CHAPTER ONE: My Confession
My name is Aerez, and I am 13 years old. I am here to tell you how it all happened and why I did it. I know I am not a good person, doing what I did, but I am not a bad one, either. I am just me. Somewhere in the middle, I guess. Love me or hate me, I don't care. I am not here to make friends. Speaking of friends, that’s one thing I can tell you for sure – I am not a good friend. Good friends don’t really exist. At the end of the day, everyone is for himself. Isn’t that the truth? Show me an act of kindness that is not self-serving. We give to charity because it makes us feel good. Would we give if it didn’t? The hell we wouldn’t. We do what’s good for us, period. Everybody’s a selfish jerk, deep down inside, and I rather be a jerk that knows he is a jerk than a jerk who lives under the illusion that he is a good person. At least I see things the way they are. I told you, I am not an asshole. I won’t go harming people for the sake of seeing them suffer. That’s just mean. That’s the other side of the equation, someone who thinks they are better than others and so they deserve to humiliate or hurt them, like that kid who beat me up when I was nine as I was walking back home from school. He had no reason to do it, the fucker. Just because I was weaker than him doesn’t give him the right to hurt me. He stopped me with his two buddies and asked me who I was and what I was doing there. It’s so embarrassing, how I answered him like a pussy. It’s like I wasn’t in control of my body, so I just told him my name and that I am going home, and suddenly he just slapped me in the face, so hard that my glasses flew out and I heard them hitting the pavement. My face burned, and I froze, but all I could think of was my glasses. I just didn’t want him to step on them and then I wouldn’t be able to see. He told me never to come back through that street and then he left. I don’t know how my glasses didn't break, that was a miracle. When I was in fifth grade, my glasses broke in the middle, you know, the place connecting the two lenses, and since my parents didn’t have the money to fix them, I had to go to school with glasses connected by metal wire. It was like wearing a fucking sign saying, “I’m poor”. My mom says that we are not poor because we always have food on the table, but I think that she is just making herself feel better because she doesn’t want to think that her kids are poor. I know that we are not as poor as she was growing up, and I am not complaining. My grandmother tells me stories about how hard it was when they immigrated to Israel, but all I hear is blah, blah, blah. I get it. I have it so much better than they did. But that was then, and this is now. We live in different times, and my reality is different. It’s all relative, you get me? If you don’t have food on the table and you find a fucking potato, you are happy to have a fucking potato. If you have bread on the table and you find a potato, you won’t be jumping up and down, you know what I mean? You’ll be complaining why you don’t have gravy. When my front tooth broke during a soccer game, I had to go to school with a silver tooth because my parents couldn’t afford a real crown. All the kids laughed at me, and called me donkey-tooth. If I was strong, I would beat the crap out of them. Not like the asshole who beat me for not reason, they would have deserved it. You don’t call someone names just because they are poor. I know, I know, I am not poor. What’s poor, anyway? I guess I am not poor, because we always have food, but let me tell you something, I am not wealthy, either. It’s not that everyone’s having a slice of the same cake, if you know what I mean. It is only us, the Sfaradi Jews who came from the Arab countries, who have it rough. The Ashkenazi Jews who came from Europe have shit loads of money, and they think they are better than us. My mom had to fight to get me into my school, after they told her I didn’t belong there. But the school in my neighborhood is crappy, and full of criminals and drugs, so she insisted. So she managed to get me into the good school, and now I am the poor fucking kid. Everyone is walking around with new Nike shoes and cool jeans and I have to show up with the same cloths I wear every fucking day. My mom is from Yemen, and Yemenite Jews had it the worse from most of the rest. Even my dad who is from Iraq had it better. Whatever. I told you, that was then and this is now. I have learned my lesson many years ago – money talks, bullshit walks. I heard someone say it in the movies and it’s true. One thing I promise you – I will not be poor forever. I will make shit loads of money. You’ll see. I might not be good-looking or strong and my body is sick with asthma and allergies, but I am super smart and I will show them all. If you have money, you can buy doctors and medication, which means you can buy health. If you’ll tell me it’s not true, you have no fucking idea what you are talking about. I do. My inhaler costs 150 shekels without prescription, which is illegal to buy anyway, although I know of a pharmacist who will do it for some extra