The Frame

107

He could see the frame, always. 

From the moment he was born. 

The frame. 

It was a gilded frame, and very ornate. Like the kind that framed those old fashioned pictures in his grandmother’s old fashioned dining room when he came to visit. 

With lots of unnecessary curls and leaves and shit.

He lived in two places at once. 

In his body, feeling the everpresent tightness in his stomach, the weight that could always be attributed to something. 

It was always there, and there was always something. 

An upcoming test. 

A page of talmud he’d read 18 times instead of 24. 

The pointlessness of it all. 

He lived outside as well. Zoomed out, seeing himself from behind his head, from the corner of the room, from a birds eye view. 

Looking down at the classroom, through the ceiling. Looking down on Rothchild square full of swarms of children trying to decapitate each other with a soccer ball. 

He could see the frame. 

The frame was the old city walls, 400 years old, that kept people in, and kept people out, and made for a pretty good eruv so you could actually carry things around on Shabbat. But some people still didn’t. 

The frame was laws. 

Starting with a blessing when you opened your eyes and ending with a blessing when you closed them, with many more blessings interspersed.

Along the way: prayers, bowing, reciting, suppressing, reviewing, denying.

The frame was God. 

A shadowy presence that he knew better than to imagine, but which he sensed. 

It was dark foreboding which loved him dearly, a consciousness that observed him constantly while ignoring him completely. 

It was everywhere outside of him, like walking through a cloud that conformed to the shape of his body.

His soul, he imagined, was shaped like a glowing cross. Nothing would persuade his mind otherwise. 

He escaped to better places. 

To fantasies of superheroes. 

He was harry potter and darth vader and neo all in one. A good darth vader, of course. 

He was always with a crew on the way to save the day. 

Here he had friends, or at least people who took orders. 

Here he mattered. 

He held assault rifles. He ran up steps while crouching. He was prepared. 

But his gun always had a cartoonish bend to it. As though his mind were telling him, you can’t even get a fantasy straight. 

When he masturbated, which he did frequently and with great reluctance, his mind would sing him songs. Religious songs, which he normally hated, but which now turned to earworms to accompany the thrusting and the grinding. 

His brain sang him songs about Torah, and loving to study, which was news to him. Try not to enjoy this.

He could see the frame not just in space, but also time. The whole world was only 6,000 years old. Each lifetime, only 80, 90, 120. All this, a prelude for eternity. The proportions didn’t make sense. 

Praying for messiah to arrive any day, as the deadline for the world’s end slowly approached. 

One day the world would know His One True Glory. And shortly thereafter it would all disappear. 

What even was the point? 

Blue cups without handles. 

Fluorescent lightbulbs. Two legged shtenders. 

There were good shtenders and bad shtenders. He always liked the small ones, with the leg rest at just the right height. Never really cared for the very fancy adjustable ones. 

Standing, sitting, bending, tilting, he became one with the shtender, gyrating out all the anxieties that come from seeing everything and knowing nothing. 

Fans attached to the wall, Air conditioners set to 16 degrees. Broken windows. He got pneumonia. 

Stone and cement, everything hard and unflinching. Fashioning popsicle sticks into spears through incessant rubbing, as the bible has prophesied. 

Following trails of dried blood from the school steps to the parking lot. Was it a nosebleed or a broken heart?

He often wondered about the point. The point of endless repetition of verses. Of names of plants which no one could identify. Of laws that pertained to buildings that were now rubble. 

He wondered why he was dumber than everyone else, as was demonstrated by him not understanding anything. 

Why no one answered all the glaring questions that only he saw. Why everyone else had self-discipline and all he had was self-loathing.

He wondered how the Torah made you a better person while everyone around him, who seemed quite well-versed, behaved like a complete ass. 

He wondered how you knew when to take a break, since knowing that would require trusting yourself and if there was one thing he knew is that we can’t be trusted.

There were 70 faces to the Torah, but some were prettier than others. 

Some looked like a snarling Rabbi, screaming red-faced as flecks of spit flew out of his mouth. 

About children behaving like children and other despicable things. 

About being a desecration of God’s name. 

Of not having a share in the world to come.

Even when he left religion behind, a pile of hatred and nostalgia that he preferred to pretend didn’t exist but which was always right behind him, he still saw the frame. 

He saw it in the interchanges between customer and cashier. Good morning. How are you? I’m good. 

In the inequities that Reddit surfaced daily. In the wars around politics and land and gender identity. 

In the viral posts and the comments of lascivious men. You have beautiful eyes, you know that? I’d love to get my hands on those eyes.

Seeing the frame meant containing contradictions without having a frame to contain them. 

Meaning inside, meaninglessness out. Nothing you ever did ever extended past the frame. 

It was the edge of the universe. The part which we no longer understood, except for this: nothing matters beyond that point.

It was a small world, this universe. 

Stretching from one ear to the other: the milky way, instant coffee, potato and hotdog stew with all the hotdogs removed, fake cologne by Hugo Boss. 

Each Jewish soul is incredibly precious, Arabs are donkeys, we should all strive to die as martyrs, muslims are terrorists, this undershirt is too scratchy.

He could condense it all into his mind.

The holocaust, pogroms, hate, pretending to love, actually caring. 

He was the frame.

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