HIGH SCHOOL NORMALITY contains strong language and some themes not suitable for audiences under 17. Viewer discretion is advised.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

"What's going on?"
"My father's dead."

"I'm sorry sweetie. Daddy's gone."

"Callie and I got back together yesterday."
"You did? That's really great! I'm so happy for you guys."
"But this means you and I can't see each other anymore, okay?"
"You guys were seeing each other?"

"We don't have the money to go, so we don't even get to pay our respects to our dead father?"
"Who cares? He was an asshole, let him rot with no one to pay respects."
"How the fuck could you say that?"
"Because it's the truth."

"You didn't answer any of our calls, and you wouldn't talk to us yesterday, and you never cry. So, what the heck is going on?"
"You really want to know what's going on?"
"No, I've been waiting out here for you because I don't want to know."

"I almost forgot. This is a ticket for you. One day, when you do understand all of this, please come find me."

Louder please, I'm not sure the president of Indonesia heard you quite clearly.

"Uh, hi Mom. Did you...get my note?"
"Oh, you mean the tiny piece of paper that said 'Mom, Cal left me a ticket to Israel, going to the funeral'?!?! What the hell are you thinking?"
"That Cal left me a ticket to Israel and that I'm going to the funeral."
"No, you're wrong. You will get into that Prius RIGHT NOW and come HOME!"
"Someone has to be at Cal's funeral, Mom, and I can't let this ticket go to waste. I will be back in a few days, a week tops."
"Now you listen here, mister--"
"Love you, bye!"

I had never blatantly disobeyed my mother before, and I have to say that I really didn't like the feeling of being rebellious toward the one adult in my life who has consistently been there for me, but being rebellious was the only way to do what I needed to do.

My name is David, and I'm a normal high school student.
And while disobeying my parent was a totally normal high school activity, disobeying my parent in order to bury another was not.

Back at home, my mom, along with my brother Jake, my sister Libby, my half-sister Maya, and my--"stepmother" Lucy Greer, were all in a frenzy as they tried to figure out how to remedy the situation.

"He just--went to Israel?"
"Apparently. Here's the note."
"Mom, Cal left me a ticket to Israel. Going to the funeral. Be back in a few days. Love, David."
"At least he left a note."
"That's not the point! The point is that he is off to a foreign country--alone--without my permission and without any consideration for anyone else in this family!"
"What's consideration?"
"Thinking about other people."
"So David din't think of you?"
"Nope, he just up and left."
"To be with Daddy?"
"No, to--"

Mom stopped and think of what the three year-old socrates before her just said.

"Yes. To be with Daddy."

And suddenly she understood why I had made my decision.

But there was one group of people who still didn't know why I made the decision or even that I did...

"Guess who has two thumbs and got laid last night?"
"Does Mal mind that you share your sex life so freely?"
"It's locker room talk, she understands that."
"But we're not in the locker room. We're at the Coffee Plantation."
"Yes we are, and David's not. Has anyone heard from him? I texted him and he never responded."

Aaron Stanwick knew something that neither Mark Adams nor Michael Florence knew.

"He's starting to scare me. He hasn't been himself."

And he knew also that it wasn't his place to tell, that it was my business, and that under no circumstances should he open his mouth and say--

"Cal died."

My friends stared in amazement.

"Look, I don't know any more than you do, but all I know is that David freaked out at me when I tried to be sympathetic, and that he probably needs some time."
"Well how much time is he going to need?"
"However much time he needs. His father died."
"His father that he never talks to."
"His father nonetheless. Now look, Spring Break starts tomorrow. A week of space should be good for him."

And back on the plane, my alone-time began. As I watched the flight attendant pointing to the emergency exits, I thought about the trip I was about to make. I had never even left the country, let alone taken a trip to Israel. The only reason I even had a passport was because Libby had this irrational fear of the military issuing a draft, and so we all got passports so that in the event of a draft, we could all flee to Canada. So legal, I know. But none of that mattered at the moment. All that mattered was that I was going to a place that generations of Jews had visited, a place that even Moses was not allowed into, and the place where my father wanted to be buried. It was, for all intents and purposes, the most important place in the world.

As the plane took off and headed toward Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, I remembered being a little kid and listening to Cal tell me stories about going to Israel; how it was the most beautiful place in the entire world, how there was nowhere on Earth like it, how the girls were hotter than the sun itself. I remembered how I felt even at seven or eight years-old about the country, and more importantly about Cal. I thought he was the most amazing person on the face of the planet. He promised me always that we were going to go to Israel together someday, the entire family altogether. That would never happen. Not only was Cal dead, but we hadn't been a family in a very long time. No trip to Israel was ever going to fix that.

While I waited for Continental Airlines to begin its in-flight presentation of The Princess and the Frog, I turned on Coldplay's Viva la Vida album full blast on my iPod and drowned myself in the opening intervals of "Life in Technicolor."