cash. The one inhaler they give me a month is barely enough, and I can’t tell you how many times I got to the end of the month and almost didn’t have enough puffs left. I can shake that thing and tell you how many puffs I have, I am that good. Without it, I am dead. I can’t breathe. Did you ever have a serious asthma attack? If not, shut the fuck up. You have no idea what you are talking about. It’s like someone is choking you from inside. You fight for every breath. It’s like you have to lift weights inside your lungs for air to come in, and you are not allowed to get tired, because then you will die. I have severe asthma, and everything around me seems to cause an attack. Trees, dust, heat, grass, eggs, tahini. Fucking tahini, you get it? I live in Israel. They put sesame seeds on everything, even in deserts. Once, I almost died because the guy at the falafel store didn’t clean the fucking tongs like I asked him to. He thought I was a pussy or something and laughed at me and pretended he was cleaning it. I think he was an Arab and maybe wanted to kill me. I hope he chokes so he can know what it’s like. I live in constant fear of an asthma attack. It’s like I am a dry leaf floating around in the middle of a fire storm. It is only a matter of time until I catch a flame. What could a friend do for me? Better maximize the fun now, as long as I am alive. A couple of years ago I ran out of my inhaler and got to the pharmacy with two or three puffs left, and the pharmacist told me there is a shortage all over town and it would take at least three days to get one, no matter where I go. Three days! I use at least five or six puffs a day, if I am lucky and don’t have a serious attack. I went out of the pharmacy and just couldn’t take it anymore and started crying. You must think I am weak for crying, but fuck you, I am not. You have no idea what it’s like. I am not proud of crying, but I couldn’t keep it in, it was like an explosion or something going up my chest and into my throat. This woman asked me what happened and I didn’t answer. What could I tell her? I don’t want any pity. What could she do for me? My dad went to the pharmacist I was telling you about and even he didn’t have an inhaler to sell. He eventually managed to get me one that had a few puffs left from my grandfather. It smelled funny because my grandfather smokes cigarettes and drinks Arak, but it saved my life. He never has a spare, either, probably because he smokes. I got the asthma from him. My dad had it light when he was young and it went away. They say it skips a generation so I got fucked but I don’t think it is true because my uncle Tzadok has it bad, too. He also smokes. Anyway, it’s all about money, and whoever has money survives. If I had a shit load of money, I could have a helicopter ready to lift with a medical staff waiting to take care of me, 24/7. I would pay them well just to sit on their asses and wait for me to need them. Since I’ll be paying for a pilot, I might as well have him fly me places, including to my very own special falafel place that would not serve any tahini. When you have money, everything is possible. You have a million friends and people love you. Especially girls. Don’t tell me it’s not true. Heidi, the girl I loved until last year, never looked at me and it is because I don’t have money. True, I am not a good-looking guy like Emmet, but this is also because I don’t have money. When you have money, you look better. Maybe your nose or eyes are the same, but the clothes and the haircut and the shoes make a difference, too. Money makes everything look better. Emmet, who I guess was my best friend until recently, has a house with an elevator that goes from the bottom floor and opens directly in their living room. They can have it because they own the entire top floor of the building. You need a special code to make the elevator go to their floor, like in the Las Vegas movies. His dad is a contractor, and built the house the way he wanted and reserved the top floor for himself. My dad never had a chance to do something like that. Money goes to money, my mom says. Heidi never liked me, not like that anyway. A couple of years ago when the girls and the boys started hanging out together, I discovered that Emmet and Michael were hanging out with her and her girlfriends and they were playing truth or dare and even kissing. I asked him if he can get me in and he said that he will try, but I had to buy jeans because I came to school with sweatpants every day and that wasn’t cool. I asked my mom for money and eventually got one pair of jeans and Emmet got me to participate in a couple of the hangouts. In the second one, Heidi and I kissed for a couple of seconds in a game of truth and dare. I was so happy, I can’t even tell you. But then she kissed Emmet much longer and they even disappeared for a while and I got all sad again. I don’t know if they kept meeting because after that time they stopped inviting me and Emmet wouldn’t give me a straight answer. I think they did continue to meet and didn’t invite me anymore because I am wearing the same jeans every day and I