I’m thirteen and I’m in love with my dentist. This is too bad. My body is lumpy in all the wrong places and that’s how I know it won’t ever work between us. I am drowning and drowning in how gross my body is.
My body is gross because I can’t stop eating candy. At first I got the candy from the Walgreens on the corner of Roosevelt and State, but then those cashiers started to recognize me. Now I get it from the Jewel across the street. The candy makes my teeth rot, but I can’t stop myself. Every day after school I take off my pants and sit on the bathroom floor and eat two family-sized packages of Pull ’N Peel Twizzlers until I know I’m about to throw up. Then I put the wrappers in the bathroom trash and cover them with toilet paper.
My dentist is named Dr. Rudnitsky. His office is in Glencoe, which is an okay suburb. It’s a forty-five-minute drive up the i-90 from our house and it doesn’t really have anything good except for my dentist. I live in a townhouse on the South Side of Chicago, but not the real South Side. The real South Side doesn’t start until 35th and I live on 18th. The part of the South Side I live in doesn’t have anything cool, but I guess it’s still cooler than Glencoe.
I had to go to the dentist because I got my braces off and now my teeth are so ugly. They’re all yellow except for a little white square in the middle of each tooth where my braces used to be. Going to the dentist sucks because no matter how much I tell everyone who works there that I brush and floss every night and no, I don’t eat that much candy, my gross teeth always rat me out. I’m pretty sure that as soon as I leave all the hygienists hang out in the break room and laugh at my poor oral hygiene.
Usually my dad drives me to the dentist because my mom hates being in traffic and she also hates the suburbs, on principle. My mom grew up in Lithuania and then in Israel and in both of those places I do not think suburbs exist in the same way that they do in the USA.
The day I fell in love with Dr. Rudnitsky started out normal. It was sunny. My dad drove me to the dentist’s office and dropped me off and went to wait at the one Starbucks that Glencoe has, and I waited in the waiting room and read some fitness tips in Seventeen like how I can have a banana smoothie for breakfast to help me lose weight. I was wearing shorts, which was a bad idea because the seats at the dentist’s office are vinyl and my fat thighs kept sticking to the chair and making squeaky noises. Then the lady up front called my name.
My name is Chava, which is not normal. Quinn from school always pronounces it with a ch like cheese because he’s really funny, but it’s actually supposed to be a Ch like Chanukah because I’m Jewish. My mom didn’t want to give me a normal name because she didn’t want me to be too American.
Quinn is really funny but he has a crush on Gracie O’Rourke, and Gracie told me that Quinn told her that I am extremely annoying. He only said that because in the eighth grade boys are still so immature. It might actually mean that he has a crush on me, except probably not, because I have such a gross body.
So the lady up front called my name and I went into Room D. The hygienist said, Did you brush before coming? and I said, Yes, which wasn’t a lie except for after I brushed I ate some tortilla chips and I didn’t tell her that part.
In the corner of Room D there is a little TV that hangs down on a plastic arm to distract you while the dentist touches your teeth. That day it was playing a show where somebody buys an ugly house and fixes it up until it’s beautiful and then sells it for a very large amount of money. The hygienist asked me if I wanted her to turn it off and I said, No, I love hgtv, because I do love hgtv, and also because I was trying to be polite and lovable to make up for whatever they might find inside my mouth. Then she did a bunch of stuff to my teeth until they were bleeding and then she buzzed for Dr. Rudnitsky. I couldn’t really see him at first when he came in. I heard him say, Good to see you, Chava. Then he came over to shake my hand.
I looked up and it was like someone had punched me in the vagina. My parents have known Dr. Rudnitsky forever, and he used to come over for dinner sometimes when I was a kid, but I had never realized how handsome he was until right then. He’s fifty-something and he has brown hair and a bald spot and this really big Jew nose that I want to chew on. He’s kind of short. The way I’m describing him doesn’t make him sound that hot but he is.
He said, How’s life without braces, and I said, Good.
He sat down on his stool and rolled toward me with his legs open. I could see the place in his scrubs where his penis probably was.
Then he put his hands in my mouth and I was ready to die right there. Dr. Rudnitsky has the greatest hands. They’re really tan because he spends a lot of time at his vacation home in New Mexico. My mom says he has a vacation home because dentists are rich.
