Mike came over on a Friday evening, from Petah Tikva, ten km or so outside Tel Aviv. Buses don’t run on Shabbut, but trains and cheruts* do, maybe they aren’t owned by the state**. He could have taken a cherut to the end of my street, but he walked to Hoveivi Tzion from Azrieli station, a couple of miles, maybe. All this means it took some effort, which you have to say is flattering. What do you mean? Of course I’m worth it.
He was in his mid-forties, pink, slim, exercised, his hair cropped, almost hairless elsewhere. I’m certain he had eyebrows, although I have no memory of them. He wore the Israeli national costume for men of a loose vest and baggy shorts, neither new. He is more attractive than I make him sound, at least to me, and, even better, clever and nice.
We sat close to each other on my sofa with glasses of wine. His English was excellent. We talked about how expensive Tel Aviv is, but people always talk about this. It’s like the English and weather, or freelancers and money. He looked around my apartment, all my books were still in boxes, hadn’t been unpacked since I arrived nine months earlier, and he wondered if I ever meant to stay.
I think I did. I brought everything I own with me. I have no home in England, nothing, other than friends, to go back to. I meant to find work and make my life in Israel. It all got lost, somehow, between Nefesh B’Nefesh not finding the work they’d promised, the ulpan, the grey, wet winter, and my mother dying soon after I arrived. At some point, in the spring, maybe, I don’t know exactly when, I realised I don’t want to live here.
Later he told me more about his life. I should have known this was coming. He is, of course, involved with someone, blah blah, they’re breaking up, blah blah, or maybe not, blah blah. Mike is the sixth or seventh in a row to tell me this after exertions. I suppose I know why they don’t tell me earlier, but, guys, it is tiresome of you.
Then, something else. Part of his army service was spent on a kibbutz, where he made friends with a woman ten years older. After the army, and uni, and some time in Australia, he returned to the kibbutz and asked her if she would have a baby with him. There was no question of them being a couple, they both knew he was gay, but he wanted a child and for her to be its mother.
It took him a year to persuade her, but she agreed and they had twin girls. He proudly showed me their photo, two beautiful, dark-haired, seventeen year olds. He has always taken a part in their upbringing, he spends four nights a week at the kibbutz and takes them on holiday. They know all about their father. I think this is quite something.
We talked for another hour in a way I don’t get the chance to often enough here; intimately, confidentially. I do most of my confiding on this blog. It is a welcome change. And then it was time for Mike to leave to catch his train home.
We walked along Bograshov together. Friday evenings are quiet here, people eat dinner with their family. At Pinsker, he says, You’re lonely, and he’s right about that. He adds, I am your friend now, then continues walking, and I’m sorry we don’t meet again.
Today’s word: buh-uh-lee – my husband – בעלי
* Cheruts are small busses that often kerb crawl for passengers. They take the same routes as buses, but you can hail them, or ask them to stop, anywhere on the route. The fare is a shekel or more than on the bus and there is room for ten or twelve people, if they squash in. I prefer actual buses.
** This is always a hot topic Israel, often debated in parliament, the secular against the religious, what is permitted and what is not. The argument may never be settled.