Yossi Waxman

Writer, Artist, Designer 

Liebchen

Prose Series, Yedioth Books, 2004

Forgive Us for Sinning by Saving Souls

 

My parents named me Gabriella, after the angel, but I was the lover of the angel of death. A fine first-class collaborator was I. Spit in my eye. I was also a natural blonde, dumb from my roots up. This is how I survived there, at the end of life. I wish I were dark and crippled, and sick with typhoid. It is because Herr Otto loved me and promised he would set me free after the final victory. May he burn in hell, Amen. But in May of that last year, someone shot him even before the Russian soldiers arrived. 

 

I had to watch my girls over there. How they looked at me as if I was some traitorous sentiment-free whore. They trembled when I walked the isle between their beds.

 

But the horror hit us hard in the brain, booom! That's just how it was then. The world's colors faded like old clothes washed a thousand times. And truth faded too, along with God. And I screamed like a psychopath, that was the only kind of weapon I knew. I threatened Mr. Angel of Death who cruised the end of life there and did whatever he felt like. I screamed at the girls in my Block too: Dear Ladies, woe to you if this Block is not sparkling clean! It must SHINE! And keep quiet, like a cemetery, so you don’t give the them a reason to go mad and chop off arms.

 

My God, why don’t I deserve to be my real self, like those kids on TV who paint their hair blonde and pierce their eyebrows and bellybuttons and don’t give a damn about old Holocaust ladies like me? God, why don’t I deserve it?? m a reason to go mad and chop off arms

*** 

 

My times have gone crazy so I have no doubts, and the shit is coming out shamelessly, and the world is peeking through our windows, laughing. The one with the broken pelvis bone on the third floor is having a party. And the woman on the first floor looks at me with a pitying face, as if I were retarded. And them from the other building, they roll their eyes: nu-nu; she's all twisted, that one. They plot and scheme and wish to harm my love for Gabi. Sluts! They're paying me back for my madness. Gabi, don’t let them touch our love! After all, you are a true friend, and merciful too, like in the prayers. You are to die for because you accept me the way I am, with my good and evil, so do something, nu… come on, meine ingal

 

Alzo, the Dolores, my Filipina, and her lover Simon Amar they call me Madam, or Miss Angel. For them, I am this nice and uncomplicated old lady. Works for me. On Sabbath Eve we pray. Simon's habit from home. He blesses the wine and the bread and me and the Dolores, we light the candles. She prays for Miss Maria and Mr. Jesus, asking them to look after the children she had left in the other end of the world, particularly the girl that goes to university in Manila. I say a prayer for the dummkopf from Block 17 and the girls, both the real ones and the cats.

 

On Thursdays, Frau Amar sends over Mazal, Simon's sister, with a bowl of hot fish in tomato sauce. Mazal also brings us some coke, of course. She spends the entire afternoon in my place and turns us on with her bouncing boobs. After the Sabbath dinner, the Dolores and I we snort Simon's leftovers, rise high up and go way down.

 

Simon goes to sleep early. He escapes to the mattress on the balkon because he is tired with life and with working at the supermarket. Sometimes, he even disappears for a day or two, but I am not easy on him. I push him and scream at him and warn him not dare quitting. And he respects me and goes to work, even though the salary of supermarket delivery guys is "for children," Simon says.

 

Bebi, she thinks I've freaked out. She calls and threatens: "I will not come see you until you get rid of those hoods, you idiot! He will eventually steal the money you don’t have and kill you for desert!" She thinks Simon is a criminal and cannot see the real beauty that hides in the soul. Lily follows suit. She too stopped coming for the weekly card game, even though she can see beauty in ugliness. And in darkness. They boycott me, my two bourgeois friends. Oh well. I don’t care. The truth will come to light in the end. That, I do not doubt. For now, I meet them at the Café for cremsnit and café au lait. 

 

Winter does not want to come around this year and summer suffocates us, here in Givatayim, but I am content. Winter is bad for my girls. Last year, four died, even though I brought them boxes from the market and wrapped them up in plastic. I only wish Madame Grinspan from the ground floor was more human and allow me to house the girls in the basement. Nu, I can only hope she'd catch influenza, the damn oppressor that looks like a nice neighbor that she is.

