HaRosh Mistovev


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Scene Title HaRosh Mistovev
Synopsis Hebrew for "My Head is Spinning." The emotions and actions of one Gitelman are confusing to the other.
Date April 16, 2011

Pollepel Island Burial Grounds

It starts with one freshly turned grave, a swatch of black earth that will only grow over with flora in the coming spring. Out the corner of one's eye, an erected cross, leading the gaze to yet another burial site. And another. Moving through the trees, the evidence of burial becomes more frequent, coming to a cluster at an open clearing devoted to burying the dead of the Ferrymen. There are rocks of grey and black to mark each site, and on chalk that is renewed nearly every day, especially when the rain comes, are the names of the deceased, the day of their death, and their age.

Placeholders, for when they can be honoured properly. This place is quiet, reverent, and almost claustrophobic in the press of trees and the density of the buried. Crosses made of wood, both cut and raw, can be spied looming their shadows like guardians, save for one cross made of metal, a relic of a church perhaps, leaning against a tree.

With the looming, gray-toned weight of clouds overhead, today isn't a day most would choose for a stroll outdoors; it's bound to rain this afternoon, at the latest. Maybe sooner, the way the sky looks. There's a bit of a breeze, but it doesn't touch here; it can only be known as a distant susurrus muted by the forest's dense growth.

Most people don't choose to take their stroll, rain or shine, through the gloom of a forest-shrouded graveyard. They don't set out to walk in the narrow spaces between burials recent and old; don't opt to spend their time reflecting on mortality, fragility, the legacies of the dead.

Especially not when the graveyard in question doesn't even contain their lost loved ones.

Oh, there are plenty of dead here whom Hana knows. All of them, if it comes down to it. But the woman who sits beneath an old and gnarled oak tree, its still-unfurling leaves a pale yellow-green, isn't here for those people. Arms folded over her knees, distant expression framed by loose brown hair, it isn't readily apparent what is on Hana's mind —

— or what purpose she had in asking Nora here.

Coming through the trees, despite feet trained to be quiet, there is the crunch of rock beneath sneakers that heralds Nora’s entrance. Her dark eyes are wary and watchful, alighting on Hana as she approaches, her face somber as is fitting in this hallowed place.

The slim girl moves close enough for polite conversation, though she remains out of arm’s reach — for her own safety or for respect of Hana’s privacy — or both — it’s hard to tell. Her lips tic just slightly to suggest a smile as she nods to Hana.

“Hi,” the teenager says, simply. She did a lot of talking last time, perhaps worried she’d never get the chance to say anything else after she’d finished.

Dark eyes glance briefly to the girl, acknowledging her presence, before returning to the rows upon rows of stones and crosses. Straightening her shoulders, Hana uncurls her arms and stretches out her legs. A flick of fingers indicates the space beside her, tacit invitation for Nora to also sit.

After, she brings her hands to rest casually in her lap. A slight angularity in Hana's right sleeve hints at the narrow knife hidden underneath; its counterpart on the left can only be assumed present, from Nora's vantage. "I won't bite," she says, a touch of irritated exasperation in the words. "Invited you here, didn't I?"

"It's not your teeth I'm worried about," Nora murmurs, a sparkle in her dark eyes that hints that the words are a joke; but, like all jokes, there's an element of truth to the words. She moves closer to the space indicated, one leg folding beneath herself, the other bending at a jackknife's angle, a smooth and graceful motion that brings her to a seated position.

"Thank you," she says quietly. "For the invitation, I mean. I'm … I'm sorry for what you've probably seen in your dreams, and sorry to … I mean, I know it's a shock. I understand if…" if you want nothing to do with me goes unsaid, but the implication is there in the way her eyes drop as she pulls her knees to her chest.

Nora's jest earns her an askance look, and a quiet huff of breath that approaches the antithesis of a laugh. The shake of Hana's head, gaze returning to the solemn and silent burial grounds before them, might come as a disappointment — by it, both gratitude and apology are brushed off, dismissed. Not needed, or not wanted, or not accepted; or all of the above.

Or maybe none of them. There's a lot of things Hana could say, right now. She doesn't. The undercurrent of frustration never quite leaves her expression, coded in the slight tension at the angle of her jaw, the way she doesn't glance back at Nora. That she continues to look away makes it hard to interpret anything more.

It's not a comfortable silence, this one that stretches on. Not a comfortable place, really, in the damp air, the nearby reminders of mortality; in a way, of the strangeness that is what they share — and don't share.

"No, you don't," Hana finally says, breaking the silence with blunt words, not particularly kind in their delivery. She seems to realize it; or at any rate, her lips press together, describing a taut line. An uncomfortable twitch that might be a headshake, maybe a shrug.

