Raz is thirtyish, tanned, 5’ 2”, maybe shorter. The hair on his head is closely cropped and what I’ve seen of his torso is lightly covered with black hair, like he’s used coal dust for talc. He has a strong jaw and pectorals like tectonic plates. His chest is pectonic, maybe. The vehicle he most resembles is a tank.

He wears loose shorts and those vests with outsized armholes open from shoulder to waist that are popular here. You see a lot of well-toned, male side tit in Tel Aviv. I often see him around the city running the seven or eight km he runs every day. I love exercise, he says, I would die without it. Also, did I say, he works in a gym.

He won’t let me take his picture, insisting he has ‘bad wedge’, which he says is gay Tel Aviv slang for ‘doesn’t look good’. Of course, he looks fine, exactly as he always looks, clear-eyed, handsome, a five o’clock shadow you could grate Parmesan on.

He seems a sweet-natured man. His voice is softly rasping, like an Israeli Winnie the Pooh, if you can imagine such a thing. After he says something a tiny bit naughty he covers his mouth and says, No. No. I didn’t mean it, really.

I’ve seen him and his sister, who may be his twin, sitting close, talking intimately. Your sister is nice, I say. She is a bitch! he replies, joking, and giggles and covers his mouth with his fingers. No! No, she isn’t.

I ask what he did in the army. Secretary, he says, and giggles, I wanted to fight, be a real soldier, but I was too fat. The officer says if I lose the fat I can be a soldier. So, in ten months I lose it, and I go back to the officer and he says I can be a real soldier, but I have to start my service again. The first ten months will be cancelled. So I say fuck him, and I’m a secretary until I leave.

The other night, it was a Friday, Raz was working at the Olive Korner, (What else will I do with my time?) and he asks, conversationally, I think, my reply won’t make any difference, Should I go out later?

Of course! It’s a conversational answer.

But I have to get up at 10.30 tomorrow morning.

You should go out, take your shirt off, dance, and smile at handsome men. You’ll be fine in the morning.

But I take drugs, he reveals.

It always surprises me when people who are concerned about their physique eat Big Macs, or smoke, or drink heavily, or, indeed, take drugs. Perhaps it shouldn’t, perhaps we’re all crumpled bags of contradictions, doing things that are inconsistent with other things we do.

I ask Raz which drugs he takes. Heroin? He shakes his head, emphatically. Coke? Pot? Ecstasy? Poppers? He smiles at the last, but is called to another table before he’ll answer. He’s always rushing to go somewhere else. Two days later he tells me he’d woken up at 4am and gone out to a club. The urge to hunt is strong, I suppose.

He spends August doing two jobs; the gym during the day, and managing the Olive Korner in the evening. You’ll be rich! I say. He nods, happily.

The money is going on a week in London, his first time there. He’s found a deal, seven nights in a Trust House Forté hotel near the British Museum, breakfast and flights included, for not much more than $1000. I’m excited for him, and start talking about all the things I think he’ll enjoy.

And gyms, he says, on holiday I have to work out even more. I’m less help on this, but I write him a long email of things I think he might like to see and do in London. This makes me feel homesick, which lasts for days.

For weeks before he goes, whenever he sees me, he shows me something on his phone and asks if it’s correct; directions from the airport, are Saturday and Sunday really the weekend, and so on. I’m not that different when I go somewhere for the first time, fussing over details, excited, but wanting to settle it all in my head.

When he returns, he sends an e mail; I fell in love with this place.Was amazing! The pepole the xlture the view was all wow wow wow… Since im back idont find myself here and cant wait to be back there. I know what he means.

I’m returning for a week, not nearly long enough, in early November, before, this is unexpected, spending a couple of months in Frankfurt. The Rose Garden in Regent’s Park will no longer be in flower, but I can’t wait to be home again.

Today’s word: signon – style – סגנון

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