I Beg Your Forgiveness

The Second Essential Scary Truth


Tonight at sundown began Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  Observant Jews will spend this day fasting while in meditation and prayer while asking G-d for forgiveness for their sins and misdeeds of the previous year.  However, this isn’t like a Catholic’s trip to the confessional.  You don’t just walk into the synagogue, sit there say the prayers and walk out with a soul free of sin.  That ain’t the way it is in Judaism.  In order for your trespasses to be removed, you have to find the people you wronged and ask for their forgiveness.  Once properly absolved by those you have sinned against, then and only then G-d can and will forgive you.  To make sure the faithful follow this step, the religion allots the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for this very purpose.  This time is called the Days of Awe and may very well be the most important time on the Jewish calendar.  Forgiveness, meditation on changing ones life for the better, all of these ideas are to be contemplated during this period.


In 2008 America, this just isn’t done.  Perhaps it’s just that we’re too busy or maybe it’s because there are so many different branches of Judaism in the United States (in the Old Country you were either Jewish or not), little things like unburdening ones soul over the course of a ten day period tend to fall by the wayside, especially when it is to be coupled with such antique ideas like throwing fish heads into the river.  But it’s ok, rabbi means lawyer, right?  Someone somewhere will figure out how to make you seem like a good person, even if the many people in the larger group at your Shiva (a Jewish wake) are thinking about how you slept with their wives and how much money you owe them.


Although not very observant, at the very least, I attempt to use The Days of Awe as a way to sort the occasional mess that is my life out.  I plan how I can be better, do good things and in general, become a better person.  This is no mean feat for an occasionally arrogant, stubborn, thick headed bastard such as myself but I always make the attempt to embrace the concept of humility, fluidity and openness, even if it only last days or weeks. 


“You have to forgive yourself before anyone can forgive you,” my friend Peter tells me.  Although I’ve heard this clichéd axiom a multitude of times, it has only been in the past few years I have tried to put it to use for me.  For the most part, I have found a bit of inner peace by putting something into practice I thought was a tree hugger sensibility.  However, there is one incident not so deep as I could claim subconscious status but a regret that I cannot find it in my heart to forgive.  It bothers me and on this day when I go before my G-d to ask for the divine gift of lifting of sin from my soul, I feel the need to confess and as the players from this event are long gone, allow me to beg your indulgence.


It was in April of 1993 and my friend Jack decided I wasn’t dating enough.  At the time, I wasn’t dating at all.  Three weeks earlier, the French girl I had been seeing broke up with me.  “We have great sex, your last name is Zola and you make me laugh but I don’t want to be lovers anymore,” she said.  Honestly, I didn’t know whether to be depressed or impressed.  I found the line uber cool in a Leonard Cohen sort of way and wished I had been able to utter it.


Jack, however, decided that 24 was the time to find a perspective mate and settle down.  There would be no breaks to re-group, only the forward movement of one that is on a quest.  In his occasionally subtle Virginian gentleman way, he walked in to our daily breakfast at the Odessa and announced he had found my wife.  Her name was Helen, she was a bartender and from Hazel Park, Michigan.  “She’s hot, loves the Replacements, wears granny glasses and is from Detroit.  I’m telling you its fate, Alex,” he told me.  He walked me over to Woody’s on Seventh Ave., to introduce us.  Helen was as advertised and we seemed to hit it off.  With prodding from Jack, we agreed to meet that Wednesday for drinks after she got off her shift at 10pm. 


Although we seemed to like each other but I was unsure if it was due to Jack’s nudging or genuine excitement and chemistry.  Jack, on the other hand, was giddy at the prospect of being a first time matchmaker and actually having it work out.  He tried to arrange every detail, although I had no idea where I was going to take Helen on my rather limited budget.  Wednesday came with the general nervousness that precedes a first date.  Jack, however, had the cure.  “Here, take this,” he handed me an off white pill.  “I got them from a friend; I gave one to Helen as well.  Don’t worry, it’s like a valium, it will take care of your nerves.”