He hooked his cold thumb into the side of my mouth and ran his fingers along my gums and tugged at my lips and pressed a little round mirror against the inside of my cheek to look for cavities. Dr. Rudnitsky’s face was very close to mine. His breath would have been all over me if it wasn’t for the paper mask. When I thought about his breath all over me I had to clench my legs to stop my vagina from screaming, and then I got scared that I might be having an allergic reaction to latex, which is something that a lot of doctor’s offices have signs telling you about. I couldn’t remember if I had put on deodorant that morning and suddenly felt very afraid. That’s when I realized I was in love. It turns out that being in love feels a lot like being afraid, which nobody had warned me about.
Dr. Rudnitsky scooted away and snapped off his gloves. Chava, he said.
You’ve gotta floss. You’ve got three big cavities that we need to take care of and a couple of tiny ones I’m going to keep an eye on. You’re too young to lose all your teeth.
Sorry, I said. I was so embarrassed that he had seen my gross mouth and my gross body lying down, which is a really unflattering position.
You will be duly punished, he said as a joke, and then he left and I went up front to schedule an appointment for my fillings, and then I went to Starbucks to meet my dad and tell him the bad news about my teeth.
I haven’t had my first kiss yet, but everyone at school thinks I have because I told them I have a boyfriend named Josh who lives in the suburbs. I don’t actually have a boyfriend. I think I’m probably not going to have a boyfriend until high school, because that’s when I’m going to reinvent myself.
Just because I haven’t had my first kiss doesn’t mean I’m sexually immature, though. I wanted Dr. Rudnitsky to know I was sexually mature. That’s why I had to learn how to masturbate. It’s really important for women to know their own bodies and not be embarrassed about their vaginas, even though my vagina is the most disgusting thing ever and anyone normal would be embarrassed by it. My vagina is hairy and wrinkly and sometimes sticky for no reason, and it makes me want to die.
When I got home from the dentist I explained to my mom that I have a genetic tendency towards cavities which is not really my fault so could she stop yelling at me, and then I went to my room and climbed into bed and thought about being in love. I lay in bed until I couldn’t hear the TV in my parents’ room anymore. I tiptoed down the hall and checked that their door was closed and their lights were off. Then I grabbed my mom’s laptop from the kitchen and ran to the bathroom and made sure the door was locked. I took off my monkey pajamas and got into the bathtub and went on private browsing on her computer, which people mostly use for porn but can also be used for other things. I knew to get into the bathtub because I heard Gracie at school talking about how her sister uses the showerhead to masturbate. Everyone said, Ewwwww, because it’s really gross to put a showerhead that you share with your family on your vagina, which is why my parents can’t find out that I used our showerhead to masturbate.
I typed out how to masturbate female in the search bar and pressed enter. The first link was a weird sex blog for girls with all these pink cartoon diagrams of vaginas and arrows labeling the clitoris and the G-spot and the cervix.
get in the mood before you go for your clitoris!
I closed my eyes and poked at my nipple. It didn’t feel like anything except for pretty embarrassing. So I added detachable showerhead to the search and I found a site called Masturbation Stories where real people submit their own.
i love to take sexy showers after a long day at work. i lie down on my back in the bathtub and put two fingers inside of my pussy until i feel all warmed up. then i set my detachable showerhead to the massage setting and press it against my clit. this makes me cum in thirty seconds flat!
This was the grossest thing I had ever read, but it was submitted by a real person and I’m not sexually immature so it wasn’t actually that gross. I closed my mom’s laptop and scooted it far away from the tub so it wouldn’t get wet and held my breath and turned on the water and twisted the showerhead to the massage setting.
Dr. Rudnitsky pulled back the shower curtain and knelt on the black and white tile next to the tub. Chava, he said. I can’t stop thinking about you. You’ve grown up so much since the last time I saw you. I know you’re young, but I can wait until you’re ready. I’ll wait as long as it takes because you have a great body and you’re smarter than most women my age. I think about your boobs when I have sex with my wife. You have a great body. You will be duly punished. I really like the way you dress, it’s classy and sexy at the same time, and that turquoise eyeliner brings out your eyes even though you have glasses which are incidentally classy and sexy at the same time.
I am having a bad puberty. My hair is not normal. It’s thick like a black bear’s and growing in about as many places. I have it on my toes and my arms and in a trail between my belly button and my vagina. My legs look very pubic. I have these big, caterpillar eyebrows. I am like if Oscar the Grouch was a girl. This morning I looked in the mirror to put on my best tinted lip balm and I found a moustache.
