By her twelfth birthday, my great-great-great-great-great- grandmother had received at least one proposal of marriage from every citizen of Trachimbrod: from men who already had wives, from broken old men who argued on stoops about things that might or might not have happened decades before, from boys without armpit hair, from women with armpit hair, and from the deceased philosopher Pinchas T, who, in his only notable paper, “To the Dust: From Man You Came and to Man You Shall Return,” argued it would be possible, in theory, for life and art to be reversed. She forced a blush, batted her long eyelashes, and said to each, Perhaps no. Yankel says I am still too young. But the offer is such a tempting one.
They are so silly, turning back to Yankel.
Wait until I pass, closing his book. Then you can have your choice of them. But not while I’m still alive.
I would not have any one of them, kissing his forehead. They are not for me. And besides, laughing, I already have the most handsome man in all of Trachimbrod.
Who is it? pulling her onto his lap. I’ll kill him.Flicking his nose with her pinky. It’s you, fool.Oh no, are you telling me I have to kill myself?I suppose I am.Couldn’t I be a bit less handsome? If it means sparing my life from my own hand? Couldn’t I be a bit ugly?
OK, laughing, I suppose your nose is a bit crooked. And on close examination, that smile of yours is a good bit less than handsome.
Now you’re killing me, laughing.Better than killing yourself.I suppose that’s right. This way I don’t have to feel guilty afterward.I’m doing you a great service.Thank you, then, dear. How can I ever repay you?You’re dead. You can’t do anything.I’ll come back for this one favor. Just name it.Well, I suppose I’d have to ask you to kill me, then. Spare me the guilt.Consider it done.Aren’t we so terribly lucky to have one another?
I did not think of my own father while reading the passage. But this afternoon, while stepping out of the toilet, I saw the door swaying open, the door to my brother's room. The lime green paint and the deep shade of brown wooden floor collided into each other, pieces of clothes and papers all scattered across the ground. I peeked and saw my father's leg, its veins bulging slightly, like a miniature of rising highways, devoid of colours, nude and mute. His silk pyjamas wrapped around his body loosely, as if trying to understand his fatigue and languor.
Yankel and Brod are now my favourite couple, their father-daughter relationship cannot get any better. I think it is only possible because they are not blood related in the first place, what they have is so charming and beautiful. It crosses various boundaries, jumps off wooden fences, breaks through golden cages and shoots through castle roofs. When Yankel dies, it does not only signify an impactful closure to their relationship, but also a fortuitous crack through which Brod finally finds an immediate possibility of finding someone else to attach herself to.
I always like my father, but we do not talk much to each other. This morning while having my breakfast I put everything is illuminated on the glass table. I went to the kitchen to serve myself a plate of rice and poached egg and meat and cucumbers. While making my way back to the dining room I saw the television was on, golfers on screen, surrounded by vast, infinite green. My father sitting, his face buried in my book. I ate silently, it was the first time my father bothered to spare a glance at my reading material. Minutes passed by, and the first thing that he said was: "How great Alexander is, being able to travel back and forth."
I turned my head, slowly enough in my memory, and said, "Yes."
He flipped through the book, fingering the edge of each page, hovering over the sentences, his face full of creases and folds. He asked, "This book is full of lies, isn't it?" "Father, it is fiction." "Why should you read a book of lies?"
My father and mother barely acknowledge what literature is, let alone read it. They do read newspapers. Magazines. Words on screen. Subtitles. Menus. My textbooks. Brochures. Dictionaries. But not fiction or poetry or prose or play or literature.
I said to him that language is important, and there is so much I can learn from such books. They are relevant, they are shared knowledge, they are binocular perspectives, not lies or merely jointed words.
I do not know how relevant it is to my father. But at least he does not forbid me from reading. That is good enough. He is an understanding father. I like my father.
(Right after I wrote that last sentence, my father came into my room, bringing a bag of roasted chestnuts and fruit. He asked about my homework. I said I had it done this afternoon.)