"Amy, this is my brudder, Chaim."
My uncle holds out his hand and shakes mine. He's a tall guy with a definite resemblance to Ron. They both have that same strong, muscular build.
The guy is smiling, but I can tell there's tension behind that facade. Anger, too, although I don't know if it's directed at me or SD (short for Sperm Donor, I'm too hot and sweaty to think of him as anything other than SD).
"Call me Dodor Uncle Chaim," he says.
As if I could even say that name. He pronounces the C-h like he's about to hack a loogie. I swear I can't do those back throat noises for the life of me without making a complete ass of myself. I'll just call him Uncle Chime and leave off the gurgling back-throat noise.
The lady beside Uncle Chime steps forward. I'm shocked when she pulls me to her and hugs me tightly. My first instinct is to push her away, but her embrace is so warm and loving. I find myself leaning into her arms. She releases me after a long time, puts her hands on my shoulders, and holds me at arm's length.
"Beautiful girl," she says with a deep Israeli accent.
She has these earrings with bells on them and no makeup on her face. My mom wouldn't be caught dead outside the house without makeup. Or earrings with bells dangling from them. The truth is, this woman is pretty without makeup and the bells just make her look angelic instead of stupid.
She lets go of me and says with a smile, "I'm your aunt Yikara. Just call me Doda Yucky, okay?"
"Ookaay," I say in a singsong voice to alert SD I'm not comfortable calling this lady Yucky.
"Doda is 'aunt' in Hebrew," SD explains as if that was the part of this whole exchange that needed explanation.
She just asked me to call her yucky!
There are two more people standing there. One is a small boy, probably around three years old, with blond curls spiraling out of his head like Medusa's snakes. He's wearing nothing but a pair of Power Ranger underpants.
"Shalom, ani Matan," he says in a cute little voice. I have no clue what he's saying, but he's so adorable and his curls bounce on his head as he speaks. I step toward him and shake his little hand affectionately.
The last one, a dirty blonde-haired teenager who is a bit taller than me, just stands there with her arms crossed over her chest. She's wearing the tightest jeans I've ever seen on a human being and a crop shirt showing most of her flat stomach. I don't need a sixth sense to know she's royally pissed-off.
"This is your cousin, O'snot."
This time my laugh just comes out without warning. Although when I come to my senses and realize nobody else is laughing, I stop pretty quick. Okay, now O'snot is not just pissed-off, she's got my famous, one-of-a-kind sneer down pat as if she'd invented it herself.
I don't hold out my hand in greeting because I'm pretty sure my snotty cousin will ignore it. So I just say, "Hi."
"Hi," she says through gritted teeth. Nice.
"Let's go inside so you can meet your Safia," Uncle Chime says.
I'm getting a little piece of satisfaction when I notice Ron's armpits are wet through his shirt. My armpit wet spots are the size of grapefruits, but Ron's are the size of small watermelons. He's more nervous than I am for me to meet my grandmother.
You can run from some problems, but then you get caught up in others.
I enter the house slowly and peer inside. A kitchen is right in front of me. I follow Ron to the left and find a woman sitting on a rocking chair next to a window. She has white hair massively peppered with dark strands.
She looks at me with bright blue eyes that almost glow. Our gazes meet and I feel like I'm looking in the mirror at my own eyes. I'm so overwhelmed it almost chokes me. Is the air getting thicker?
I start breathing heavier, trying to get air into my constricting lungs.
My sick Grandma.
She looks small and weak. Is she dying?
Turning to the rest of the family, I realize they're all staring at me. It makes me feel like I'm being judged on some reality show they're watching. An over-excited television announcer's voice in my head says, Will Amy make a mistake and screw up this first meeting? Watch next week's episode of Illegitimate Children and find out if her sick grandmother accepts or rejects her in front of thirty million viewers...
Before I even realize it, I turn and run out of the house before anyone can see the tears welling in my eyes. I run and run and run until my legs want to give out. I'm passing rows of houses, haystacks, horses, cows, and sheep as if I'm on some kind of farm set in Hollywood.
When I stop running and start walking, I think Sofia must think I'm some stupid idiot. I meant to hug her, I really did. But not in front the rest of the family. I feel like they're analyzing my every move.
I keep walking, pissed at SD for making my first meeting with Sofia a spectacle. A small wire fence is in front of me, and as I attempt to step over it, a voice stops me.
"You can't go there."
I freeze and turn to the harsh voice. It's no-shirt guy standing in front of a pile of hay about three stories tall. A sheen of sweat on his chest sparkles in the sunshine, but I'm trying not to pay attention to it. Instead, I think about something gross. Like how he must smell like sheep and sweat and how he's in desperate need of a shower. But, for that matter, so am I. I wipe the tears falling down my cheek with my fingertips.
"Isn't this a free country?" I say with attitude.
The last thing I need is for some hard-ass teenager to think I'm weak.
He turns around and flings a whole bale of hay into the sheep pens.
"The sign says a minefield is behind the fence. If you want to take your chances, I won't stop you," no-shirt-cute-jerk says as he enters the sheep enclosure.
