Sunday, June 05, 2005

At Sixteen

When I was sixteen, I had a boyfriend who wasn't supposed to go out with me. He was from Canada and went to TA, the Talmudical Academy, across the street from where I lived. Nine months of the year he lived at TA with the other out-of-town boys; then he went back home. We met because when Marilyn and I played tennis on TA's brick wall the boys would watch us from their upstairs windows and they would call down to us and we would talk up and down to each other and they liked us and we liked them and they'd say stay/don't leave/we're coming down, and Marilyn and I would watch to make sure the shammos and the rabbis weren't around/and the boys would come outside/and they'd take our rackets away from us and we'd throw the tennis balls at them/and they'd give us our rackets back. We would laugh and have fun. But the rabbis said don't look at a girl because you'll want to talk to her and, then, you'll want to hold her hand; and if you hold her hand, you'll want to kiss her. And, then, it'll be over for you. It's a sin. So my TA boy and I/we'd walk through Druid Hill Park holding hands/ knowing all the while/a good TA boy (who grew up to become a rabbi) was following us. My TA boy kissed me on a park bench once. And in the brush behind TA he taught me how to smoke. And kiss. And in spring / before summer took him away from us, we necked downstairs in my hallway. A lot.

-Esther Altshul Helfgott

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