The words make Nora frown — aside from being blunt, they are a little too close to the truth to be comfortable, and yet… logically… and empathetically, Nora does understand.

“I do,” she argues, studying the toes of her shoes rather than her mother’s face. “The fact I exist… it means you don’t, in my future, and I know that’s not what anyone wants to know, let alone see. I don’t know how I’d feel if I were in your shoes. I’d be angry. And I might not want to see the living and breathing, walking and talking reminder of …”

Nora’s hand waves vaguely to fill in the gap in language, the word she’s not willing to say. Death.

She sighs through her nose, the air lifting a long lock of dark hair away from her face before it falls back and she tucks it away with her hand. “I won’t tell anyone if you don’t want me to. Who I am. They might figure it out though.. we sort of… I think some people are on to us, which is why we decided to come clean. I don’t think they’d figure me out though… I’m not as connected to the others, you know?”

No, Hana doesn’t know. Nora shakes her head again, frustration welling up in her as she finally brings her dark eyes up to meet Hana’s. There’s the threat of tears behind the teenager’s dark lashes, but she manages to keep them at bay. “I don’t want to make you unhappy, or feel obligated to me. You’re not.

Hana unfolds from her seated position in a forceful burst of energy, blurred motion accompanied by the crinkling of old leaves and the rough rasp of skin and leather against coarse bark. "Don't try and tell me you get it!" she snarls, two steps forward turning into a sudden spin back, open palm landing loudly on the oak's trunk — fortunately well above the level of Nora's head. "You don't have a fucking clue!"

It stays there, as the woman looms over the seated girl, her nostrils flared, the creases in her expression anything but friendly. "You walk up out of nowhere, think you can tell me my future, think I'm afraid of dying?"

Her hand falls away, and Hana shifts as if to stalk away for good this time — only to turn back, impatient, frustrated, tangled up in a confusion she doesn't have the capability to express. Strong fingers grab the shoulders of Nora's jacket instead, dragging her ungently up between Hana and the tree.

"You idiot," is delivered with less volume, and a surprising lack of heat for all its intensity.

While her heart hammers loudly in her chest, Nora doesn’t cringe or cower at the violent motions, though her breath catches in her throat when she is pulled up and her body tenses, ready to uncoil in fight or flight should Hana choose to strike.

“I didn’t say you were afraid!” she protests. “I said I’d be angry — aren’t you? I don’t expect to live past — hell, 20 would probably be a miracle, where I come from, but I’d still be angry if someone showed it to me.” Her cheeks are flushed with anger of her own, and her dark eyes flash. She takes a steadying breath, making a conscious effort to rein it in.

“But you’re right. I don’t know you. I can’t understand you.” The words grow softer, tinged with regret though not quite apology. “I’d like to, but…”

Nora shrugs, as much as she is able to, with Hana’s hands where they are. “That’s up to you.”

The outward huff of Hana's breath isn't exactly approving, but it's not scornful either. Small blessings. She lets her hands fall, releasing Nora; takes a step back and turns back towards where she was previously sitting, scooping up a small knapsack from the lee of the tree.

No apology is forthcoming from the woman either, but it's probably abundantly clear by now that Hana doesn't apologize. Whether that's principle or lack of ability is anyone's guess. "You want me to be 'not unhappy'?" she says without looking over her shoulder, timbre of the words almost a challenge.

Of all things, when Hana turns, it's to shove the unassuming black bag into Nora's hands.

"Don't fucking get yourself killed," she snarls, words softly vehement. It isn't anger that fuels either tone or intensity; and it isn't anger that has Hana striding away, weaving easily through the graveyard in an apparent bid to put as much distance between herself and the tree as possible.

Anger's the easy part.

Nora stays still, guarded eyes watching the tumultuous shifting of emotions and motions that Hana goes through, her own still bitten back though there’s another soft breath of surprise as that bag is shoved into her hands.

Before looking inside, dark eyes follow Hana’s retreat, and then Nora sighs, a slow and shuddering thing that brings the threatening tears back to the surface. Only this time one or two slip past and down her cheeks. A hurried hand wipes them away before opening the bag, finding inside the containers of apple and honey.

Her lips press into a thin line for a moment, brows knitting before the thoughtful expression softens, then lifts into a quiet smile. A traditional Rosh Hashanah food, apples and honey are blessed and eaten to ensure a sweet new year. April is far from the holiday, but the symbol is understood — as much as Nora hopes to understand anything between herself and Hana.

Nora’s eyes lift once more to look for Hana, tipping her head to peer through the makeshift cemetery. But by the time she looks up from the sweet offering of new beginnings, the elder Gitelman is already gone.

“Thank you,” Nora murmurs softly, not loud enough to carry, not loud enough to disturb the quiet of this place.

Not loud enough to be heard, but maybe Hana knows, somehow, anyway.

Nora can hope.

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