At this point I'm still straddling the fence. Damn. This IS a war zone. I eye my foot on the other side of the wire, feeling lucky it's still there and not blown off. I slowly lift it and bring it back to the side of the wire without minefields.
"You don't know where you are, do you?" he asks gruffly as he gets another bale of hay.
"Sure I do," I say. "I'm on top of a mountain in the middle of Israel." Duh.
"Actually, you're in the northern part of Israel, not in the middle. In the Golan Heights."
"Americans," he mumbles, then slowly shakes his head in disgust.
"Okay, what's so special about the Golan Heights?"
"Let's just say Syria is about ten miles that way," he says, pointing. "For a Jewish girl, you don't know much about the Jewish homeland."
Yeah, but I'm not Jewish. I don't tell him this, he'll probably go off on me about it. I'm glad when he turns away and walks back into the sheep enclosure.
I jump at the sound at my feet. A mangy, dirt-encrusted puppy, who I think at one time was white, is furiously wagging his tail at me. Once we make eye contact, he rolls onto his back and puts his paws in the air.
"I'm sorry," I say to the mutt. "I'm not a dog person."
Go find some other sucker to rub their hands on that filthy, flea-ridden tummy of yours. I'm not a cat person, either. In fact, I'm not an animal person at all. And being surrounded by a farmload of the things is making me itch.
I start to walk away. Unfortunately, the mutt follows.
"Arg!" the thing says again.
I keep walking.
"Don't you know dogs say 'ruff,' not 'arg'?" I ask it. "What are you trying to be, a pirate?"
The dog answers with another, "Arg!" this time screechier than the last as if he's trying to annoy me on purpose. Hey, the way my day has been going, I wouldn't doubt it.
"Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!"
You'd think the mutt was joking with me, wouldn't you? But as I turn to the rough, deep barking sound I realize pretty quickly the mutt has friends. A lot of them.
In the first place, I was wrong about it being dirt-encrusted. These five dogs are caked in mud and definitely dirtier than the mutt-puppy. Also (in the first place) they're very, very big.
And they're running right toward me barking up a storm as if I'd kidnapped their child.
Panic isn't the word to describe how I feel right now. As my life flashes before my eyes, I briefly weigh my two options. I could either head toward the wire and run into the minefields or jump into the sheep pens.
I don't have time to waste so I just run as fast as my sweaty, tired, sorry legs can carry me. As I move, I'm not even conscious about which option I've chosen.
I run faster and faster, barely aware of the high-pitched "arg" sound at my feet and the hefty "ruffs" not far behind. Just a little farther, I say to my clouded mind. I think I'm screaming and yelling obscenities, but I can't be sure because I'm too busy worrying about what my legs are doing and can't be bothered with censoring my mouth, too.
It seems like a long time, but when I reach the enclosure my pace doesn't falter. Mr. Haraldson, my gym teacher, would be proud of my leap. I was nowhere near getting the presidential award in physical fitness last year, but I'm probably making a world-record jump right now.
I don't really aim where I'm going; it's all just a blur. And when I land, I close my eyes. I hope I don't squash a sheep during my crash landing.
But instead of colliding with a sheep, something hard and solid breaks my fall.
I'm afraid to open my eyes, so I can't see, but my sense of smell is heightened. I know this because the scent of boy sweat surrounds me.
It's not grody body odor, just this musky guy aroma that makes me inhale deeper.
Okay, now I realize what I'm doing, where I am, and who I'm smelling--like he's a damn rose petal--but it's really just a boy. I open my eyes wide.
Don't ask me how I came to be straddling no-shirt-cute-jerk. His hands are on me. To be specific, one of them is on the small of my back and the other one is on my hip. And I get caught staring into mocha eyes that could definitely put someone in a trance.
I'm about to push away from him, but I hear the sound of someone walking along the grass beside the sheep's pen. I look over at who it is. I'm acutely aware the position I'm currently in looks really promiscuous and will probably get me in a ton of trouble.
When I finally lean away from him, it opens my view to whoever has witnessed my debacle. I realize it's the last person I wanted to see.
And when I see her lips in a tight line and her hands accusingly on her hips I come to the only conclusion one can muster.
No-shirt-cute-jerk is my cousin O'snot's boyfriend.
I'll never get used to being humiliated .
"I swear, Ron, it's not my fault."
"Those words come off your lips pretty often, Amy," he says to me. "Now explain again why you ran away before you even met Sofia and then, within a matter of fifteen minutes, end up on top of a boy. In the middle of a pile of hay, no less."
I dig some dirt out of my fingernail while the Sperm Donor has this very serious talk.
"Actually, to be technical, I fell on him," I say. I finger a piece of my hair that's been caked with mud. "I really don't recall exactly how I ended up straddling him."
We're sitting on the front lawn of my grandmother/ uncle/aunt/cousin's house. Ron does that thing with his hand through his hair again.
And then unending silence. Should I explain what happened? I'm not afraid to admit I want to be in control of my life.