Mental hygiene

Mickey was outside the Jekyl and Hyde, the scaffolding stopping him moving his neck still around his head. He fell down the stairs at the back and damaged his spine a month ago. He swears he wasn’t stoned, and who would call him a liar? It’s his café, so they’re his customers to put off, I suppose. Maybe everyone thinks it’s his costume for Purim, a Bacon painting of a Screaming Pope. Anyway, it comes off in a week.

Nir, who always corrects my Hebrew, wants a mazeltov. He’s signing a contract to be the manager of a bakery on Ibn Gibrol on Sunday. Shlomit calls everyone Motek, as an endearment, but when I say it to him he bristles. It’s like calling someone an arse, he says. What can I say then? I ask, I only mean to be friendly. Just use my name, he tells me, that’s all.

It’s Purim, and the first evening of the year warm enough to sit outside drinking white wine. It’s Israel’s Halloween, and people have been looking forward to it for weeks. Nathan and I watch bees and vampires, Sitting Bulls and Tutenkhamens pass. I’ve seen more men wearing Superman onesies, with Superdogs padding beside them, than I’d expected. Some look like they’ve been slept in since last Purim.

People interrupt us. A woman, middle aged, lonely, I guess, shows Nathan pictures on her phone. An elderly couple ask where we’re from, and chat for ten minutes, like we’re a couple, like that would ever happen.

Nathan tells me that I’m popular at the ulpan. I’ve never been popular before, and I like it, but both of us are, actually. We enjoy the other students’ company, we like talking to them.

We talk about psychotherapy. He’s had a lot of it, I think, and I wonder if it might work for me. I see young people, like Aaron, and Raf, and Jennifer, so confident, so charming, their manner so easy. I have never been like that and nor were my brothers. We were raised to be suspicious of the world; there was always a distance between us and the people we were speaking to, a space filled with irony and insincerity. This is also how we spoke to each other, which may go some way to explain why we no longer communicate at all. I don’t like finding things to blame, other than myself, of course, but I wonder how much of this comes from being the children of a Holocaust survivor. Nathan says it’s a huge topic in Germany, and discussed often. But my younger brother has spent many years in therapy talking about this exact subject, and seems utterly unimproved by it.

Nathan gives me a slogan: Not dental hygiene, but mental hygiene. The next day, when I tell Amanda, a psychotherapist, this, she says that we can all use some mental floss, sometimes.

Today’s word: uhzuhruh – help – עזרה

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15 thoughts on “Mental hygiene

      1. I only spread my feathers to attract potential mates, which is never.

        Anyway, how are you spending your last few days here? Hopefully not bingeing on Goldstar beer?

        Like

      2. I’ve just packed most of my clothes. If only my apartment had been this tidy all year. Gordon Pool tomorrow, if it’s sunny. I drink very little beer, but rosé, im kerach, in the evening is another matter. Feeling all sorts of contradicting feelings, just as I did before I came here. And you should spread your feathers occasionally, if only for yourself, Efrat. x

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh yeah, you’re a rosé man, I forgot 😄 I think it’s gonna be fine for a swim tomorrow.. they said stormy weather but by that they probably meant a few drops of water in the early morning ..

        Liked by 1 person

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