 

***

 

On Yom Kippur, I went with the Dolores and Simon to Temple. Simon's habit from home. I haven't set foot in a temple for a million years. I have no business with Her Gott. I have been pissed off with him for years, ever since he chocked my Tattele in the gas showers. Also, the worshippers stared at Dolores suspiciously as if she were a piece of pork, so I took her away, to the women's benches, to hide her from the Jews. Nu, the idiot was so excited that she made the sign of the cross on her chest, and this older lady next to us nearly fainted and screamed: "She's a Christian, my God! A Crucifix in the Temple!" I blushed and almost slapped the hag in the face. Then the gabbay came and yelled at the Dolores: "Get out, you sinner!" So I pretended to be really geriatric. Ho, how I limped and shed crocodile tears! "Have mercy, Mr. Gabbay. My feet, they can't walk. This Filipina is my fiselech." So he relaxed and asked her to leave, and I left with her. Who needs their Kol Nidrey anyway! 

 

And so we sat on the bench outside the temple, and the cantor on the podium started whining and weeping. I hate those weepers. I was even ashamed that the Dolores had to hear this. Jewish shame. Ho, they can cry, no doubt. And bitch and moan. They are the masters of tears and sorrows and Holocaust and Temple Destruction. But the Filipinos, they always smile. It is their genes. They eat shit and sing Celine Dion songs. The Dolores was not very offended by the primitive gabbay. Nu, life sweeps by her, not really touching her. She takes it all easy.

 

Before evening prayers started, Simon came out to see us. He caressed the Dolores' cheeks and smiled, "What was that charade, you piece of …?" and the Dolores kissed him right on the face and did not fear this holy place. How I envied them for showing their love so openly, publically, naturally hugging and kissing. I wish I could kiss my Gabi like that and show off my young lovers to those old hags that passed out on the women's benches. I am not guilty of anything and I never betrayed them, even when I smacked the girls in my Block around. Everything is written up there. Sure thing. Only the blind scream and curse me. Ja wohl!

 

Later that nigt, Simon forgot about the fast and snorted some. The Dolores was tired and fell asleep on their mattress on the balkon. Nu, so I sat with Herr Amar
to keep him company in his solitude. I made myself some coffee and took the
strudel out of the fridge. Simon forgot what day it was and took a piece. I poured him some coffee and greatly enjoyed watching him like this, sinning. He laughed.
"You are the master of cakes, Miss Angel, you piece of…" I told him he was a master liar, and that got him going. Oho! He hated it and right away started flapping his gums: "And you? You are a master floosy, hiding your lovers, you piece of…" and I pretended I was senile. Lovers? Me? But he kept going. "You think I don’t know? I saw the two of you fooling around, splashing in the garden sprinklers, you piece of…" And I only smiled and said, I wish. So he banged on the table and yelled: "You will not lie to me, you. Now I need to know - when you are eighty, do you or don’t you have an orgasm?"

 

I said nothing, only gave him another slice and went to make a second round of coffee. Could Simon be jealous of me? But he only said, "Now, tell me, you piece of…, do you come for your lover or what?" I only poured more coffee and kept calm, sort of. The passions in my chest froze like ice piling up in the freezer. And Simon Amar came up to me and stood facing me and threatened: "Do not lie!" Also, I broke down. Yes, I do come keynehore. Happy now? You piece of, you! Simon was ecstatic. "My God, you piece of… Come here and tell me all about it, and don’t you dare kidding me!" Oy, my head is spinning. Are all of these young men in love with Liebchen or what? 

