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Microsoft word - neggiah.docx
The Prednisolone caused me to act slightly manic. On my first day back at school
from hospital, while on a high dose of the steroid, I went around class and asked each
of my friends if they masturbated. It was against Jewish law to masturbate, but I knew
Nobody admitted to it, but many of my friends dropped their eyes to the
ground. I pointed this out to them and said that this was proof of their guilt and
insisted that they admit it. My best friend, Shimon, took me aside and told me to calm
down. I said that I wouldn’t until he admitted that he did it as well. I’d become
obsessed with getting as many confessions as I could. He caved and said that, yes, he
had masturbated a few times and that, yes, he felt guilty about it. I asked him how
many times exactly. He said that he hadn’t counted. I admitted to him that I did it all
the time. It was just something I couldn’t deprive myself of, especially while on the
Prednisolone, as one of the side effects was a heightened libido.
I went back home after that and only returned to school near the end of semester when
I was off the steroids and level headed enough to study.
That Friday, Shimon and I snuck off after prayers and went to Carlisle Street.
Nearly everyone in my community was out buying food for Shabbat, walking among
hipsters and beach bums while wearing the full religious outfits— hats, beards, suits,
wigs— like those character actors in the Ballarat gold mining places who pretend
they’re in another century. After making sure nobody was watching, we went behind
Glick’s Bakery to have a spliff. When we were two drags into the joint, I told Shimon
We’d been talking online for nearly a month and last night she finally said that
she wanted to come over to my place. She also added, out of the blue, that she didn’t
adhere to Neggiah- a Jewish law that prohibits two people of the opposite sex from
touching before marriage. No religious Jew would admit to not adhering to it,
especially not girls. So, the fact that she told me she was cool with touching guys
‘Talya’s a slut,’ Shimon said, before passing me the joint.
I received the spliff and sucked in a lungful, letting the smoke rest in my chest
‘You’d kiss her if you weren’t scared it’d get back to your mum,’ I said, the
Shimon smoothed down his orange beard fluff.
‘No. No, I wouldn’t,’ he shot back. ‘She just wants to get her first kiss and
you’re the only guy in our grade irreligious enough to do it.’
‘Bullshit, I’m much more religious than you. You wear sneakers on Shabbat.’
‘You’re allowed to wear sneakers.’
‘Technically. But you shouldn’t. It doesn’t look good. You also told everyone
‘Yeah, but I didn’t brag about it.’
I shook my head, butted out the joint and put it in my pocket.
‘You should be careful tonight,’ Shimon added. ‘Just because we’ve done it,
doesn’t mean we should do it again. Wasting sperm’s as bad as killing someone.’
At that moment, I felt an intense cramp in my gut. I wrapped my arms around
my stomach and clenched my teeth. The cramps were always followed by a rush of
gas, like thunder catching up to lightning. I knew what was coming.
‘I’ll try not to get carried away,’ I said. ‘I’ve got to go to the toilet.’
‘You don’t need my permission,’ Shimon replied. ‘Just go.’
I jogged out from behind the bakery and went into the toilet in Glick’s. Once
inside, I slammed the cubicle door closed, dropped my pants, fell hard onto the toilet
seat, curled my toes and waited. My bowel cramped up and emptied itself. The watery
output burned as it passed, as if I was being flushed out with acid.
I sat, hunched over and breathing heavily, until the pain in my bowel eased
away. I stood up and looked down. The toilet was spattered with descending lines of
blood and fecal matter, which seemed to leak out from the walls of the bowl, as if the
I took a deep breath in to stop myself from crying. I then got some eye drops
from my pocket, put them in so I wouldn’t look stoned, cleaned the rim of the toilet
bowl, flushed the spliff and left the bakery.
‘Girls are fine, you know,’ he said, as I reached him. ‘You can’t waste a
chick’s orgasm. They can cum as much as they want.’
I shook my head and started walking with him towards synagogue.
‘Would you give Talya head?’ he asked.
I ate Shabbat dinner at my Aunt’s place, as my parent’s were away, and only got back
home at 9. Talya arrived at 9:30. I ran straight to the back door as soon as I heard the
knock, but still waited a few seconds before I opened it, so I wouldn’t look desperate.
‘Hi, Yitzy. How are you?’ Talya asked, once I’d opened the door.
She wore a loosely hanging green dress and way too much make up. Women
always applied their make up too heavily on Friday afternoons, as they weren’t
allowed to touch it up until after Shabbat.
