The skin is necessarily tough hydrated if cared for but ultimately never going to be soft in the way we congratulate babes for being soft or in the way we hug mammalian submissives, as in that intriguing kind of softness, she’ll never be soft in that way.
Too bad for her self-esteem.
Too bad for her disengagement.
She’s been sitting in the same chair for the length of time it takes a dying woman to realize that she’s been sitting in the same chair or for the length of time it takes her son to notice.
There is no shame in sitting still.
For the person sitting.
But, for him there is the constant reminder that this is what chairs are for: Resignation unto a guiltless nest, an entity constructed to stand for you, with extra legs and the perilous task built-in: Dear Chair, there will be weight on top of you and you might be in one room forever with a dying woman or just with this type of woman, the type of woman who wants to get to know death. The chair is the comfortable entity. The woman makes him wish he was sitting too.
She brought this chair with her. Her retreat from the city began when her husband coughed his heart restless, eventually stopping as she watched him fall. It wasn’t dramatic or apologetically interesting. It was just the end of his life.
Hedda and Ya’akov. Aged, Jewish and European and sure life was constantly ending. They used to wake up and stare at each other as if survival were a dream, a talented thought that punctured moments with meaning. “Ok”, he’d say, getting out of bed every day, giving into the wake, and she’d murmur a laugh, they’d eat boiled eggs as the sun caught up with them and the paper arrived, everything cementing the renewed mission they didn’t keep track of, didn’t manipulate in any way, they just allowed it to happen.
He was their son. They had him just to see what would happen.
This isn’t a couple that makes love recklessly. Or at all. This is couple who remains a couple because without one another they’d have no proof of Being. They’d have no validation of routine activities or desires or emotions, they wouldn’t know that they were anything at all, absence absence absence sings the end of ego, because a hand is just the air beneath it if it has no one to touch and for Hedda and Ya’akov especially, two Jews who have survived enough individually to make them each question whether or not someone hadn’t already killed them, they needed to be a couple because they understood that they needed to feel their existence as much as they questioned it. They were only survivors if they remained a couple. Alone, they were conquered. And so, they had a son. Not because he arrived accidentally, not because of a collective mission to create a joint extension of themselves, not because they were craving expending energy towards a questionable entity, not because they believed or hoped that they could contribute to the world’s future. Hedda and Ya’akov had a son because they heard that it could happen to people, so if it happens to people why shouldn’t it happen to them?
She lives with him now. As she sits in her chair, this is her son. His name is Simon or Si or Shimmy or Shimon. He asks the world to call him Simon and it does.
Simon was loved by his parents in as much as they followed the rules for loving a Canadian child: They bought him food and showed him what a school was and told him to go there, they provided a bike for his independent transport and if he wasn’t on the bike he could retreat to his bed which they also found him, they bought him clothing, duplicates of clothing, multiples of everything including shoes which already came in twos and hats which seemed unnecessary all together, they gave him all the gifts of normalcy that immigrant parents could convince themselves to give to the son that was already given a very confident freedom from his friends, his teachers, his life, his very full life that kept asking them for things, asking them to keep up with unfamiliar needs. They kept up because they loved him that much. They loved him enough to provide obligations.
They loved him in as much as they agreed that they had him. They named him. They spoke to him. Until he found himself in school at age six, they sat in silence with him all day and until he was old enough to visit friends, roughly age eleven, they sat in silence with him all evening, they encouraged thinking, reading, furrowing the brow, practicing personal internal brain arguments with himself over observational anomalies, listing problems, making puzzles, solving puzzles and then proposing an alternate solution to the solved puzzles he’d completed. Hedda and Ya’akov facilitated Simon’s intellectual independence because they understood the world to require a humble brand of genius more than play, more than people and certainly more than love. So, in terms of an idyllic love, the totality of love, the love that fulfills spirits, there was no urgency of provision and then this is their son:
First name Shimon, named for his long-since-sacrificed would-be uncle, re-named by a gentile teacher who told Shimon that his parents had misspelled his name and it’s actually pronounced “SI-MON, no “SHH”, no “SHHH”, “SI-MON”, Simon reported the news to his parents that evening and they shook their heads, pouted only to think about it, and frowned at one another for forgetting the extremity of social affirmation that could occur offensively from the ignorant friendly-neighbour unknowingness of the Gentile public. He should be called Simon because that’s how it’s pronounced, says the Non-Jewish prevalent population, more of a threat than they realize and hardly as helpful. Simon thereafter grew up misunderstanding the point of ethnicity, misunderstanding the point of his parents. This is long enough ago, 20th Century assimilation already having taken place enough for Simon to receive not only a new name from his Canadian teacher, a recognizably little-Canadian-boy name, but also to receive a new occupation. Simon wanted to be an athlete.
