Postcards from My Chastity Pledge

The author on the subway.Everyone in my neighborhood wants to ravish you mercilessly till the words are long coming and the will to resume’s on the loom. How do I know this, you angrily sputter, clutching my shoulders and shaking your tearful face with a fervor I’ve yet to plumb as to its provenance. I know because I feel it, I tell you unconvincingly. You tremble under my watch and together, we head in the direction of Coney Island Avenue, beneath the setting sun and the glowers disguised as sexual approbation of the salacious lawnmowers and streetside loiterers. They mow in their fatigues and linger with their goblin smiles. Illicit, ill-mannered, we strain our necks to look away…

On the creaking steps of the formerly hot pink Sophie’s Choice house, we skim through the latest edition of Trendy Modest Muslim, an Islamic clothing catalogue consisting of busty, headless mannequins in the hottest, modest styles. Shivering, we head for home. There’s a strain in the air—some call it fate, I hear it as music—of something salacious, of reckless indulgence and nonreciprocal rapture. It is the call to prayer, and I answer it. The only way I know how.

With fear, I venture to the bay window and hear the peals of church bells blustering in from my Christian fantasies and the clang in the imaginary belfry unites with the present petulant moaning wafting through the air and reverberating through loudspeakers on top of proselytizers’ cars. Is it the sound of pious Hasidic Jews or Muslims I hear? I do not know but I know enough to know I’ve heard too much.

n810208_35904361_5191I rush down the stairs, knocking over several sweaty Slavic ladies in flowered frocks carting collapsible dollies of liver and potatoes. I apologize profusely, but my contrition is lost in the wind as I step out into the vestibule where I see, to my terror, everyone in my neighborhood who ever wanted to make me their slave girl. From the sweaty Hispanic lawnmowers to the emaciated Slavic teenagers to the sari-swathed preadolescent girls playing jump rope on Beverley Road to the men in sirwal, women in jilbab, the men in shtreimels, the women in wigs; all who have jockeyed for godliness, but met with my sinuous form in its stead.

Petrified for my sanity, and my purity, I run across Ocean Parkway but am stopped by the electric shocking sound of strategic car horns and soul-crushing jeers. I drop my burlap sack containing all my worldly possessions, including my immaculately constructed, glass gingerbread house made by my great aunt in the Old Country so many epochs ago. It crashes to the ground, shattering with it my dreams for a better life. I throw a rock through the offending windshield with a psychotic, lost-it-all laugh and make off down the street but am quickly entrapped by the inescapable thump of a sparkly plastic jump rope. Like the golden eagle in The Rescuers Down Under, I am captured by a gang of preteen Bengali girls and dragged to synagogue where, eyeballed over bubbling vats of murgh makhani and hot borscht and burning rubber, under the auspices of all the superficially incompatible religionists of Kensington, Brooklyn and their one and many gods, I expire. Amen.

The author in handcuffs.In Heaven, I am surrounded by perfectly pleasant and nonintrusive Anglo-Saxon angels with flaxen hair playing golden harps, eating watery grapes and inviting me to have my hair braided. The next morning, enveloped entirely in translucent white nightdress, I visit Heaven #2 where Tatu and other incredibly attractive stars of Hindi cinema are skylarking with much metallic jangling of jewelry and glossy black whorls. That night I daytrip to Heaven #3 which consists of ceaseless Midwestern prairieland—speckled light green and brown with amorphous splats of lavender wildflowers—and Ethiopian immigrants taking baths in porcelain tubs with feet.

I decide to take a detour to Hell because I miss my old neighborhood. Aptly, it looks like Church Avenue and I walk it in a shiny sequin slip that has to be sewn on me like I’m Marilyn Monroe and Kensington is JFK’s 45th birthday party. I am left to my lonesome because though hell-tripping I am an angel, and invisible and for all these reasons I am subject to nothing but my view of a menagerie of many nations, with the allowance of god, indivisible, for liberty of prurience and all its attendant compensatory piety for all!

Photo collages by the author.

Rebecca Katherine Hirsch is a writerly redundant currently distracted by the thumping drum-beating resonating throughout her building. She is the Editorial Master Emeritus for Not For Tourists guidebooks. Her first book is currently being optioned by Paramount for a Christmastime release. Just kidding. She needs a job. Make her day by paying a visit to