The Book of Separation by Tova Mirvis

The Book of Separation by Tova Mirvis

Author:Tova Mirvis
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Part 2


Bill’s Pizza has oversize windows that open out to Beacon Street in the middle of Newton Centre. It is a few weeks after my return from Israel and the roads are covered with snow—outside, passersby peer in at this cozy restaurant scene. Josh is far too excited about this long-awaited outing to notice my trepidation at being here with him. I can’t help but think about who might walk past and see us. I’m glad there’s a long line—still time to ponder the theological implications of a cheese slice, still time to grab Josh and run.

As we wait, Josh eyes the toppings through the glass case. Every vegetable combination seems exotic, as do the speckled rounds of pepperoni. On the drive here, I’d told Josh there was one condition: we could order only vegetarian. In the codex of sins, plain cheese pizza is a misdemeanor, not a felony.

“One slice, please,” Josh tells the man behind the counter.

“Actually, two slices,” I add.

As we wait, I detect no signs of guilt on his face. My son is too young to know that food is as fraught as any other kind of pleasure; he has not experienced the kosher-induced anxiety that in a new place, there might be nothing you could eat. For our honeymoon trip to Italy, Aaron and I had packed two kosher salamis, one in each of our knapsacks, and in every city we visited, we sliced them thinly with a plastic knife, afraid we’d run out of food before we made it to Venice, where we’d heard rumors of a kosher pasta restaurant. For us, there was nothing to eat in Rome, where, during August, the one kosher restaurant was closed; nothing in Florence, where we finished off the last of the salamis and, still hungry, drained jars of gefilte fish into the bidet of a pensione. The discovery of a kosher Häagen-Dazs in the Piazza della Signoria was as miraculous as the sight of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in the Uffizi nearby.

When Josh sees me watching him, a serious look comes over his face.

“I need to talk to you,” he tells me, his voice hushed, his expression earnest and intent. “Bend down,” he says, and he whispers into my ear: “If one day I decide to eat pizza with meat on it, will you still like who I am?” he asks.

His face is unbearably solemn, his eyes trained on me as he awaits my reaction.

“Oh, Josh,” I say, and as I look into his eyes, I feel my heart breaking open. Even at his young age, he knows the price to be paid for not following the rules.

This, more than anything, was the iron bar across the exit door—love was what tied you and kept you inside. Love was what you risked losing if you wanted to choose for yourself.


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