At the Dinner Party

The hostess spoke about sending Fed Ex packages with gas masks to her
daughters in New York. Also sent them to my friends there, she added.
Her anxiety ricocheted off the goblets, deepened the Merlot glow.
As she seated us, she inquired: Who doesn’t eat pork? I raised my hand meekly.
My plate was immediately swept clear of strips curled neat as fresh snails
to the right of the open fig. I didn’t know you kept kosher, said the hostess warmly.

I used to wear it as a shield, then it didn’t let go of me, still hasn’t
in one way or another, I admitted. She nodded, the others too
even the German Press Rep who declared it had been some time
since he’d dined with someone who ‘minded’ kosher rules.
That’s who I used to be, I told him shyly, I don’t keep kosher now. But
eating pork is something I just can’t do. The host smiled at me from the head
of the table, announced: you can have anything you like now. This was
so much less than I’d ever taken for myself - but I couldn’t admit that openly.

By that time it was dessert and the hostess cut into a massive cake. The scent
of chocolate and cream somewhat absorbed the memory of the pork. Conversation
turned back to the war and the hostess’ advice to her daughters to get
Cipro tablets and store water. I got lost in the details as though I was dragging
a net of air, as though I’d drunk too much, yet reached for wine again
when the woman with heavy rings to my right smacked the rim of my glass
with the water jug, cracked it neatly, didn’t spill a drop.