I just love this scene! Read the book to find out what becomes of these two.
…On one particular afternoon, I took Rose to lunch at the
Jewish deli. By that time we were extremely familiar – Rose’s
kind of familiar, which made it acceptable for her to buy clothes
for me – with my money and without my presence. Rose and I
stood in front of the deli case at Adelman’s, and after I decided
in favor of the herring with cream sauce instead of a pastrami
sandwich, I pointed to some of my favorite foods and asked
Rose, “Do you like kreplach? Do you like latkes?”
After I had made many suggestions, she said in a loud voice,
“Boy oh boy! You like all that Jew food, huh?”
“Rose,” I said. “Please. Have some respect.” It was the
first time I ever said anything like this to her.
In a louder voice, she asked, “What? I can’t say Jew food?”
The customers twisted their heads to look at us. “Rose,”
I whispered, “I want you to be quiet or I am going to leave you
here by yourself.”
She put one hand on her ample hip. “You think I don’t
know how to get home? You’re an idiot. Go ahead, you wanna
Lenny, behind the counter, shook his head. I gave up
our spot to the next person in line. “Rose,” I put a trembling
hand on her forearm. “Please stop it. I am asking you for the
last time.” My voice was below a whisper.
“Hey Mister,” she shook my hand off her arm. “Don’t
you dare tell me what to do.” Now she was screaming. “So what
if I said Jew food? Big deal! You’re a Jew. It’s not a bad word.”
I didn’t want to leave her there, but I did. There are some
things a man should not have to put up with, even for love.
Yes, I loved her. I admit it. I loved her even as I turned my
back and left her standing at the counter in Adelman’s. I loved
her when I returned to my apartment hungry, with nothing in
my refrigerator but moldy leftover shish kabob.
I was miserable, but I did not call her – and I knew that
Rome would fall again before she called me. Rose never apologized
for anything. She was always right! So what’s to apologize?
I didn’t go to the Senior Center for two days. My friends
called to see if I was sick. My heart was sick but I didn’t say
so. I said I was taking a break, that I had things to do. To tell
you the truth, I had no idea what to do. I forgot that I was an
On the third day, I woke up and asked myself what Cicero
would do. Would he lock himself in his apartment for three
days? Would he forget to brush his teeth? Of course not! He
would examine the problem from every perspective. He would
acknowledge that there was more than one truth.
Rose, she did not know what she was saying. She never
looked death in the face through barbed wire. She never heard
the word Jew spat from the mouth of a Nazi. She was an ignorant
woman who never left Brooklyn. The word Jew, in her
mouth, had no connection to those atrocities. She meant no
harm and I had no right to be angry with her.