Friday night dinner

Friday evening at Rufina’s. Alberto lives in his own, tiny, apartment, and is the guest cook tonight.

Rufina won’t sit down, she cleans and tidies for an hour after I arrive. I am crazy about this, she says. I don’t disagree. She came here with her Jewish, Russian husband, Kostya, but he’s had to return to Kazakhstan for work. He comes here when he can, every six weeks, or so, for eight or nine days at a time.

I talk to Alberto through the kitchen door, but he doesn’t want to tell me about what he’s doing. I see him taste the water boiling to check its saltiness, which I’ve never seen done before.

Nathan arrives after Friday night prayers, an hour after he said he would. All three are my friends, but since I left the ulpan and we no longer see each other every day, a space has grown between us.

Little Tartar girl, Nathan calls Rufina. Skinny white boy, he calls Alberto. He repeats each nine hundred times and laughs every time. I don’t want to imagine what name he has for me. He drinks a lot very quickly, to catch up, I suppose, although the rest of us had hardly had anything before he arrived.

Alberto has, somehow, taken two hours to prepare a fresh-tasting tomato and basil sauce with spaghetti. It is excellent, but two hours?

I ask them about the Eurovision Song Contest, which is on the next night. I hope this is a subject that we can all join in with. Alberto is uninterested, but I haven’t yet found out what does interest him. Rufina says she doesn’t like it because it is too political. I suppose, to someone from Uzbekistan, it might be. Nathan pretends to look serious and says, No, we can talk about politics, if you want, and laughs, then repeats himself. I hadn’t meant to talk about politics, but we stop talking about Eurovision.

Alberto is 24 and Rufina is 29. I think Nathan has a crush on Alberto, maybe on both of them. He says being with them is like being with the cabin crew at Lufthansa, from where he recently retired, after thirty years service. You might think Nathan has the soul of an air hostess, but I would never say such a thing.

Rufina says something that reminds Nathan of phone-sex lines, somehow, and his answer to everything for the next hour is, Call 987-thousand! or something like it. I guess it’s a number for a phone-sex line. She says, say, Cake, anyone? And he says, Call 987-thousand! For an hour.

Rufina turns the music up and, bizarrely, I’m So Beautiful, sung by Divine, is playing. The three of them start dancing. Nathan says, growls, nine hundred times, his hands above his head, I’m. So. Beauuuuuuuuutiful.

Nathan has an impersonation of me, a throaty Yeahhhh. I don’t know if I sound like that, but I don’t mind it. All three of them now do it, impersonate me, at least, repeat Nathan’s impersonation of me, and laugh. It’s become part of their friendship, it’s no longer about me, but you may imagine I find it disconcerting.

Rufina pulls me onto the balcony. I think she wants to tell me something to rescue the evening. She reacts badly to wine but not Martini Bianco, somehow, and she’s drunk quite a lot of that, over ice, by now. She tells me her husband had bought Israeli condoms, but they’d been too small for him. She isn’t yet pregnant, but she wants her baby to be born in the spring, because it’s a beautiful season.

Today’s word: kef – fun – כיף

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