Don't ask me why, I just blurt out, "I felt like everybody was watching and analyzing me and it sucked so I ran."
"Did you kiss Avi?"
SD gives me the you've-got-to-be-kidding look.
I stand up.
"No! Why? Did Cousin Snotty say I did? Listen, there were vicious dogs chasing me--"
He looks down at the mutt who hasn't figured out my feet aren't his personal playground.
"Like that one?" he says.
I shake the thing off my leg. "No. Yes. Well, they looked like him, but were a lot bigger. And so I ran and sort of fell on Snotty's boyfriend."
"Her name is O. S. N. A. T. Osnat. It's a beautiful name."
"Not where I come from."
"Just...just give her a chance. Don't judge her before you get to know her."
I want to argue, to tell SD Snotty hated me before she knew me, but I'm keeping silent. Right now I'll attribute my lack of ability to argue to sleep deprivation because usually I'm ready for a good knockdown-dragout verbal war.
"Fine," I say.
"And stop calling her Snotty."
Geez, you give the guy a little and like a vacuum cleaner he wants to take up all the dirt, not just the little pieces of lint.
"Fine. Where's Sofia?. I'm ready to meet her now if there aren't any spectators around."
"She's resting in her room. No spectators, I promise."
This would be about the time I have the urge to hug the SD. But it would feel weird because I haven't hugged him in years.
SD stands and I follow him into the house. Once we enter, the smell of fresh baked bread wafting from the kitchen makes my stomach growl.
"Come eat," Dodo Yucky says. She's lost a bit of her cheery disposition. Is it because she thinks I kissed O.S.NAT's boyfriend?
"Thanks, but I'm not hungry." I'm too nervous to eat. Ron leads me to a small room at the back of the house and I peek in the door.
Sofia is lying down on her bed. When she sees me enter, she sits up.
I swallow hard and close the door behind me. The room is small, the floor is made of tile, and the walls are stark white cement. The drapes are closed, so it's a little dark. But that's the way I want it now, because I don't want the world peeking into my conversation.
"Hi, Sofia. I'm Amy," I say. My voice cracks while I'm saying it and I feel a little foolish.
She nods and pats the side of the bed. "Come over here, Amy. Sit with me."
I take small, slow steps to her bed. When I reach it, I carefully sit on the edge. To my surprise, she takes my hand in hers.
"Are you really sick?" I ask tentatively.
"I'll be fine. You know doctors, they like to make a big fuss about nothing."
"Ron thinks you're real sick," I say, and then want to suck those words right back in my mouth.
She shakes her head. "Your father needs to have his cup examined. That means 'head' in Yiddish. Imagine, keeping my granddaughter from me for sixteen years."
"Yeah," I say, urging her on. I like Safta immediately.
"What's your mother like?" she asks, changing the subject.
How do I describe Mom?
"She's pretty, for a mom," I say. "And she has a job that pays her a lot of money. She doesn't have a lot of friends, though, 'cause she's always working."
I watch as Safta takes this all in.
"And tell me about yourself."
"I do okay in school, I guess. My best friend's name is Jessica ...she's Jewish," I add to make some connection to Safta on the religious end. "And I like to play tennis, ski, and shop."
She nods her head. "I'm going to like getting to know you, Amy. You sound like a very energetic, interesting girl."
"I should add I don't have the most positive attitude," I say while biting my bottom lip nervously. I mean, the lady'll figure it out sooner or later so I might as well give it to her straight up front.
"Maybe your trip here will change that."
I highly doubt it but I say, "I guess so," just to make her think this trip might miraculously change my outlook on life.
"I was like you when I was your age," she says.
"Why? Were you illegitimate, too?"
"No," she says, still holding my hand. "But my family fell on some tough times and we didn't have a home for a few years."
"Where did you live?"
"On the beach. It was a long time ago. Life changes when you least expect it."
As this information sinks into my brain, Sofia tells me to go relax and unpack. And she smiles at me as if she's been my grandmother forever.
I can't keep blaming her for not being there for me the past sixteen years. The poor woman didn't even know I existed.
"Where's my suitcase?" I ask Ron after my enlightening talk with Sofia.
"It's in O'snot's room," he says.
I didn't just hear right. I couldn't have. "You're kiddin' me, right?"
"There's only a few rooms here," SD explains. "You'll be sleeping in O'snot's room. I'm getting the sofa."
"What about the little guy?"
"Matan? He sleeps on a bed in his parents' room."
I'm about to suggest I sleep on the floor, but I see three ants crawling across the tile. Gross. And when I look over at Doda Yucky, she has this pathetic look on her face as if she'll win the lottery if my happy meter reaches a certain level.
I give her a little smile and it apparently worked because she heads back to the kitchen humming a cheerful tune.
But seriously, if there's one thing an American teenage girl needs, it's privacy. Can I tell O'snot to leave the room? It is, in fact, HER room so I think not. Thank goodness I'm not a twin. There are these twins at my school, Marlene and Darlene, and they have to not only share a room with each other, but their older sister, Charlene too. Don't ask.
