Nets This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Thetrip to the hospital takes 15 minutes, 20 if the roads are cop-infested,which they usually are. On my daily trip I pass a number of less obvioustraps than cops, what Stephen Dedalus [JamesJoyce's protagonist from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and themain character in the beginning of Ulysses] would call "nets." Ipass my temple, I pass my school; I'm driving on American soil, and myfinal destination is my mother. Stephen denounced most of these aspectsof life by saying, "I will not serve that in which I no longerbelieve." His words are an inspirational slogan every high schoolstudent has uttered, just in a different form: "I'm not doinghomework, it's so pointless." Non-serviam: I will not serve. In myheart I believe in it, but the question is, am I strong enough to liveby it?

The temple sits grandly on the side of the road, amonument to modern architecture. It doesn't look at all like the templeI went to just a year ago. The name is the same but the building and itsmeaning have changed. When I was younger I hated going to Hebrew school.I drew skulls and crossbones on my notebook and if I hadn't discoveredboys I doubt I would have become a bat mitzvah. But thanks to Michael,my obsessive love for four years, I not only became a bat matzvah, Iwent on to confirmation. For about two years I was into religion -mention of the Holocaust reduced me to tears and I went around schoolmuttering prayers in Hebrew for no reason, except the pure joy ofspeaking holy words in a language I had no idea how to translate. But inmy heart I didn't really believe a lot of what my rabbi and cantor weretrying to plug into me.

Last year, our old loveable, comfortabletemple was rebuilt and became completely foreign to me. My rabbi took aleave of absence and my cantor got pregnant, so there were no familiarfaces.

I could discuss for hours how I wish I could renounce thewonderful institution of school. I could discuss how two students tryingto find a quiet place to study for a math test got kicked out of thelibrary because, heaven forbid, we arrived 10 minutes late. Or, I couldsay how much pointless information I've had to cram into my head just toreceive some letter of the alphabet that doesn't tell me anything exceptthe opinion of the person doing the grading. I've written tons ofbaloney in my school years - it's truly an art form - and gottenperfect grades for it. When I decide to write something from my heart,though, I invariably do badly. My view of school is this: you go, youmemorize as many facts as you can and stay up night after night to getgood grades to go to a good college to make loads of money in yourchosen career. I cannot believe I'm killing myself for pieces of paperwith dead presidents on them. But I know I will never drop out of thisgreed-obsessed cycle. Which brings me to America.

I am likemillions of other people in this country; I watch the Olympicspassionately with the cheesy little stories about athletes that make mesob my heart out. I feel a strong sense of pride and nationalismwatching American athletes kick butt in almost every sport. Yet I rarelysay the Pledge of Allegiance and if I stand it probably isn'tintentional. I can recite all 50 states in alphabetical order, if thatcan be considered patriotic. I love the rights and freedoms I've beengranted as an American but I don't think about them because I've neverknown anything different and never had to fight for them. Most of thetime the only thing I feel for America is indifference.

By thetime I reach the hospital the sun is setting. I walk easily through theantiseptic-smelling halls toward her room. As I walk over the thresholdmy eyes connect with my mother's. Blank acceptance becomes warmrecognition as the corners of her lips curve upward in an innocentsmile. She does not remember a lot of the past; she exists for thefuture. Most of the time she does not understand why things are the waythey are, but she learns to accept them. Her smile shows she does notremember the pain of this past year: the loss of my grandmother, theflood, my dad's accident, my Hodgkin's disease, her own illness. Theworld has not had time to make her cynical again.

One day I willfly by one or two of those other nets, when I am ready and strongenough. I walk to my mother's bedside and smile gently at her. Here isone net I will never fly by.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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