after work i took a bus to dizengoff center. tel aviv reminds me so much of nyc. i met liraz there. we picked up our wedding rings and i tried on a few bras. when it came time to pay for a white bra with see-thru straps for my wedding dress, i was embarrassed to remember that the ATM stole my credit card. so liraz put it on her card and we took another bus back to her house. i played with her cat while she made nana tea and we talked about job interviewing. she became a lawyer because when her parents divorced she had to mediate between them. she showed me how to do my hair in a different hairstyle; when i protested that it showed off my big forehead, we went to the mirror to compare foreheads. we have the same big forehead but mine is more oval. i let her do my hair and we talked more about our families and personality defects.
we watched a movie, legally blonde. her roommate came home with a friend. i spoke to him in hebrew. he had a blue butterfly on his bag. they played music late into the night while liraz and i laid side by side in her bed; i eventually did my parrot hiding sleep tactic… earplugs curled up under pillows and blankets. the alarm rang at 7am and i showered, doing my hair in the same style she taught me.
she was shocked how i sleep. tsafi calls me a ‘too-key’ (a parrot) i told her “i’m a sensitive sleeper. no light, no sound, hence the earplugs and the pillow over my head.” she just stared blankly at me. she was organizing things for the day so i sat with her roommates’ friend who slept on the couch. we were listening to an arabic singer, Amal and i loved this music. i spoke to him about it and probed his brain about other music like this. “Do you know Arabic?” i asked him in hebrew. “I am an Arab.” he said and i noticed a strange blue beaded thing with a tassle around his neck. he said he wears it for decoration but showed me how arabs use it to pray, moving the beads around.
I have been so dirt broke…it’s been six months since I last used my bank card. Needless to say I’ve forgotten my password to use the card. I’ve been avoiding the bank’s hilarious form of customer service because it always ruins my day. Today was no different…
I showed up to windows 8 and 9 holding my bank card out. Once at the window, the teller ignored me. “Slicha?” (excuse me?) no response… “SLICHA??” no response so I waited. Another customer showed up and instead of waiting in line behind me, she stood next to me shoulder to shoulder. Maybe she thought she was going to cut me if I wasn’t pressed up against the window, which I was having learned from experience. Maybe she meant to rush me. The teller finally looked at me…first success…. I explained in hebrew how I forgot my code. She told me I need to pay 12 shekels and wait 4 days… “but…I’m late for work and have not one shekel to get there.” To which she handed my card back to me with a click of her tongue and called “next!” to the shoulder-pusher to my right. I took my card and went to the cash machine determined to remember the code….4 numbers, something geometrical…by the fourth try, I’d almost given up. I pressed in one more series of numbers and then the machine read “your card is now being held. Thank you.” The damn thing stole my card! A wall of frustrated tears formed and I closed my eyes stepping aside taking a deep breath. My options were to either go home and cry (tsafi has no cash either) or raise hell in the bank. I peeked inside, every seat was filled with waiting people waiting to take money out from the other teller windows. The other lines were very long.