Talya crossed her arms over her chest and stepped inside.
‘You’re a lot taller than I pictured you while we were chatting online,’ she
said, inflecting each syllable with a high-pitched whine.
‘Yeah, I pictured you as kind of short and anxious.’
I brought my hand up to my mouth and bit at the skin around my thumbnail.
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be a bitch.’
‘I just say stupid shit when I’m nervous.’
We got a bottle of wine and some glasses and went to the lounge. As soon as
we were seated and our glasses were full, we toasted to good health and being young
We spent the next half an hour cracking bad jokes and gossiping about other
members of the community. Talya was downing her wine quite quickly and I tried
hard to keep up with her. I really shouldn’t have been drinking because of my bowel
condition, but if I let her get too much drunker than me I would’ve felt guilty kissing
Midway through her third drink, Talya fell silent and started swiveling her
‘You’re not going to tell anyone I came over here, are you? It’s just that if it
got back to my mum, I’d be kind of screwed.’
I put my glass down on the coffee table. Talya did the same. I wanted to take
I suddenly felt guilty having her over. Her family was known to be ultra
orthodox, much more religious than mine. I felt like I was corrupting her.
I thought of saying that she didn’t need to feel obliged to stay, but I was cut
short when all the lights in the house suddenly switched off.
‘Why do your lights go out so early?’ Talya asked.
This was definitely my mum’s doing. Since it was prohibited to use electricity
on Shabbat, all our household electrical items were set to timers. She’d clearly set the
automatic lights to go off early. Accidently, she’d claim, no doubt. But I knew it was
her way of getting me into bed at a reasonable hour.
‘I’ll have to go next door. Do you want to take the wine to my room? It’s the
only light that isn’t on the automated circuit.’
‘It’s only because of, the- the lights. None of the others will switch on…you
Still nothing. I quickly started to think of a way to apologise, but as my eyes
adjusted to the darkness I saw that Talya was smiling.
Without saying anything, I got up, jogged out the front door and went over to
my neighbour’s house. I knocked quickly. Moments later, Mr Jackson opened the
door, dragging back a heavy, ornate lion he was using as a doorstopper. His front
room smelled like a hospital and with a littering of flowerpots and porcelain cats,
looked like the stock room of an op shop.
‘The scores are up,’ he said, as he rested his hand on his lower back and
Every Jewish kid on the street would go to his house on Shabbat to find out
the footy scores. He’d gotten so tired of being harassed that he started writing the
scores on some cardboard and putting it up in his front window.
‘Yeah, I know,’ I said. ‘I was just wondering if you could come over to my
It was against Jewish law for me to have a non-Jewish person use electricity
on my behalf, so I had to hint my needs to him as vaguely as possible.
Mr Jackson furrowed his eyebrows and touched his right bicep, as if checking
if there was still muscle enough to punch me out.
He stepped cautiously out, settling his mouldy slippers onto the wood of his
front porch, and followed me down his driveway and out onto the pavement. He kept
close behind me as we walked the fifty meters to my place. When we got inside, I led
him through the dark house and into my room.
Talya was already inside sitting quietly on my bed.
‘It’s kind of dark in here, isn’t it?’ I asked.
I picked up the closest book I could find.
‘Here,’ I said, opening the first page. ‘It’s a bit dark
for me to read this, could
I coughed and pushed up on to my tiptoes.
‘It’d be great to be able to see.’
Mr Jackson swore quietly, reached over and switched on the light.
‘This is that hinting business, isn’t it? Your father gets me over here all the
The old man squinted around the room, taking in Talya on my bed and the
glass of kosher dessert wine she’d left on my bedside table.
‘You’ve got Crohn’s, don’t ya?’ Mr Jackson asked.
I widened my eyes and looked at Talya. She was staring at the carpet.
‘Should you be drinking with your condition?’
I suddenly thought back to what my doctor had said the last time I’d seen him:
if the Crohn's flared again up it was likely I’d need to get a colostomy bag. I felt a soft
cramp, as if my bowel knew we were talking about it. I wrapped my arms around my
‘Alright, alright. I won’t press it,’ Mr Jackson said.
He buried his hands in his pockets and sighed.
‘I guess I’ll leave you two alone, then.’
I continued to look at the ground and said nothing.
‘Okay, well,’ Mr Jackson muttered, ‘good night.’
