The Broken Hearts of Viola Chang


Yitzhak was the result of my attempt to finally go out with a nice guy. After one too many dates with private detectives, hairdressers, and circus performers, and one too many friends telling me I was a fool to go out with private detectives, hairdressers, and circus performers, Yitzhak and his humble job - he repaired computers at my office - seemed like a proper and commendable turn to the practical.

He wasn't handsome. He was large and soft, like a dark-haired young Santa Claus, with a big jiggly belly. He had no shame about his size: once, when a group of us were talking about our workout routines, he said proudly, "I never do any of that." Later on in the relationship, when we would come home and progress to the adult entertainment portion of the evening, I would have to be careful about where I looked - from face to neck was okay, but not from neck to stomach, and not from hips to knees - or I risked losing interest immediately.


But he was nice, and that was what was important, particularly after the French tightrope-walker I was pursuing declined to return my calls.

Yitzhak pursued me. He hung around my desk at work, fixing my computer over and over again. I had the highest-performing computer in the office, to the annoyance of colleagues who used their computers for high-performance work. I expected him to ask me out, I waited for him to ask me out, but it took him several months.

Finally, he asked me along to a baseball game, something I originally thought was an outing for everyone in the office. I realized it was a date only when no one but Yitzhak and I turned up. We saw an excellent game, but Yitzhak was too nice, or perhaps too passive, to try anything at the end of it.

After that he fixed my computer even more frequently, but he didn't ask me out again.

It was on when we were waiting for the computer to boot up after the installation of some new software that I mentioned I liked to dance. Yitzhak quickly offered that he danced. He had taken swing dancing lessons, which is what middle-class people in their 30s did when they couldn't get dates. I had taken them, too.

So that weekend, we went dancing at the Roseland Ballroom, an old swing-dancing club that had been going since the Depression. We had a lovely time. We weren't very good dancers - we had both spent most of out classes checking out the other students - but the music was wonderful, and we shared a table with a jovial elderly couple who had met at Roseland during the war. Yitzhak listened to their stories with great interest and asked them lots of questions, which delighted them. It made me like him very much.

We kissed for the first time that night, and that began our romance. We kept it a secret at work, but Yitzhak would smile when he walked by. That was nice. A couple of times a week, we would get together for dinner and maybe a little more. It was a friendly affair - all very nice.


Or it was, until my window fell out of my wall.
That happened on one of Manhattan's few below-zero days; in fact, it happened on what was probably the coldest day of the year. The weather must have been rough on the Sikh construction workers assigned to whitewash a building in my courtyard. They came from a warm country, and now they were hanging from a fifth-floor scaffold in thin coats and cotton turbans that didn't even cover their ears. And it was Saturday, too. They kept their spirits up by shouting in Punjabi across the concrete courtyard, where it echoed, and echoed, and echoed.

In the spirit of international brotherhood, I had allowed myself to be annoyed by this from 7 in the morning - when they started - until about noon. At noon, when I was trying to take a nap to compensate for the fact that I'd been awakened at 7 in the morning, I asked them nicely to keep it down. At 3, when I couldn't take it one frigging minute longer, I asked them quite sharply to knock it off.

They did knock it off. They knocked off for the day, as well, but not before throwing whitewash all over my fifth-floor window. And it was when I was leaning out to clean the whitewash before it dried that the window fell out of the wall.


I now had a large hole in my one-room apartment at a time when the temperature was well below zero. This made me slightly, and I think understandably, hysterical. I called the building superintendent and got a recording. I called the building owner and got a person who might as well have been a recording, and then, seeking comfort, I called Yitzhak.

Let me digress for a moment and discuss what I expect from a lover. Even if we've been dating for a short time, I like to treat my sweetheart like he's the most important person in the world; in return, I want him to at least pretend that I'M the most important person in the world. My sweetheart doesn't have to have a lot of money or, as we have seen, be particularly attractive, but he does have to be smart and funny and likable and loving, and be able to help cheer me up when I fall on my face, which is rather often.

So, in this moment of minor crisis, I called Yitzhak.


"My window has fallen out of my wall," I said.

"Wow, that sucks," said Yitzhak.

"There is a gaping hole in my apartment, and freezing air is rushing in," I said. "The building owner says he can't fix it until Monday."

"That really sucks," he said.

"I think I'm going to have to find someplace else to live for a few days," I said.

"Yup, that sucks," he said. "What else did you do today?"

I was taken a little aback.

"Well, I did a little shopping this morning," I said. I tried to cut him some slack. "But, actually, I'm really upset about this window situation. I kind of called you for comfort."

"Well, it really sucks," he said.


Before I could get Yitzhak off the phone, so I could call my girlfriends to ask if I were insane, he reminded me of plans we'd already made for the following evening. I didn't cancel on him; I thought he might use the opportunity to apologize for his lack of compassion and generally poor performance in an emergency, but all he did was talk about three new pairs of shoes he'd bought for himself.

I guess he knew I was angry, and he was too nice, or perhaps too passive, to try anything at the end of the evening. We never went out again, and since I've quit that job, I haven't seen him at all.


Library of Congress Copyright TXu 875-975