Saturday, August 24, 2013

Limonana and a very heavy collection of tchotchkes

I'm on a break now from school, and really glad to be out of Jerusalem. Part of me is sorry that I didn't stay to be with my friends that are still in Jerusalem, but I really needed to have physical distance from the city. The last two months have seemed interminably long. These few days have been a much needed time for me to distance myself from the events of the summer.

I was overjoyed to learn that Paul is, in fact, going to be staying with us and finishing out the year. He'd confided in me earlier in the summer, as we walked down derech beit lechem (literally, the way to Bethlehem) about his stress over our summer ulpan. He told me he was worried about being able to pass our Hebrew final -worried that if he didn't he'd have to go home. I told him not to worry, because God knew that I needed him to stay with me. As I uttered those words, I'd had no idea that I was about to prove just how true they were.

Half an hour later, we sat at a cafe a few blocks from my house and talked over an open-faced apple pie  and limonana (a traditional Israeli drink that's like lemonade combined with mint tea). All of a sudden the conversation moved from the stress of the Hebrew final to the issues plaguing me since I came to the Holy Land. I watched the two of us as a cinema-goer watches the latest Indie-darling film. I saw him sitting across the table from me, under the shade of the swaying trees -my figure was reflected in both lenses of his glasses. I heard the traffic on the road -just yards away -become distant as I focused on the scene playing out in front of me. Everything had that special tint to it -that lighting they use in movies when you've come to that special place that might be reality or might be a dream.

He never asked me any questions really. Or maybe he did. The only thing I remember is that I was suddenly telling him all the things I'd been unaware were bothering me for the past month. It was like opening a box of things I'd become too familiar with (I didn't remember where I'd picked them up, or why I initially thought I needed them). I talked and talked until all the dusty photos, newspaper clippings, pieces of jewelry and letters were out of the table in front of me.

Paul took a measured look at a collection of things that had long ago outlived their usefulness. You don't need these anymore, he said to me. You've looked at them so much in the past three years they no longer mean anything to you. They've served their purpose -now let them go. I looked at him, down at the price of my fear of repeating past mistakes. Something released inside me and I began to weep. I put my head down on my arms, heedless of the strangers passing by on the sidewalk, and wept.

When I had collected myself again some minutes later, I looked back at Paul and smiled. What would I do without you? I said to him. He shrugged. That's why I'm here, he offered. I took a deep breath, brushed my strange collection off the table, and it became nothing more than the dust that settles in the streets.

No sooner had I done that than a strange feeling passed over me. I told Paul that I'm certain there's some sort of divine, karmic reason for everyone who is in our class to be here in Israel this year, together. It was something subtle, something just beyond my comprehension. It wasn't until later, when I texted him, that I told him I love him.

I've been ruminating on events such as this one now that I can distance myself from the summer term. The year ahead seems both too long and too short. But, for now I'm happy to spend time at the beach, and with friends I haven't seen since a year ago when I was here doing ulpan. I'm trying to keep my mind in the present, instead of jumping ahead to the fall term and all the things I'll have to deal with.

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