On the happiest day of the year, I was really sad. All the reveling and forced gaiety couldn’t penetrate.
It began with that little niggling feeling deep down inside my core that is always yearning, wanting, hurting, bleeding.
“My husband and I are going to a megillah reading at…” said a friend, totally unconscious of the tiny stab wound it caused.
“Gila, do you have a home?” said the curious and precocious five year old sitting in the car next to me while on my way to megillah. Of course he didn’t know how that tugged on the wound that was always opening and closing.
On the day of ultimate happiness, one where you are commanded to drink, dress and be merry, to give to others and share in an overflowing feeling of gratitude and relief, I felt really alone.
There was no someone, not even a friend close enough to rely on.
“Want to go out later?” was all I had to offer to potential friends. There was no guaranteed best mate who’d always choose me as their going out buddy.
And though I am grateful for all the people I have here, I’ll still feel alone, dispossessed among the bubbles of gratitude. Like I’m jettisoned into the blank limbo forever.
Last night, I was home early. The biggest loser in town could be found in her room, in costume, shlumped over her lap top, falling asleep to the Great British Bake Off.
The old anxiety threatened to resurface the next morning. The one that stops people from leaving their rooms, that reminds them of that terrifying, uncertain, lonely as eff limbo waiting outside the door.
So I looked for anchors to push me out that heavy, impossible door.
You have to hear megillah hun. You have to leave. You are obligated. Someone up there is demanding purpose of you.
So I got up early. I semi got dressed, the weather permitting me to put on a bulky sweater over a skater skirt and boots.
Messy bun and getting stuff done.
And then I was ready.
I had looked up a schedule sent out by the Chabad of Rechaviya, called “Azza Zazza” which usually lists megillah reading times around the Nachlaot/Rechaviyah area.
I had gone last year with my roommate but this year I was on my own.
Kikar Gezer was listed for the Nachlaot area at 11:00, which was a little square that never shows up on google maps. It’s on the corner of Rechov Eilat and Rechov Gezer.
It’s pretty in sunlight or rain, a little hillock of Jerusalem stone rising at the meeting of several narrow Nachlaot alleyways.
The street celebrations were already being contained, cordoned off by grails and security at the top of Nissim Bahar. Paramedics were being briefed by their team leaders as I passed. Pops of colour bobbed amongst the somber dark rain jackets, refusing to be dampened by the drizzle. Porta Potties lined the zig zag road.
Every second person was wearing an animal onesie.
I was suddenly regretting my hesitance to order a Unicorn one.
A pop up bar was at the top of “carrot” square and about ten staff members stood there, pushing speakers behind wooden boards that looked like they were left over from Sukkot. A few of them were dressed up in 80’s retro. Or, er…maybe that’s how they did hipster chic.
Two american girls sat on the round stone bench in the centre of the square.
One was dressed as Persian Esther and I had to look away lest my jealously of how perfectly gorgeous she was, drove me home, back to my anxiety filled room.
No one else seemed to be there.
A few strays.
A guy on the balcony next to us and a few of his friends looked like they were setting up speakers for their own rave.
Then a girl and her boyfriend walked up to me.
“Yesh Kriyat Megillah po?” Is there a megillah reading here?
“Ken, be’echad eisrei…ani chosehevet…” Yes, at 11:00…I think…
And just as we both glanced around us, a group of chabadniks came through crying “Who needs megillah? Who needs megillah?” in Hebrew.
A handful of people answered yes, including the trendy girl next to me. We somehow picked up a few waifs and strays who feebly answered yes as well.
“Kodem kol,’ he said, “We need to do four mitzvoth on Purim.”
He then proceeded to take out mishloach manot, pre-packaged. He handed them out, one to me, and one to the girl next to me. “Now exchange them,” he commanded.
The girl and I smiled at each other, perfect strangers locked in a mitzvah, and handed our bundles to each other.
“Eizeh chamudim,” she said, while laughing.
“Hem choshvim al hakol,” They think of everything, I said to her, loving the camaraderie Chabad seemed to be encouraging at that moment.
Then he explained he had a pouch for matanot l’evyonim which we could all contribute to after the reading. Megillah was the third mitzvah, and seudah we could all do at home, he reminded us.
He called out one more time, asking if anyone needed megillah. His three friends were all sporting Hawaiin leis and they tugged on them by way of preparation.
A security guard, meant to keep the calm during all the street parties, piped up, “Ken, achi. Ten li echad m’hamegillot shelchah.” Yes brother. Hand me one of your megillot.
A few more people joined, including a guy in a giraffe onesie.
The man on the terrace balcony setting up for his corner of the street party, started amplifying his music.
“C’mon,” the trendy girl next to me shouted.
“We’re reading megillah.”
“Take it up with iriyah.” Take it up with the municipality. The guy said combatively.
“Nu, achi. Rak esrim dakot. Ten lanu esrim dakot.” Give us twenty minutes.
And this motley, small, crew gathered close as the Chabadnik unrolled his scroll from a beautiful glass and leather holder. A man from the crowd who was wearing a kippah was applied to for the brachot.
And we all stood, warm, fuzzy and slightly punchy, listening to the man read from the megillah under the soft drizzle of rain.
Some of the crowd, though small, lifted my mood with their jokey boos for haman.
The effervescent joy permeated throughout the helter skelter line of people.
And it made me feel…like I belonged.
That sense of belonging came with me throughout my walk to the shuk.
It filled me up with warmth as I ordered a coffee at Aroma and offered the complimentary chocolate to the lady next me. “I’m lactose intolerant. Have it. Chag Sameach.”
It increased when the Arab manager called me chamudah and told me to enjoy my breakfast “B’briyut.” Go in health , Sweetie.
It ballooned when I saw the Superman and Supergirl couple enjoying a couple’s breakfast at the corner table.
It lasted me all the way home.
Because even though I don’t have my own little nest to call my own, even if other parts of my life feel uncertain, even if I don’t have a partner in crime to watch TV and snuggle with, even though I may never have one, even though I have no child to whom to pass on some sort of legacy, I still belong.
Purim, stubbornly and bombastically reminds us, even when things are impossible and sad and the wound is always opening and that loneliness and fear looms, we are alive. We are ALIVE.
And we belong.
Here, in Jerusalem.