There was a magnet perching on the fridge which listed the moment of sunset for every single Shabbos of that year, but still she liked to weigh with her own hands its old and sore refrain. She had laid out the candle and the wine and five filmy pouches crammed with spicy cloves onto the table like blades, and for eighteen minutes she had been nagging at the evening to despoil itself; weary of the way it was just pushing its luck now, clawing onto the daisies in the front garden for dear, dear life until they paled and swallowed. How whole canyons slither between shades and syllables, she thought, and how my Shabbos is your Shabbat and your Shabbat her Sabbath and their different endings very nearly amount to nothing. She could hear her three daughters curling and scrubbing the leaves of their books in the TV room and also above her head her husband’s patter, and she thought that if she just lit the candle, they would come and then it would all be done and dusted thank G-d in five minutes and who would measure the untimeliness? When people asked her if she was Orthodox she replied with a laugh that she was ambidextrous, but later in bed would cry trying to get her head around why hairs had to be split where selves could not.
Off-beat then, she set to moulding melodies known but not understood, and believed only very deeply. The girls heard and huddled round her, staring earnestly at the wax plaited impossibly and pillared by many wicks, uncertain where it became flame. She could see that the youngest one was wanting to hold it so she steadied it into her hands, sliding a silver tray beneath to catch its dribble. Still he did not come but they went on singing and sawing the sacred from the unholy as if they were delivering fruit back to its tree, and when it came to the moment of the saying of the blessing over the wine she paused but still he did not come. So she did it herself and the words heaved themselves down delicate scales and aslant innumerable ages and up she lifted the tawny goblet. And each was thinking that still he did not come but hid their faces inside their nails, scrunched their eyes sadly into the ridges, looking for a trick of the light. They shoved the spices up their noses and dunked the flame into the dregs and then they dipped their fingertips one by one into the warm wax so that they surfaced wearing white little mittens. That was apt, she felt, for suddenly it was slightly colder and barer. Images of proper send-offs with lovely gold-leaf finishes entered her heart and she tried to put her finger on exactly how many more fallings short would occasion the falling apart.
Words by Kate Greenberg. Art by Sasha LaCômbe.