Disclaimer: South Park is not mine, never was, never will be. I wrote this fanfic just for the fun of it, and am not making any profit out of it whatsoever.
Author's Note I: Okay so… I don't know if it was a good idea to post this story, since very few people will be able to relate to it. Some of you may find it similar to "Four Days" if you've read it…
Please refer to the cultural notes at the end.
Author's Note II: Sorry for spelling or grammar mistakes, and for incorrect usage of words and phrases. English is not my native tongue.
Kyle was always torn between his Jewish traditions and his will to be one of us.
Christmas time was always the toughest. I used to drag him with me to the mall so he could help me pick presents for my family, and he was good at hiding his discomfort behind fake smiles and forced laughter. I always saw through, though.
He used to come over to my house afterwards and help me and my older sister to decorate the tree. When we were done Shelly went upstairs to her room in order to avoid any further chores. I was about to grab Kyle and quickly disappear into my room, as well, but then I saw how he looked up at the tree, his eyes glazed, and hesitated. "Dude!" I said, "let's go before my mom makes us do some more shit!"
He held up his palm to signal for me to stop, his eyes never leaving the shining orbs which dangled from the branches and glowed dimly. "Just a minute," he whispered, his breathing slowing significantly. His left fist clenched at his side, his body language betraying the smile that found its way to his lips. He mumbled something then and shut his eyes, shivering.
At those moments all I wanted to do was approach him and hug him so tightly that he won't be able to breathe, but I never did that. All I've ever done was watch him fight the inner battles he had with himself. All I could do was wait.
The only reason he me with the decoration was so he would be able to join into our conversation the following day, in which Kenny would complain about their tottering plastic tree and Cartman would say how his tree was so much better than mine. Kyle then would be able to pipe in and say it's actually quite fun to decorate a Christmas tree, but his feeling of belonging would disappear as soon as it came at Cartman's comment on how Jews aren't allowed to come as close as three feet away from it.
Kyle argued with Cartman whenever the latter taunted him about his religion, but at those times, when heknew that there was a certain truth behind Cartman's words, he simply looked down at his feet, his fists clenching at his sides just as they did when he was at my house, his green eyes brimming with unshed tears. "Zip it, fatass," he hissed. I saw through his façade, though. I think Cartman did, too.
Our families used to hold gatherings, barbeques, whenever summer came. Us children always complained about it, saying we didn't want to see our asshole classmates outside of school, but, of course, our complaints fell upon deaf ears. At those gatherings, Cartman used to sneak a piece of ham in Kyle's bun, and when he found out about it, he merely frowned, told Cartman he was a stupid dick, and went to fetch something else to fill his stomach with. Sheila Broflovski never found out, and Kyle never dwelled on the matter. He never bothered to lift the upper half of the bread to check if his hamburger had been replaced, and was almost regularly surprised to find that it has. Kenny told him to check his bread next time, but Kyle refused to. When asked why, he didn't provide an answer, but I knew the reason behind it: it's not that he trusted Cartman. In fact, he knew when the ham was inserted even before he took a bite. He wanted to taste the ham, to see what it's like to be us. I looked on and saw how he savored the taste, rolling the chewed bite of meat in his mouth with his tongue, closing his eyes and shivering as if he felt God's wrath. But that moment never lasted and he was forced to open his eyes and spit it out, lest he'd feel completely tainted.
His difference was less noticeable when we were kids; we had to go to bed early back then, we never really hang out after dark. When we entered Junior High, the darkness didn't seem frightening anymore, and we went out to Starks Pond almost every weekend night with drinks that would make us dizzy and disoriented. Being his best friend, the only one he felt really close to, I was the one who always told him the designated time. We usually went out just before midnight, but at those rare nights we did so earlier, he begged me to give him more time so he could finish the big Friday dinner he had with his family. "I don't wanna skip it," he used to tell me when I asked him to. "And not because mom will throw a tantrum. I… this is an important dinner, Stan."
It was never hard to persuade Kenny to postpone our meeting, but Cartman was always a tough nut to crack. "We don't need the goddamned Jew! It's his problem if he can't make it!" he used to say at those rare times.
"Come on, fatass," I replied. "Kenny and I both have no problem with it. You know that you're the only one who does. If you wanna go it's fine by us, but take into account that you'll be alone." That usually ended that argument.
