[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Twilight Zone : A Romance Story by Dibyendu Ghosal” main_heading_color=”#1e73be” sub_heading_color=”#8224e3″ spacer=”line_with_icon” spacer_position=”bottom” line_style=”dotted” line_height=”1″ line_color=”#1e73be” icon_type=”custom” icon_img=”id^48|url^http://ashvamegh.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Ashvamegh-ICO.jpg|caption^null|alt^Ashvamegh Journal Icon|title^Ashvamegh ICO|description^null” img_width=”48″ main_heading_style=”font-weight:bold;” main_heading_font_size=”desktop:34px;” line_width=”3″ margin_design_tab_text=””]confusion and romance and dilemma[/ultimate_heading]

It is an unusually warm night for September, the air heavy and thick. Gabriel exhales a cloud of cigarette smoke, and I watch as it curls around the lampshade and escapes through the window. A low burning candle drips tie-dye wax on the table in front of us and he leans over to scrape it off with his fingernail. He taps his cigarette out in a glass dish and moves closer. He smiles, and I shift in my seat, tug my skirt over my knees and look away. I am alone. With a man.

Gabriel, a friend I knew as a teenager, grew up Modern Orthodox but still doesn’t understand the ultra-Orthodox life I am living. Around the time we’d first met, at age 15, I became enamored with Orthodox Judaism, abandoned my Conservative upbringing, and moved quickly into a more insular world, cutting myself off from everything in my former life and immersing myself thoroughly in the rigid life of frum Brooklyn. Gabriel, on the other hand, became entirely unobservant.

Now, almost a decade later, I have begun to realize that I no longer believe in this way of life. The romance I once had with its people has faded, and I’ve been re-thinking my adolescent choices. But I feel stuck in this box I’ve built around myself, and don’t know how to break free. When a mutual friend mentioned that Gabriel asked about me and she gave me me his number, I thought about it, then came to what I thought was a rational conclusion. No, this was not lust or passion. This was an arrangement. And so, aidel me, called Gabriel with a proposition, and now here I am with him.

He doesn’t see the box I am in, can’t fathom that the most intimate interaction I’ve had with a boy was sipping ice cold water in a florescent hotel lobby, with a black hat and jacket carefully placed on the sofa between our stiff, awkward bodies. Gabriel doesn’t understand why I need him, why I must experiment with someone I trust, why I need to know that once I stumble out into the vast world full of impurity and immodesty which I have been taught for so long now to fear, I won’t make a fool of myself.

He leans toward me and I study his eyes. They are dark and intelligent and I wonder if they can see how terrified I am. Our noses touch and then our lips. His arms surround my waist as he kisses me and I feel a sensation from my stomach to my throat as I feel my holy neshamah taking leave and my body surrenders to its desires. A spell that I can’t break draws me closer as we undress and move into his bedroom. He is gentle and patient as I clumsily explore his body and allow him to discover mine.

It is dusk and I lie naked in bed listening to the symphony of crickets that is the soundtrack to the end of summer. “Bein hashmashos,” I think. The period of twilight from sunset until three stars are visible in the sky, when, according to Jewish law, it is neither day nor night. Three evenings from now is Rosh Hashanah, the day I will stand in judgment before God, and He will decide whether I live or die, prosper or perish. The oversized dining table of my hosts will be set to seat twenty, covered with a crisp white tablecloth and adorned with lacy china and gleaming silver. I will be sitting in the living room listening to the women talk about recipes and new yuntif clothes while the men are at shul, in a mumbling sea of black, waiting until it’s late enough to daven maariv. When they see me, will they know, these divine people? Will they know that I have changed, that I am now tameh? Will they see the scarlet letters that Gabriel left tattooed on my skin in each spot he touched?

I push myself up, slip on my shirt and skirt and pull on my dark stockings. Gabriel is talking, but I don’t hear him. We hug goodbye and I head out, getting lost in the gray maze of the corridors until I finally find the elevator.

The Q train heading back to Flatbush is packed. I push my way through a group of teenagers carrying violins and head to a corner.



Introduction to the Author: 

Dibyendu Ghosal is an author and poet from Kolkata. He has been widely published in national and international publications and his works have been anthologised in many books.

[wpdevart_facebook_comment curent_url=”http://ashvamegh.net/2017-issues/xxix-june/short-stories/dibyendu-ghosal/”
title_text=”Did you like Dibyendu’s story? Comment below:” order_type=”social” title_text_color=”#1e73be” title_text_font_size=”18″ title_text_font_famely=”monospace” title_text_position=”left” width=”100%” bg_color=”#d4d4d4″ animation_effect=”random” count_of_comments=”7″ ]