The other girls at school are mostly Irish, which means their hair is blond and the amount that they have on their arms is normal. Irish girls also have really nice boobs and not very many of them are fat. I’ve been trying to shave my arms and legs and my butt, but thirty minutes after I get out of the shower these little black dots pop up all over my skin and just keep growing from there. Also, shaving gives me tons of red pimples that are ingrown hairs.
Even my mom thinks I have too much hair. One time she drove me to the suburbs so a doctor could test me for hormonal abnormalities. I could tell she was mad about having to drive. It was hot and my T-shirt kept sticking to my armpits. My mom rolled down the front window to scream at a truck driver who had done something she didn’t like on the expressway. She took one hand off the wheel and stuck it outside to wave at him.
Amerikanski primitivski!, she shrieked. Chava, take out those things from your ears. What am I, a chauffeur? Listen to your mother. Look at this shit cutting me off.
The truck driver gave her the finger and she gave him the finger back. 116 new england review
Look at his belly. White trash. And everyone wearing shorts as if they are children. Bebale, do you want almonds? I have some almonds.
No, thank you, I said. I was feeling carsick and a little scared of the truck driver who kept pulling up next to us and sticking his head out the window to yell at my mom some more.
Do you think they will be able to do something about my hair? I asked. I was wearing long pants but could see the hairs peeking out around my ankles.
Probably yes, she said. If not, we will figure something out. It’s a little hair, nu? Not cancer.
She pretended to spit in a superstitious way.
At the doctor’s office a nurse drew my blood and then she sent us home. The next week we got a call. My mom put the doctor on speaker phone.
She’s fine, he told us, and my mom said, Shit.
After that my mom gave me one of her old epilators, which is a scary fist- sized machine with thirty tiny tweezers that open and close super fast and yank out all of your hairs individually. It hurts so much that sometimes I cry.
All the girls in Israel use it, my mom screams over the motor.
My parents send me to Catholic school because it’s cheap and I can’t go to public school because my mom says that public school is dangerous for a little white girl, even though our neighbor is also a little white girl and she goes to the public school and seems to be doing okay. I also can’t go to Jewish school because American Jews are rich and stuck-up and they don’t know hardship, except for my dad who is different because his parents were both alcoholics.
There are sixty students in my grade at St. Joseph’s. Sixteen of us are Shooting Stars and forty-four are Moonbeams. Moonbeams are Catholic and they have a class where they learn about the baby Jesus and get ready for confirmation. Shooting Stars are not Catholic. We take a class where we’re supposed to study world religion but mostly just watch Veggie Tales. There’s another Jew at St. Joseph’s, but he’s only Jewish on his dad’s side and sits with the Moonbeams at lunch. His name is Ben and he’s almost as handsome as Quinn. When they sit together at lunch it’s like looking at two movie stars, but I have to be careful not to get caught staring.
Now that I’m thirteen I get to take the Red Line home by myself after school, which means I can hang out with everyone else at the end of the day if I want to. Everybody likes to go to the Northgate Mall because it’s close to school and has a food court and escalators to make out on. The Northgate Mall has huge revolving doors that can fit ten people at a time. The elevators are also huge and made of glass.
A couple of days after I fell in love with Dr. Rudnitsky I heard Quinn and Gracie talking during Global Studies about how everyone was going to the mall, and I said, Oh, I’ve been meaning to go to the mall, and Quinn said, Are you even allowed to go the mall, and Gracie laughed and her boobs looked so great in her training bra, and I said, Yes, I take the Red Line home now. And he said, North or South, even though we have gone to school together for eight years and he knows I live South, so I said, South, and he laughed and said, Southside, and made a weird gesture with his fingers, and then he said, Chava is so Southside. I said, Should I meet you guys outside after school so we can all walk over together, and he said, Are you scared to walk alone or something, and I said, No, and he said, Yeah Chava, we’ll meet you outside and make sure you can get to the mall okay, and I said, Cool, and I was so excited because I was sure that being in love with Dr. Rudnitsky had given me an inner light and now even Quinn was flirting with me.
After our last class I went to the bathroom to make sure my shirt wasn’t too tight over my stomach because we have to wear these ugly uniforms that make me look so fat. The rule is that we have to tuck our white polo shirts into our blue pants, and when I tuck in my shirt you can see all of my bulges and the outline of my bellybutton. It would be really embarrassing to look fat while I’m hanging out. My mom taught me that if I’m sitting down I can pull the waistband of my pants over my stomach to look less fat, but I can’t do that if I’m standing on an escalator.