At that year Kyle celebrated his Bar-Mitzvah. His parents sent him to the Rabbi at the next town so he could learn how to read his Parasha correctly. Kyle was always the studious type, and as such, I wasn't surprised when he begun researching and studying about his religion and only assumed it was a phase he was going through. He used to come to meet me near our lockers at recesses, and he always had a new bit of information about his religion to share with me. He told me about commandments, about Kosher foods, about holidays, about the Bible, and so on. He was smiling widely, waving his arms frantically as he told tales of wonders and miracles, of prophets and of customs. He began studying spoken Hebrew in addition to the biblical one. He was blushing with a newfound sense of excitement and belonging, his eyes shone with happiness and were no longer brimming with tears. I wanted to caress his rosy cheek, to keep my palm there and forever engrave that image of Kyle in my mind. My fingers tingled and I had to breathe in deeply to calm my yearning nerves. I smiled at him and he smiled back, knowing that I could never understand what he talked about but grateful that I listened.
Cartman's taunts never ceased, of course, but Kyle fought back with even more confidence and vehemence than he have had before, never allowing Eric Cartman to put him down.
Sometimes he came to our Friday night meetings with a yarmulke on his head instead of his trademark green ushanka. "I forgot to take it off after dinner," he used to explain sheepishly.
"Dude," I said. "What does your Friday dinner has to do with it? I thought you use it only when you go with your dad to the synagogue."
"Yeah, but I keep it on for theKiddush." He explained, waving the snickering Cartman aside. I nodded, staring in wonder at the knitted green strings which matched his eyes perfectly. Yet, in contradiction to his words, after that incident Kyle rarely came to our meetings with his ushanka atop of his head. Instead, the green yarmulke was almost always present between his red curls. He wore the ushanka only at school.
After his Bar-Mitzvah, he kindly refused to accompany me during my trips to the mall to find presents for various family members, and he didn't come to my house to help me and my older sister to decorate the tree anymore. He still hang out with us on Friday nights, but if we went to a party sometimes he refused to join, saying that he may have not gone completely religious yet, but still, if he could avoid doing something then he should.
That summer, the annual barbeque was held at my house. Out of habit, Kyle didn't lift the upper half of the bread to check if Cartman replaced his burger with a piece of ham yet again, and in a moment of distraction he took a bite and paled, spit it out, and stormed into my house to the sound of Cartman's high-pitched laughter. I called out his name and ran after him. He didn't savor the taste this time.
I found him at the bathroom, holding the toilet as if his life depended on it, his curls were the only visible part of his head, as the rest of it was hidden in the ceramic. It seemed like he was throwing up all the drinks he had ever since we started hanging out on Friday nights, and even as he was holding the toilet seat it looked like he was barely able to support himself. I kneeled down next to him, caressing his back in a soothing manner just as he had done for me whenever I was throwing up. When he was done he covered his face with the palms of his hands and sobbed, mumbling "it's a sin, it's a sin" all the while. I held him and rocked him back and forth as if he were a mere child, whispering words of consolation in his ear as he ruined my shirt with salted water.
At the following barbeques, Kyle only ate what his mother gave him.
Telling him that I love him was the hardest thing I've ever done. Telling me that he loves me back was the most frightening thing he has ever done. At seventeen he was still wearing his ushanka to school, and as I kissed him I slipped my hand under the hat and felt the yarmulke beneath. I gripped it as I deepened the kiss, and wondered why he didn't reject me and told me it was a sin to be gay. He pulled away and grabbed a hold of my hand, removing it from his head. "Don't touch it while you're kissing me," he said and I frowned.
"Then why are you even letting me kiss you?" I asked, now blushing from anger and embarrassment.
"I haven't gone completely orthodox yet," he replied. "And what good will it do me to hide from myself, anyway? I just don't want it to be-" he fixed the ushanka "-too… sinful."
He leaned in again, but I recoiled. "Stop being a fucking hypocrite, Kyle. If you see it as a sin then it's better if we go back to being best friends and nothing more!" I shouted at him, my blush deepening.
He sighed. "Just tell me one thing, Stan," he said, giving me one of those penetrating gazes of his, from the kind I couldn't hide from. "If I begged, would you agree to have sex in the middle of the church?"
"I-" I started, but found that I couldn't lie. "Won't…"
He smiled. "My point exactly." He resumed kissing me then, and I kissed him back with less fervor than before, his words lingering in my mind and preventing me from fully engrossing myself with his succulent lips and sin.
Kyle was always the smart one in our group. He could have easily got accepted into Harvard, Yale, or MIT even. Yet he never filled the necessary applications, and when I asked him about it, he smiled mysteriously and said that he was considering a different course of action. A part of me was happy to know that Kyle would stay with me in Colorado while I worked to earn the necessary amount of money for college, but another couldn't help but feel apprehensive.
