when the entire world has thought me dead for so very long. But this, I promise you, is really quite

Size: px
Start display at page:

Download "when the entire world has thought me dead for so very long. But this, I promise you, is really quite"


1 I should begin with the simplest of truths: I am alive. You might wonder how this is possibly the simplest of truths, when you have thought me dead when the entire world has thought me dead for so very long. But this, I promise you, is really quite simple in light of all the rest of it. I breathe, and sometimes I eat and sometimes I sleep. But every morning, again, when I wake up, I find myself still breathing. Simple. Really, it is nothing more than science. I can already picture you shaking your head. It is not simple at all, you are saying to yourself. Maybe your face is turning an angry red, and you are yelling that the Red Cross lists said I was dead. Maybe you are wondering where I have been, why I haven t found you yet. I ve come this far. Why not just stay hidden forever? But a person cannot really stay hidden forever. We both know that now, don t we? The truth is, I have wanted to find you for a long time, but I have been afraid. Afraid of what you might think if I told you everything. Afraid of what you ve become since I ve seen you last. Afraid, even, of what you might think of what and who I ve become. I am not a girl anymore. Neither am I a Jew. And I have done things that I can t understand or explain, even to myself. But I promise you this, I am alive. There are simple truths about me. I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America, where I am a legal secretary by the name of Margie Franklin...

2 Chapter 1 The third day of April 1959 seems, at first, just like any other Friday of my American life. I sit at my secretary s desk in the law office of Rosenstein, Greenberg and Moscowitz, typing out Joshua s schedule for the following week, gnawing carefully on an apple. The office is quiet this afternoon, except for the sounds of the girls fingers tapping against the typewriter keys and the hum of Shelby s radio coming from the desk across from me. Nearly all the lawyers have already left for the weekend, including my boss, Joshua Rosenstein, who has gone to Margate with his father, Ezra, who is Shelby s boss. Ezra Rosenstein is one of the partners in the law firm, so perhaps it is no surprise that he owns both a boat and a house by the ocean in New Jersey, which he and Joshua visit nearly every weekend, especially in the spring and summer. By this particular Friday, I Margie Franklin have been a resident of Philadelphia for nearly six years. I have been Joshua s secretary for three of those years, which means I have spent somewhere around 150 Friday afternoons like this one, typing at my desk, eating my apple, listening to Shelby s music. This Friday, the Platters Shelby s favorite pour softly from her radio, crooning about how the smoke gets in their eyes, which is a song that always makes me think of Peter, even from the very first time I heard it, when I was with Shelby at Sullivan s Bar last month. We re leaving early today, Shelby announces to me just after she has devoured a ham sandwich she bought from the cart downstairs. You re too thin, she had proclaimed in between bites. Have half of my ham. She d tried to force it across the desk.

3 No thanks, I d told her, pulling the apple from my satchel and then saying, I don t really like ham. You re an odd duck, Margie. She d shaken her head, but she d smiled as she d said it, so I knew she was saying it all in fun, that she had no idea why I would never bring myself to eat pork. And besides, that conversation, we d already had it thousands of times. Or at least 150. Shelby often eats ham sandwiches, tries to offer me half, and insists I leave early with her when the Rosensteins are away. Now Shelby switches off her radio and taps an unlit cigarette on the side of her metal desk. You are going to leave early with me, aren t you, Margie? I shrug, though I know that she will pester me until I agree to do it. It s almost too warm today for my thin navy sweater, which I wear wrapped around my plaid dress, and I already feel the sweat building in pools under my arms, even in the office, but I resist the urge to fan myself with a file folder or even push up the sleeves. Good girl. Shelby laughs. And one of these days, I may even get you to try one of these. She tosses the unlit cigarette in my direction, and then pulls a fresh one from her pack, teasing it between her lips. No thanks, I say, pushing it gently back across the desk. We have played this game many times before, and I know Shelby does not honestly expect me to smoke it. Many girls in the office smoke, but I do not. I still cannot stand what it reminds me of: another time, another place, one in which I never wish to go back to in my mind. But these are things I d never even dream of telling Shelby. Just past three, Shelby hangs on to my arm as we walk out of the office building and onto the sidewalk. The street is still fairly empty, as most people in the offices around us are still working, and the midafternoon sun glints off the low glass windows of the buildings on Market Street. Shelby wears a short-sleeved white cotton blouse and full green skirt today, because it is