I gathered strength and after security went thru my bag, questioning arrogantly my walkman “yeah, it’s a super stealth bomb. Let me the fuck through!!!” I found myself on line again, but this time I was the shoulder pusher. The other teller told me something really fast in Hebrew and when I asked her to slow down she went into a fast rambling with the first teller I approached. Apparently, she had given me mis-information. “my card was taken by the machine. I need to get money out so I can go to work. If I have to wait 4 days I can’t go to work” her response? Yelling… that these things take time and she’s busy and… blahblahblah..customer service, love it! I don’t kow what she was saying after that but I stood there, legs apart in a solid commando stance. I wasn’t leaving til I had 100 shekels (US$25) in my hand. She saw my frustration. I blinked the wall of tears away and stared a hole thru her head. She then looked down and began typing things. People only do things here if you over power them or if you raise your voice like they do. “cama at rotzah?” (how much you want?) “100 shekel” she made me sign two papers and handed me two 50 shekel bills. “todah raba” (thx) and I left shaking…. this was a SUCCESSFUL transaction… usually it’s a lot worse…
The day started out just as suppressing… I woke up into homesickness, got an email from Diana, saw debbie’s photos online of her brother’s Halloween party this weekend that I went to with her a few years ago. Safta was driving me mad this morning, madder than usual, and as I reviewed what I would need in my bag for the day, I remembered that liraz had offered me to stay at her flat in tel aviv this week. I packed my toothbrush and underwear and walked to the post office. There was a package waiting for me…another frustrating line with old people pretending to have heart attacks to cut me. I was untouchable… listening to a mix from danny, soothing sounds to breathe to, reflection on the ‘big picture’…
When finally, I got to the teller she handed over my package. When I saw jen’s handwriting my pulse quickened. “YAY! JEN!” I opened it right there in the corner of the post office. She sent me two pumpkin rings and two black bats with a sweet card. Sentimental tears fell there in that post office as I folded the envelope back up slowly, sending jen a mental hug. She also sent me heart and wedding bell glitter for me to sprinkle in people’s invitations… and on a sticky note she wrote ‘chai tea coming soon…’ her handwriting is so familiar to me… like when we exchanged notes in elementary school…and then in high school. I have all these things saved in my closet… and her thoughfulness saved even deeper.
I can’t wait to not have laundry be a 2-day event. I can’t wait to have a worthwhile job. To reconnect with all the things I used to love that are now in boxes.
soft morning light, touching tsafi’s face. i love days that start and end with him. last night we went to an asian noodle bar with gil and anat. we hadn’t eaten out in months. the food was that much more delicious. there were long black tables with white walls and long hanging mod lighting with projections turning on the wall of an asian kid with his face all scrunched up. the staff ran around with mini-computers and you could see the chefs all scurrying about under a big white contraption that i assumed took all the smoke/heat away. i met noa on the street there as we left the asian noodle bar in herzliya. noa and i worked in NYC together. i hadn’t seen her in a while. she looked happy. gil and anat had to study so we met up with tsafi’s old surfin buddy, liraz and her guy (named GUY) and went to the beach. i laid on liraz’s lap while she played with my hair and we saw triangles in the sky. tsafi and i went home, showered and sat on our knees, smiling at each other telling each other how much the other is loved. ah! the dizziness! two months away from our wedding day!
while waiting for the shiroot (van taxi) back to netanya after work tonight, a girl asked me for 30 agorot. i only had one shekel in my bag so i gave it to her.. she saw my empty bag and offered me a quarter when she heard my american accent. “no. it’s karma” and we smiled. as she walked away she said “enjoy your stay!” and i thought to myself… “my STAY???! hell no. oh no. i put in my time just like YOU girlie, livin through these bombs and crap. my hebrew may suck but i have an israeli passport just like YOU!”
no matter what i do here i still exude the ‘just passing thru’ vibe. no matter how much i succeed in any form i’m still always back at the beginning. i ride the taxi withered, limp, convinced that not one israeli-born human has honest intentions (tsafi excluded of course). dramas with in-laws, my new job, things promised and taken away, gossip, judgement… so many twists and turns in this journey… more twists in this journey than any other. i am very homesick. my favorite holiday is a week away and there’s nothing going on here for it. last year i refused to believe it, that this holiday is not celebrated here until i saw it with my own eyes. so i went to tel aviv and sat at a cafe and at midnight i saw one drunk vampire man running down the street and was happy. this year i won’t hope for celebration. i’ll just celebrate in my own way and save it all up, all the pumpkin seeds and carving and autumn crisp air for when i am surrounded by these precious things again… when we are in america….
