Short Story

By Denebola
Published: November 2007
By Rebecca GoldsteinIt is Friday morning, and we are out on the dock. We call the lake by its Hebrew name, agam. The Sabbath approaches and we can feel the holiness in the air. Eli, our counselor, passes out a sheet of paper.
“Be careful,” he says, “these have G-d’s name on them.”
It is a copy of the Biblical story of Joseph from Genesis 37 in Hebrew and English.
And Israel saith unto Joseph, “Are not thy brethren feeding in Shechem? Come, and I send thee unto them;” and he saith to him, “Here am I;” and he saith to him, “Go, I pray thee, see the peace of thy brethren, and the peace of the flock, and bring me back word;” and he sendeth him from the valley of Hebron, and he cometh to Shechem. And a man findeth him, and lo, he is wandering in the field, and the man asketh him, saying, “What seekest thou?” and he saith, “My brethren I am seeking, declare to me, I pray thee, where they are feeding?” And the man saith, “They have journeyed from this, for I have heard some saying, Let us go to Dothan,” and Joseph goeth after his brethren, and findeth them in Dothan.

“If I said, ‘This is a story about Joseph wandering in the field,’ would I be right?” Eli asks.
“Yes,” we chorus back.
“And if I said, ‘This is a story about a guy, who was out in his fields, and someone asked him where his brothers went, and he said they went to Dothan,’ would I be right?”
We sit and think for a minute. The sunlight, gradually warming the dock beneath our fingers, reflects off the small movements in the water. The water’s light reflects in our eyes.
“Yes,” we said.
“So, it’s all about perspective.”
“Yes,” we said.
Eli has us lie on our backs. He instructs us to slide backwards towards the water, and put our heads in such that we are wet up to our eyebrows.
Everything is upside-down. Sky is water and water is sky. The vast blue dome, laden with opportunities once dismissed as merely the stuff of dreams, is now just beneath us and well within our grasp. The summer air floats around us, its globules of heat and serenity land on our clothes. The water in which we learned to swim laps our foreheads, pushed by the gentle winds whispering across the lake’s surface. The fresh, clear morning light makes it impossible to tell the difference between the trees that line the opposite shore and their reflections lining the waters below. Our collective weight has tipped the dock towards the water, so we feel like we are about to slip in headfirst, crashing, perhaps, into the sky.

Not long ago, my friend Becca called me. The moment I answered the phone, I could tell she was consumed by anger and frustration.
“I hate my AP Spanish teacher!” she screamed, crying. “She’s incompetent, she’s imposing her incompetence on the class, and I’m not learning any Spanish!”
“Becca,” I said with much hesitation, “is this really what you’re upset about?”
There was a long pause.
“I hate that I care so much,” she said, almost whispering. “If we were at camp, I would know that this doesn’t matter. I’d€”” she started crying again.
Filled with a profound understanding of what she felt, I said, “We’d go out to the dock and just sit and look, and we’d know how small we are.”

We haven’t slept all night. Our parents are coming in an hour. The sun shouldn’t have risen, and if it insisted on doing so, it should at least be pouring rain.
I am standing next to my friend Nathan, and I can feel his profound sadness overwhelm me.
“Do you want to go sit by the agam?” I ask.
We walk down the path. He hangs his head. His face is red, his eyes wet, his hands in his pockets. We sit in silence on the sand. It is the end of August, and the midday sun that would have forced us to shade a few weeks ago merely hangs above us weakly. He stares out on the lake. I wonder what he is thinking. Is it the way the light infuses the water with a rippling shine that holds his gaze? Is it the way the seeming vastness of the lake contrasts with our visits to the houses on the opposite side? The countless mornings if instructional swim, the way the surface steams on a cold day, the fireworks reflecting in the water on the fourth of July?
“I can’t go home,” he says.
“I know.”
Nathan puts his head on my shoulder and his tears wet my shirt. The wind seems to be pushing a layer of despair off the surface of the lake, and it washes over us like the tides. Still, though, the trees that surround the lake envelop us in their strong, green life, and we are safe here.
After a while, Nathan lies down. I watch the waves ripple softly onto the docks. There is a sense of eternity here that I can’t put my finger on, but I am quite sure it has something to do with the dark water’s cool deepness and a small cluster of fish darting through the water in unison, very close to the surface. I am overflowing with emotion, and the excess comes out in tears.
Nathan is now asleep, breathing evenly for the first time in hours. The wind blows sand over his legs, providing a blanket to soothe his pain.
I walk down to the water. The air is saturated with memories shared. The wind suddenly whips my hair back behind my face, burning this memory into my consciousness. I put my hands in the water and dab my face with my hands. The wind whispers around the rim of the lake, echoing the words of Genesis: “What seekest thou?”

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