17 hours later, I was in the Holy Land.

"We are now making our final descent into Ben Gurion International Airport. Please stay in your seat with your seatbelt fastened until we instruct you to remove it. Welcome to Tel Aviv and thank you for flying with us. עכשיו אנחנו עושים הירידה הסופית שלנו בנתב"ג. בבקשה להישאר במושב שלך עם חגורת הבטיחות שלך מהודק עד להנחות אותך להסיר אותו. שלום תל אביב מודה לך על טס איתנו."

The view of the city was breathtaking as we made our final descent. The water was as blue as the sky and against the beach backdrop were buildings and highways and cars and people, all with their own stories and many of them Jews like me.

I hurried off the plane, my luggage in hand, and took a deep breath. This, I thought to myself, must be what home feels like.

The first thing I did was find a phone book so I could look up Cal's address. Once I found it, I grabbed a cab.

"223 Nehemia Street please."

Thank God everyone in Israel speaks English!

And back in a primarily English-speaking country, my friends were becoming increasingly worried as none of them had heard from me in almost 21 hours. So, they decided to stop by my house to make sure I was okay.


My mom answered the door.

"Hi Mrs. A. Is David around?"
"He didn't tell you?"
"Tell us what?"
"Um, David's in Israel."
"Well, his father is being buried there, and apparently he had a round-trip ticket, so he left and he'll be back in a few days. Anyway, I'm sure he'll give you all a call when he gets a chance. Goodbye now."

Mom closed the door, leaving everyone stunned.

"He just--went to Israel?"
"Without telling us?"
"I know, it's--bizarre."
"Do you think he told Callie?"
"I would assume so. They did get back together the other day."
"But she still doesn't know about J0y."
"He wasn't planning on saying anything."
"He's gotten pretty good at not saying anything, don't you think?"
"Don't 'Aaron' me. I'm tired of his distance. He never tells me anything anymore. It's like he doesn't trust me or realize that I will always be there for him no matter what."
"Except that there was that period of time last semester when you left all of us for that bitch."
"So now this is my fault?"
"Guys! There is nothing we can do about it while he's a million miles away. Let's just go get some pizza or something."

As they headed toward Michael's Jeep, Mark stopped dead in his tracks with a crazy idea in his head.

Meanwhile, as the cab came to a stop, I stared out the window at the apartment complex. In getting out of the cab, I would be going to a dead man's home; my dead father's home. I wasn't sure I was prepared for it.

"Longer you wait, more you pay."

I had only brought a couple hundred dollars, and I was in no mood to waste it all sitting in a cab pondering whether or not to go into my father's apartment. I paid the man, got out of the cab, and buzzed someone who was on his floor.

"Uh, Shalom, uh, shem sheli David Adler, ben Calvin Adler."
"Oh, ze rabbi's son? He mentioned zat your Hebrew is no good."

Way to have some faith, Cal.

"Um, so I've come here to go to his funeral and all that, and I'm going to be staying in his apartment. Can you please buzz me in?"


"Thank you."

I headed up to the second floor and walked down the hall to Apartment 13, where Cal lived. Across the hall in Apartment 12 was a beautiful woman in her 20's with long black hair, tan skin, and large breasts tucked away in a silk robe. She was smoking a cigarette and leaning against her apartment door.

"You are David?"
"Yes, and you are--"
"Ronit. I buzzed you in."
"Oh hi, it's so nice to meet you."
"I lived across ze hall from your fazer. So sorry for your loss."

Again with the sorrow.

"Uh, thanks."
"Would you like a cigarette?"
"No thanks, I don't smoke."
"Oh, well at least join me for breakfast."
"Breakfast? It's almost 5."
"Not in Portugal it's not."

At first I didn't realize what Ronit was hinting at, and then I realized that she was talking about--

"Woah woah woah, look lady I hardly know you, and besides I have a girlfriend who I will not be cheating on. I am here to do one thing and one thing only--bury my father. I will be gone in a few days."
"Oh, I am so embarassed! I am so sorry David, I did not mean to offend you."
"It's alright. I'll just see you at the funeral then. It's tomorrow afternoon, right?"
"Right. See you."

Things like that NEVER happen to me stateside.


A very tired Callie Anderson answered the phone.

"Guess who?"
"David? Oh my God where are you and why are you calling me at 2 a.m.?"
"Oh shit, forgot about the time difference."
"What time is it where you are?"
"5 p.m."
"5 p.m.? Where are you, Australia?"

I could hear Callie's parents in the background asking her what the commotion was about.

"I can see that this is a bad time for you, so why don't you get some sleep and we'll talk tomorrow."
"Tomorrow for you or tomorrow for me?"
"It'll be soon, okay?"
"Okay. I love you."
"I love you, too."

