I’m going on a picnic with Rufina, Nathan and Alberto. Rufina will go to Moscow or Kazakhstan in August, Nathan to Palma, and Alberto is flying to Rome. I don’t know if any of them will return. Tel Aviv will just be me and a million French. I don’t remember them being so noisy in France.
We meet in the small and beautiful park the Hilton sits in, where Nathan cruises at night for sex. They are all late, of course, by twenty minutes or more, Like Israelis! they say, brightly, when they arrive. There is talk, but, of course, not much conversation.
After almost five months they have only a week to go at the ulpan. I left before the course finished. They speak in a kind of Hebrish, maybe Engbrew, 80% English, 20% Hebrew. It can be difficult to follow. Rufina sulks because we’re sitting somewhere she can’t see the sea. She grew up in Uzbekistan, which is landlocked, which may explain this. Uni rotzuh see the sea, she says. Even I, a terrible student, can say the whole sentence in Hebrew.
I say, Christopher Hitchens once said that the four most overrated things in life are lobster, champagne, anal sex and picnics. There’s no reason why any of them would know who Christopher Hitchens is, still, no one, not even Nathan, has anything to say about the rest of it, other than they wish we had some champagne.
We move to the other side of the park where Rufina can see an inch of sea and this makes her happier. She tells us about the time she was looking at apartments with Kostya, her husband. The agent turned to him and asked, connected to nothing, a non-sequitur, if he was circumcised. This country, I don’t know.
She lies on a rug with Alberto, they are playful with each other, then nap, their bodies touching, like incestuous twins.
Alberto gets up and lies on the semi-horizontal trunk of a windblown tree. He’s ready to cry because he isn’t yet home. It’s a cage, a beautiful cage, he says of Israel. I’m not sure about beautiful and I don’t know how Nathan spends so much time with these two.
I leave to get a bus. On the way a handsome man stops me. Sometimes, in Tel Aviv, nothing seems unusual. It has made me more open to the unexpected, which is a good thing, possibly.
My face must be very red, because he expresses concern about it, but I say that it‘s all fine. We chat for a minute, then, at goodbye, he kisses me lightly on one cheek, then the other, then my lips. This isn’t a kissy country, I should say, which is on my list of reasons not to stay. Anyway, I kiss him back.
He pulls me into a doorway, there are people around, but not many, and we kiss again. He gives me his phone number, makes me promise to call him, then he goes one way, and I the other.
I take the cherut home, surprised, mystified, not unhappy. Is there something wrong with him, to approach a stranger in the street like that? Is there something wrong with me, to respond the way I did? This country, I don’t know.
I’m seeing Nathan tomorrow night. We haven’t been out, just the two of us, for a couple of months. I’m looking forward to tellIing him about my (s)experiences. In a text, he says he needs ‘a break from the kids’.
Today’s word: nehshikah – kiss – נשיקה
(Closely related to nehshek – weapon – נשק. Shlomit says, often, that men have neshika to fight with, but women have neshek. It works better when she says it.)
See also: League of handsome