 

We sat there half the night and spilled our hearts out. I don’t know what struck me. It was as if the holy day affected mein kopf. Or perhaps it was the heat. Simon opened up too, like the Ark in Temple, and told me about his shitty childhood, about his
no-good father who was a mechanic and used to stick his hands up his trousers.
He told me of his coward and blind mother who did not notice her husband's sins, or just pretended not to. He told me how he was sent from one institution to another for his education - education my ass - and ended up like a jerk in a police car. And he even dreamt of becoming a warrior in the army and give to the state. What a sucker! Nu, so now it pains him to see his mother falling apart with grief. Frau Amar clearly knows about drugs, even though she is a simple woman. She's a mother, and you cannot cheat your mother. And he told me about the love of his life, a young Arab woman from Jaffa who broke his heart for good, which is why he is done with serious relationships and only cares for Filipinas and other chance encounters. 

 

But I did not believe him. The love he bestowed on the Dolores was real, not an accident. Like puppy love, nu. He will never be a father, that's for sure. He never wanted kids anyway. Children are shit. Also, I think he may be right, though I sometimes become green with envy when Dalia, Bebi's daughter, calls and asks how long she should bake the cremsnit's mille fois

 

Nu. So Simon snorted and snorted and his eyes turned red, just like his nose. And he gave me a pinch of coke, and cried: "Lechayim, you piece of…" and I snorted and said the Yom Kippur prayer. I don’t know where that came from. But then voices came out of the knife drawer: Oy, Liebchen. How sad it is for us to see you like that on this day. It is like a scratch in our heart. I disagreed, actually, and told them we no longer have a heart; just a pump. This is how I lied to them, and to myself.
And then the voices started crying like that cantor, oy vey is mir, meine Liebchen. 

They should have shot you there, you lost soul, poor feigele. I actually agreed with them that they should have. But the voices kept crying and upsetting me. Simon's coke had a bad influence on their evil minds. So I snorted a little more and then asked Simon to hit me in the face like I was some criminal, but Simon recoiled like that dummkopf and covered his black eyes with his hands to hide from my request. But I would not yield. I screamed and screamed and told him he was a coward, pretending to be a big shot. I said he should slap me for my sins because I too am a criminal, a capo, and should be taken away in a police car, easy. I stuck my face in Simon's face and took his very trembling hand and swung it around. Nu, only after I told him he was acting like some stupid impotent did he slap my rosy left cheek. Right away the voices were gone, on the spot, like someone had murdered them.

 

And then I opened up to him and told him of the lagerführer and how he loved me, and how he humiliated me, and how I humiliated him with my curses. And Simon listened and his eyes rolled up and down because my stories hurt him, but I would not stop and told him everything: How tough I was with the girls in my Block because I feared mercy, feared my heart might fail me there, at the end of life, as it failed our nation. And how I loved my girls, and not only mentally. Physically too. I told him I abused and devoured them with my hungry eyes, as if I myself were a damned lagerführer. I caressed their beauty with my sinful gaze. I admired them. I kept my deviant eyes on their faces and necks and bones and nipples and breasts and arms and stomachs and pubic hairs and thighs and toes. I had light in my eyes, and they did not notice me. I was just a child, confused with my own deviance, and a thief of intimacy. How I snatched little pictures with my eyes - pictures I never had - like a thief stealing the most secret dreams. There was Lily, standing before my barrack door, trying to cover her shame, but she did not have enough hands to cover her nipples and her pubis and her eyes. And the shame was crying. Nobody wants to

steal that.

 

Also, this whole thing scared Simon, or perhaps he was disgusted with my stories. And I begged him: "Hit me, Simon! I want my arms and belly to go black and blue. Punish me for my sins. For my evil mind." And I fell down in front of his legs and I held on to his shoes like they were my redemption. "Nu, hit me, kind. Give me a 

terror attack like you promised!"

 

But Simon broke down and soon started crying. Also, with me, men always cry.

 

Then he relaxed and I gave him some coffee. The children who ran wild in the street, like they do every Yom Kippur night, screamed so hard they scared away the God of Sins who stepped out to catch some air and relax from his Jews. Nu - For the sin which we have committed before You by deceiving a fellowman. For the sin which we have committed before You by impurity of speech. And for the sin which we have committed before You by improper thoughts. And for the sin which we have committed before You by saving souls. 

 

***

 

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Translation: Baruch Gefen