I ran my hand through my hair for the hundredth time, still not used to having my head bare.
“You sure you wanna hit up this place?” I asked Rafi.
“Yeah. It looks pretty cool”.
I calmly handed the bouncer my friend’s brother’s I.D. He barely glanced at it, and let me through without a second look. I would have been totally freaking out had I been sober, but I was smart enough to stop off at a calm bar full of old people and drink some liquid courage (read: vodka) so that I wouldn’t back out. No, I wouldn’t have freaked about using the I.D., I’d done that a million times, it would have been the place we were entering that would have set me on edge.To be honest, there are a thousand bars just like it in New York City. There really was no reason for me to be this amazed by a standard dive bar in the East Village. Every kid at every college around the world is at one of these bars every night. Why was I so amazed at a mob of drunk (supposedly) twenty somethings dancing to club music, playing beer pong, and doing all sorts of flirting? Oh yeah, because it was my first time in a bar.
Okay...that’s not technically true. I had been in bars before, but always wearing my impenetrable barrier: a yarmulka. I don’t know if the supreme alienating force I felt while wearing one was real or imagined, but it killed my self confidence enough to stop me from ever entering a place like this. It’s impossible to try and have fun while feeling more self conscience than anything else.
This also happened to be my first time going to a “college bar”. Any of the other bars I had been to were just places for drinking with some friends, like the old people bar from earlier that night. This place was different. It was dark and exciting. It was packed, and had a bit of a clubby vibe to it. I had never been in a place like this before. Girls were grinding on guys, guys were getting shot down trying to dance with girls, and waitresses in tight shirts were expertly navigating the crowd to bring food to people in booths. It was the kind of stuff I had only seen on TV. I felt liberated...I was doing something normal, something fun, something...goyish.
To think that a year ago I was still wearing white shirts to yeshiva everyday...
One year earlier.
“I was just saying that they aren’t ---”“Urban Legend??? You DARE call a medrash an urban legend???”
Oh crap. I had really done it this time. Just when I was finally getting along with him too.
Learning with the Rosh Yeshiva as a chavrusa meant that I was constantly skating on thin ice. It could seem perfectly safe one minute, and the next thing you know you’re desperately looking around for help. When we just stuck to the gemara it really wasn’t too bad. Things got crazy when we would discuss anything else. Sometimes he was so normal that I forgot not to have my Rabbi defence barriers up, and I said what I was actually thinking. That was how I landed myself in situations like the one at hand.
Today’s culprit was the posuk that people say after shmoneh esrei to not forget their names when they die.
“Rebbi, all I meant was that you don’t really think that that’s supposed to mean literally remembering your name” I stammered, not really doing much to help my cause.
“Any why not?” He demanded “ The magen avrohom believed it! And the Gr”a! Are you trying to say your smarter than the Gr”a?”
That line was one of his favorites. There really was nothing to say that would make the situation any better. Anything I said now would just get him even angrier. Unless I apologized to...well I’m not really sure who I would even be apologizing to. I didn’t say anything that should have been insulting to him. Besides there’s no way in hell that I would ever say I’m sorry to a Rabbi...unless I hit him with a car or something.Rabbi Ephraim Gottlieb gave me an intense stare as I just held my silence and stared right back. My parents always said that my insolent attitude would really come back to hurt me one day. They were probably right about that too, but I still didn’t care. I would never give him the satisfaction of just willing me into submission on account of his position.