4 April and the sun is warm enough to be without a sweater. But I still have my navy sweater on. I wear a sweater always, no matter what the temperature, so the dark ink on my forearm remains hidden, unseen. Any plans this weekend? Shelby asks me, as if she doesn t know the answer, the same answer I give her every weekend. Studying, I tell her. Oh, good grief, Margie. All work and no play. Joshua thinks I ll make an excellent paralegal, I tell her. Joshua is tall, with an oval face and curly hair the color of warm chestnuts. Sometimes I have the urge to reach up and run my finger around a curl, and I have to hold my hands together, to stop them from moving. Oh, Joshua does, does he? She laughs. Shelby s laugh is like water. Sometimes it s good, cleansing, even refreshing. Other times, I feel it might drown me. Come on. She yanks my arm, turning me in the direction opposite my studio apartment. I want to see a movie this afternoon. And I don t like to see a movie alone. What about Ron? I ask her, referring to her beau, who I have no doubt she ll marry at a moment s notice if he ever asks, though some doubt he ever will. They have been dating for as long as I ve known Shelby, which, as Shelby herself admits, is a long time for a girl to date a boy without any kind of promise. Ron is still working. Everyone else is still working. Come on, she wheedles. Shelby is always wanting me to go somewhere with her after work. Mostly, it is to Sullivan s Bar to have a drink, and sometimes I do go with her even though I don t drink alcohol, but just because she is my friend and her laugh can be so much like water that I want to swim in it, to close my eyes and float away. But at least once a month or so, there is a movie she wants to see. And nearly always it is one that Ron is not able or willing to see with her. Last month Shelby dragged me to see Some Like It Hot and then went on and on about Marilyn s curves and her butterscotch voice. I thought the movie was fine, but I did not laugh at

5 the places Shelby did, at Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon s antics dressed as women. I still do not fully understand the American sense of humor. Hiding is hiding is hiding. What s so funny about that? Come on, Shelby is still urging. I ve read the book and seen the play. The movie will complete the trifecta, and I don t want to see it alone. The Diary of Anne Frank is much too sad for that. She pulls her tiny pink lips in a pout, and all I can do is stare at her, not saying anything. I feel a tugging in my chest. I saw a bit in the Inquirer a while back about the possibility of a movie being made, and something about non-jewish actors being cast, but then I put it out of my mind. Perhaps if I didn t read the article or pay attention, it would simply go away? I can t believe they ve made a movie, I finally whisper. Oh, Margie, seriously, I swear it. Sometimes I really do think that apartment of yours is located under a rock. She shakes her head. You ve at least read Anne Frank s diary by now, Margie, haven t you? Oh, tell me you have! All I can think is that she s saying it wrong not Frank, like the American version of hot dog with beans, a dish that Shelby seems rather fond of, but Frank, rhymes with conk, which is what I d like to do right about now, conk Shelby over the head with my satchel if she doesn t stop talking. And she is still talking. I m not feeling well, I interrupt her, and that is a gross understatement. I am sweating, and my hands shake. Black spots float in front of my eyes, and I close them, then open them again, which only makes the spots turn white. I think I better go home, I whisper. I disentangle my arm and take off briskly, hoping she won t follow me. Margie, she calls after me. Margie. It s the sweater. Take off the sweater. It s too darn hot outside. But I don t stop running until I put the key in the lock, turn, and step inside my apartment.