There were only two places to escape the flowers: the Nana’s room, and the kitchen. The kitchen presented its own problems, namely, the trays of deli and lox and kugel and casserole and kasha varnishkes and brownies that everyone who had not sent flowers—and a few who had—had brought over. Not that Seth minded food, or anything, he just minded it being pressed on him by at least twenty women who were not the Nana, but seemed to think he needed a new one, now that his was gone.
Seth didn’t, he really didn’t.
The rabbi had told Seth’s father to wear a tie he didn’t care about, wouldn’t mind giving up, to the funeral. His dad, though, had worn his second favorite, the one Seth’s mom had given him as a good luck present when he had started at the firm. Seth watched his dad rip the silk, leaving the tie dangling, like a fabric representation of a broken arm.
Any other day, Seth would have made some highly appropriate comment about his dad having superpowers, or something, but right then he’d just wanted to help his dad. At the very least, he’d wanted something of his own to tear.
His father had been wearing the tie since the funeral, and whenever Seth saw him, he couldn’t take his eyes off it. Seth’s aunt had opted for a black ribbon—easy to tear, to pin to whatever she was wearing. Seth would have taken one of those, but his clothes were in perfect order.
He had considered untucking his shirt, just to have something, but the Nana would have hated that, so in the end, he kept himself buttoned and tucked, with all the parts in the right places, even if that felt misleading.
Ryan found Seth hiding in the Nana’s room and said, “Uh, hey.”
Seth twisted around, looking up and over the bed. He had curled up behind the side farthest from the door. He said, “Hey.”
Ryan closed the door behind him and came around to sit next to Seth. After a lot of silence, in which Seth was pretty sure he was meant to say something funny or at least long-winded and nonsensical, Ryan said, “This thing’s called a shiva, not a shiver.”
Seth did laugh at that, not much, but it was something. “Yeah, but it was kind of funny watching your face wonder what the hell we were all gonna do that was gonna make us so cold.”
Ryan smiled a little at that. Seth could tell when he was being humored, but he felt like he deserved it, just a little, right now. In exchange for Ryan’s efforts at helping him by going against type and using his words, Seth said, “They all want me to talk about her.”
“Sandy tells me that’s the point.”
“Yeah, well, it sucks. Jews should be stoic in times of suffering. We have a lot of practice, it makes more sense.”
“Sure,” Ryan said after a bit.
Seth closed his eyes and asked, “But?”
Ryan shook his head, Seth could feel it. Seth prodded. “Ryan.”
“But they want to talk about her, too. And they knew her in ways you couldn’t have.”
Seth knew that sometimes he was pretty lost in himself, but when Ryan talked, he really did try to pay attention. Hence the reason he could hear the wistfulness in Ryan’s tone, which Ryan was probably doing his utter best to hide.
“Yeah,” Seth said. “Point.”
When Ryan got to his feet, Seth allowed him to help him up.
Minchah was at 5:45 sharp. The Rabbi came over a little early and passed out the siddurs while counting the men. He didn’t count Seth. For the purposes of a minyan, Seth may very well have been an adult and male but he wasn’t Jewish, and that was an automatic disqualifier.
From the first night, though, Sandy just wrapped him in tallit, making him repeat the prayer, then kiss the tzitzit. Seth said, “I don’t count. Your genes alone are too weak, too mannish.”
Sandry said, “You counted to your grandmother.” He pushed a siddur into Seth’s hands. “The opposing pages are transliterated.”
The first two nights, Seth flipped the pages right-to-left and got lost after every single prayer, but by the third night, he had it down.
Yitgadal v’yitgadash shemei rabbah.
After the seventh night, when everyone was finally gone and the Nana’s house was nicely spacious again, but all too quiet, Seth admitted, “If I have to eat one more thing off a deli tray, my stomach is going to rise up in revolt and take over this city.”
Ryan didn’t say anything, but he was looking a little on the desperate side as well. Sandy said, “Chinatown?”
“At the risk of being struck by lightning, I am totally ordering all the pork dumplings,” Seth said solemnly. “All of them.”
“Your grandmother is rolling in her grave,” Sandy said with a slight smile.
“Probably the most fun she’s had all week,” Kirsten said.
Ryan looked away, a pretty sure sign he wanted to laugh. Seth said, “So. Kung Pao Shrimp?”
Sandy stood up. “It’s a good thing Jews don’t believe in hell.”