Woman with moustache

Jenni, I don’t know how old she is, in her sixties, maybe, with a stately figure, likes bright colours. She’s wearing a persimmon-coloured top, her nails, done this afternoon, are neon green. I tell her how much I like them. She drums them on the table and says, They’re fun, aren’t they. They are.

It’s her hair, I think, short, spiky, Elvis black, that makes her look severe, even though she isn’t. She sometimes hints at a romantic history with someone, but never, to me at least, gives away more than that. Her manner is both reticent and forthright: she listens to what you say then tells you what she thinks. She is an experienced journalist and the actress who would do her justice in the film of her life is, of course, Rosalind Russell.

She’s in Israel for a week and has invited me to dinner at a restaurant in Hatakemah, the converted railway station in Neve Tzedek, a bit of a tourist spot. There are seven of us and I’m the only man. Our table is noisy, but so is the restaurant. As is the country. 

Jenni likes introducing people who might be of help to each other. My job tonight is to talk to an American woman, I have forgotten her name, perhaps wiped it from my memory, who wants to make aliya. She talks loudly about herself without taking breath. I am distracted, and slightly repelled, by her moustache, can hardly take my eyes off it, actually, as she tells me her life’s struggles, her personal history and the reasons Britain voted to leave the EU, even though she’s never been to the UK. At this I protested. An actress told me, she says, to give her position authority.

I eavesdrop on a conversation moustache woman has with someone called Faye about moving to Be’er Sheva, where Faye teaches at the local university. Faye is somewhat spectacular: tall and slim, stylish and patrician. I’d say she’s droll and clever, too. I don’t know if Faye feels the same about moustache woman as I do, but she spends some time trying to put her off. It isn’t that easy. No, Faye says, eventually, sternly, you mustn’t under any circumstances move to Be’er Sheva. She says it in a way that lets it be a running joke for the rest of the evening, but I’m pretty sure she means it. Moustache woman moves on to gender politics and the hierarchy of transsexuals. She’s not any sort of a fun date. I try to muffle her by holding my hand over the ear closest to her, but I only manage to look like a BeeGee.

Faye must cut an unusual figure in Be’er Sheva, a city so joyful there wasn’t a single restaurant there when she first arrived, twenty years ago. She comes to Tel Aviv for a few days every week, but you’d have to, wouldn’t you. 

Today’s word: luh-bosh – dressed – לבוש

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