An odd way to take care of the jitters perhaps but those early Clinton/Giuliani years were odd times.  The fascist law and order mentality had yet to take total hold of the city and it seemed perfectly normal to share a pill with a friend.  What harm could it do to feel no nervousness when on a first date with beautiful girl?  And the nervousness was gone after a few minutes, replaced with a stunning amount of paranoia.  Worse yet, Helen and Jack were feeling the same way.  When I met up with Helen, she was sitting in the corner of a booth at a local West Village bar, holding a beer glass in front of her for protection.  I grabbed a beer at the bar and did the same in the other corner, praying no one would come through the door with an Uzi.  We sat like that, occasionally speaking in quick statements the other would quickly agree with.  Nice weather today.  Yes.  You look nice.  Thank you.  Do you like living in New York? Yes. 


After an hour, it seemed our paranoia was dying down, perhaps the pill was wearing off or it was just safety in numbers but Helen managed the first complex statement of the date; I used to work at the Big Apple Circus and they are camped in Prospect Park.  Would you like to go out to Brooklyn and meet my friends?  Granted it took her three minutes to get the sentence out, while looking through the crowd with a craned neck but it seemed better than sitting there in the booth so I agreed.  After 10 minutes on the F Train, I realized this might not have been the best idea I had ever had as I was even more paranoid than when sitting in the bar.  The paranoia got worse as we got off at the Park Slope stop and made our way across the dark, scary park to the large tents of the Big Apple Circus. 


Helen went in to find her people and left me standing outside, looking at a flap with light around the edges.  A twig snapped, a nut crumbed and I jumped.  It seemed like hours, although only a few minutes that she had gone inside.  My breathing was heavy, labored as Helen called finally called me in to meet her friends. ‘Oh salvation,’ I thought.  Inside, much to my shock, I found myself surrounded by six circus midgets.  I looked over both of my shoulders, expecting a dead relative to pop out from the shadows, slap me and start lecturing me about getting a haircut.  Finally, I poked one of the little people in the shoulder.  “You’re real aren’t you,” I asked.


“Yes, I am,” he replied.


It was then I did what any cognizant person would do in that circumstance: I screamed and ran out of the ten, across the park to the avenue, hailed a cab and got my ass back to Manhattan.  I got out of the cab at West Broadway and Houston and ran the seven blocks back to my West Village apartment at Bedford and Carmine.  I’m sure the cabbie was happy to get rid of me too, as all I could do was go on about the midgets that were following me.  I was still freaking out as I ran into my bathroom, wedged myself between the toilet and vanity and used the plunger to keep my roommate and his Dead Head friends at bay while I came down from whatever pill it was that Jack gave me.


I never saw Helen again, although Jack and I still laugh at my paranoid night freaking out over circus midgets.  I do, however, still feel guilty about my treatment of the little person whose shoulder I poked.  I have always wanted to apologize in someway for my tasteless display under the influence of some ugly pill but have never found the right individual to express my regret.  Back in January of 2001, during a fierce blizzard, I had a little person at the bar.  I was going to tell him the story and offer my apologies but when I went to give last call at 4am, he told he “you better watch it tall guy, I have a gun.”


Before I could get a word out of my mouth, he got up, and backed his way out of the bar, holding open his jacket revealing the handle of a revolver.  Whether a joke or not, I was worried about what story I would have to come up with to tell my boss why I was shot in the knee.


So in lieu of the players, I offer this apology on Yom Kippur, 2008: to any little person or anyone else I may have offended over the course of the years, I apologize and hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.  And please, check all weapons at the door, just like you were in Tombstone, Arizona. 


Is there anyone you haven’t been able to ask forgiveness from?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Every Friday, get 2 for 1 movie tickets when you use your Visa Signature card.

Recent Comments