“Seriously? We’re just having a couple of drinks. They already know about you.”
This was the conversation I found myself having one Friday evening in September. I was sitting at a bar with the girls, them staring incredulously, heads bent over straws while I tried to negotiate with M over our plans for that night. The two of us had gotten past the formality of dating and were in a solid pattern of hooking up. I, however, thought it was about time that we at least attempted to pretend like we were interested in each other beyond closed doors.
After much negotiation, M agreed to meet us at a coffee shop directly across from his apartment building. It was an exceedingly awkward meeting; he shuffled his feet and refused to sit down and the girls glared at him with looks of unabashed ,disapproval. After a few minutes of excruciatingly stilted small talk, I excused us, leaving the girls staring after us silently.
“What the hell was that?” I asked.
“I told you,” Damn, he looked shifty tonight. “I’m not really supposed to be out.”
“What are you…Are you on house arrest or something?” Of course, I would go out and find myself an attractive, foreign, college-educated felon.
“No, no… no. I’ll tell you once we’re inside.” I slipped my hand into my purse and prepped my phone for a quick dial to my emergency “help-me-my-date-is-a-serial-killer” speed dial contact.
Once inside, he poured two glasses of wine. His apartment was surprisingly well-decorated– definitely the apartment of bachelors but ones who had at least watched HGTV once in their lives. Decorations or no decorations, I stayed close to the door.
“My roommate is out tonight. He will not be coming home.” Oh, great. He would get to murder me in peace.
“K,” he said, approaching me slowly. “I’m Jewish.” I looked at him expectantly. He stared back. Apparently, he expected a different reaction.
“Ok!” I tried again, adding a hint of exclamatory enthusiasm. “That’s great.”
“Oh, good.” He sighed. “So many girls here get weird when I say that.”
Turns out that my new friend had been the near constant victim of Anti-Semitism since his arrival in our nation’s Bible-enthusiastic region. Though a goy myself, I know that Judaism is few and far between. My parents were raised in a legendarily diverse Northeastern city and when they uprooted the family for Southern living, they were thrown by the lack of Bat Mitzvahs to attend and Rosh Hashanahs spent in school. That came to color much of my relationship with M. We were underdogs. Minority partners. He looked at our relationship as a sort of kinship. His religion and my race made us natural allies in his eyes. In his words, “You’re Black, you’re Jewish. Everyone hates us.” Even though hi sweeping generalization was completely cringe-worthy, I got it. So that fine Yom Kippur evening, the highest of high holy days, I came. I don’t know if it was the alcohol that I did consume or the food that I didn’t but that night, I felt like magic. Maybe M would be good for more than just the night.