am not good looking enough. I think they only invited me because Emmet insisted and he was the most popular kid in our class. Last year I asked her to be my girlfriend, and she told me we can be friends but not more. A few weeks later, she and Emmet started going out. It didn’t last long but it was horrible, I could barely look at them in school and couldn’t believe he would do this to me. I told you, everyone is selfish. To be honest, he asked me and I said OK, but what could I say? If I said no, he would have hated me and I would have lost him as a friend. Which I probably did anyway after what I did, so I guess it didn’t matter. But I am not stupid, and I already knew that Heidi didn’t like me this way, so what’s the point saying no to him. Emmet was my friend from the second grade. He invited me to his birthday party and I was excited because it was the first time anyone invited me to their home. I went and brought him a special gift – a big round bubblegum that looked like a tiny apple and tasted like one, too. It was a special gum, made in England, it tasted sweet and sour and fruity and sparkly all at the same time and had a crunchy skin and cost three times a regular bubblegum. The first time I brought one to school, he happened to sit next to me and so we decided to divide it, but didn’t have anything to cut it with. It was the middle of class, so we put it in my pencil holder, which was one of those double-sided magnetic ones, and planned to bang the cover so that the gum would flattened and we can split it. Emmet made a distraction by fake-sneezing and I hit the cover with my fist as hard and as fast as I could. The pencil holder closed shut and the teacher suspected nothing and even said “gesundheit” to Emmet, and we tried our best not to laugh. But when we opened the pencil holder the bubblegum was still round and instead it made a perfect hole through the plastic barrier in the middle. We couldn’t help it and laughed so hard the teacher came and demanded to know what was going on. We didn’t tell her and just kept laughing. He then invited me to his birthday and that’s why I brought him the bubblegum as a gift, because I wanted to remind him of that funny experience we had together. I don’t think his mom liked my gift because all the kids brought toys and expensive stuff, like one of the kids brought him a Swiss Army knife, which probably costs a fortune. I think his mom thought I was cheap or something and never liked me since. But I didn’t care and after all the kids left he took the Swiss Army knife and used it to cut the bubblegum in half and we ate it and he told me it was the best present he ever got. We were best friends since that day all through elementary school, until I did what I did. We would hang out together in school and I would sleep over at his place but never in my house because I don’t have my own room. He liked coming to my house though because he said the food was great and he loved my father’s spicy pickles. Ashkenazi Jews make crappy food, with no taste. Once Emmet asked my dad to taste the hottest pepper and my dad warned him it would be too spicy for an Ashkenazi Jew, but Emmet wanted to try anyway. He touched the pepper with his tongue and then ran screaming to the bathroom to put his tongue under the faucet. We were all laughing so hard. Yemeni and Iraqi Jews can eat super spicy foods. We had many good experiences together, Emmet and I. Unlike me, he has many friends, but I think I was his best friend because we would do things that I don’t think he did with anyone else, like masturbating in the bathroom with dirty magazines. We have a great system to ensure his parents don’t catch us. We take turns watching the door to make sure no one came up to the second floor. Emmet is strong, and good looking, and his dad’s rich, and I already told you about his beautiful house which has two floors. He always has pocket money and had a big party for his Bar Mitzvah in an event-hall like the rest of the kids in my class. I didn’t, because it costs so much money. Instead, my parents gave me money to take up to 20 friends to the movies and buy each half of a serving of falafel and a coke. I told them that buying only half of a falafel is not enough, especially for the boys, but they told me that’s all there is and if I want to buy each kid a whole serving I had to invite less kids. I don’t blame my parents. Believe me, I know how hard they work. My dad is gone from dusk until dawn every day, and my mom works in the evening at the hospital until midnight so she can cook and take care of the house. But I wanted to invite 20 kids and to give them a whole portion of falafel, I really did. It’s not that I have so many friends, in fact I only had Emmet as a friend, but I wanted to invite Heidi, and that meant I had to invite all her girlfriends and also a whole bunch of boys from class because otherwise It would be weird if I only invited girls. To get everyone a whole falafel, I would have had to invite maximum of 10 children and that didn’t work. As is, I was embarrassed that I didn’t have a party like everyone else. I remember