Ship of fools

My life is so uncertain. I will leave Israel in less than two months, and I have no job, no home, no savings, no family, no security. You may imagine I feel anxious sometimes.

Amanda called me on FaceTime and sang happy birthday. We talked about my life. She said, I don’t know how you cope, with everything you’ve had to face over the last few years. I don’t think it’s been as dramatic as she makes it sound, but I can’t deny there have been flaming hurdles to jump.

I went to the Museum of Modern Art. Their new temporary show was by Louise Bourgeois, and it was grim. All the worst parts of conceptual art with none of the redeeming bits, a cryptic crossword in a foreign language. Browns and blacks, nothing seductive, no pleasure, at least for me. The themes were: death, separation, misery, gloom. Everything except fun. Perfect.

The only piece that has stayed with me, and not because I liked it, was of two giant metal whelk shells with human legs, dangling from the ceiling. The rooms were designed to make a sort of spiral maze, each smaller and more claustrophobic than the last. I couldn’t find a way out and panicked. I thought I would be held there forever, a prisoner of bad art. I pleaded with the attendant, who laughed, thinking I was making the only joke in the whole exhibition.

Later, I met Nathan in Basel. We ordered a beer and he pressed into my hand two packets of pills he takes; one for anxiety, and an orange one to help me sleep. He warned me not to take too many, as they are addictive. Normally, love is the only dangerous drug I’m interested in, but a few nights later I swallowed half an orange pill. It worked. I slept until noon and felt groggy for another two days. I won’t take another.

He told me his landlord had phoned earlier to ask if he was at the apartment, which is a very grand word for what it is. He stays in an air b’n’b, a room, really, with a small double bed, I don’t know how he and Ben, both tall men, fit in it. It also has a chair, a tv, a microwave, air con, a tiny bathroom and weak wifi. For this he pays over 4000 shekels a month, almost as much as Rufina’s rent for her one bed with balcony in a Bauhaus building. Nathan said he was there and asked why his landlord wanted to know. The air con is running, he said, and we don’t allow that if people aren’t at home.

I don’t know why, but he started talking about how he is only three years younger than me. I hadn’t told him, or anyone here, that it was my birthday. It slipped out. Actually, I’m four years older. He told the waiter, who wouldn’t charge me for my drinks.

We ate at Keton, my favourite restaurant in Tel Aviv. I had chopped liver and goulash, which was really beef stew. Nathan had calf’s foot jelly, which is exactly what you think it is, and actual beef stew. It was all delicious, and, generously, he paid for the whole evening.

I went to the Olive Korner to find a message from Isabell, in Berlin. We hadn’t spoken since I came here. It was all a silly misunderstanding and I’m very happy she contacted me. We will speak later in the week.

Camilla sent me a film called Ship of Fools, her mother’s favourite. I didn’t know it at all. It has a notable cast: Vivienne Leigh, Simone Signoret, Lee Marvin. People are sailing to Germany in the 1930s, ignorant of their fate. I don’t know why she thought it was right for me. We talked on FaceTime about my day, her children, our lives, about meeting when I return. I cannot wait.

Today’s word: yom who-ledet – birthday – יום הולדת

See also: Museum of Modern Art

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