banging on their glasses excited to make a toast, and I can’t help but feel jealous. I can’t help but feel like a loner. I can’t help but feel like a gay cliché. I feel a yearning, somewhat painful, insatiable hunger. I too want my love celebrated. I too want the possibility of rabbis circling around me with their macho sensual séance while my family holds me up on a chair alongside my striking wife. I don’t even believe in marriage for god’s sake, but for some reason, at this moment, I have never wanted it so bad in my life. No drink can water down this heaviness. No re- applying of lipgloss or calling a friend can soften this feeling, this ache in my throat. Behind my crude criticism and my crass comments on the sidelines, I am searching the crowd for someone to soften my macho femme bravado. There is nothing more painful than a reminder that my grandmother will never toast me with a spoon at a synagogue. I will never be rushed by my cousins with an abundance of mazel tovs. So I, like many queers, remain on the sidelines, in a quiet longing corner clutching on to my drink.

My green eyes search the room for solace as the klezmer band plays another set loudly. And there she is. Arielle is dancing in the middle, moving as if no one is watching. She has already lost an earring, her silk dress is creased and I think I am staring. There is nothing I want more then to envelop my fingers around her thick black Jewish hair. I am fixated on her dress strap that has fallen down to expose her bare shoulder and her naked neck. I am anxiously blushing and wet. She looks over and catches my eye. I’m convinced she can see my thoughts and I quickly try to hide them by looking down at my heels while attempting to garner a butch stance. “Goddamn Arielle, you have me weak in the knees.” I head to the bathroom and hope that there is a cold shower in this synagogue for moments like these. There isn’t. I freeze like a deer in the headlights when I enter the bathroom. There are ten women sitting in a row in front of mirrors fixing each other’s wigs! Orthodox women with backless dresses and shaved heads, I almost faint. I forgot that they wear wigs ! This is sooo gay! I take a deep breath and try to act normal as I tiptoe to the stall. In the stall I am safe. Sitting on the toilet, but not actually going to the bathroom, I text message my best friend, saying:

“Hi, I feel like a raging homosexual in this holy heterosexual sanctuary.”
She immediately responds with “but are their any distractions?” and I immediately reply with “ yes just one, and her name is Arielle”.

I pull myself together and as I’m coming out, there is Arielle. She is standing directly in front of me. I can smell the Manichevitz on her breath and yes, I want to devour her and open her like a scared script. “Hi” she says standing so close to me. Her neck seems more naked than 5 minutes ago. I am a pathetic pushover dopey dyke watered down by the scent and endless skin of her. “ Hello” I reply as I try to figure out if she too is wearing a wig. “Can you help undo my dress?” she says mysteriously. I am suddenly the shyest and most excited lesbian you have ever seen. I am every season of the LWord on fast-forward and I am ready to bless this synagogue with a mitzvah. Honestly, and most seriously, in my entire life I have never had such a cacophony of sinful thoughts breaking waves in me. If I wasn’t a Jew I would be taking the next taxi to confession. Arielle, standing patient under the dimmed light looked like Queen Vashti, so beautiful like an alter. Seriously, I tell you there was nothing else to do! So, I put one hand on the buttons of her dress. And yes, I did what any proper lesbian would do. I slowly, steadily, slid the other hand down her thigh softly, but fast enough to let her know that I know what I’m doing and I’ve done this before. No lesbian I know hasn’t had at least one drunken moment in a bathroom stall. But no lesbian I know has attempted to do this with their cousin’s Orthodox Jewish wife. Arielle takes my hand, slides it down her chest and lets out a sigh. My hands have now taken over and there is no going back. In the heat of the moment, every lesbian has ten hands. I turn her around, grab her hair and place our faces close to each other. Our lips are the sanctity of lust. Goddamn her nipples are hard, her silk dress is mine and her legs have opened. Her mysterious shaved head and her back arched, ready and holy. She breathes deeply, and so do I, because from where I am about to go, this will definitely – definitely – be the last family function that I’m invited to. I can’t think about repercussions; I am in the Dead Sea – and floating.

Fugue

Your chest is a single piece of
unleavened bread waiting to rise

I see you, sipping instant coffee,
81-years-old still looking over your shoulder,

checking to see if they’re coming for you;
every person a hidden landmine,

every shadow the longing of 1945.
There is nothing more holy

than the stance of a woman who has survived,
clutches onto her purse as if it holds

the storylines of ancestors evaporated
in gas chambers. Your mascara has been

running since I met you, no movement of yours
is impulsive, no day does not harbor

the confines of routine. You can sip
your coffee, sit still and watch Days Of Our Lives

all day and nobody would notice, Grandma.
Nobody would come to your door with a knock

No blonde haired and blue eyed suits will
line you up and make you crawl like a dog,

make you still like a tombstone.
You’ve been hiding for years and

no one is looking for you. Still,
this is when I know that they have won,

when so much time has passed,
so many winters spent cuddled up

with the TV turned loud, eating fruit
in bed, and still you look over

your shoulder, ask me why I told the stranger
that I’m Jewish. Still you feel it necessary to store

apple juice twenty years old in the basement,
just in case; keep your money in a sock

by the bookshelf under the stairs. Still, you look
at us all like we are strangers in an abandoned house

that you don’t want to enter. Your past
is your perfume and we are drenched it.

Karine Silverwoman is an artist, counselor and community activist. Her art focuses on poetry, short stories, video making and dancing. She has worked with Nightwood Theatre and performed her poetry at different events in Toronto such as Mayworks festival and at ‘Granny Boots’. Her short video, ‘Hello, My Name is Herman’ won “best-liked video audience award, and received an honorable mention for jury selected best short videos at the Toronto Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. ‘Hello, My Name Is Herman’ was short listed for the Iris Prize in Wales and has screened in over thirty festivals around the world such the New York, Berlin, San Francisco, Australia and Mexico. She currently works as a youth counselor for the Queer Youth Digital Arts Project through the Inside Out Gay and Lesbian Film festival and for Supporting Our Youth as the Pink Ink facilitator, a creative writing group for queer youth. She is also currently taking her degree in social work at Ryerson University. Email: ksilverwoman@hotmail.com

Comments from old site:

Submitted by Jzulia (not verified) on Fri, 05/01/2009 – 17:03.

This is the best thing I have ever read!!!!
I am so amazed by you.