Nothing was working out that year. My husband had just switched careers at the height of the recession, and we were flat broke. Though my first novel had been published and well received, everything I wrote since then had turned to dust.
One of my children had come down with a rare illness — manageable, curable, yes, but it was serious enough that it felt like a plague, took out our kishkes tending to her. On top of it, everything in the house was breaking. Pipes were bursting right and left, and even the toilet clogged every third time it was flushed. When you can’t even count on your toilet flushing, the world seems black.
I got a call from a friend who said, “This is all about the evil eye.” I imagined her sipping her bancha tea in her apartment as she said this.
Evil eye? Of course I had heard of it. My mother, from Casablanca, Morocco, was on the superstitious side. Her mother, my Grandma Estrella, was even more superstitious. They believed in hidden forces that would take away a new car, job promotions, their good looks and talents, or maybe prevent happy things from coming their way. A random compliment, someone showing off her new baby — all this reflexively brought on mutterings of “Keyn’e hore!” (no evil eye), followed by cries of “A-willee, a-willee!” I turned up my nose at all this — this voodoo.
“I don’t believe in superstitions. It’s not Jewish,” I said to my friend.
“It’s not a superstition,” she replied. “Ayin-hore”— the evil eye — is real. The Talmud mentions it a lot.”
“Yeah,” I thought, “but the Talmud also says it only affects you to the degree you buy into it.” At least that’s what I’d heard from my rabbi. “Come on,” I said. “Something must be going on with you.”
Actually, she’d been having tsoris and her own publishing woes. She admitted she’d recently made contact with an evil eye expert in Jerusalem. “She had mine removed,” my friend blurted.
Like a gallbladder. Like mascara. I shook my head in disbelief. My funky friend had crossed a line.
A few days later, our washing machine broke. We couldn’t afford to get a new one. One more plague, I thought as I schlepped two duffel bags to the laundromat.
More “plagues” occurred. My agent dropped me — gave up on my second novel and sent me the divorce papers.