Lily Ellman

The Great Mitzvah

The evening begins at seven o’clock as Bella and I press the glass button of the elevator to shoot up to the Rainbow Room at the top floor of the Midtown tower. We exchange glances and smile as if to say, “Is this real life?” She adjusts her magenta framed specs and I smooth out my two piece set from Lester’s. The gravity sinks us into the ground and I feel the lace stitching at the bottom of my skirt scratch against my skin. The outfit itself is not too fancy compared to the silk slips that the other girls my age wear, but it is the first form fitting frock I have ever been allowed to wear to a Bar Mitzvah, and I feel sophisticated and festive. I feel unashamed to be seen, which is new for me. The elevator doors open and a waft of every designer perfume known to woman and cold air slaps my concealer-caked face. Bella sneaks her hand into mine and squeezes it. She always has a way of comforting others without actually saying anything, like she’s possessed by the spirit of a thousand gentle sprites. They flutter down her arm and into her hands to hold mine. Her glassy eyes widen as we step into the thick expensive air.

An orchestra greets us piercingly as we waltz down the world’s longest hallway. The musicians’ penguin tuxedos blend together hypnotizing us with a never-ending swirl. The sound of grand trumpets and drums playing the pop song, Classic, boom from the black and white blur. Even though it is Jackson’s Bar Mitzvah, Bella and I feel like the stars of the night. We strut down the glossy onyx floor in our kitten heels like it is our own reserved red carpet, ready for the paparazzi to catch us looking uncandidly-candid at any given moment. At the end of the hall, the music fades from the elegant ensemble to the neon-lit DJ, who plays the clean versions of every cheesy rap song of the year. Moonlight seeps over the New York City skyline and into the wrap-around windows of the Rainbow Room roof. We walk towards a window to be bombarded by the boys’ moms we recognize from every school ceremony, who never cared to ask us any real questions. Their professionally painted faces light up from the view and the vodka cranberries.

“Hi girls! Aw, you both look adorable! Fun party, right? Right? Yeah I know. Hahaha. you go have fun,” says a blonde figure in a prosaic cocktail dress, whom I identify as Jacob’s mom, as she pats my back. She does not know my name, nor do I hers. What was the point of  that interaction? We could have easily been mops with wigs on, and Jacob’s mother would have just routinely patted our wooden spines, maybe even have gotten a splinter, without batting one of her overcast eyes. We drift towards our established seventh grade clique: Lexie, Katie, and Vonna. Katie greets me with a scheduled hug which never fails to squeeze every thought out of me until I just feel the warm gold of her heartbeat. Lexie is preoccupied with her phone and gives me an impersonal side hug, still nibbling at validation from grey message bubbles. A sparkly picture frame by a dark cubicle catches my eye, and I pull Vonna and Bella to the booth. “Photo booth! Come on guys. It’ll be so cute,” I say.

“Wait, wait my shoe’s falling off,” says Bella as Vonna rushes to pick out a pair of cartoonish pink glasses to put on. Bella slips into her tan pointed shoe after a series of grunts, and picks out a blue boa. My poison of choice is the fedora. We pile into the booth and choose the most dignified background we could find: a huge One Direction logo sneaking behind the smiling band. I then grin to reveal my metal and wire infested mouth, and my lips crack from the sudden movement. I suck in my stomach as the countdown begins, my fingers grasping at the fabric of my friendships, uncomfortably tight. Three, breath. Two, in. One, hold.

I feel unashamed to be seen, which is new for me.

We jostle out of the little booth and claw at the machine, waiting to analyze the picture to figure out if our insecurities are as prominent as they feel in our guts. When the picture slithers out, Vonna grabs it and gives it to me. The other girls fade to the background as I acknowledge the mediocrity of the photo. An obviously fake smile and a hidden double chin – I feign indifference. The motivators sneak up behind us and pretend to be leisurely as they push us with force into the ostentatious ballroom. Vonna and I pick at the plate of mini-grilled cheese with truffle flakes that a silent waiter proffers, and prance around to the rhythm of a solo violinist with heaven in our mouths. I look up in a flurry of euphoria and notice a whale of a chandelier, ready to flop on the unsuspecting rich people at any moment. I ground myself by looking back at my shoes as the violinist quiets down. Filled to the brim with Russians in black, the soup of a room bubbles with suspense.

“A toast,” a voice scratches every wall from the center of the room. A cat-like woman with a disco ball of a silver dress paws at a microphone. “To my son, Jackson, for being so mature about this process. You have gone to every session with Rabbi Cohen, and have truly come into yourself as a man. I am so proud of you,” a calculated tear tip-toes down the apple of her leather cheek. I swim through the swamp of black as mother cat continues with her humble-bragging, and find a herd of boys and Vonna surrounding something. They rumble with each other in suits and ties that their fathers coerced them into, blocking the object in the middle. I push Jonah, and there before me stands a bar made entirely out of ice. “Is it real?” “Can I lick it?” “How does it stay cold?” The boys continue harassing the bartender with these questions as I zero in on the fog circle surrounding Jonah’s Shirley Temple. The droplets above the liquid are a shade of rose, and the drink alone is a lightsaber of red on the clear table.

I notice that Vonna is the only girl among the sheep, and watch her for a moment. Her face reddens as Mark looks down at her from his height of six feet one, and her cheeks lift to the dome of a ceiling as she smiles at him. I can almost feel the hot whispers from Lexie, Katie, and Bella on the back of my neck when I look across the room to see them staring in our direction. My friends have been in a fight for about a month now, because Vonna keeps choosing the gents over our company. In the meantime, I glance at my watch to see that it’s a quarter after ten. Jackson’s mom finishes her toast, so I float back to Lexie, Katie, and Bella. A cake the size of a six-year old is wheeled out in front of Jackson and his family. It is a four-tier cake with ocean blue fondant covering its entirety. On top of it lies a camera, also made of fondant and lined with gold. I feel myself toppling over, like I am the heavy camera barely balancing on top of a beautifully crafted concoction. I do not really belong here, but I have been dancing in this sweet confection all night.

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