The Rachels
Cady Vishniac

The moms of Congregation Agudas Achim’s Kesher Center for Jewish Learning Day Care Inc. are having a night out, which means I’m wasted, having drunk three martinis with five women named Rachel. It’s lovely. The Rachels ask if I’m sure I’m twenty-one, and when I tell them my real age they call me a liar. I’m forced to show them my license the same way I showed it to our waitress, and I don’t like to show anybody my license because the picture was taken during my third trimester, when even my eyelids were fat.

We start to dish about our toddlers, the details non-moms would think we’re weird for sharing. Things like: “He’s convinced his father has a vagina.” Also: “She can’t poop in the potty because she’s not sure she has a poophole.” I’ve got a good one about my son. He calls his penis his butt and his butt his tushy. He says girls keep their butts on the inside.

There’s a Rachel here who will move to Latvia next week. She’s spinning out one last hurrah over a single tall glass of a local IPA. There’s a Rachel here who says she quit drinking before she turned twenty-one, and this Rachel sips her ice water with the tension you’d expect from a recovering alcoholic who’s watching other people lose control. She says, “When the contractions started I got up and walked to the hospital.” There’s also a Rachel who’s an architect. In fact, we discover that her firm designed the library at the college from which I just graduated.

Everybody is unduly impressed with me for earning my bachelor’s several months shy of turning thirty–with a kid to boot, raising him on my own for a year or two until I met my boyfriend–and they’re flat-out amazed I got into grad school with a fellowship. I try not to feel condescended to. The problem is I’ve gained this extrasensory perception and an inner voice that’s always whispering: It’s only a big deal because they thought you were stupid. Anyway, Architect Rachel drinks a whole pitcher of sangria.

There’s an Israeli Rachel, and she’s prone to horrible stories that are also a tiny bit dirty. For example: “My friend was naïve. She met a guy and had sex for the first time and got pregnant. But they couldn’t see each other for five months after that because she threw up so much she was hospitalized, then she threw up harder every time she looked at him. She knew it was his fault. But they have six more kids now, so I guess everything worked out.”

Israeli Rachel drinks the most, alternating between Long Island Iced Teas and a raspberry lambic, which would be disgusting to the rest of us if we hadn’t entered a judgment-free zone. She just quit her job at the consulate, she says, because of bad grammar. “They wanted me to send out these videos with the press releases, but the English was embarrassing. The translator doesn’t understand pronouns.” Her husband is a nebbish Harvard PhD candidate, and her son will only let her clip his nails if she paints them red when she’s finished.

It’s not me pressing the issue but the martinis. The martinis say, “But that can’t be it. Nobody really quits her job over pronouns.”

She pounds a fist on the table. “Propaganda!” she shouts. Alcoholic Rachel flinches at the noise. I pretend not to notice our waitress staring with open exasperation at us–a table full of hard-drinking frumpy women who won’t order dinner and won’t get out of her section–and Israeli Rachel continues. “The videos said there’s no such thing as Palestinians, but I’ve seen Palestinians with my own eyes. They exist. They absolutely do.”

The last Rachel is recently divorced, which means I’m not the only one here. She says her husband was “one of those aggressive Israeli guys, you know?” and Israeli Rachel sighs. We all know. I feel especially close to this woman not just because we both shacked up with someone we didn’t even like that much for reasons we’ll never be able to explain, but because she’s also having martinis (hers are made with vodka).

When we’re done we leave the waitress a tip for twice as much as our actual bill. She comes over, embarrassed, at first to ask us if we meant to give her that much and then to thank us from the bottom of her heart. Latvia Rachel offers me a ride home, but I tell her I’ll walk. I text my boyfriend to let him know I’m on my way. Someone shakes my hand goodnight and someone else hugs me.

Once I’m outside, I stagger through the Boston night sniffing the salty air, admiring the people I pass: a heavily pierced couple eating chocolate ice cream from chocolate cones, a big guy who looks exactly like Ron Jeremy, one of those elderly Chinese women who roams the streets picking up thousands of aluminum cans, which they recycle for a living. People with evident identities. I don’t think anybody could look at me, with my short hair and the scar where my lip piercing used to be, and tell herself I’m a typical Jewish mother. Still, my time with the Rachels has made me feel a part of something. I’m a Rachel, too, a member of the tribe, rather than an outsider or disappointment. So I love the ice cream couple and the Chinese lady, and everyone I pass on the way home, because that is what we do.

Cady Vishniac is a copyeditor and an incoming MFA student at The Ohio State University. Her work has appeared in CutBank and Rust + Moth.