Ya’akov father had no concept of the word. Was there work involved? To what end? Sports, as observed by Ya’akov seemed nothing but circus-type promotional material for each boy’s possible mating advantage and, considering how clunky Simon appeared next to the Gentile sports superstars of the underclassed undereducated local community-center raised families who spent after-school hours parentless and preoccupied with inexpensive outdoor activities that depended on nothing but a ball and/or a net or hitting apparatus and/or athletic urgency from the presumably willing participants, compared to the boys whose parents were dependent on their certainty of sports, the families who could think of nothing more breathtakingly helpful than having a child enamoured with a sport, the children who were raised to be playfully competitive and instinctively team-oriented, Simon looked absolutely unmateable. He was too analytical. If ever allowed to play, he’d often stand, field-centered or court-centered, counting the alternative possibilities for play, not acting on any of them because he couldn’t be sure of anything, he was never sure of anything, he only had questions and so, athletically, without action, he appeared to be the absolute opposite of the genius he was. Just as his father, he also seemingly misunderstood the point of sports. Perhaps he could have made a good coach or even an excellent inventor of a new, perfectly marketed and suspiciously helpful sports drink, or maybe the owner of a sports team, venue or television channel. But, Simon never gave up. How could he give up when he’d been told that he belonged?
Ya’akov had no belief in sports. He developed little belief in his son. His son, today. Simon. Caring for Hedda. She’s just arrived. She is sitting on a chair. This is his pig farm. He is a pig farmer.
Ya’akov mocked Simon without the slightest bit of anger or shame. It was merely to pity the idiot who dedicates his life to forgery.
“Go ahead and feed the masses. Go ahead and feed the masses and the masses the millions and the masses of families you have nothing to do with, go ahead, Shimmy, go ahead and fuel the homes of the grateful, speaking Grace unto God each time they sit to take a bite of what you’ve provided for them, they thank God and have no idea, they have no idea, that a Jew slaughtered the meat they think Christ blessed them with. You like bacon? It’s such a simple thing to be disgusted by. What is it? I don’t even understand what it is. A little bit of pig with some fat in a pan it’s crisp, you know what it smells like? It smells like exclusion. It smells like, you know, secular gluttony. It smells like that smell, the smell of a slap in the face. Reminding me I’m Jewish. And you’re supposed to do that. I’m supposed to look at my son and remember who I am but I don’t see anything worth knowing you know all I see is a farmer-boy, farmer-boy,” a little melody as he taunts, throwing his hands in the air and dancing from his chair, “farmer-boy, farmer-boy,” smiling and expecting an eruption at any minute, “farmer-boy, farmer-boy”, Simon sitting and drinking wine and occasionally blinking, “that’s you. You are an outsider. Strengthening the other outsiders. And they come for us, Shimmy—And they can take your pigs, you know.”
Hedda was a seamstress and Ya’akov ran the dry cleaners. Ya’akov looked dead, sitting in his chair, staring customers down, rarely speaking as he took money from strangers and promised “it’s ok” without ever really explaining what was “ok” or when clothing would be ready or if clothing would be ready or why anything cost what it cost. Hedda would run from the back to the front constantly throughout the day, assuring customers as they left that they would see their clothing in “three days please return”, a brief smile before she’d go back to her work and when they were gone, Ya’akov would make her laugh by teasing the clothing, the invisible people, poking holes in pockets for fun and she’d sew them back in absolute gratitude for his devious need to challenge goodness. She’d work because he provided her with work to do. And now, without him, she had no need. She missed his projected binary: She was compelled to be nice only because he wasn’t. She was compelled to be alive only because he appeared to be dead. He’d “Ok” the wake each morning and she’d laugh because it wasn’t true but she appreciated his participation in her reason. After he died, she had no reason. She had no one to OK the wake. No one to even be aware of the waking. Once he was actually dead, she felt guilty for living.