I only took a couple of minutes in the bathroom, but by the time I left and went out front everybody was already gone. I thought maybe they had forgotten that I said to meet outside, only I couldn’t text them to check. I don’t have a cell phone because my mom’s an immigrant and she says that if I get a cell phone I will become too American.
I walked from school to the Northgate Mall with my backpack slung over one shoulder even though that kind of hurt. I felt like everybody on the street was looking at me so I tried to walk in a straight line instead of duck-footed like I usually do.
I hung out at the Northgate Mall for an hour and walked around Victoria’s Secret because I thought maybe Dr. Rudnitsky would like me more if I owned a thong, only I got too nervous to buy one so I left. Then I bought four Auntie Anne’s cinnamon sugar pretzels with my babysitting money. I ate them in the family bathroom because it would be embarrassing for someone to see me eating four pretzels. Then I was so full I thought I might throw up so I lay down on the floor and looked at the dirty tiles and the baby-changing station and cried and thought about what Dr. Rudnitsky would say to me if he saw me like this. Maybe he would just say, Pull yourself together, which is what my mom says when I get too overwhelmed and upset. Then I took the Red Line home.
My mom had made cabbage soup and was drinking Prosecco at the kitchen table. Two things my mom loves are Prosecco and rosé. Whenever she gets mad my dad says, Bring mama the rosé! and I run like crazy to the fridge, which sometimes makes her laugh and not be as mad anymore and sometimes makes her more angry.
My mom is crazy and also crazy beautiful. She looks like a beautiful cat. She has the biggest, greenest eyes anyone has ever seen. When I got home that day her eyes had purple circles underneath that made them look even greener. She was wearing her pajamas, which usually means she is in a bad mood. She stared at me and didn’t smile.
I’m very tired, she said.
I’m sorry, Mama, I said. Did you have a hard day?
What is this American bullshit, she said. She made a baby voice that was supposed to sound like mine but didn’t. Did you have a hard day? How about a hard life. How about your father forgot to call the repairman and the sink drips drips drips all night long and my dear husband snores like a pig and I don’t sleep and still have to cook dinner.
She finished her glass of Prosecco and poured herself another one. God forbid, Chava, she said. Don’t have children. Children turn you to a pathetic old schmata. And then they grow up and hate you and leave you with nothing until you become the ladies who lunch.
I don’t hate you, I said. I think you are the best.
She laughed in a way that meant nothing in the world had ever been funny. My backpack was still on and my shoulders were starting to really hurt.
Just wait, she said.
I was so nervous on the drive to get my cavities filled that I couldn’t even pay attention to any of the things my dad asked me about school and my classes and how the eighth grade was going. I just kept saying, Good, it’s good, I like school, until he went quiet and then I put in my earbuds and listened to “Love Story” by Taylor Swift. I closed my eyes and imagined Dr. Rudnitsky twirling me around a dance floor with me looking like the lady in Dirty Dancing and him looking like himself. When I opened my eyes we had arrived. I started to get out of the car but my dad stopped me.
I forgot to tell you, he said. Dr. Rudnitsky is going to come by for Shabbat this Friday. His wife is out of town so it’ll be just the four of us. We thought it would be nice to have him over.
I froze. I felt like I was going to throw up all over the car.
Why would you invite him to dinner? I yelled. Papa, that’s so weird. Why would he want to eat dinner with me after seeing the gross insides of my teeth? My dad got the confused and disappointed look he gets every time my mom yells at him.
Geez, he said. You don’t have to come if you’re busy. I just wanted to let you know.
Sorry for yelling, I said, and then I went inside and waited for my name to be called. When I sat down in the dentist’s chair I had to work hard not to cry because I really, really didn’t want Dr. Rudnitsky to watch me eat.
Then Dr. Rudnitsky walked into the room. I could feel my whole body turning into a big disgusting beet. I was nervous that he would think I was having a stroke. He prepped his tools and said something to the hygienist and scooted over to me. I mumbled hello and tried not to look him in the eye in case he would immediately be able to tell that I was in love with him. He flicked a big needle with his thumb and index finger.
It’s going to feel like a quick bee sting, he said.
I think that was supposed to be comforting, but I haven’t had a bee sting since kindergarten and from what I remember it hurt a lot. Then he shot Novocain into my gums. He stuck the needle deep into the inside of my lower lip and grabbed my lip and wiggled it around while the needle was still in there, which would have felt romantic if it hadn’t hurt so much.
