Every day is a learning opportunity: what to do, on Yom Kippur in Chicago? Everyone else is still in New York; “But you don’t ever go to temple anyway,” I tell myself. You are a cultural. A non-practicing, non-religious, barely-believing.
Do you believe in God?
Oh, you have no idea how much I want to. Is Yom Kippur the right day to be asking yourself that question?
It is so quiet, today, I can hear the dust settling into the radiator. I’ve broken my fast with two sips of warm Earl Grey tea. Caffeine, caffeine. It’s the only word my neurons learned to say. Earl Grey tea, and two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day, here in Chicago. It is the easiest thing to make, no dishes to wash; it is a matter of convenience, living here with you, spending our time playing Magic and living in the quiet.
This is the furthest I’ve been away from New York on the high holidays. Why should I care now? What’s so high about them, anyway? It’s always been just an excuse.
Everything is just an excuse to make life easier for me. Maybe I’ll spend the day doomscrolling, reading all the lit journals I always planned to read,and always watching television.
The television on low, soft light falling on the couch, the dog barking. Shrill, constant.
The neighbors hate us.
“There’s beer in the fridge,” one of us says into the dark interior of the apartment.
Another wasted day, wasted weekend, squandering the beautiful life God gave to us.
I’ve been listening to opera lately.
“It calms me down,” I say into the open, empty room, as if my listening choices require an explanation. As if you care.
“I can do whatever I want,” we both say, “and you can take it or leave it.” But it goes unsaid, because we both know I’m never going home.
Nothing is required, ever.
I do things to get by, sure, but I don’t need to do anything more than pay the rent and put sandwiches in my mouth, on repeat, ad infinitum.
And to think: I once could play “Clair de Lune” by heart.
Phillip Scott Mandel is the Founding Editor of Abandon Journal and has an MFA from Texas State University. His work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Passages North, Hobart, Bull, and many other journals. He lives in Austin with his wife and daughter, and in his spare time runs an advertising agency, Mandel Marketing.