For those readers just joining us … Returnees: proceed accordingly.
The summer after graduating high school, Rosie Goldstein stumbled across the chutzpah to hold a guy’s eyes for a moment longer than necessary. To talk about sex with blunt nonchalance, to French kiss, give a good hand job, a decent blow job, and eventually, to stop giggling. To occasionally benefit from reciprocation—though Rosie also learned to take care of that herself and preferred it. To let each man think he was the only one she wasn’t going all the way with. He was going to tell his friends she did, regardless, as she would hers. So no one, no one need know she was still a virgin.
Rosie hit upon these skills at the kibbutz her parents sent her to in hopes of Jewifying her for entrance to Brandeis University that fall. Men on the kibbutz were bronzed Army veterans of twenty-one or -two. They called her Rosie as if it were an adjective instead of her name and argued among themselves who would pluck her first. From watching Arab women at the market, Rosie discovered that a glimpse of the inside of the wrist was more entrancing then all the nubile skin American girls too willingly displayed. From experimentation, she ascertained that if the revelation appeared accidental, it was more hypnotic. And when you allowed him to talk you into it, you owned him.
While Israel proved that some men preferred not-blonde, Rosie didn’t expect to turn boyish heads at Brandeis that fall. Who knew, guys dressed right out of LL Bean wanted The Dog.
She had no idea why she couldn’t respond.
Rosie’s roommate was Lauren Erenberg. Lauren and Rosie met on the bus to Camp Moshav the summer they both turned ten. They remained “camp best friends” despite the 3000 miles separating their “regular” lives—through junior high crushes, first high school dances, first kisses (Rosie lied), and the college application process. Lauren’s Bubbe intended her for Jonathan, the grandson of Bubbe’s dear friend, Rifka, from Brooklyn. Lauren complained about it often enough. She was complaining about it, now, standing on her bed in her socks, taping a Wham! poster to the wall of their room in Massell. Rosie was about to wonder aloud how Lauren couldn’t tell the blond guy was totally gay, when the phone rang.
Rosie said, “It’s her again.”
“Don’t answer it.”
The phone stopped ringing.
Rosie grabbed one of Lauren’s Baas loafers, and held it to her ear. “Nu, what did you think?” Rosie switched the loafer to her other ear and dropped the Brooklyn accent. “I haven’t gone to meet him yet, Bubbe,” she continued, nailing Lauren’s Midwestern nasality, “but I’m too nice a Jewish girl to tell you to fuck off.”
Lauren squealed with illicit pleasure, and flung her other shoe. Rosie caught it, easy out. Holding one, penny-side in, to each ear, she flipped between Lauren and Bubbe.
“Lauren, you promised.”
“Bubbe, you’ve been shoving me at him since I was into Shawn Cassidy.”
“Ach, you call that a hair cut? And here, for you, such a nice boy.”
The girls crashed on the bed, wailing dramatically. Nice boy was Bubbe-code for all right, not so handsome, but Jewish.
As the howls subsided into laughter, then toward a satisfied silence, they heard from the door, “So this is the granddaughter of Tessie from the ek velt, Ohio.”
It was, of course, Jonathan. Rosie saw a pale Polish Jew with dark hair and impossibly large shoulder for his thin frame. Nothing special.
Lauren was seeing Jonathan in person for the first time, as well, but what he looked like or didn’t look like didn’t matter. In the cadence of his Bubbe imitation was everything her family wanted for her, everything she resisted, and everything she wanted for herself. Hamesh. She was going to marry Jonathan Weissman.
From the doorway, Jonathan saw the friendly knot of girls on a bed. The one Bubbe had been after him about was what he expected, what those girls were always like. But the other—a real tsatske; sinewy, with well-designed little boobies and sun-bleached tangerine curls he yearned to wrap around his fingers like tefillin.
Tomorrow: the third and final.