I met Nathan at the ice cream place on Ben Yehuda, on a warm Friday afternoon in September. He’d been in Majorca and Frankfurt for six weeks; this was the first time I’d seen him since he stood me up the night before he left so he could have another fruitless bash at Alberto. Mostly, I’d been bemused by his ardour. He said he’d had a headache, and had to pack, but I knew that it was love that had made him a liar. Nathan has been my best friend here, and I’m very fond of him. This year would have been less enjoyable without his company.
He scrolled through selfies Alberto had sent him from Rome and Florence, and said, I love him, at each one. There was a picture with his youthful mother. I’m older than her, he said, with some despair, like this was a surprise. He isn’t gay, I reminded him, as kindly as I could. I love him like a little brother, he continued. I nodded, but I know that is not how Nathan loves him. A few weeks earlier he’d described Alberto’s penis to me, at least, the shape he could see through his swimming trunks when he became excited around Rufina. I won’t pass on the description, but I feel I now know Alberto’s penis as well as I know my own.
Nathan had brought me some product I had almost run out of, an oil I use on my hair to make it shiny, from a company called Aesop. You can tell how expensive it is by the plainness of its packaging. Aesop shops have all the comfort of a monk’s cell, a sign of how luxurious the things they sell are. It is a lovely, thoughtful gift.
We ate mango sorbet and talked about our lives in August. Just that morning I’d heard of further delays to my mother’s estate being settled. My brothers were being less helpful than ever; they can always find new ways to be uncooperative and spiteful. I don’t think they love me like a brother. But I don’t want to spoil the mood, he knows all about my family, and I say, Oy, vey, I’ll tell you another time, so he knows it isn’t good news.
Neither of us wants to make Tel Aviv our permanent home. He doesn’t want to cut ties to Israel, he’s getting his full passport next week, and going to queue again for an Israeli driving licence, too. These tasks are never as easy here as they should be. Nathan has already gone to two or three places for it, each time being told he needs to go somewhere else, another forty-minute bus ride away. Why it can’t all be done online, in twenty languages, will remain a mystery.
I’ve been here long enough to know it doesn’t suit me. A year before I’d asked the woman I rented my flat in London from if she’d mind if I swapped it with somewhere in Tel Aviv for a month or so, so I could find out if I liked living here, before making the full move. She said no, thinking I would make a profit from it, but that wasn’t my plan at all. We are still, almost a year after I moved out, wrangling over the deposit, so I say, with some feeling, that she is a bit of a cow.
Nathan then offers something even more generous and surprising than the hair oil. He says that I can stay in his flat in Frankfurt over the winter, rent free, I’d only have to water the plants, he’ll be in Majorca most of the time. I know that his houseplants are all imitation, and I’m lost for words. I’d never considered Frankfurt as a destination before, or thought of asking to stay in his apartment, but it may be a solution, until the estate is settled. My answer is that we should both think about it for a few weeks, but I know I’d enjoy exploring a new city. Maybe being a Frankfurter is the best thing for a silly sausage. It could be another adventure.
Today’s word: mah-tah-nah – gift – מתנה