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When?

Poetry & Prose | March 23, 2015

I used to wonder: Will someone love me? My hair was a bed of wild dark ringlets sprouting from my head in a hundred different directions. My hips were wide and full from years of Mama’s cholent and rich conversation with Papa. My coat was frayed, the pocket ripped from sister chasing me down the block, cheeks flushed, heavy panting, snow parachuting through the cobblestone city. Mama would rest her fragile hand on my shoulder and say, “Just wait. Your time will come.”

When our home became the ghetto, when my bed became a wooden floorboard, when my curved back became a canvas of scarlet streaks and black scars, burning with the cruelty of cackling men in green jackets, I continued to ask: Will someone love me? “Your time will come,” Mama still said with her signature thin-lipped smile.

But now, I don’t wonder anymore. My hair is chopped, my nape exposed to the sting of the harsh Poland winter. My hips are sharp as shards of glass, bones protruding from what used to be warm human flesh. My coat is gone, swallowed by the chemicals of monster machines; the gold buttons have been ripped and with them the dignity of wearing a nice jacket on a chilly day strolling through Warsaw.

Love doesn’t exist in the camps. Survival is the stuff of romantic fantasies, here. No soft touch on the small of my back, no eyes locked tightly with mine. No roses, biscuits, or butterflies. Only gas, guns, smoke.

Mama still says, “Your time will come.” But we both know she’s not talking about love.