Sunday, August 8, 2010

Another Shade Of Grey

Yirmiyahu and Vered stepped out of the elevator and discreetly ran over to their usual spot on the fifth floor of the Gottesman Library. Thankfully, no one was occupying their favorite table, which was located in a nook on the left hand wall. Yirmiyahu gently set his sefer-laden backpack down in a vacant chair and began unloading the seforim he needed to finish researching his latest Kol HaMevaser article. He carefully put the empty knapsack on the carpeted floor next to his seat. Vered chose the seat opposite her boyfriend, keen on sneaking admiring peeks at his handsome features as he went about his work.

As soon as she plugged in her laptop, Vered passed her tongue over her lips and noticed how thirsty she was. Mentally kicking herself for forgetting her Environmental Club issued reusable metal water bottle, she pushed her chair away from the table and went to get a drink of water from the fountain. When she returned, she noticed Yirmiyahu was intently scribbling what appeared to be flowers on a piece of scrap paper that another student had absentmindedly left behind.

Momentarily suppressing her curiosity, Vered ignored Yirmiyahu’s artwork and flipped open her laptop to get back to her last paper of the semester, which also happened to be the final paper of her undergraduate career at Stern. She felt stupid even writing the darn thing, particularly in light of the fact that she had already graduated several days before. Steeling her resolve, she diligently began to type away. After a few minutes her mind began to wander to her favorite thing to think about, which was Yirmiyahu, of course.

Yirmiyahu was sweet enough to reschedule his bechina with Rav Schachter to accommodate attending Vered’s graduation ceremony. Now that showed dedication. He had had to skip out on the celebratory lunch afterward with her parents and siblings at Mr. Broadway to make sure he got back to YU in time without making Rav Schachter wait for him. That didn’t really matter, though, since he had sacrificed his night seder chevrusa earlier in the week to go out to dinner to the Prime Grill with Vered and her parents.

Later that night, she made sure to call him up to verbally gush their enthusiastic approval over the phone right before she passed out from exhaustion. Her mom had even said she could easily see him as a potential son-in-law, if things kept going in the right direction. Vered’s father, ever the tall, dark, and silent type, said in his usual reserved fashion that “the boy was nice.”

“You know…” Yirmiyahu began, interrupting her reminiscing, his voice trailed off as he continued drawing.

Vered stopped typing, folded her screen down a few inches and peered over it. “‘You know,’ what?”

“I was just thinking,” Yirmiyahu made a few more pencil strokes. “It’s going to be very hard to arrange our Hebrew initials on our bentscher.”

Vered raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean, exactly?”

“Here,” he spun the paper around and pointed at his doodling with his pencil. “It’s because of our names.”

Vered looked down at the somewhat rough drawings, slightly confused “What’s the issue?”

“You see, my name is Yirmiyahu Hoshea, and you’re Vered Hadassa.”


He leaned closer over his side of the table and continued explaining while he indicated several details with the point of his extended pencil. “Well, my initials are a yud and a heh, and yours are a vav and a heh, which happens to spell out the Tetragramaton.” Vered stared more intently at the various designs, and noticed that each monogram-flower’s bud and leaves were carefully arranged so they didn’t quite line up or touch.

“I see it now,” she nodded and angled the paper slightly. “You’re right. The bentscher people are going to have their work cut out for them.” She passed the sheet across the tabletop and went back to typing. Suddenly, she stopped mid-word. “…Wait, did you say ‘our bentscher?’”

“That would be correct, Vered,” Yirmiyahu expectantly looked over the rim of his glasses at her.

“Wait a second-”

“Truthfully, it’ll be a bigger conundrum for the invitations, since people tend to throw those in the garbage at any rate,” his eyes shifted back downward. “Rav Schachter was just telling us in shiur that even putting bet-samech-daled in the corner is problematic according to some poskim.”

“Back up a moment,” Vered put her laptop in ‘sleep’ mode and closed the lid.

“Yes?” Yirmiyahu met her alert gaze.

Vered paused, eyebrows furrowed into a V on her forehead. “You said ‘our bentscher.’”

“Yup. Didn’t we establish that?”

“…What did you mean by that?”

“By what?” Yirmiyahu replied with a certain knowing innocence in his tone.

“When you said ‘our bentscher.’”

“I think this is what they call in those old cowboy movies, ‘the jig is up.’”


Yirmiyahu slid off his seat and crouched down next to his seemingly empty backpack. After a few seconds, he lifted his head and scuttled around the edge of the table.

Vered’s eyes widened. “Are you kneeling?”


“Is this what I think it is?” Her breathing quickened.


“Omigosh!” Vered’s voice stopped dead in her throat, and she pressed a hand to her collarbone.

“Is that a ‘yes?’” Yirmiyahu held out his left hand, palm up. Cradled within was a small black velvet box. He gingerly opened, and something inside sparkled brilliantly.

“Uh… whuzza… fuzza…” Vered stammered.