Kyle and I rented an apartment together in a city about thirty miles away from South Park. I worked at the local Post Office while he stayed home, never telling or hinting what he was up to. I figured he hasn't decided what he wants to study yet, and so I let him be, only occasionally bringing up the subject.
One evening when I was making an omelette he approached me from behind and wrapped his arms around my torso, burying his head in the crook of my shoulder and trailing kisses along it. "I'm gonna miss you," he whispered and I dropped the wooden spoon, straightening my back.
"What?" I breathed. "Where are you going?"
"I'm joining the IDF," he said, and feeling my puzzlement he elaborated: "The Israeli Defense Forces."
I shook my head. "What! You've got to be kidding me, Kyle. This is not funny, you hear me? Not one bit!"
"I'm not kidding, Stan," he replied, his gaze unrelenting.
I breathed in and out slowly in a futile attempt to calm down. "Fuck, Kyle, this isn't funny! Why the hell would you wanna draft? You can barely speak their language!"
"Yes I can," he said, his voice still the same monotonous tone it was from the beginning of the conversation.
"Oh yeah? Well, how do you say… omelette!" I challenged.
"How do you say…" my eyes searched for objects within the kitchen. "Wall!"
"Sink! Faucet!" My vision blurred suddenly.
My face reddened considerably until they matched the tomatoes on the counter in color. I breathed heavily, wheezing, almost, but I refused to back down. "Say 'I'm lonely and I want to fuck my boyfriend up the ass."
"Stan, I really don't think-"
He sighed and closed his eyes, then spoke so quietly I had to strain my ears in order to hear him. "Ani boded Ve'Ani rotse…" there he frowned, as if he wasn't sure whether what he was about to say is correct or not. "La'asot La'Khaver sheli… ahava batakhat." He opened his eyes and looked up at me, his green orbs burning with determination.
There was no way of persuading him otherwise…
The tears could not be held back any longer and slid down my cheeks as my nostrils whiffed the smoke from my burning omelette, but did not acknowledge it. My entire body shook and he held me just as tightly as I held him when he threw up in my toilet a few years back. I ruined his shirt with salted water just as he has ruined mine. "W-when a-are you going?" I asked, my voice quivering.
"In a few days. I didn't want to say anything because it wasn't certain." He took a deep breath. "I'm going to stay at some relatives' place for a year so all the complicated bureaucracy could take place. Should take about a year or so… perhaps more. Then I'll be able to draft."
"These are my people, Stan," he said after a short silence, which followed. "It is my duty to help."
In about a week Kyle was on the plane to a different continent and I was left in our small apartment alone with my thoughts and fears, and the omelettes that for some reason could not stop burning.
Every few months Kyle flew back to Colorado for a few weeks. "Bureaucracy is slow," he told me. "It's going to take awhile before everything's ready."
We always screwed around like rabbits when he came. Regardless to his previous warnings, my fingers always searched his curls for the green yarmulke that he forgot to take off in the heat of the moment as he moaned quietly into my ear and thrust his hips faster. Yet, he always pulled my hands down and inserted his tongue deep into my mouth, as if trying to silence my wills along with my voice. He always came with a low moan and fell on top of me as my body shook with spasms. I held onto him, digging my fingernails into the skin of his back, wishing that we could stay like that forever.
But forever never came, and his flight back to the Middle East always seemed to come too quickly.
He wrote me on a regular basis; I received a letter once a week. He never shared much, just said he was doing fine, that he was meeting with doctors who were trying to determine whether he's eligible for military service, and once that they decided the he is, he said that he's taking some exams in order to get accepted into an intelligence unit, maybe. Said how much he misses me, how much he loves me and wishes for me to be there with him.
I always wondered why he never wished he could be here with me.
The mail arrived twice a day to the Post Office in a few large, white sacks. My job was to sort out the letters by the addresses according to certain areas of the city. Twice every day I buried my hands deep into the sack and pulled out random letters, searching frantically for the envelope that will contain his. Sometimes, by pure luck, I managed to pull out the right one. I held it to my nose and breathed in its scent slowly, trying to pick up the faint remains of the hand lotion he sometimes used. Most of the times, though, my searches proved to be futile and I had to sort out the letters carefully until I made it to the one which was addressed to me.
His last visit as a citizen ended a week before my twentieth birthday, the day of his draft. On the last night, we had sex. He moaned loudly into my mouth as my fingers searched his red curls for the yarmulke, grabbing a hold of it once they found it. With a final thrust he came inside me, shouting. With his sperm came my tears, and I didn't know whether my body shook from the orgasm that enveloped me seconds after his or the sobs that wrecked my body, and which were not silenced even as his tongue nearly caused me to choke.