my wedding dress came today from new york! i nearly ripped it from the UPS guy’s hands. it came in a brown box. i ran into the bedroom with safta and tried it on. i laid a red towel on the floor and stepped into it. it’s the most incredible thing EVER! i was surprised that it was cream color, not white but i like it even more cream-colored. it was a perfect fit. i hid it under safta’s bed away from tsafi’s prying eyes…then i called mom but she wasn’t there…
we took a break from looking at DJ websites to make dinner. “i want to make you something” he said with that face that says he’s going to once again try to test my vegetarianism. “what is it?” i ask him. “sausage…” “oh no. no way! make for yourself!” he may have gotten me to eat chicken breast and turkey breast but dark meat? no way… “you’ll see. you’ll like it.” i went the fridge to collect vegetables for a salad prepared for armed resistance. he pulled out hot dogs. (that’s what ‘sausages’ are here in israel) and i began chopping green peppers… eyeing the hot dogs like they were on trial “i USED to like you…i haven’t eaten you in 15 years… i don’t know if my belly can even handle you…” i kept chopping as tsafi danced around the kitchen. i brought out the cd player and we listened to 60s songs. we forgot to buy tomatoes at the supermarket today so it was a very boring salad. cabbage, onions, green peppers cubed with lemon juice and pepper. tsafi made beans in tomato sauce with sliced sausage and onions..i tasted a bit tentatively..
“what are you doing to me?” i asked tsafi from across the table, now enjoying a new dish and introducing a new foreign object into my belly.
“i’m showing you a healthy life.” and with that i stood up and kissed his sweet cheek. i must be the luckiest girl in the world to be marrying this guy! all he wants is my happiness and healthiness. after dinner he casually mentioned that he’s going “shopping for the war” this week. i was mid-dish at the sink and turned the water off… “shopping for the war” i repeated. and he said “yes, we’ll need three boxes of bottled water. lots of conservatives.” “you mean PREservatives?” “yes preservatives, cans and things” and he went on with his list. “we’ll need to seal a room in plastic. safta’s room will do.” i was still in mid dish…shopping for war… “where are our gas masks?” i asked him, “we’ll get them down from storage and put them in an obvious place.” he assured me. “don’t worry. it’ll be fun.” he said and then told me stories from the gulf war where his whole family stayed in a sealed room with gas masks. i finished the dishes and turned the music off. spending endless time in a sealed room with his family IN ISRAEL IN A WAR is just something i don’t want to think about. i’m planning a wedding….
the issue? tsafi’s lymph nodes under his arms… of all places. we went to doctor greenberg. this is a man who touched the back of your neck with his palm and you feel instantly calm but i don’t think he’s a good doctor. he wouldn’t explain anything. he even acted offended when i asked questions. he took a blood and urine test. then we went to another health center (called ‘kupat cholim’) across town to take an x-ray of his chest. these places are nightmares! not only do we have to wait on line fighting with other patients as to who gets to see the doc first, but it takes two hours to get an xray. it seems whoever shouts louder get to see the doctor first. the xray process was taking a much longer time than usual. so we asked why. they said they were in touch with doctor greenberg in the other office. we started to get a bit panicked. people were coming and going and we were still waiting there. tsafi went to get the car in the rain, the first rain of the year, while i waited for the x-rays that we had to bring back to the doctor. they handed me a large flat plastic bag. i took the xrays out in the stairwell. there was a big black hole there. i immediately think it’s cancer. i sit in the car and say nothing, rubbing his knee. we fight to get back in to see the doctor and he says “eh, maybe it’s pneumonia. take these pills for 10 days and if that doesn’t work we’ll try something else.” when i ask questions he give me the “hey! i’m a doctor. don’t worry” crap and if he wasn’t such a nice guy i’d have it out with him. what kind of doctor doesn’t answer questions? so we get the medicine, the antibiotics and there’s only 6 pills. “ya ya, that’s ok” he said. before he told him to take them for 10 days and now? whatever… so every night his lymph nodes under his arms hurt and i rub his back waiting for him to drift off sleeping. he’s going to see a lung specialist on sunday.
we call each other out of a room with a kiss. We walk around town hand in hand looking for the perfect out fit for him for the wedding. our hunt for a funky vest with a ‘white shirt, hidden buttons’ has now turned into a ‘well maybe a suit’. He disappeared behind a dressing room door at bogart’s on herzl street and emerged the most handsome thing i’ve ever seen. Black suit, white shirt, red tie…i could’ve eaten him like candy right then and there. It was the first time i have seen him in a suit. His ensemble quickly came together and we went home to think more about it.