I closed my eyes and pretended it was just us in the room and that the dentist’s chair was a bed. For the first time in my life I thought that getting cavities filled was awesome, because it meant that Dr. Rudnitsky had to lean over me for a long time and put his fingers in my mouth.
Okay, all set, he said after a while. Then he sent the fat hygienist out of the room and sat down on the stool next to me.
Chava, he said. I can’t stop thinking about you. You’ve grown up so much since I last saw you. I know you’re young but I want you to be my girlfriend because you have a great body and you’re smarter than most women my age. I think about your boobs when I have sex with my wife. I didn’t want to say anything earlier because I couldn’t tell if you were sexually mature with a positive relationship to your vagina, but seeing you today I just couldn’t hold it in anymore.
Then he did a romantic gesture of giving me a dozen calla lilies, which are my favorite flower.
Dr. Rudnitsky, I said. How did you know that calla lilies are my favorite flower?
I have been paying attention to you for a long time, he said. I always thought you were funny and unique and I really like the way you dress.
I was so happy because even though I said I probably wasn’t going to have a boyfriend until high school, I finally had a boyfriend and it was Dr. Rudnitsky. I felt so lucky, like I must have been born under a lucky star. I knew that Dr. Rudnitsky would be a really great boyfriend because we had so much in common. Because he was very mature, he would see all the good things about me.
Then he had to go fix someone else’s teeth. He asked if he would see me at Shabbat dinner, and I said, Of course, I wouldn’t miss it for the world, and he blew me a kiss on his way out. I skipped all the way to the Starbucks where my dad was waiting for me and sang “Love Story” really loudly in my head. I couldn’t believe I ever thought it would be cool to make out with Quinn at the Northgate Mall. I didn’t have anything in common with Quinn, but Dr. Rudnitsky was so mature and romantic.
That whole week all I could think about was Shabbat dinner and what I would wear. I was a little nervous, but I had a feeling that dinner would go really well because Dr. Rudnitsky, my parents, and I are all Jewish. This means that we have a lot in common and he can understand my culture. He’s the only American Jew besides my Dad that my mom likes because he’s so nice and not at all stuck-up, even if he did marry a Midwest shiksa. Dr. Rudnitsky’s first name is Dan.
Being Jewish means I’m different from the other girls at school in a unique way. Also, my great-grandparents died in the Holocaust, and my grandparents were put into concentration camps but did not die, which I gave a presentation about once to the other Shooting Stars. I asked my mom if she would come in and talk about what it’s like being an immigrant whose parents and grandparents had been in Auschwitz and that other concentration camp, but she got really mad and asked me to please not talk about that anymore.
I don’t think that Dr. Rudnitsky would mind talking to me about the Holocaust because his parents weren’t in any concentration camps, so it probably doesn’t make him that upset. His family has been in Chicago since eighteen hundred and something. His dad was also a dentist and also named Dr. Rudnitsky. That Dr. Rudnitsky started the practice in Glencoe and worked there until he died. When both Dr. Rudnitskys were at the same office everyone called my Dr. Rudnitsky Dr. Dan, so as not to get confused. My mom says the other Dr. Rudnitsky was also a great dentist, and I bet he was because that kind of talent runs in the blood.
My Dr. Rudnitsky has a daughter in college who is going to be an interior designer instead of a dentist, which is regrettable. It might be a little awkward when she finds out that Dr. Rudnitsky is dating somebody younger than her, but we are hopeful that she will be mature and understanding since he raised her well.
I was thinking about my new boyfriend so much that I barely noticed Quinn at school that week. Even though I am a Shooting Star I still have to go to Mass every month, which is fine, because I like being inside the cathedral where everybody is quiet and the seats are assigned and there are beautiful stained glass windows. The priests are nice and give me a blessing when I go up for Communion, although I have to keep my arms crossed over my chest because I am a Jew and do not get to eat the bread.
On Thursday we went to Mass and I got to sit at the end of the pew next to my favorite window. It’s blue and red and looks very holy. Mary is kneeling next to Joseph who is holding the baby Jesus up toward the cathedral ceiling. I looked at them and how much they loved each other and God and thought about how God gave me Dr. Rudnitsky, and it made me emotional, even though their God is technically different from mine.