The old man stepped out of the room and shuffled his way down the hallway.
‘I’ll show myself out, then,’ came his voice a few moments later, followed by
I looked at Talya. She had her eyes still trained on the carpet. Fuck. The old
man had blown it for me. Now she knew I was a sick, desperate, needy, horny loser
with no idea what he was doing. I wanted her to get out. I opened my mouth and was
about to ask her to leave, when she whispered quietly: ‘This’ll be better with the light
I went over to the bed and sat down next to her. Talya shifted in closer to me.
She leaned in, so that I could smell herring and red wine on her breath. She nuzzled
her nose against mine and we started kissing.
I kept my mouth open and she kept hers closed, so that I covered her lips with
‘It’s ok,’ Talya said, before wiping her mouth with her sleeve.
We started kissing again. I felt the need to go to the toilet, but I ignored it,
becoming suddenly stubborn. I couldn’t always be obsessively listening to my body. I
was tired and enjoying myself and I didn’t want to leave the moment to go to the
I said, when we finally stopped.
My stomach rumbled quite loudly and I felt a heavy pressure in the bottom of
my gut. I suddenly realised how stupid I’d been. I took a deep breath in and waited
‘You don’t have to thank me, you moron,’ she said. ‘It was nice.’
I said nothing. My lower back was starting to hurt and the pressure was
building quickly. I went rigid and clenched as tightly as I could. Standing up would
only make it harder to keep in. I shut my eyes as I felt the warmth escape the hold my
‘Can…can you please go?’ I whispered.
Talya didn’t respond. I opened my eyes and looked at her. Her face was
slightly red. I could tell she was holding her breath.
‘Ok,’ she said. ‘If you want me to.’
She stood up and walked away from the bed. She hesitated at the door.
‘That old guy won’t say anything to your parents about me being here will
I didn’t answer. The wetness on the back of my legs was started to sting the
skin and I could feel another rush coming.
‘It…doesn’t matter,’ Talya said.
She then walked out. I closed my eyes and listened to her move through the
dark house, until finally I heard the sound of the back door close.
Shimon arrived at the hospital late on Friday afternoon. He was dressed for Shabbat
and had with him a small pile of film magazines. I was already hooked to the IV and
was just waiting for them to wheel me into surgery.
‘To get you through Shabbat,’ he said, putting the magazines down on the
bedside table. ‘I’ll try and visit, but there aren’t any other doors except the electric
He looked around the room, spotted the crucifix on the back wall, took it
down and slipped it in the top drawer of my bedside table.
‘I’ll have to hang around outside till a non-Jew walks through the doors and
I didn’t say anything. I felt numb and tired and trapped. I’d gone to see my
doctor the Monday after my night with Talya. He’d told me that I really shouldn’t
have waited so long to see him and that I had to be more vocal about my symptoms.
Nobody was going to take care of my health but me.
I’d kept my illness hidden for two years before I first came forth about my
symptoms. And after that, whenever I saw my doctor, I always lied about how sick I
was, as though, if I managed to convince him I was fine, then maybe I would be.
After doing a colonoscopy, the doctor told me that the inflammation had eaten
away a fair amount of my large bowel and sphincter muscle. He said that the stoma
would need to be permanent. I asked him if I would have needed to have a stoma if I
hadn’t kept my illness hidden for so long. He didn’t respond.
‘When do your parents get back?’ Shimon asked, sitting down in the chair
‘Tomorrow,’ I whispered. My voice was hoarse. I hadn’t spoken to anyone
since I’d been checked in a few days earlier.
All I wanted was for Shimon to leave. I hadn’t wanted to tell him I was having
the operation, but he wouldn’t stop ringing me until I answered my phone.
‘I spoke with my sister,’ Shimon said, taking off his hat and resting it in his
lap. ‘She said that Talya’s been talking about you. You’ve got a reputation now.’
Suddenly, the door opened and a stocky blonde orderly came in with a
The orderly walked over, put his arm around me and gently helped me up. I
hadn’t eaten in twenty hours and was too tired to get out of bed on my own. I looked
back at the bed. There was a stain left from where I’d been lying. Without saying
anything, Shimon pulled the blanket over it.
‘Apparently, you’re a good kisser,’ he said, winking at me.
I smiled despite myself. The orderly walked me over to the wheelchair and
lowered me in. Nobody said anything as I was wheeled out into the hallway.
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