On the street we ran into the flower shoppe lady that tsafi knew. She called me sweet names and petted my face, happy to hear of our wedding. we came home and made a gourmet meal of broccoli teriyaki chicken over rice. We came up with the game plane as we went up the elevator. “you do the garlic and onions and i’ll do the chicken” “oh but we need rice!” “yes, and rice…” we eatsleeplove as a way of life now and our unemployment allows us all this precious time to fuss over bridal salons and veils and rings….
tsafi and i went fishing today… well not exactly fishing. We sat on rocks and held a string with a hook and weights into a hole. When the fishies hid under rocks we got creative and put a piece of apple on the end.
“do fishes like apples?” i asked, as tsafi sternly concentrated.
“the question is… if apples like fishes.”
We sat in silence mesmerized with the schools of fish and the sad little hook with our apple floating useless. We gave up quickly and retired to our umbrella spot on the sand eating fruit, snuggling and wrestling. Ah, to be almost married, high on each other! A beautiful day began pretty difficult… safta cornered me with a white cream all over her face and tears spilling over it. It was her attempt at swaying us away from picking a wedding garden that the family doesn’t like. I felt very uncomfortable and told her so. She asked if i loved her. A very obvious guilt tactic. The tears, the gibberish, the guilt… she needs to be told daily lately why her son doesn’t’ approve of our marriage. I think she has a good mind; not like most 80 year olds. I’m not playing the game. I’m not playing. So i told her ‘betach’ of course i love her to which she cried more…and said some things i didn’t’ understand. I felt very uncomfortable and went to go ask tsafi to help. It’s his family. He should help me avoid these kinds of things. He’s been a wonderful protector. He defends me all the time. There was shouting and a quick exit to the sea. On the way, i analyzed what they all want from me. was i supposed to smile and nod and cry with her? Was i supposed to be fake and accepting of his parents’ judgement? I respect safta. I am sorry she is old and that her husband died but i can’t fix any of it and i certainly don’t want to absorb any of this. My entire israeli experience seems to be in self-preservation.
day two of the tv shoot at the marina in tel aviv. Plates are being laid out for our breakfast. Someone is giving a boomerang lesson on the beach, sleepy people with sunglasses drag costumes into the cafe. I’m the only extra here so far. Yesterday in a fit of impulsiveness i called liraz. We hadn’t seen each other since may. She got on a bus across tel aviv and hung out on the set with me. she’s probably my most fun and silly friend in israel. Everytime i see her, i wonder why i don’t see more of her. We have alot of fun together. So she met me at the set in her gym clothes and no make up. She was in a few scenes with me. toward the end of the night we were so delirious that when the camera was on the actors next to us, with us in the background, we told ridiculous stories staring out about having sex with a rabbi and a nun on a camel and then the other one would react all movie-esque with appropriate disbelief and would offer similar tales. We were literally insane… me, liraz, the other actors… there was an old guy with gel-combed gray hair who adorned his body with things from thailand. Coconut necklaces with a gaudy blue gem, an orange potato sack shirt with bright blue thailand pants. An ear cuff.. he was overweight and partially deaf so when the director told us to ‘pantomime’ in the background we just went ‘blahblahblah’ and the other person would laugh and offer a ‘blahblahblah’. In some scenes we had to have vodka shots in our hands and dance in the cafe. We were singing ‘stayin alive’ and doing hand jives. We were all very silly. I would hear another girl say something like ‘…and i was so angry at her’ to which i screamed ‘at ME!?’ and pretended to flip a table over dramatically. We proceeded to have play fights all night. There’s something that happens after more than 10 hours on set…reality just slips by and the night either becomes insane or excruciating. All i know is that i’m away from the judgement and commentary of tsafi’s family… so after the shoot ended last night near midnight we decided to hitchhike to her place on pines street. We got distracted buying cheap barkan wine and decided to walk all the way there. swigging wine from the open bottle, passing construction workers seeing 2 near-drunk girls gabbing away….