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  • All We Have is Where We’ve Been
  • Hilary Zaid

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[End Page 86]


alicia dorman folded the candy packet over three times, stuffed it back into the box upside down and pushed it toward Casey: “Put that away where I can’t see it. If I can’t see it, I won’t remember we have it. If I don’t remember it, I won’t want it.” As if you could forget to want something. As if not having it in front of your face could be enough to extinguish desire. Casey and I wanted stuff. We wanted ramen noodles and we wanted hiphop back and most of all we wanted someone to love us, or at least someone to hold us for a little while, someone not our moms. I twisted the knob of the stove until it click click clicked like a little bird’s heart and lit a burnt-at-the-tip birthday candle that was lying in a dish with a cold tea bag, just to see the flame flare up, just to smell the old birthday-wish smell when I snuffed it, even though the wish was already gone. [End Page 87]

Outside, the rain curtained the Dormans’ square green garden, same as always. The red kettle whistled and the yellow tiles still gleamed but now the whistle sounded like crying and the gleaming looked like trying too hard, grinning through tears. It was nearly 3 p. m., nearly the witching hour, and we felt the old restlessness of getting out of school. We wanted to go out. Casey took the chocolate-covered honeycomb and stuffed the packet of treats into the kitchen cabinet, even though their mom was watching. We were all watching to see what we would do, Casey, their mom and me. Then Alicia, whom I had known too long and too well to call Mrs. (and who wasn’t married anymore, anyway), handed Casey the key.

Alicia Dorman, Realtor, had every professional reason to go into and out of houses, to let strangers drop keys into her hand. In and out, slipping right through the net of Nest cams and Ring doorbells and porch cams collecting faces so easily requisitioned by the cops. Who knows who at the synagogue picked her, how they let her know her services were required. Who knows if they even told her in advance, or if some stranger sufficiently distanced from the rabbi and the hazzan and the president of the board remembered her from religious-school carpool days and knew she could be counted on, knew it would be too hard for her to say no.

Casey, who had been hocking their mom for hours now about making the delivery for her, counted on their mom not to be able to say no—not to Casey, not to us. It was our futures, she always said, that had been stolen. “You can’t keep us inside forever,” Casey pleaded. I had my own reasons for wanting to get out.

Casey’s mom bit her lip as she relented, but she told us what to do as if it had been her idea all along. “I need you and Juliet to bring this to Mr. Kamal at the old Chimes Market.” Casey turned the key over in their hand. It was the big brass key that opened the door to the synagogue basement, where they were hiding the last Torah, the small, knock-kneed one from Czechoslovakia, in a plain pine box. Mr. Kamal had a friend who worked at the Port of Oakland who could make things disappear. “Make sure you put it directly into Mr. Kamal’s hand.”

Casey slipped the key into their pocket, where I imagined it felt five thousand years heavier than a few ounces of brass. I knew Casey was relieved to take the task away from their mom, and I knew that they believed nothing could hurt us. We were seventeen and immortal, and even if we weren’t, we didn’t care, because it was either do something or give in. I knew because I felt that way...


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pp. 86-100
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