SD leads me to a bedroom in the back of the house. I walk in the room and Snotty is putting on makeup while sitting on her bed. She knows I'm there, but she hasn't acknowledged me.
The Sperm Donor stands beside me. "Do you need help?"
"No, I'm fine," I say back to him.
He takes this as his cue to leave. I would have liked him to stay. Only to pose as a buffer between me and Snotty.
"Listen, I'm sorry about your boyfriend," I say.
She looks up and I see she's overdone the makeup on her eyes. It's as if she's outlined her eyes in black charcoal and now my cousin looks like she's in her twenties instead of a teenager. How old is she, anyway? She could use a few tips on makeup application.
One of my mom's clients is a cosmetic company. They actually used me in one of the shoots for their teen line. I learned a lot about how makeup should enhance your best features and not look all gloppy and dark (like Snotty). After my picture appeared in most of the teen magazines, my group of friends kind of dubbed me the guru of makeup.
I go over to my suitcase on the bed I suppose is mine for the next three months and pick out some clothes to change into that aren't caked with mud and straw.
"Avi isn't my boyfriend."
I'm not sure if it's Snotty talking, or my imagination playing with me.
I face my cousin. "What?"
She points her charcoal eye-circle bull's-eyes in my direction. "I don't have a boyfriend."
I take a pair of red shorts out of my suitcase. The word BITCH is printed across the butt in big white letters. Jessica got me the shorts for my birthday as a joke along with an anklet that wasn't a joke. I never thought I'd ever wear the shorts but then again, I never thought I'd find myself on a farm on top of a mountain in the middle of a war zone.
But, to be perfectly honest with myself, Israel doesn't actually feel or look like a war zone. Well, except for the heavily armed guards at the airport and the minefield I stepped on.
I look down at my shorts. I didn't think anyone here would be able to speak English so I packed them. I'm tempted to offer them to Snotty but instead ask, "Does Avi have a girlfriend?"
Okay, now if I wouldn't gag from the grossness of it, I'd insert my foot into my mouth. I don't care whether the guy has a girlfriend or not, but here I am asking Snotty about him.
Sometimes my mouth gets me going in a direction I have no intention of heading.
What's worse is my cousin ignores my question. So even if I didn't mean to ask the question, I'm more curious than ever to know the answer. But I'd never give her the satisfaction of asking her about Avi twice. She's already been spreading false rumors I've been mashing with the guy. It would suck if she really thought I cared what his girlfriend status was.
I set my clothes out on the bed, and head for the ONE bathroom in the whole house. I'm trying not to think about living for the next three months in a house with seven people and one bathroom. Scary, isn't it? At home we have three bathrooms ...and it's only me and mom living there (along with Marc with a "c" when he stays over).
I have this friend, Emily. She's obsessed with smelling EVERYTHING. Like, when she eats she smells each bite before she puts the food into her mouth. I hate having meals with her because every time I hear her sniff-eat-sniff-eat-sniff-eat I get extremely irritated. Nobody really likes me when I'm irritated, except maybe Jessica.
As I enter the bathroom, my gag meter indicates low readings of any smells other than the ones emanating from my own body. Man, Emily would have a field day with me.
I am SO looking forward to getting clean. Thinking about how long it's been since I took a shower is making me dizzy.
I close the door to the bathroom and look on the handle for a lock. But the problem is there isn't one. Just a hole, as if there was a lock at one point in time.
This isn't funny. There are seven people living in this house and no lock on the bathroom door. And the damn door has a peephole where a lock should be.
I need to get into bed fast so this day can be over. I don't want to undress in front of a peephole so I step into the tub, close the curtain, and take my clothes off. I figure out how to turn on the water.
Thankfully a spray of hot water comes hard and fast. I can't stop the moan from escaping my mouth. Hot showers rock. I'm so tired I can hardly stand so I quickly wash myself.
After the shower I head back to Snotty's room, wondering why I didn't bring a change of clothes with me to the bathroom-that-doesn't-lock. I sure as hell don't want to change in front of Snotty. As I'm thinking about where to change into pjs, I wrap the towel tightly around myself.
I don't want to make eye contact with her, 'cause I want to avoid having to make any positive facial gestures, like smiling. I don't have any positive facial gestures left, at least not any today. In fact, all my positive gestures are probably used up for tomorrow, too.
So I look down at the floor as I enter the room, close the door, and head straight for my suitcase. I know Snotty is still in the room, I can hear her breathing. I pull a tank top and underwear out of my suitcase. I can go back to the bathroom and feel like a big dork that I'm embarrassed to change in front of her or I can just suck it up and change right here with my back turned.
I drop the towel and put my underwear on. Then I put on the BITCH shorts. When I reach for my white tank top, the door opens. I quickly cover my large breasts with my tank and get ready to yell at the intruder. The intruder, I assume, is none other than SD. "Do you mind?" I say.