Quinn was sitting behind me and started making disgusting farting noises with his mouth in his elbow, saying Ewwww, Chava, that’s disgusting, and I got really brave and turned around and said, The one who smelt it dealt it, and he said, What are you, five?
It didn’t even hurt my feelings because I knew that I had somebody who was so much more handsome and mature than Quinn. I turned back around to face the altar. All I could see was a very skinny and sad wooden Jesus on a wooden cross, hanging over the altar by two invisible wires.
On the night of Shabbat my mom let me help her cook dinner because it was a special occasion. When people come over to our house my mom gets excited and dresses very prettily and only screams in a normal way, so cooking dinner together was really nice. We made roast chicken with prunes and lemon and a big salad and challah with raisins in it for dessert. My mom said she was impressed with how good of a cook I was becoming, and I said, I learned it all from you because you are such an amazing cook, and we both smiled.
I was wearing a dark blue dress that brought out my eyes and black tights so Dr. Rudnitsky wouldn’t see my ingrown hairs, even though I’m comfortable with my gross body. When he rang the doorbell I let my parents answer. They all kissed each other on the cheek in a Jewish way. Dr. Rudnitsky brought a bottle of red wine to go with dinner, which was so sweet and polite.
Hi, Chava, he said. How are those teeth treating you?
Good, thank you, I said. I was suddenly worried that my stray hairs were poking through my tights in the places I hadn’t been able to reach with my epilator.
The sun started to set and my dad poured everyone a glass of wine, including a smaller one for me because I’m thirteen. Chicago is so beautiful when the sun sets. Across the street from our house there’s a big glass high-rise, and you can see the sun making each window go crazy bright as it moves lower and lower. Then suddenly everything goes dark.
I got to light the candles because according to Jewish law I’m an adult and it was a special occasion. My mom gave me the long lighter she uses for the stove. I’m not good at lighting matches without burning myself.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, we all said.
Everything was delicious. I ate and ate and ate but stopped before it felt like I was going to throw up.
Did you make this chicken, Mrs. Lanzmann? It tastes professional, Dr. Rudnitsky said.
Chava helped, my mom said. I can get you the recipe. I will do a scan for you.
Dr. Rudnitsky and I looked at each other meaningfully. He was wearing a gray button-down shirt that made him even more handsome than when he wore scrubs and showed off his very tan hands.
He said, Mr. Lanzmann, Mrs. Lanzmann, I have something to tell you. I know it’s not traditional but I love your daughter. She has a great body and is smarter than most women my age.
I was so nervous. My face felt really hot. My parents looked at each other and then they looked at me and then they looked at Dr. Rudnitsky.
I had guessed you might feel that way, my mom said. And I think it’s great.
Eighth-grade boys are so immature, and Chava is really unique.
We couldn’t be happier, said my dad. And it was very polite of you to bring us this delicious red wine.
Dr. Rudnitsky and I were so relieved. He squeezed my hand under the table.
You will be duly punished, he whispered.
After Shabbat everything got really busy at school. In eighth grade all the Moonbeams get confirmed into the Catholic Church, and all the Shooting Stars have to do a big project where everyone makes a family tree and presents it in front of the whole class. Every year there are so many amazing family trees. People work really hard on them. They all get set up in the cafeteria, and the Moonbeams are invited to come down and take a look during the presentations. I was very excited about my project. My family history is so interesting because of the Holocaust. Except my mom either doesn’t know anyone’s name past her grandmother, or else she just won’t tell me.
One afternoon I was working on my poster, cutting little yellow Stars of David out of construction paper to glue onto all of the people on my family tree who were in the Holocaust and little red X’s to glue onto the people who died in the Holocaust. It was going to be a very meaningful and sad presentation that would tell everyone a lot about my history and culture.
Chavaleh, my mom yelled from the kitchen. Dr. Rudnitsky is on the phone for you.
I ran to the kitchen in my socks on the hardwood, which my mom hates because she says I will fall and break my neck.
Hi, Dr. Rudnitsky, I said.
Hi, Chava, he said. I am just calling to let you know that I am thinking of you.
That is so sweet and thoughtful, I said. Would you like to come help me with my family tree?
That sounds great, he said. I will cancel the rest of my appointments for the day.
I ran back to my room to put on clean underwear that was black and just a little bit lacy on the band, and then I put soap on my vagina so it wouldn’t smell gross. By the time I was done, Dr. Rudnitsky had arrived and was standing outside my bedroom with flowers.
You shouldn’t have, I said.
I would do anything for you because I love you, he said.
