“When My Ear Fell Off” by Stratos Moustakas & Dora Mezei

When my ear fell off I first thought of the client delegation sitting at the conference room, waiting for the meeting to begin in earnest. My boss would now be entertaining them with commonplaces and polite chuckles. She had a way of raising a hand to conceal the chuckle that came off guarded, yet endearing, and somehow manifested whenever we had to close a deal and the other side were men in suits who pushed compliments and suggestions that made my spine shivery. I then thought of the mortgage.

I looked at the ear in my hand and the tiny flap of skin that had been holding it in place my whole life. I was in the kitchen, having volunteered to bring ice, as the water in the metal jugs was only medium cold and the weather was already on the wrong side of 30, like me. Mental note to carefully word an email to Facilities about this. Better yet to Peter who’s friends with Erzsi from Facilities. Peti used to be a rabbi and has a way with people that I’ve always attributed to hidden depths, a talmudic ocean (well, lake) of spirituality he might have managed to freeze over yet never quite forget about.

And my ear looking at me like an expectant mollusc, stripped of its mobile home and exposed, my piercing on the inside track a gleaming aluminum eye (a forward helix, aptly) and me thinking maybe I can use the ice to preserve it. Sidestep the conference room to the lockers where I can stow it away. Or maybe to the supply closet and just try Blu Tacking it back on for now?

I wrapped up the ear and the ice in a tea towel and headed out, moisture soaking through, prickling my palms. I poker-faced it through all the partitions though no one cared to look up, thankfully. Last thing I needed was an ambulance and my boss and Zsolt from HR snatching do-gooder points and a host of onlookers throwing me a parade. “What do you know, poor thing must have gotten infected!”, Erzsi would say and everybody would shake their heads, “she just wanted a bit of a makeover”, and everybody would nod. And sure enough, that’s what I get for showing up one day with a pierced ear like I’m declaring extended youth. My boss hadn’t said anything, true, but my dad had tutted at it then looked me in the eye with his calm blue ponds like he used to after I had brought home a grade. How much grief can an ear give me?

I found myself near Peti’s desk and for some reason thought of my bat mitzvah and me reading about Joseph’s many-colored coat, and Joseph’s Technicolor coat we used to dance with my cousins as children. Jacob meeting Joseph after all those years he thought him dead—how many years, exactly? If they were many and Jacob held out hope he could have opened him a trust fund, to the consternation of his other sons. Some ancient money pact that would include goats and fig trees. And then—imagine that!—Joseph shows up with a piercing! What would Jacob think? What would God think?

I’m at Peti’s desk now yet somehow I’m stuck thinking about dancing to the Technicolor coat and my dad telling me “so you stayed up late studying, where’s the A?”. My hands’ veins frozen numb. The rabbi looks up from his spreadsheets and at the dripping towel bunch and into my eyes, lips parted in confusion, trying to remember their alephs and yuds.

Stratos Moustakas writes fiction, essays, and humor, having been published a number of times. He blogs at The Budafoki Amended and can be reached and read on Medium, Twitter, IG and LinkTree @stratosmous,

Dora Mezei is a M.A. in English and Hungarian literature, an all-around language worker, and a terrific Foosball player.

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