In the Beginning
Western South Dakota 1996
"And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon man, and he slept, and He closed the flesh in its place.
And the Lord God built the side that he had taken from man into a woman, and he brought her to man." -Genesis (Bereishit) 2:21-22
Eighteen-year-old Hannah Hagen met Uri Geller at a football game. It was not a Friday night game. Friday night was Shabbat.
Hannah heard of Uri and knew of Uri. It was hard not to, as he was one of the only Jewish students in her school.
“Urine the Jew!” she heard some of the boys cruelly mock him in the hallways.
Uri wore a little circular, crocheted cap on the top of his head, which Hannah found fascinating. Aside from his cap, he dressed like the other students and blended in well with the crowd. Feeling sorry for him when the jocks of the halls teased him, Hannah went out of her way once to say hello and give him a smile.
But on this weeknight game, Hannah found herself especially drawn to Uri. She sat three rows behind him to his left on the bleachers along with her best friend, Faith.
Uri sat behind a group of jocks; the boys who didn’t play football but were involved in some other sport. He sat next to a boy named Daniel, another Jewish student, though he didn't wear a circular cap like the one Uri wore each day.
It was a chilly September night, the air damp after an evening rainstorm, and Hannah and Faith shared a blanket. The boys in front of Uri wore what appeared to be matching uniforms. They sported zipped hoodies and kept their hands in their pockets for warmth. None of them wore mittens or gloves, despite the cold temperature. Uri also wore a zipped hoodie along with a baseball hat that covered his small Jewish cap.
What drew Hannah’s attention to Uri on this evening was when an especially obnoxious student, Gregory Moorehouse, repeatedly knocked Uri’s hat from his head to reveal his kippah, shouting “Jew cap, Jew cap!” each time he did it.
Uri was lightning quick. Each time Greg took the hat, Uri grabbed it back in a second, even when Greg stood up to try to keep it out of his reach.
“Greg is such a creep,” said Faith, interrupting Hannah’s focus on Uri.
“Yeah, he is,” Hannah agreed as she watched Greg take Uri’s hat again.
Just as Hannah prepared herself to confront Greg, Uri grabbed Greg’s wrist and pulled him down a bleacher onto Uri’s level. Fearing a fight, Hannah's adrenaline increased.
“Crap,” said Faith. “Something’s going down!”
They watched as Uri pulled Greg closer to his face and whispered something in his ear. The color in Greg’s face drained. When Uri released his grip, Greg fell backwards onto the bleachers, his face turning a blotchy red with embarrassment.
Uri looked in Hannah's direction and caught her staring at him. She offered him an awkward, close lipped smile as he fixed his hat. She noticed the color of his hair—wavy and dark golden blond—complemented by his dark brown, almond shaped eyes. He held eye contact with her for a moment, gave her a short nod, and sat down. Greg continued to hurl curse words at Uri, but he was unaffected, refusing to look in his direction.
The jocks carried on drinking their sodas, watching the cheerleaders, and throwing popcorn at the group of kids in front of them.
Hannah could not take her eyes off Uri. He laughed with Daniel and some other students, keeping his hands in his pockets the entire evening, unlike the others around him, who continued to throw popcorn and blow spitballs.
Hannah, a born extrovert, turned to Faith and said, “That Uri kid is kind of cute.”
Faith flashed her a questioning look, raising her wide eyebrows that complimented her green eyes.
“Uri? The Jewish kid?” she responded loudly, causing Hannah to move closer to her.
“Shh!” said Hannah, lowering her voice. “Yes, the Jewish kid. Have you ever really looked at him? He has nice eyes. And I think the whole Jewish thing is kind of cool.”
“Cool?” Faith responded with disbelief. “You know they don’t believe in Jesus.”
“So what?” said Hannah. “I don’t think I believe in Jesus either."
“It doesn’t matter, anyway. My mom says Jews don’t go to Hell. God has a special place for them because they’re chosen.”
“Chosen?” Hannah repeated.
“Yeah, Father Mike told her that.”
The youngest of six children, Faith grew up in a devoutly Catholic household. Hannah dreaded staying at her house on Saturday nights, forced to attend long, boring masses with Faith and her family.
