Behind Closed Curtains

Behind Closed Curtains

Behind Closed Curtains

“I am a Polish Jew,” she said as if it were normal.

Moments ticked by as I put the pieces together. Everything fell into place. My best friend’s sudden engagement, the offset accent when I’d first met Ingrid, the profound sense of vigilance…

The lack of laughter between newlyweds.

“I see,” was all I could say. I wondered at the intricacies of Adalwolf’s plan. How he managed to smuggle a Jewess from besieged Poland, how she learned to mirror German culture so fully, how she managed to stay composed around those who glorified the slaughter of her people. “Teach me something, then.”

Ingrid did just that. Behind closed curtains, she worked in the kitchen. She tasted each dish with a sigh that dissolved years’ worth of pent-up pressure – like shedding the world’s heaviest cloak.

She presented the food with shoulders pressed back and chin held high.

“That,” she said with a flourished hand, “is Gołąbki. The first real dish I ever learned to make. And this is Kopytka - a favorite in my family.”

Though I could see her pride, sadness played between her brows.

“What was this again?” I asked, pointing to the main course.

Gołąbki

“Go..lawb…key

She shook her head with a giggle. “No, no. Less harsh. Like this. Go, wahm, key. The emphasis goes on the second syllable.”

It took five more tries before I said my first Polish word properly, but the tender smile she gave when I succeeded was more than worth the effort.