I showed him my family tree and he cried because the Holocaust is so sad and meaningful, especially for Jewish people like me and Dr. Rudnitsky.
This makes me really understand your history and love you even more, he said. Which I didn’t think was possible because I already love you so much.
We were holding hands and my heart was going like a racehorse.
Dr. Rudnitsky, I said. I think that we should make love because I am ready.
He said, Chava, are you sure? You know I’ll wait as long as it takes even though you have a great body.
Yes, I’m sure, I said. I am sexually mature and I have had orgasms in the bathtub.
He said, with the showerhead your parents use?
I was really embarrassed so I said, No! With a different showerhead!
He said, That is good to hear, and then he took off his pants and it was so awesome because Dr. Rudnitsky has such an amazing penis.
Then I took off my pants and I was a little nervous about my gross vagina, but he said, Wow, you have such a normal vagina, it is the normal size and shape, everything about it is totally normal, and also I love you, I love how great your body is and how mature you are, you are everything my wife is not, I can’t wait to divorce her, she’s not even Jewish and I think about your boobs when I have sex with my wife.
I was so happy I wanted to scream but I didn’t, and Dr. Rudnitsky picked me up and threw me onto the bed very passionately and said, Let’s see those boobs!, and he pulled my shirt over my head and I pulled my training bra over my head and then he said, Wonderful and mature!, and he put one hand on each of my boobs and I felt very sexual and excited. Then he said, You have a great butt, and I said, Thank you, Dr. Rudnitsky, I am always worried that my butt is the texture of cottage cheese, and he said, No, it is totally normal! and he kissed me with tongue for twenty minutes. Then he said, It’s time for the penis, and I said, Awesome, and he said, You are so beautiful it is my dream come true to make love with you, and I said, Thank you, Dr. Rudnitsky, and then he wiggled his penis inside my normal vagina and his penis was so amazing and everything felt great like on TV. He said, You are just so sexy, and looked deep into my eyes and then he pulled his penis out of my vagina and collapsed back onto the bed and said, Wow, I need a cigarette after that! and I said, Me too, but I don’t smoke cigarettes, and he said, Me neither, they’re the number one killer in the USA, and I said, I love you, Dr Rudnitsky, and he said, I love you, Chava, and I said, Dr. Rudnitsky, do you think I am sexually normal, and he said, Chava, you are totally sexually normal and you have a great body. Then I was so happy I wanted to scream again but I didn’t. It was all so meaningful and really made me a woman.
I thought I was going to be happy for the rest of my life. Then I got some terrible news. My mom said that she called the dentist’s office to make an appointment and they told her that Dr. Rudnitsky is moving full-time to his vacation home in New Mexico. I think she must be telling lies to try to tear Dr. Rudnitsky and me apart.
I don’t know what to do and I can’t sleep. Also, I can’t stop crying. I feel like my throat is full of sand. I think this is what the Holocaust must have felt like.
Last night I sat in the kitchen and watched Lifetime movies until it started to get light out and drank four glasses of whole milk with sugar mixed in and ate three pieces of toast with butter and honey because I couldn’t find any dessert in my mom’s usual hiding spots. Then I felt sick and almost threw up and went back to bed and cried because of course Dr. Rudnitsky is moving full-time to New Mexico when I have such a gross body and always do disgusting things like eat until I am sick which only makes me more and more fat. He’s probably moving away because he knows I’m just going to get fatter and fatter until I am a blimp and then I’m going to die. Dr. Rudnitsky knows the truth which is that it doesn’t matter how mature your boobs are if you’re fat because when you’re fat even your boobs are gross.
I know it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all but right now I wish I had never loved and I wish I had never turned thirteen and I wish I didn’t have to go to Catholic school and wear a stupid uniform and I wish my mom wasn’t of a different culture with a hard immigrant childhood and I wish I could make her stop crying and that she would stop locking herself in rooms and saying she can’t take it anymore every time I am annoying. I wish I wasn’t so annoying. I wish she would stop saying that when I throw tantrums it makes her want to kill herself even though my dad says she doesn’t mean it and is just expressing herself in a Jewish way, but I don’t even throw tantrums anymore, I just sometimes get upset and express myself and I wish my vagina wasn’t so disgusting.
Everything is fine!
I can’t believe I ever thought Dr. Rudnitsky would betray me when he is my soulmate. This morning he climbed up the fire escape which goes straight to my bedroom and knocked until I woke up because I was sleeping really late.