I saw him off at the airport. All I did was hold him and breathe in his scent, trying to engrave it in my memory for I did not know when we would be able to meet again. He held me back, and as the time of his fight neared he pulled away, pecked me on my cheek and slipped a small piece of paper into the back pocket of my pants. I stared at him, puzzled, but he merely smiled and waved, disappearing among the endless sea of people. I took the paper out, frowning at the foreign words. The letters were English ones, no doubt, but the meaning was not.
Veshavu banim LiGvulam…
Although he managed at one time during his life to break half of the hospital room he was lying in with a single scream, I wouldn't say that Kyle held certain psychic powers. Yet, Kyle had the ability to sense, feel things that other people weren't able to. That is how he was able tell when the ham replaced the hamburger in his bread, that is how he knew that my hands through his hair had only one purpose, and it wasn't to stroke it.
That is how he knew that mere months after his draft, the biggest war the Middle East had ever seen would break out.
Kyle was diabetic. I'm sure that if he weren't, though, he would have gladly joined the infantry. Fortunately, if you ask me, that didn't happen. Instead, he was accepted as a medic at the infirmary of some base in the north of the country, after he didn't pass the exams to the intelligence unit.
His letters from that time were a bit longer, seeing that much more was happening in his life. He told me how nice the doctor is, that his fellow soldiers are a bit hard to get along with, but they're nice people. He told me about the funny things that soldiers do in order to gain a few days at home, like drinking a coke with cigarette ash to get high fever, or exaggerating even the slightest pain.
Told me that whenever he comes across a file of an asthmatic soldier, he thinks of me.
When the war broke out, he was stationed at some field hospital near the border, helping to take care of the wounded soldiers that arrived in helicopters. His letters became short; not more than a few lines, the first one always stating that he's okay. Sometimes, as I held the letter to my nose my eyes widened at the sight of blood smudges on the white, somewhat crumpled paper. It was as if he wrote those letters on small breaks he had between the arrivals of patients.
When it began, the war wasn't on such a large scale. But as the days wore on more countries joined the fighting, and I think the US sent some of its troops as well. Kyle's letters came few and far between, always too short and lacking. He never said so, but I don't think he was near the border anymore. If anything, he was beyond.
During those weeks CNN and CBS became my favorite networks, and every evening after work I found myself sitting on the blue couch in our living room, my nails half eaten, staring wide eyed at the television screen. The news only showed the speeches of the Prime Minister and of the commander in chief of the IDF. The reporters said a few short lines about the battles; where were they fought, who was winning, how many died… but they never said names.
I logged on to Kyle's laptop in order to get access to the Israeli sites he visited frequently. All I could do was stare at the red headlines and wonder what was written. Frustrated, I called Sheila and Gerald Broflovski at least three times a day, demanding to know in the army called with bad news. It unnerved them, worried them, and at some point or another they told me they'll let me know if and when it happens and stopped picking up the phone altogether. If I called from a co-worker's phone, they hang up as soon as they heard it was me.
Whenever my supervisor went on a break, I opened the mail sack and spilled out its contents. Envelopes and small packages were strewn all over the floor, and I picked up each and every one of them, sweating and paling as the letters became fewer and the hour that will signal the return of my supervisor closer.
On the desk in my room, the note I received from Kyle at the airport before he left mocked me with its foreign words that I was still unable to decipher, and his white yarmulke, the one he went to the synagogue with, as if mocked me with the same thing. Every night I tired to touch it, but as soon as my index finger came as close as half an inch from it, my hand clenched into a fist and I backed away, as if the piece of cloth was so sacred it would be a sin to taint it with my Christian hand.
One Friday night, after many months passed with no word from Kyle, I snatched the yarmulke from my desk, ignoring the odd tingling in my fingertips as I put it on, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I was determined to get to the synagogue, to see for my own eyes what Kyle did there every Friday night, what caused him to so ridiculously leave me behind and go fight a war that wasn't even his.
The first thing I noticed as I entered was the fact that the women – unlike in the synagogue in South Park - sat separately from the men, in a small section upstairs, their heads buried deep within a book as the rocked back and forth and prayed.
The men were all wrapped with white prayer shawls and rocked silently, only once in a while speaking up a few lines in a strange harmony. The cantor stood on the podium, and was the only one speaking, or rather reading, from a long scroll. I chose a sit in the back row, staring in wonder at the plain walls and decorated Torah books in the closet behind the cantor. Everyone was deeply engrossed within their small books, even the younger ones, and from a time to time a silence befell the hall and sent shivers down my spine as I felt that as if God himself was in the room with us.