As soon as I got off the phone, it occurred to me that if it was 2 a.m. Callie's time, it was 2 a.m. my time, so I crashed on Cal's couch.

The funeral commenced at 11:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. It was a closed casket, which was odd for Cal since he always wanted to be in full view of everyone, but it was better this way. From the curtained area reserved for immediate family I saw what looked like hundreds of people. Being that I was the only immediate family member present, I sat alone, I mourned alone, and I felt very, very alone.

We proceeded to the burial place and the rabbi tore a piece of black ribbon that I had pinned to my black jacket (it was customary to rip an article of clothing and wear it during the seven day period of shiva, or immediate mourning). As I watched them lower his casket and said the Mourner's Prayer I nearly broke down, with no one to catch me as I fell to my feet.

Ronit hosted a luncheon in honor of Rabbi Adler at her apartment. She wore a black, very conservative suit (much more comforting than what she had been wearing).

"Hello, Ronit."
"Allo David. How are you doing?"
"I guess I'm okay considering the circumstances. If you'll excuse me I have to make a call."


"Hi, I know that it's like 11:30 your time, but I figured that since it's Spring Break you'd be up."
"Yeah, I'm up. So what's up?"
"Well, the funeral was today."
"How was it?"
"It was a very nice service, and a ton of people were there. I think he would have enjoyed it."
"So when are you coming home?"
"Not completely sure yet. There are some things that I wanna see before I leave. I don't know when I'm gonna be in Israel again."
"Okay, just don't stay too much longer. There's some things we need to--talk about."

That couldn't be good.

"What do you mean there are things we need to talk about?"
"Let's not do this over the phone."
"What, are you breaking up with me?"

There was a pause on the other end of the line.

"Wow, I can't believe you're breaking up with me."
"I just feel like we need to spend some time--"
"Apart? We already did that, remember?"
"I just don't know if I can handle a relationship right now."
"What changed between Friday afternoon and now? Is this about me sleeping with Joy? Because if you ask me, whatever happened while we were on our break stays there and has nothing to do with us."
"David I have really gotta get to sleep."
"No, Callie, wait!"
"Call me when you're back in Arizona."

"Is everysing alright?"
"No. Thank you so much for everything, Ronit. I'll see you later."

I walked across the hall to Cal's apartment and I slammed the door. I couldn't believe that I buried my father AND got dumped on the same day. Could things have gotten any worse?


"May I help you?"
"יש לנו צו הפינוי של קלווין אדלר"
"Calvin Adler is being evicted."
"Are you kidding me? Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME?"
"This is no kidding matter. Please tell Calvin Adler he has three days to get out."
"Three days? How am I supposed to get all of this shit out of here in three days?"
"As ze Americans say, when zere's a will, zere's a way."
"Because I am SO willing to do this. Okay, thank you for the notice. Bye bye."

And once again the door was slammed, and I screamed.

And somewhere over the Atlantic ocean, a baby was screaming next to Mark.

"Is there a problem, sir?"
"Yes, I was seated next to this adorable baby, and he REFUSES to NAP!"
"Well I'm sorry, sir, but you are just going to have to endure it."

And across the aisle a few rows up, Micahel and Aaron sat.

"Are you sure that going to Israel is such a good idea? I mean you know David. He's very private about this kind of stuff."
"Aaron, David is our best friend. Whether he likes it or not, he needs us. And besides, Mark's new potential stepdad was able to score us these last-minute tickets. How could we resist?"
"Very true. I just hope he's not too overwhelmed when he sees us. I know how he can be."
"Well, when we get there we will be sleep deprived and we will have to crash for a few hours. By then he'll be hosed down and we'll just have another Fearsome Foursome adventure."
"Fearsome Foursome?"
"You're right. We'll work on the name later."

So while my friends commuted toward the land of milk and honey, I sat in the land of salt and vinegar. I was astounded. I couldn't even trust Cal to pay rent on a small Israeli apartment.

I ventured into the bedroom to see if I could find any boxes to start packing stuff up, but upon entry, I was greeted by the sight of dry blood on the edge of the bed and the floor next to it.

"Oh my God!"
"Sad, isn't it?"

Startled, I turned around to face Ronit.

"Shit, you scared me!"
"He was such a nice old man. No one saw it coming."
"Saw what coming? You're scaring me."
"Did anyone tell you how your fazer died?"
"No. How--how did he die?"
"We assume it was suicide. We heard a gunshot and when we broke into his apartment he was just lying here, the gun next to his body, surrounded by blood."
"Oh my God! Oh my God!"

And on the unspacious floor of the tiny bedroom in the small apartment in the minute country of Israel, I completely broke down. It was proof--physical proof--that Cal had died and that this was happening. And in my entire life, even in my darkest hours, I had never felt so devastated or alone.

David Adler
Normal High School Student