Chava, he said. I am here to clear up this whole mess.
What mess? I said in order to play it cool.
I looked pretty stupid in my monkey pajamas without my tinted lip balm on. Dr. Rudnitsky took off his shoes and sat on my bed so I sat on my bed next to him. It was hard to look him in the eyes because I felt like my stomach was going to explode.
You may have heard from your mom that I am moving full-time to my vacation home in New Mexico, he said.
Yes, I said.
He said, I bet you thought she was telling lies to tear us apart. It makes sense that you would think that because your mom can be really hard on you for no reason except for her own emotional and mental problems. But she was not telling lies. I did tell your mom that I was moving full-time to my vacation home in New Mexico.
Oh, I said.
He said, I didn’t tell her the whole truth because I wanted to talk to you about this myself. I am sorry I mentioned anything to her. That was probably really confusing and hurtful. I am only moving to my vacation home in New Mexico full-time if you will come with me.
He touched my chin with one of his big beautiful hands.
You need to get out of this town, he said. You are so unique and special and I think you need a fresh start. I would like to do a fresh start with you in New Mexico, where we can be together all the time and you can reinvent yourself.
What about your wife? I said.
I am getting a divorce, he said. She is not even Jewish and I am in love with you.
Dr. Rudnitsky, I am so relieved, I said.
He said, Is that a yes?
I said, I will have to think about it so I can make a mature decision about my future.
Then I took off my monkey pajamas and we made love in the missionary position and also other positions and looked deep into each other’s eyes and I saw his soul and he saw my soul and he said, You have a beautiful soul, and I thought, I have a beautiful soul.
The next day at school was supposed to be my big presentation. Before I left the house in the morning I showed my mom my poster. It had turned out really well. For the people I couldn’t find photographs of in our photo albums, I had done little drawings of what I thought they might have looked like. The man named Moishe I gave a top hat.
My mom was in her robe, eating yogurt at the kitchen table and watching BBC news.
See, Mama, I said. Here’s your side of the family.
Chaveleh, she said. Talk quieter. You’re screaming. I’ve been up since four in the morning.
Look, I whispered. I pointed to the part with all the yellow stars and red X’s. She squinted at the poster board. Then she looked at me. Then she stood up and grabbed the poster out of my hands. She threw it onto the floor and sat cross- legged next to it and started tearing off all the little stars and X’s, one at a time.
What’s wrong with you! I screamed. This is my big project! I’ve been working on it for two weeks!
You stupid idiot, she said, still not looking at me. You want to know about the Holocaust? You want to know how they shot my grandmother in the face? You want to hear about it every day for the rest of your life? You want it so bad, I can give it to you. You little American schmuck.
The floor was covered in tiny bits of red and yellow. They looked like confetti. I snatched the poster away from my mom and tried to tear it in half but it was too thick so I grabbed the kitchen shears that my mom uses to cut apart rotisserie chickens and I cut right down the middle of the poster board and then I cut each half in half and each half of a half in half and I threw every piece on the floor where my mom was still sitting.
I’m moving, I screamed. I’m moving to New Mexico.
She stared at me. Her eyes were red and there was no expression on her face. I had snot dripping from my nose into my mouth but I didn’t know how to get rid of it. She started to laugh.
What the fuck are you talking about, she said.
New Mexico is the most amazing state in the USA. New Mexico is in the Southwest and was the inspiration of the artist Georgia O’Keeffe who painted flowers that are supposed to look like vaginas but do not look at all like my vagina. In New Mexico there are mountains called mesas that are flat like tables. The ground is brown and orange and pink. The sky is blue.
We are so happy here. We have had a fresh start. I don’t have to go to school anymore because I am going to be an artist. I have lost a lot of weight from all the outdoor activities. Lots of artists live in New Mexico because it is so beautiful.
Dr. Rudnitsky’s vacation home is an adobe house which means it is made of mud. It’s in the middle of nowhere and has a blue door. We are going to redecorate the inside so that it can really be a home for the two of us. When I am not doing art I watch hgtv for inspiration. We have been trying a lot of new and exciting things sexually. I wear sundresses every day. When you are in love, it is so, so easy to be happy.
Every Friday night I cook Shabbat dinner and we eat it outside while the sun sets. My parents are coming to visit pretty soon. They were sad that I left Chicago, but they respected my decision and are very happy for me. We have planted sunflowers. We are going to get a puppy.