Ludmilla called to ask me to the end of ulpan party. I hadn’t been for a while; I’d stopped enjoying the lessons, and, anyway, I was a poor student.
But I’d loved meeting people from so many places. There were students from everywhere but Britain in the class. Other than me, of course. Before I started, Israelis told me that I’d leave the ulpan speaking better French, and I suppose there were more French there than any other nationality, but my French remains as incomplete as my Hebrew.
There were fewer than fifteen of the original class left and I was pleased to see them. Some had moved to less intense courses, some, I suppose, had given up. Nathan, Rufina and Alberto stayed until the final exam. They told me it was easy, I would have passed. Even I would have passed, maybe.
There was cake and fruit and, I don’t know, warm bottles of Fuse, the iced tea. Shlomit was wearing a sort of floaty, flapper-style, pink cocktail dress. I told her the colour suited her, which it did.
Milena told me her husband, Alexi, who is 21, five years younger than her, wasn’t here because he’d drunk a bottle of rum the night before. I must have looked surprised, because she said that a bottle of rum wasn’t so much. It’s nothing, she said, and shrugged.
Shlomit had written cards with some nice words for everyone, and read them out. Ludmilla’s called her, I’m not making this up, Israel’s secret weapon! She then held up Ludmilla’s leg to show everyone her sandals, which were decorated with huge, fake diamonds. Ludmilla, Ludmillatschka, left her Israeli husband a few months ago for another man. She wanted to finish learning Hebrew and stay here, but her husband filed for divorce and her visa has been revoked, so she has to return to Romania in a few days.
My card said how seeing my round face makes Shlomit happy, that I’m charming, and that I’m a man with a strong sense of justice. Well, sometimes I have a strong sense of injustice, perhaps it’s the same thing. I thought it was lovely of her to have written anything for me at all. She held my hand, in her soft, small hand, and told me that she wants me to stay in Israel. She asked if I’ve been writing. I said yes, but don’t know if that’s true. I felt like a bit of a fraud and, also, a bit emotional. Later, I realised that no one, not in my whole life, not even my mother, especially not my mother, had ever said so many nice things to me, and certainly not at the same time.
Shlomit hugged everyone, there was kissing and singing; she loves to sing. She danced with Alberto, I don’t know why, the joy and sadness of the occasion, I suppose. He was mortified. The next time we met I showed him the photos I’d taken, and he didn’t want to look.
I thought about the first few days of learning Hebrew, when I understood nothing. I was happy to have somewhere to go every day, something to occupy my mind. Lord, it feels longer than five months ago.
Today’s word: mak-sim – charming – מקסים