As I sat waiting for my father to arrive, it dawned on me that I probably have lost any privilege and what little freedoms I had. That thought alone made me feel like I was sinking into a deep dark bottomless abyss of depression.
I’m not entirely sure how I had managed it, but I had been allowed to go to college. Granted, it was a local college and I had to be home way before it got dark, and I really couldn’t pursue my real interests, but I took the opportunity and embraced the chance to learn more outside of my close-minded community.
The only acceptable career I could have chosen was Education, so I minored in Psychology and majored in Early Childhood Education. Of course, I snuck in a class here and a class there on things of interest and passed it as core requirements. My parents weren’t worldly and educated so I got away with that. My parents did want better for me. I know they love me and they only want what’s best for me. They knew a good education would land me a good paying job and I would be well off financially when I finally decided it was time to find myself an acceptable husband.
Back in 1997 the internet was just becoming a popular tool to be used for research. It was still in its infancy but because I was in college, I managed to obtain that second phone line for the internet. All in the name of this better education that my family were wanting me to have.
Yes, I did go to a Bais Yaakov yeshiva and the secular education was horrible. The emphasis was quite strong on the Hebrew studies and if you excelled, or attempted to excel in the secular areas you kinda put a bulls mark on your forehead. The teachers made my life a living h*ll. But that aside, I fought to obtain my High School diploma in the secular studies and threw myself into great poems, literature, science and history. I used the library an awful lot and managed to use what tools I had to give myself the knowledge that I so craved.
At first, I did want to go to Israel but not to a seminary. There was this very lax University there that I really and truly wanted to go, to experience. But unfortunately it could not be afforded. I then tried to research other, non-local, colleges and had them mail me pamphlets and information. I begged, I pleaded, I tried to show them how much better the college or universities where compared to the local one. But to no avail. They were adamant that I live at home and that I be home before it got dark. They wanted to know my schedule and I was given a beeper. If they ‘beeped’ me, I had to give them a ring ASAP. It was a way they could check up on me. It was my leash.
So I embraced what I did have. Local college it was. I was scared and excited all at the same time. Somehow I managed to get myself into an advanced Psych class with mostly Juniors and Seniors and it was my very first college class, very early in the morning.
I remember that day so very clearly. The professor looked so intimidating, so tall, so knowledgeable. The large class filled with students that were all a buzz with quiet conversation as the professor settled in. They quieted right away when he looked up and was ready to start teaching. I glanced around in utter awe. It was so incredibly amazing! I felt like I was in a movie. Everything seemed so surreal. I felt like I could easily get lost in this sea of people, but I felt like I could also finally find myself in this amazing sea of enlightenment.
To say my first semester was a breeze, is quite the understatement! It was hard, but I loved every single minute of it. I befriended so many people and none Jewish! I loved talking to others of different cultural backgrounds. I loved being a part of a diverse amount of students, working on a paper or project together. I soaked it all in! It was a dream come true for me, a dream I hoped would never end.
But, like all dreams… they do come to an end. Slowly the sand seeps between your fingers and then you realize you can’t quite remember what it was you dreamed about. Bits and pieces are all you are left with, the rest gone…
I was determine not to let that happen. I was determined to make this dream a reality for myself and not a brief encounter. I was determined to not be confined to the closed-mindedness of my cultural background. I was in college to make a life for myself and I was determined to do just that. And this was why I was in the predicament that I was in. Listening to my clock tick-tick-tick on as I waited for my father to arrive.
I could hear the door open, feet going up stairs, whispers and muttering. I knew I should be afraid. I knew I should be very scared. I knew how badly I wanted to leave and that I should hold onto those feelings. I knew I should feel something, anything, even anger at my situation. But I could not muster any of those feelings. In fact, I could not muster to feel any thing at all. I was cold. I was void of all emotions. Looking back, perhaps it was a way in which I was protecting myself.
Both my parents walked into the room. My father had tears in his eyes, my mother had been crying. They each took a seat. My father pulled a chair and sat to my right and my mother sat on my bed to my left.
I know I have blocked a lot of it. Trying to recall it gives me a headache. A lot was said, mostly by my father. They kept asking why and I could not answer. I remember the phone kept ringing and my father asked if it was a boy from college I was running away to be with. He kept pushing and pushing and wanted to know what was going on in college. He wanted to know who I met that put these evil thoughts in my head that caused me to do this. He asked if I was going to eat chazeer (pork). He asked how could I possibly do this to the family. He said I was essentially burying my family alive and forever marking them in the community. He asked how I could possibly do this to them, to my grandparents and to my siblings. He asked how could I not think how my actions would affect everyone. He said what would people think. How could they walk down their block without stares, how I have ruined their lives, how I have made life for my siblings so much harder now. And on and on…
My mother, silent for the most part, asked how I could be such an ice queen and not respond or show any emotion. Perhaps something was wrong with me, with my head, she said. Perhaps if I was mentally ill it would lessen the pain to what I did to my family and practically destroying them and burying them alive.
My father kept pushing, kept asking, who is this boy. He asked if I met him at college, this goy, this ape-like person who would make me eat chazeer. After being confined to my room with them, for what seemed like hours, being badgered with questions and interrogated, I finally admitted to what they wanted to hear. That it was a boy in college. That it was him that made me do this. That I was sorry.
My father seemed pleased I finally said something. Now I know how interrogated prisoners felt. Felt powerless and helpless and pushed to say whatever the interrogator wants to hear even though it is completely untrue.
He addressed my mother and told her they’d just send me to Israel to live with my grandparents there under their watch. Perhaps getting me far away from here would be good for me. My mother said she’ll call a Jewish counselor and see if I can get some therapy. They talked back and forth as if I wasn’t there.
The phone rang again.
My father said to pick it up and tell him it’s over.
I went to the phone and did just that. I apologized and said what my father wanted to hear.
My parents left me in the room while they went to talk some more on what to do with their supposedly mentally ill and disobedient daughter.