Yirmiyahu smiled his attractive boyish grin. “Yes or no will do.” Vered visibly struggled to say something. “If the cat won’t let go of your tongue, please feel free to nod.”

Vered nodded vigorously. Yirmiyahu stretched his hand out further, gesturing for her to accept the ring. Vered’s lips pursed shut, and she started hyperventilating through her nose.

Yirmiyahu chuckled. “You sound like the main attraction at a bullfight, dear. It isn’t very lady-like,” he joked. In one swift motion Vered snatched the jewelry box with one hand while she scooped up then flung his pencil at him with the other. It bounced off his chest and skittered across the table.

“That one’s going on Only Simchas,” a familiar female voice cooed.

“Well, I got it on video. Facebook, here we come!” Another one joined in. Vered’s two closest friends, Ahuva and Esther, emerged from behind a bookshelf, holding digital cameras.

“Girls, if you’ll please hug my fiancée for me, I’d greatly appreciate it.” Yirmiyahu’s smile grew ever broader. He stood up and took a step back to make room for the two squealing young women as they rushed in and wrapped their arms around Vered. It seemed like the entire floor stopped whatever it was doing and stared in their direction to see what all the ruckus was about.

“Quiet down, now! This is a library, for crying out loud!” The librarian called from the front desk, rapping his knuckles on the wooden countertop.

“I can’t believe it!” Vered announced, finally releasing her first spoken words after several minutes of star-struck silence. Esther and Ahuva gleefully screeched in reply.

The librarian tapped his little silver bell three times. “Don’t make me call security!” He angrily shook a fist in the air.

“Getting kicked out of the library wasn’t part of the plan, so can you guys turn it down a notch?” Yirmiyahu whispered to the girls, while he waved apologetically to the flustered librarian.

“Don’t forget these!” Esther and Ahuva said together, holding out a bouquet of bright red roses. Vered clutched the flowers to her chest and inhaled their sweet scent.

Yirmiyahu admired Vered for a moment. “We should probably be going now,” he made a flowing gesture with his arms. “After you,” he smiled.

Vered took two steps then stopped in her tracks as if a bolt of lightning had struck her. “Wait. You didn’t even ask me to marry you!” She exclaimed, turning to face him.

Taken aback, Yirmiyahu fumbled for a response. “Well, it was pretty clear what was going on when I-”

Vered didn’t let him finish the sentence and interjected with a raised hand, fingers splayed. “No way. Not cool.” Vered slipped the ring off and carefully sat it down on the table next to the roses.

“What?” Yirmiyahu asked in alarm. “Are you rejecting the proposal?”

“There wasn’t one to reject, dummy!” Vered retorted. “I’m not putting that back on until you do it right this time.”

Yirmiyahu smirked and lifted the ring aloft between his forefingers and thumb. “Vered will you-”

She crossed her arms over her chest, gave him a fiery look and cleared her throat. “On one knee.”

Yirmiyahu lowered himself onto one knee. “Vered, will you marry me?”

“YES!” She delicately picked up the ring, replaced it on her left ring finger, and once again cradled the bouquet in the crook of her arm.

Yirmiyahu laughed quietly to himself, “Come on, let’s go.” He started walking toward the front desk and Vered playfully skipped next to him.

Vered hesitated as Yirmiyahu stepped into the waiting elevator. “What about our stuff?” She craned her neck to look back at their table

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll pack up for you!” Esther called out, busily stacking up Yirmiyahu’s seforim.

“We’ll meet you there in a minute!” Ahuva added. Satisfied, Vered entered the elevator. The doors slid shut with a clank and she admired her new diamond ring all the way down to the lobby level. As soon as they arrived, Yirmiyahu set out moving quickly.

After a handful of steps, Vered stopped again. “Where are you taking me? Don’t we have some obligatory phone calls to make?!” She raised her hand to her ear, fingers bent in the shape of a phone.

“Nope,” Yirmiyahu turned around, walking slowly backward. “Everyone’s waiting for us in Rubin shul. Your family, my family, and everyone else you can think of, from your MMY roommates to crazy great-aunt Faygel.”

Vered paused, a grin spreading across her beautiful face, “You’re good.” Vered hopped through the security gate and beamed at her fiancé.

“I know,” he beamed back. A friend of Yirmiyahu’s noticed the pair and quickly held the door open for them.

Together, Yirmiyahu and Vered stepped into the shining sunlight.


  1. Great story! I can think of a number of Stern girls who would love to be proposed to in the YU Library.

    Why is the title "Another Shade of Grey"?

  2. I really enjoyed this story. Felt very real...with enough of a fairytale tinge to make me smile.

  3. I think I know why it's called "another Shade of Grey"...think about it...

  4. Let's see...

    The blog is called Shades of Grey, right? And "another shade" might be relevant to the subject of the blog post, dontcha think?

  5. I can assuredly say that Yirmiyahu Hoshea is 100% not me, nor is he anything like me - with the exception of wearing glasses.

  6. Although you answered the question, you're dodging the intent of the question...

  7. I sure "Richard Joel'ed" that one, didn't I?


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