At the end of the year, when spring was in full bloom, Miss Rasmussen talked to us about human sexual reproduction. Because we dreaded this lecture, we had been sniggering about it for weeks. Miss Rasmussen surprised us. We were scientists, she reminded us, and the great mystery of sex was part of human biology. Human beings were unique among the animals because they drew together for reasons of the heart and the spirit as well as the body. But human beings were like every other creature, ordained to reproduce themselves through the union of egg and sperm, of X and Y chromosome.
No one blushed. No one squirmed. We were scientists, learning a new set of mysteries linked to the old ones. Human sexual reproduction was part of a great chain of being that stretched from the lowliest bacteria to the most highly developed vertebrates. Sex education had made me feel small and ugly. This lecture made me feel reverential.
Anders and I left the classroom together. Smiling, he said, “It wasn’t bad at all.”
“Not at all,” I replied, smiling too.
He turned to me and said, “I hope you don’t think this is rude. Or stupid. But there’s something I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time.”
I met his eyes, and I saw all the things that Adam had never been able to show me. Friendship. Affection. Respect. Plus a biological gleam that made my heart beat a little faster.
He asked, “May I take you out?”
I took his hand. “Absolutely,” I said.
We held hands. He said, “One more thing.”
“Adah,” he said, caressing the syllables. “It’s such a pretty name.” Then, teasing me, because he knew, he asked softly, “What kind of a name is that?”
I told Anders the plain truth about myself, and I knew he’d always do the same for me. “It’s Jewish,” I said.