"And now," the cantor said at what I assumed was the ending, "as in every day for the past few weeks, let us say a few words for our brothers in the Middle East." The men voiced their agreements and closed their books. The cantor straightened and said, louder than before, what he already knew by heart.
…Ko amar adonai, mini'i kolekh mibkhi ve'eynaikh midima'a, ki yesh sakhar lepe'ulatekh ne'um adonai, veshavu me'eretz oyev. Veyesh tikva le'akharitekh, ne'um adonai, veshavu banim ligvulam.
I stood up abruptly, pale and shaking. "But what does it mean!" I shouted, my voice cracking as all eyes turned to stare at me.
"Quiet!" said the man who sat next to me. "Don't you know where you are?"
"Tell me!" I pleaded, but all I received was hushing noises and angry glares.
"Who are you, anyway?" the man asked. "Haven't seen you around here before…"
My entire body shook and I could feel myself fading away, losing focus as all the murmurs around me mixed into an endless shrilling noise. I gripped the bench in an attempt to steady myself and breathed in deeply, blinking rapidly. The yarmulke slipped from my head, but I never noticed. I turned around and left the building, relief washing over me once I felt far enough from God's wrath at my sinful act.
I never set a foot in there again.
The war ended two months before Kyle's expected release date. All the battle hungry desert countries collected the remaining pieces of their citizens' lives, and I still wasn't able to find mine. I called Sheila and Gerald again, but they only said they haven't heard a word from their son before hanging up promptly, leaving me with a dead line and desperation I haven't felt in a long time.
The last letter from Kyle arrived three weeks after the truce. I found it among bills and magazines delivered to my neighbors on the floor in the Post Office. I tear the envelope open, anxious to know when I should expect his return, how he was doing, why hasn't he let anyone know he was alive and well…
Veshavu banim LiGvulam.
That was it. Three, simple, still undecipherable words. Calling the Broflovskis again in order to ask them about it proved to be futile, and all I was able to do was to wait for a call or another letter from the boyfriend I haven't seen for a year and a half.
I wasn't able to sleep; thoughts ran wild through my head as I lay awake in bed, wondering where my curly, red-haired lover was. Nights and days mixed into a single unit, and I wasn't able to tell the dates or the hours apart. Instant food is all that I consumed, and I didn't go out of our apartment unless it was for work or shopping for groceries, so it shouldn't be surprising that when I walked out of the shower one evening with a towel wrapped around my torso to get some water to drink, the piece of fabric fell to the floor as I spotted one Kyle Broflovski sitting at our kitchen table, smiling widely at me. I gaped and rubbed my eyes, positive that I was imagining things due to my fragile state.
"You shouldn't walk around naked," he said.
"You're back…" I said back, but I don't know if he heard it. I could barely hear myself, keep myself standing even. He rose from his seat and approached me slowly, his hands and pale face filled with small cuts, his hair tousled and his eyes filled with unfathomable sadness. Only when I felt his arms around me, only when I was sure I wasn't dreaming did I allow my tears to break free and sobbed into his shoulder, holding onto him as tightly as I could, refusing to let him leave me even if for another second. He stroked my hair slowly, emitting soothing hushing noises.
"And sons returned to their border," he whispered into my ear.
My eyes widened and I choked on a sob, suddenly unable to breathe. I could feel him smiling, and the endless flow of tears resumed. "Veshavu banim ligvulam," I said, my voice quivering as the words slipped easily along my tongue, sounding so foreign yet so familiar, like the feel of his fingers through my hair or his unmistakable scent, telling me that it is indeed him standing there and hugging me, that he's safe and sound, back where he belongs.
And I'll be damned if I let him leave again…
Author's Note III: The title was supposed to be "And Sons Returned to Their Border", but since I already have a fic with this title, I gave up on the idea. The plots are similar, too… the same concept, even. Thank you for reading, and please, if you've gotten this far, leave a review!
Friday dinner – welcoming of the Shabbat with a fancy dinner is quite common among Jews, I think…
Parasha – a section of the five books of the Torah. Every Shabbat one of them is read, and when a boy celebrates his Bar-Mitzvah he reads the Parasha of that Shabbat.
Kiddush – the prayer that is said during the Friday night meal.
"And sons returned to their border/veshavu banim ligvulam": you can find it in the Old Testament, too: Jeremiah 31:16-17