Thursday. I am tremulous. I know I have to continue with the things I have to do, push on, and in a few days I will be on the train from Luton to London. I don’t feel so different from how I felt a year ago, just before I came to Tel Aviv; nervous, excited, happy, sad. I’m somewhat numb, too, sleepwalking through much of it, which helps.
In my head I go over and over the tasks I need to complete; sort out clothes, go to laundrette, pack, take out money, 1000 shekels at a time, to pay the movers. I make lists so I can draw a line through things after they’re done. It makes me think I’m achieving something, getting somewhere, not just going somewhere. Is there anything more rewarding than crossing something off a list? (No, obviously, is the answer).
I thought I’d want to see and do all my favourite things one more time; Basel, Rothschild, profertjes at the Liselotte, the Klimt at the Museum of Modern Art, and so on, but they’re all there, in my head, in my heart, and they always will be. I will go to Keton, though, I have to eat, after all, and the Gordon Pool, my skin isn’t quite the colour of a Greek fisherman’s.
Oh, and I worry, it is unavoidable if you’re me. I fret all day, as well as all night. I am a nervous puppy, but you knew that already.
Friday. Last night was so restless that it is odd that I don’t feel worse today. I slept for no more than three hours. Every night has been similar this week, maybe for a month, perhaps longer. Is this how junior doctors feel? I try to ignore the tiredness and do the things I need to.
One concern keeping me awake was thinking Nathan had retracted his offer for me to stay in his apartment in Frankfurt. Shmulli asked me about it and I told him I didn’t yet have the address. He gave me that look, the one I’d given myself all night, the one that said it’s not going to happen, so I e-mailed Nathan. He replied quickly, with his address, rules of the house, (no unkosher meat, no orgies), directions to his apartment from the airport, and his wifi password. It seems that I am the silliest sausage of them all. No surprise there. I will be in Frankfurt in two weeks, after London, until Christmas, maybe, which I may spend with Isabelle and her family at their huge house in a snowy village near Düsseldorf. I can’t yet say what will happen after that. All this uncertainty is more unsettling, of course.
I took the bus to Levinski Market. It was my day for buying presents, but I had a good lunch first, at cool cafe, Tony and Esther; veal and emmental sausages, with creamy mash, sauerkraut and big blobs of ocre-coloured, German mustard. Normally I would never order burgers or sausages in Tel Aviv, (except the burger at M25, the only one in the city that doesn’t have the taste and texture of a Croc), but my addled, sleep-needy brain forgot. Was it pretty? Well, in it’s own way, I suppose, but pretty food is overrated. It looked jolie-laide, pretty and plain at the same time, like a farmer out on a Friday night. Most importantly, it was delicious. It was more frankfurter than banger, and sausages are one of the many things I’ve missed most this year. I ate it all. On Friday morning, in London, Naomi will take me for a Full English, and that alone justifies the expense and worry of leaving.
After, I had berry ice cream at Gela. They use almond milk in place of cows’, which makes it lighter. It’s the best ice cream in the city.
Levinski Street is narrow, and lined with open-fronted shops selling sackful of herbs and spices, dried fruit and nuts. There are always coachloads of tourists being shown Tel Aviv colour. I wove my way around them, and bought bundles of long cinnamon sticks, handfuls of smallish dried chillies, and bags of zatar. All these things can be found in London, but, well, it’s different coming from here. My friends will, literally, eat it up. Something else to cross off my list.
Sunday. In the afternoon, at the launderette, an elderly man took off his trousers, put them into the dryer without washing them. I didn’t want to think about how they’d become wet. He sat on one of the three chairs wearing only his red underpants and a filthy t-shirt, and offered me a cigarette. I declined.
It rained tonight. Just a short shower, just enough to wash some dust from the leaves and get people onto their balconies to watch it. I especially love the sound it makes. It’s the first time I’ve seen rain since early March or even February, the best part of ten months, and it was glorious.
Monday. I once knew a man, a South African, who so wanted people to think he was British he spoke using an accent that has rarely been heard in the UK outside a BBC studio in the 1950s. He got British manners wrong, too. He imagined it rude, too personal a question, to ask someone their name. Israelis, however, don’t have this affliction, it’s one of the things I like most about them.
Buying a ticket to the Gordon Pool, I tell the woman that it’s my favourite place in the city, and that this is my last time here, I’m leaving in three days. Why? she asks. How long have you been here? Is Tel Aviv too hard a place to live? When will you come back? Where are you from? Where are you going? What work do you do? Have you got family?
I will miss this, this nosiness. I’m happy to answer most of her questions, but I hesitate at the last. In less than a week I will go to my mother’s stonesetting, and I’ve been nervous about this for months. I really don’t know what my brothers will do, they could easily link arms and try to stop me, but in that they will be unsuccessful. I’m glad Amanda will be with me. I’ll have at least one ally.
It’s 26°C, and Israelis are wearing sweaters and scarves. Brrrr. There are fewer people at the pool than usual. I jumped into the cold water for the last time and swam up and down the slow lane for a few laps. I tried to fix the sensation in my memory, but, of course, it’s already there. I noticed, for the first time, that in the deep end you can hear the wind-chimes from the boats moored in the marina.
Today’s word: puh-um uh-chuh-ronah – last time – פעם אחרונה
See also:The brothers grim