the feeling of the money my parents gave me in my pocket, a whole bunch of bills. It felt good to have so much money and to be the one who paid for all the kids. I felt rich for a few minutes and kept checking the money was in my pocket. We all went to the movies and saw “Who’s that Girl” with Madonna because I like Madonna and I listen to her music all the time. We then went to the falafel place and a few kids asked for a whole portion and I had to tell them no, and felt my cheeks becoming red. I whispered to Heidi that if she wanted I would give up my half and she can get a whole one, but she didn’t want it. It was so strange to feel so rich with all the bills in my pocket and then to feel so poor at the same time. I went home with no money left because it was exactly the amount I had to spend, and swore to myself that I will be rich. Emmet got four hundred dollars for his Bar Mitzvah from his grandfather. Four hundred dollars is like two thousand shekels. That’s so much money I can’t even explain. I have never seen so much money in my life. A week after his Bar Mitzvah he showed me where he hid the money. The bills were folded three times into a small square and shoved behind the heating radiator under his desk. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do with so much money if it was mine. You might think I am a bad person for thinking about stealing it, but I told you already, I don’t care. You are not me and you have no idea how the world works. Money makes a big difference in everything. And so when Emmet showed it to me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and decided I should take it. We got together the next day and when he went to masturbate, instead of watching the door, I went back to his room and took the money and put it in my shoe, under the ball of my foot. When he got out, I said I had to go and left. I walked all the way home thinking about the folded bills, feeling them under my toes. I had a strange feeling in my stomach, good and bad, and every few steps I wanted to go back so I could somehow put the money back in place, but didn’t know how. He would have asked me why I came back, and besides, he already masturbated and how would I put the money back with him in the room? So I just kept going and focused on what I would do with the money. I went back to his house the next day and the day after that, because I didn’t want him to suspect me. But it all felt weird and I wasn’t in the mood to do anything and especially not to masturbate. Since then, things have changed between us, especially since I now have a girlfriend and I am hanging with her all the time. Her name is Dawn and she is Sfaradia like me, because her parents are from Morocco. She loves me and says I am the smartest man she ever met. She is a little crazy in her mind, bi-polar is what they call it, and she can cry and laugh in the same hour for absolutely no reason. But she is tough and is afraid of nothing and I love her, and in the summer I even saw her kicking this kids’ ass on the bus because he called her a Dirty Moroccan. I showed her the four hundred dollars and told her I stole it from an Arab who worked in the construction site across from my house. She hates Arabs and thought I was brave and laughed so hard when I told her how I did it. I made up a whole story and told her not to tell anyone. I also told her that we have to wait a few weeks for the dust to settle before I exchange the dollars with shekels because the Arab is probably looking for it, but really it was because I didn’t want Emmet to see that suddenly I have money and wonder how I got it. I think that’s another reason why I stopped hanging out with him after that. It doesn’t matter because next year we are both going to different high-schools and will not see each other anyway. I am going to a religious school with no girls and he is going to a secular school for artists because he is dyslectic and has learning disabilities. Maybe that’s why he liked me and wanted to be my friend, because I was smart and never had issues with my homework and with tests like he did. I told you, everyone’s selfish. OK, maybe not the solider who jumps on a grenade to save his friends, but even he is a bit selfish because he knows it’s a good thing to do and his family would admire him for that or something and maybe his life sucked. Everything changes and everything ends, and Emmet and I had a good friendship and now it will be over. I don’t think he knows it was me who took the money and he never said anything about it to me and I don’t regret what I did because he is rich and I am sure his parents can replace the money and sooner or after he will forget about it. Now I am only 13 and I am rich and taking Dawn to the movies and buying her Falafel and Shawarma any time she wants. She eats a lot like me. We go to the arcade and play video games and kiss very long with tongues and do other things and I always have money to treat her well. I told you, money is important, and I will never be poor ever again. I’ll be so rich… just wait and see.
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