In his latest shmooz Rav Benzi had a new message.
“When you are out with a girl don’t lose your head — even if she’s the prettiest girl you’ve ever seen.. Listen carefully to what she is saying and how she is saying it.” He repeated himself as if repetition would seal his message onto his listeners’ brains. Asher arched forward his hands pressed on his cheeks.
And yet Asher had, no dates scheduled Scarcely a week had passed since he’d met Sarena but he was gloomy. . “It’s dead. Nobody wants me, ” he told Itamar Levi when they returned to their room.
“Well there are other matchmakers, amuka, forty days at the kotel…”
“Yeah.” Asher’s head hung low as he hunched over his dormitory bed. “That might be a vision of my future. ”
“It’s not so bad.” Levi smiled
“Are you still seeing that girl? ,”Asher asked.
Just then Asher’s phone rang. It was his father.
“Can you go out tomorrow night?”
That was a first, a date offered by his father of all people. He wasn’t a mystic but the timing, the call coming on the heels of Rav Benzi’s talk convinced him that this was more than this. coincidence; it was bashert, preordained. He didn’t use to think this way. Just a few months ago he would have demanded more information and certainly a photograph but his cancer scare had changed him. Marriage wasn’t a game. It was a mitzvah part of his pact with G-d, something he needed to do and according to Ethics of the Fathers he was four years late. He couldn’t put up roadblocks anymore. If his father said he should meet this girl, then he would.
“Yes, that’s fine,” he said. He didn’t even ask her name.
Asher meet Rahely at the same hotel where he’d met Elisheva Lefkowitz seven months before. Raheli’s parents brought her. Her father was a stout grey-bearded man in a black rabbinical coat and a homburg , her mother thin, scrawny looking, plain. Would Rahely look like her in thirty years?
Rabbi Silver quizzed him on his learning, but the questions were easy and superficial. His smile was warm and his handshake solid.
Rahely was tiny,. Even in heels Rahely barely reached his chin and Asher was average height. . How could he marry someone who was so short? Their kids would be midgets. Otherwise she wasn’t bad looking but her cheeks were red and bumpy, her eyes tiny dark slits but her smile was electric and her laugh was filled with music.. They sat together until a waiter warned them that if they didn’t leave soon they’d miss the last bus home.
“Yes too bad, ” said Rahely. “I usually hate these things. They are so awkward, but this has been lovely.”
Asher ‘s face turned warm and flushed.
Her words energized him. He took her home by taxi and then spent a half hour lingering at her door saying goodbye. When he got back to the yeshiva his room was empty. Good. He didn’t want them to ask questions. He would keep this quiet, to avoid the evil eye. As he brushed his teeth he hummed the Jewish wedding song his feet tapping along. Was Rahely doing the same thing? He hoped so but then he remembered Sarena Feldman. He’d come back from that date humming too but she rejected him. Looking back, he was glad. She may have been prettier that Rahely, certainly taller, but he liked Rahely better. There was something about her, chemistry. They laughed at each other’s jokes, liked the same music, the same books, the same places.
“Please ,” he prayed ” Let Rahely want to see me again too.”
Just as he was about to sit down to breakfast his father called. “Esther phoned. she says that Rahely wants another date. I’m really happy for you but can you call her yourself.”
“Sure , not a problem.”
This wasn’t the way things were usually done but Asher didn’t mind. He was glad to be in charge of his own dates.
He left his breakfast cottage cheese with a few slices of bread and a half a tomato untouched., Nothing would happen to it and he slipped out to a nearby playground. The place was deserted, only him and a very young mother and her pudgy faced toddler daughter, who played quietly in the sandbox.
Asher paced the circumference of the park punching Esther’s number into his phone over and over again the mother eyeing him suspiciously. . On the eleventh try he got through.
“Yes, she said she likes you. She wants to see you again” With that Asher leapt into the air and yelled yes, but the mother had already grabbed her daughter and they were making a hurried exit from the park.
“Esther, excuse me for a second…”
“Lady,” he yelled. “I’m not a terrorist,” but she’d already left.
He resumed his conversation with the matchmaker trying to schedule the next day as quickly as possible.
“Don’t see her today. Give her another day or two to digest this.”
“Why?. I like her . She likes me..”
Esther’s voice dropped an octave. “Please, just listen to me. I know what I’m doing. The date will be the day after tomorrow, And in the future I’d prefer to deal with your father or mother, not you.”
“My parents are okay with whatever I do. Just tell her that we’ll go wherever she wants to go Whatever is convenient for her. ”
After that Esther phoned Nahum. “Please, I’m in shul. Asher is an adult.”
“Yes he is but he isn’t . I know my business. If you want me to continue you’ll have to cooperate.”
“So call my wife.”
Molly was on her way to a new exercise class, soul cycle, dance moves performed on a stationary bike when Esther phoned. “I thought Nahum would be handling this.”
“He told me to call you. Doesn’t anyone in your family talks to one another”
“How dare— Molly was just about to give Esther a piece of her mind when she caught herself. “Please , give me a minute.”
She poured herself a glass of ice water and took long slow sips. No she couldn’t yell back. Esther had introduced Asher to a girl he actually likes. And yet she still felt insulted.
“I’m going to phone you. You are my contact person from now on and you will relay the messages.”
“But I think things went better without me.” Molly was was the kiss of death. Every match she’d researched or proposed had been torpedoed . For once she’d stepped out of seemed to be going.
“Your son can’t do it and your husband isn’t available. You’re going to have to take my calls.”
“Okay,” Molly felt like a private saluting a general. If only Esther weren’t so annoying but the circumstance beyond the call excited her. Asher seemed to care about this girl and she seemed to care about him. Love was in the air and she had a contact high.