DANIEL KHALASTCHI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WOULD JEW ANYTHING FOR LOVE:

With very rigid movements, the conversion Rabbi takes
me into a restaurant bathroom to rob men of their

wallets while they use the urinal. At first I protest,
but once the Rabbi explains the events as a character

building exercise, I go all in with the gusto of a b-list
method actor on the set of a sound-staged western. Give

up the goods, I say. Nice the Rabbi whispers. Fuck
you, pay me, I growl. Again, strong presence, the Rabbi

says, but you don’t need to be vulgar. We’ve got your
daughter tied up with her pants…, I begin, but before

I can finish the Rabbi slaps my throat and apologizes to the
victim for my utter indecency. It isn’t until we start our long

drive back to the suburbs that I ask about the video surveillance
and corroborating stories likely to find their way to the

cops. We weren’t wearing masks, I say, sweat rolling down
my torso and legs. They could make your beard from a

helicopter. This is true, the Rabbi responds, but you are
forgetting what we have a right to after the Holocaust. I’m

not sure what you mean, I say, but the Rabbi quiets my
lips and laughs at a tollbooth worker as we pass without

paying. I feel for the first time, he says, like you are understanding
how to pitch this religion. Rabbi, I say, I think I’ve been shot.

 

 

IF LOVING JEW IS WRONG, I DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT:

After I finish re-watching the director’s cut of Love Actually on cable, I send
the Conversion Rabbi a text message: Im nt sur this is wrkg. I make some

tea, and by the time it’s done steeping, he’s sent a response: SHUT
UP U BABY. Immediately, I begin drafting an oppositional statement,

supporting my claims with clear, precise evidence, but before I can finish
the line about my sustained growth and maturity, another message comes

through: SHES NT WRTH IT. Is 2, I respond, UR FOOLING YRSLF
he answers. Am not, I say, O CMON, he writes quickly, this time sending a

picture with his text, something that looks like the hem of a skirt, or quarters
of king salmon placed in a circle. I try to call the Rabbi, but it’s no use. The

messages continue throughout the night and at just after one thirty five in
the morning, I agree to meet him at a mannequin warehouse. When I pull

into the loading zone, my headlights scan what is quickly understood to be a
reenactment of a typical Shabbat dinner. The female models are striking in their

resemblance to my mother and sister, but the one the Rabbi has chosen to represent
my father is clearly a child, its small frame carefully placed on a pile of old tires, rising

just slightly above a spool of copper wire being used as a table. Once I’m out of the
car, the Rabbi asks me to practice telling my family what we’ve been discussing. Okay, I

say. Now, the Rabbi says. I’m going, I say. Spit it out, he says. And then I throw
a punch. After the Rabbi stops laughing, I let it all go. She’s good to me, I say to the

female mannequins. She cooks, she doesn’t have any diseases, and from what I can tell
from our conversations, she’s open to the idea of attending a Seder. Do you think they’ll be this

quiet when you really tell them? the Rabbi asks, playing with a loose wig held low in his
lap. I close my eyes. I am a man in a grocery store, buying up bananas, I say. I’m not sure

I follow, the Rabbi says. I am a tall man in a grocery store and am buying all the bananas. It
is a wonderful grocery store. I will stay here forever.

 

 

 

 




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