I first saw Ido soon after I arrived in Tel Aviv. I was drinking tea at the Jekyl and Hyde one wintry afternoon, when a dark, slim, handsome man emerged from the kitchen wearing chef’s whites. On the street, in front of my table, he hugged another man, and cried.
I went there often in those first months. Mickey, the owner, told me, very sweetly, that I was part of the Jekyl and Hyde family. I felt so adrift last winter, lonely, too, that it meant a lot to me, it pulled me along.
Ido would come out for a break, ask if I minded, and sit and roll thin cigarettes. We’d talk about food or Israel or whatever. Often it was the only conversation I’d have that day.
One afternoon someone who may have been a boy or a girl walked past the café and Ido’s gaze lingered on him or her. This seems incredible now, but I wasn’t sure if he was gay. As I say, last winter was a confusing time for me.
It may have been my sympathetic manner, it may have been the badge that says ‘Cock’ that I wear on my lapel, maybe it’s Maybelline, who can tell, but Ido soon began to tell me scandalous stories about his busy sex life. How he’d slept with his best friend but didn’t want it to go any further but was worried his best friend did, anyway, he was meeting someone else later. He told me that his shortest relationship had lasted five years and that he likes to have porn on in the background when he’s having sex. He showed me the top of his tattoo, a large, beautifully drawn feather that started at his waist and swept down, beneath the waistband of his jeans, to I don’t want to know where. The name of his favourite dildo, I learned, is Shimon. By then I was more certain if he was gay or not.
If I sound like I mind being told these things, I don’t. I love it, actually.
He asked if I’d go with him to meet his family, who live in the north, near the Sea of Galilee, which is a beautiful part of the country. They came here from Ireland thirty years ago, when he was fourteen. Ten years before then I’d spent six months in the area on Kibbutz Afikim. I said yes, but we never followed up on it, and the idea evaporated. This happened a lot with Ido. We’d agree to meet for a drink but he wouldn’t settle on a time or place.
He started learning Japanese. After storming out of the café five or six times, always returning a day or so later, he finally left to work in a Japanese restaurant on Rothschild, and we lost touch. He wasn’t working the times I looked for him. I sent texts once or twice, but, I don’t know, these things happen, he never replied.
One hot evening in August I was, as ever, drinking rosé at the Olive Korner, and he passed, holding the hand of a slim, handsome man. We hugged and chatted and agreed to meet the next day. The slim man whose hand he’d been holding was Cobi, who he’d been seeing all summer, and the reason, he said, why he wasn’t replying to messages. You may think this is bad friend juju, but sometimes, with a new love, reason recedes.
We met at the Nahat, diametrically across Diezengoff Square from the Jekyl and Hyde, and spent a couple of hours catching up. There were no lulls in our conversation, but I’d forgotten how often he tells me I’m wrong about things. He brought his skinny, tumerous dog with him who I tried to like.
He wants to move to Europe with Cobi next year, he isn’t sure where, and was concerned about what he’d do with his collection of over two hundred knives and swords. I don’t think they’re kitchen knives and swords, and the thought of them alarms me. We talked again about hiring a car and going north, but it will be another trip that never happens.
A few days later, the day before Yom Kippur, Nathan and I were walking on Rothschild, like millionaires, and there they were, Ido and Cobi, walking towards us, holding hands. We hugged and stopped for coffee. We hadn’t been talking about clothes, but Ido told me he knew exactly what hat would suit me. He didn’t say what it is.
Nathan and I continued to Neve Tzedek. Everything was closing early for Yom Kippur, the only place open was Anita, the ice cream shop. I said, I’m glad that when I leave, I’ll know I’ve made friends here.
Two days later Ido called to tell me that Cobi had broken up with him. He sounded close to tears.
Over the next few weeks we sent messages to each other and talked on the phone, and several times said we’d meet, but never did. Finally, three days before I left Tel Aviv, we settled on the Nahat again. I texted to say I was there and he replied that he was cleaning his room, he wouldn’t be long. But that was that. He didn’t meet me and there were no more messages. Maybe I made fewer friends than I’d thought. I’d wanted to ask him why he was crying the first time I saw him. I’d guess it was boy trouble, and I’m sorry I’ll never know for certain.
Today’s word: sheh-elah eesheet – personal question – שאלה אישית
See also:Breakfast of champions