The first great irony of Phyllis Schieber’s life was that she was born in a Catholic hospital. Her parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. In the mid-fifties, her family moved to Washington Heights, an enclave for German Jews on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
She earned a B.A. in English from Herbert H. Lehman College, an M.A. in Literature from New York University, and later an M.S. as a Developmental Specialist from Yeshiva University. She lives in Westchester County where she spends her days creating new stories and teaching writing.
Phyllis Schieber is the author of four novels, The Manicurist, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, Willing Spirits, and Strictly Personal. She is currently working on a collection of vignettes, Background Music, about growing up as a child of Holocaust survivors. "Better than Gabe" is a piece from this collection.
Better Than Gabe
The first time I fall in love it’s not with a boy, but with his blond hair. I say that I am in love with Gabe, but I am really in love with Gabe's blond hair. His straight, blond hair is cut in a blunt style that invites strands to fall over his blue eyes. He’s beautiful, the only blond, Jewish boy I’ve ever met. He makes me laugh, then tells me I’m sweet and kisses me when my lips part. I’ve never been kissed that way before. All the girls love Gabe, and Gabe loves all the girls. It’s my turn with Gabe, and I plan to make the most of it. When he kisses me, my insides shake in a way that I have never felt before. Because Gabe's mother goes to work, his house is a safe haven. We take the bus there after school and hurry to his bedroom. Gabe puts The Doors on the record player, and we stretch out on his bed and make-out for hours. Hello, I love you. Won't you tell me your name? Gabe turns to me and runs his fingers across my cheek. "Your skin is so soft," he says. I know exactly who Gabe is, but I don’t care.