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Short Super Sad Story About A Breakup
“Something doesn’t feel right,” Jacob says. Tears are already starting to form in his eyes but he blinks them away.
“What’s up?” Christina asks, taking a bite of bacon from her fork. New York is bustling around them, people are yelling and honking, wheels on a skateboard rumble down the sidewalk. Everyone is sweating. Jacob wipes some sweat from his brow with a napkin.
“I’m not happy,” Jacob replies. He wants so badly to take a bite of his waffle but his throat feels closed. He’s not really hungry, his stomach is just churning and sloshing around like a washing machine with nothing inside.
There’s no way a beautiful girl is reading a graphic novel by my favorite cartoonist in Central Park. They say anything can happen here, but this girl is… wow. I can’t stop staring at her. Her gold hair is sparkling in the afternoon light and green shadows from the tree she is sitting under are splashed all over her.
“You don’t happen to be reading French Milk?” I call from the path below where she is sitting. She looks down at me with these beautiful, deep blue eyes.
“I am, actually,” she says with a blinding smile.
“You don’t like your food?” But all Jacob can do is look at her, he watches her blue eyes watching him. He watches how her blonde hair curls into big ringlets just below her collarbones. He’s always loved how her hair does that. He stares at the tiny gold ring with a green stone wrap around her finger. “Is there a scratch on my ring?” Christina asks, taking it off and rubbing it on her spaghetti strap shirt. She slips it back onto her finger and admires it before biting into another strip of bacon. Under the table, Jacob wraps his tzit tzit around his pointer finger.
“I’m not happy,” Jacob repeats.
“Having a bad day?” Christina’s blue eyes study Jacob’s face carefully. She puts her fork down and studies the line between Jacob’s eyebrows, the line that tells her when something is wrong.
“I’m not happy with our relationship,” Jacob says. Christina’s high-heeled foot stops looking for Jacob’s under the table. “I can’t marry you.” Christina’s eyes are already brimming with tears and so are Jacob’s. Jacob always cries when he sees Christina crying.
I never thought I’d be bringing an Orthodox Jew home to meet my WASP parents. But here we are. I’m at the wheel of my car and Jacob and I are holding hands. It is a beautiful June day; the sun is shining bright and Jacob insisted on us driving with the top down on our rental car. Jacob’s fingertips are dry from dragging them over page after page while studying last night. I don’t remember what he was studying for, but he was up all night. I told him he could meet my parents another day but he insists on today. And there is a bouquet of flowers at his feet.
“Are you ready, baby?” I ask as we pull up to my childhood home in Roxbury, Connecticut.
“Of course,” Jacob says with a smile. His eyes crinkle when he smiles and means it, and they’re crinkling. “I can’t wait.”
“What do you mean?” Christina asks with a trace of hope, as if she’s just not understanding. But Jacob can’t speak. He just buries his face in his hands and slowly shakes his head back and forth.
“I love you so much,” Jacob says.
“I love you too!” Christina practically shouts. “I love you more than anything and someday soon we’ll be married.”
“No, we won’t,” Jacob whispers. “We’re not getting married.” Christina begins to sob into her hands. The people in the diner try to ignore the scene but it is uniquely heartbreaking to watch a tall blonde woman cry into her hands while a short Orthodox Jewish man cry into his own.
I can’t resist those beautiful eyes.
“Baaaaabe,” Christina whines playfully as she slips her hand onto my knee. “I want to meet your parents!”
“Christina,” I laugh. She spins around and lays her head on my knees, her feet hanging off the side of the couch. “Christina,” I say again more seriously. “You know why you can’t meet my parents.”
“I told you I’d convert for you,” Chirstina says to me sincerely.
“Just give me time to figure it out. Then you’ll meet my parents, okay?”
“Why did you buy me this ring, Jacob?”
“Please don’t raise your voice at me, Christina.”
“Why did you buy me this God damn ring? Answer me, Jacob.” But I can’t. I can’t say anything. There are tears running down Christina’s face, black mascara marking rivers down her cheeks.
“I bought you the ring because I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you…”
“Good!” Christina yells, “Good! Then what’s the problem?”
“I want to, but it doesn’t mean I can.”
Jacob has seemed off all night. He looks around, rubs his hands together like he does when he’s nervous, and licks his lips over and over. He doesn’t hold my hand on the subway or look me in the eyes once while talking to me. He keeps his hands in his pockets until we get to Central Park.
“Christina,” he says, looking me in the eyes. “I love you. And I know it’s not easy living in the shadows but we can find a way to be happy and to make this work. So I bought you this ring, because I want to marry you.” He doesn’t get down on one knee but instead takes my hands and cups them in his own, holding them between our two chests. “This is our engagement ring, and for now put it on your pinky. Because when the time comes I’ll get you one for your ring finger.” And he slipped it on my finger and we both cried and laughed and kissed.
“You can’t give me the life I need. I need to marry a Jewish girl. A girl who my family can accept and trust. It’s not fair to you. I can’t let you be hated by my family…”
“All we need is each other,” Christina begs, “Just you and I is all we need.”
“That’s not enough,” Jacob says, shaking his head slowly. “Not anymore.
“Rivka,” I say sternly, grabbing her by the shoulders. “What did you see? What did you see?!” Rivka’s brows are furrowed and there is a line between them, her jaw is clenched and so are her fists.
“You’re not even supposed to touch women,” she says to me. “Only me and mom, you know the rules.”
“They’re not rules they’re… they’re guidelines,” I say back to her.
“Yeah I’m sure God considers them guidelines too,” she retorts. I shake her angrily and put my face close to hers.
“Don’t tell. Don’t. Tell,” I wag my finger in her face. “I’m figuring it out. Don’t tell and if you do… I swear Rivka if you tell…”
“Fine, I won’t. But let me go. And I want to be the first person to know everything about your stupid goy relationship. Ema and Abba are going to hate you.”
“She’s not a goy,” I say. “And thank you.”
“Yes she is,” Rivka says over her shoulder.
Christina takes off her ring and drops it into the leftover bacon grease on her plate.
“Do you want it back?” She yells, her shrill voice reverberating through the restaurant. “You’re going to hell! I would have never given up Jesus for you, you’re going to hell!” She takes me by the shoulders and shakes me. “Come on, Jacob! Say something! Do something! You’re going to hell, do you hear me?”
“Why would you say that?” I ask. But she just shoves some plates off the table and is on her way out into the smothering New York heat.