“I think I’m going to talk to him,” said Hannah, staring intently at the intriguing Jewish boy.
“Now?” asked Faith, "In front of all of those guys?”
“No, after the game.”
“What are you going to say?”
“I don't know. I'll think of something.”
She continued to focus on Uri for the rest of the game, as Faith talked with a group of friends beside them. Her infatuation grew as the minutes passed.
Finally, when the fourth quarter ended, Hannah’s pulse raced. She hadn’t been paying attention to the game and checked the scoreboard to see that their team lost by 14 points.
"Hey, Hansen!" One of the jocks yelled to a player on the field. "You're supposed to CATCH the ball!"
The player, who Hannah could only identify as number 22, flashed his middle finger back to the jock in the stands.
As the crowd made their way off the bleachers, Uri glanced behind him and caught Hannah staring again. Embarrassed, she tried to act natural, quickly looking away and pretending to be in a conversation with Faith.
"He just saw me looking at him,” Hannah said, unnerved.
“Well now you have to talk to him," replied Faith. “You know, I don’t think Jewish boys are even allowed to kiss.”
“Did Father Mike tell your mom that, too?” Hannah shot back.
She watched as Uri and his friends walked down the bleachers.
“Come on, we have to catch him!” Hannah said, starting to make her way through the crowded stand.
"Wait, let me grab my blanket!" Faith hollered with annoyance.
Hannah picked up her pace, dragging her friend along behind her. When they arrived on the pavement, she watched as Uri gave Daniel a handshake and high five before breaking away from the group.
Then compulsive Hannah did what she was notoriously known for when she was anxious. She let her mouth take over.
“Hey Uri!” she yelled. “Uri!”
He stopped walking and turned around, unsure of who was calling his name.
Hannah picked up her pace.
“Uri!” she called again. As she ran closer to him, she realized he was taller than she expected.
“Yes?” he said with a friendly expression. His olive cheeks reddened, highlighting his shining complexion.
Stunned by his good looks, Hannah was uncharacteristically shy and unsure of what to say next. Faith nudged her back into reality.
“I just wanted to say that you handled that jerk well tonight," she said, catching her breath.
“Who?” he asked.
“You know, Greg—the kid who kept taking your hat.”
“Oh,” Uri said. “Yeah, I’m used to it.”
“What did you tell him?” she asked.
"What are you talking about?" Uri responded, teasing her.
"We saw you whisper something to him! What was it?"
"I can't tell you that," he said very seriously.
"What?" Hannah tried to sound exacerbated. "Come on, tell us!"
He paused for a moment, as if he were discerning whether they could be trusted.
“I told him about the horns," he finally said.
“Yeah, you know, the horns we Jews grow on our heads.”
Hannah looked at him silently, unsure of what to say.
“You don’t know anything about Jews, do you?” Uri asked her, shyly smiling himself now.
“Actually, I’m part Jewish,” she lied. Lying was another of Hannah’s compulsions when she was anxious.
“No, you’re not!” Faith butted in.
“Yeah, I am,” Hannah glared at Faith and continued with her lie. "On my dad’s side. He had a Jewish aunt.”
“Ah,” said Uri. “Then you’re really not Jewish. A real Jew must have a Jewish mother.”
A car pulled up and honked. Hannah could make out an older man in the driver's seat, wearing the same type of circular hat on his head that Uri wore.
“I have to go, but it’s nice to know a bit of your family history, Hannah.”
He grinned at her, revealing a slight gap between his two upper teeth.
“Hey!” she hollered to him as he walked away.
“How did you know my name?”
He turned around to look at her, flashing the same gapped tooth smile.
“Because it’s a nice Jewish girl’s name!” he exclaimed.
Hannah stood in wonderment as she watched them drive away.
“He knows my name!” she shrieked in excitement to Faith. “How does he know my name?”
“Don’t all you Jews know each other?” Faith answered sarcastically.
Hannah rolled her eyes. Eager to get home, she planned to research everything she could about the Jewish people.
They walked to Faith's car, kicking up leaves and gravel along the way. For the first time in a longtime, Hannah felt a tingling sensation in her stomach. For the first time in a long time, she felt like something was about to change in her life.
Smiling, she took Faith by the hand. Like giddy little girls, they skipped their way to the car.