I go to the bank to check money has been transferred and to convert it into shekels. My rent won’t be paid without it. This simple job took nearly three anxious weeks last month, but has gone more smoothly this time. I’m thrilled to learn the pound has strengthened by a minuscule amount since I last asked. Even though it has only two thirds of the value it had eighteen months ago, I feel like a Vanderbilt.
I fall into conversation with the teller, who, of course, tells me things. We sigh at how expensive it is to live in Tel Aviv, which is why she’s moving to Berlin next year, where she will be a surrogate mother for two gay men. This was an unexpected bonus to a simple transaction. They’ve started sending her… erm… samples, already. I wish her luck and go to meet Nathan at the Gordon Pool.
Nathan has been living here for over six months and before that had been coming on holiday for many years, yet he has never enjoyed the pleasures of the Gordon Pool. I must say, I love introducing people to good things. The water is drawn from far below the ground. It is, in a hot, humid city, where a shower is no cooler than tepid, deliciously cold.
You have to jump in, at the deep end, no mimsy toe dipping, I instruct, sternly.
I’ll have a heart attack! he protests, less than half-joking.
Nevertheless, he jumps. His bravery is rewarded, he’s delighted by feeling so fresh, and swims up and down for lengths, smiling.
Nathan is rich. He inherited a lot of money a few years ago, and he is cautious with it. Even so, I’m surprised to see him pull out of his bag a piece of striped cloth that he tells me he found by the road. It’s clean, he’s washed it, and he lays it on the sunbed before lying on it. Then he takes out a book that he found by a different road. It’s not very good, he says. It’s all a sort of roadkill, really. He might be insane and I try not to roll my eyes too hard. At this I fail.
I buy ice lollies. One watermelon flavoured, and, further delight, watermelon shaped, too, a semicircular red wedge with a bright green coat on the curved side. I wished I’d had it, just for the joy, but mine, conventionally shaped, lychee and passion fruit, is delicious. The German for lolly, I learn, is lolly.
Settled, he tells me about the previous evening, which he’d spent with Alberto. This is a form of torture for Nathan who yearns romantically for his young friend. It is torture for anyone present to watch Nathan pawing him, and to notice how embarrassed Alberto is by it. He is too well-mannered to say anything, to ask Nathan to take his hands off him, so it continues.
After a meal at Kiton, (another place I’d introduced him to), he’d, mischievously, taken Alberto to the park behind the Hilton where Nathan cruises to meet men. I am reminded, somehow, of Suddenly Last Summer. Something to look up, if you don’t already know it.
Alberto is twenty-four, and he is a young twenty-four. He’s tall and trim and handsome, and sometimes prone to melancholy. Men were interested, of course, circling slowly, keeping their eyes on him. I think Nathan’s hope was that Alberto’s true nature would be revealed to him, and, inspired by the goings-on going on around them, they would share blissful, physical joy. I’m pretty sure, however, that Alberto isn’t gay. He stayed, sweetly uncomplaining, looking at the ground, mortified by it all. I wish Nathan had just taken him for ice cream.
What did you talk about? I ask.
About how he is depressed and in love with Rufina.
I remember how, a few months ago, Rufina told us that she wanted to keep some space between her and Alberto, because she knew it would be easy to make him fall in love with her. Her husband, Kostya, hasn’t wound up his work commitments in Kazakhstan and can only come here for a few days every six weeks or so. He is a lawyer, but we don’t really understand what he does there, something about an oligarch building playgrounds. It all sounds a bit sus, a bit money-laundryish to us.
She’s lonely and wants attention, Nathan says. She used to call me all the time and I had to pretend not to hear the phone, so she calls Alberto instead. He continues; how Rufina dances around Alberto flirtatiously, how she sits on his lap, how she will call him in the middle of the night, drunk, and tell him she wants him to come over. They have never had sex, I think, not with each other. It is possible that Alberto is a virgin. It has all left him in some despair and considerable frustration.
She’s a cock tease, Nathan says, too forcefully, but it’s hard to argue with him. There is pathos in all of this, somewhere, but it is also a queasy daisy ring, all three panting for each other.
Anyway, after dithering for months, Rufina has let her husband buy her a ticket so she can be with him in Kazakhstan for the next six weeks. She leaves tomorrow morning, with a five hour layover in Istanbul. The ticket is one way, but I think she’ll be back.
Nathan is flying to Majorca in a few days, to spend a month with Ben, his boyfriend of over twenty years.
And Alberto, he’s leaving Tel Aviv for good next week, returning to Rome. After fourteen months he no longer wants to be here.
Today’s word: kim-ut – almost – כמעט