End of the Jews

Free End of the Jews by Adam Mansbach

Book: End of the Jews by Adam Mansbach Read Free Book Online
Authors: Adam Mansbach
“You’ve never been anywhere else.”
    â€œNot yet.”
    â€œAnd what is that supposed to mean?”
    â€œIt means I’m going to college in America.” She waits for a reaction, but all Rayna does is purse her lips, grab hold of the reading glasses dangling from the chain around her neck, and bend over her desk.
    â€œSooner if I can.”
    â€œNow you’re leaving me, too.”
    â€œNo, but I’m leaving here.”
    Speaking it out loud is an act of such portent that Nina almost expects magic from the universe in return—as if the declaration might make the Iron Curtain rise, revealing a stage set for the second act of her life.
    Instead, Rayna tightens her fingertips around the neck of her red grading pen. “At least you’ve told me.”
    She begins to sort a sheaf of papers, and Nina watches with the special, studious disgust children develop for the mannerisms of their parents. Rayna’s posture is meant to constitute dismissal. She expects her daughter to shuffle from the room and go feel guilty and wretched in some distant corner of the house, and so instead, Nina wanders over to the office closet and opens the door.
    A forgotten smell meets her: the apple tobacco and sandalwood blend of her father. The deep-set shelves are full of things she hasn’t seen for years, objects Rayna has spirited away lest they remind her of the man she can’t stop thinking about anyway. There are pipes, unopened pouches of tobacco, cardboard boxes of his correspondence, a triple stack of thin philosophy journals stretching up from the floor. On the highest shelf, barely within reach, sits a tall box packed haphazardly with the contents of Miklos’s home darkroom, and next to that his gleaming camera. Nina reaches for it.
    â€œWhat are you doing?”
    â€œTaking Dad’s camera.”
    â€œPut it back.”
    Nina holds her prize to her chest, feeling the instrument’s bulk and heft, its cool metal and hard plastic.
    Rayna springs to her feet. “Fine! Take it! Here! You can be just like him.” Her hand shoots into the closet, grabs Miklos’s felt fedora, and slams it onto Nina’s head.
    â€œHere, why not smoke his pipe, too? The two of you can go crazy together in America, you and your fat liar of a father and your new stepmother from California, with her red lipstick and her big fake tits.” Rayna rushes from the room and slams the door, leaving her daughter huddled against the wall, shielding her face and camera.
    Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 
    By fifteen, Nina is as dark and beautiful as her mother in old pictures, carrying the camera everywhere and beginning to recognize a vigor in herself that makes her surge with hope. She begs a job at Vasek’s café in order to afford film and contact paper, the only things she buys. Anything else—food, makeup, clothing—is a waste of money.
    She is gloriously alone, attached to others only by thin tendrils of biology and friendship. So much younger, the girls at school seem—unseasoned by tragedy and difference and handling their new powers, their new womanliness, by acting more like kids than ever. Nina feels a tenderness for them; they are the girls she grew up with, or at least around, and they are nice enough. As she disappears into herself and her darkroom, they are merely cold, when many girls would be mean. She wonders who they’ll have become in twenty years, and reflects that satisfying her curiosity will be as easy as returning to Prague.
    It is the boys, and the men, who are unbearable. On the streets and in the school hallways, they fondle her with their eyes, peer through even the loosest, thickest fabrics, spin in her wake to gawk at her ass. Some girls develop ways of walking that make their breasts bounce up and down; others learn to carry themselves so that nothing moves. Nina cannot be bothered. She walks the way she walks. Nobody

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