Last time I watched from in front of Diesel Jeans, the shop closest to the action. Young, both of them. Him a little older than her. Him: twenty at most. Her: a mature eighteen. Guesses. I canít do much better. They took a long time. Big ceiling-high window behind them, four planes took off on the nearest runway in the time they took. I could hear a bit. Not everything. Her: promise me youíll e-mail, first thing you get there. Him: I will never forget you. A close dynamic between them. As though almost equals in affection. If possible. Theyíre standing before the security check-in barrier. At Ben Gurion thatís as far as you can go if youíre not flying. Theyíre physically uninhibited with each other, his arm is comfortable around her hips, she squeezes his waist, thereís something of habit there, you get the sense that even if this was a fling itís one thatís had a bit of longevity. My guess: both boy and girl American. Or Canadian. She could be English. She speaks too softly to pull out an accent. A limited number of possible scenarios for meeting: they couldíve been on one of the Zionist-subsidized tours for young Jews (but too short-term for intimacy evidenced; my intuition); they couldíve been working with Sorel, the military base volunteer service (but too much thatís tender and delicate in her face); or they couldíve been volunteers on a kibbutz. That seems to me most likely. Itís how I met my first girlfriend, as a Canadian volunteer on Kibbutz Dan. A hundred years ago. She touches his face. He kisses her. Gently. This is a pattern Iíve observed repeatedly. First the couple will share a small kiss, chaste, as though not wanting to spoil the gentle poignance of parting. Then one or the other or both at once will realize the absurdity, the vanity of such a gesture and kiss the other passionately, with full body, and the other will respond, knowing this to be the last kiss from this particular kisser for a period that may well be indefinite. And so it happens here. Then, typical too, the flyer, in this case him, rushes through the gates without looking back. She, the remaining, waits a few minutes watching his distant back as he passes through the metal detector. Then a few minutes more. Eventually she moves away from the gate. She doesnít leave. She sits down at a table and stares at her hands. If you watch closely, if you are a man like me who has trained himself to watch closely, you can see her shoulders shake. Delicately. Just a little. Giving nothing away.
Iím tapped on the shoulder. The Diesel Jeans clerk, big Sephardi girl, looks at me expectantly. Ata rotzay? You want? What is it I want. I want a one-way ticket to Hawaii. I want two decades returned to me in mint condition. I want my dog to be loyal to me and quit running away. This is what I want. Bíseder, I say, and leave the store, leave the terminal, go find my car in the lot.
Each week this is my Sunday afternoon.
A Sunday late in May. Iím seated outside the airport McDonaldís. Iíve ordered a coffee. Youíve got to order something. Otherwise they harass you. I recognize that this is the same the world over but in Tel Aviv when you talk harassment youíre talking almost bodily.
Already today Iíve seen an extraordinary goodbye. Identical twin brothers, embracing, crying, one says when will I see you again? the other touches his brotherís face, says when will I see you again? They were closer than lovers. Nothing in sight interested each man more than the otherís face, the otherís body. How vain, I thought at first. But even then how unsayably moving.
A few more swing by in quick succession. A mother and her daughter, mother bristling with protective nerves, daughter straining to break loose. An elderly couple: reserved, aware of people watching, how public a place this is for demonstration. A whole extended Asian family, probably Thai, sending off their university-aged son, who walks through the gates with the quiet pride that comes from knowing his children wonít be migrant labourers like his parents. I sip my coffee. There is a lull in traffic at the security gate. A lull in goodbyes. My thoughts drift to ancient history. The wonderful thing about treating yourself to periods of nostalgic melancholy, induced however you wish, is the special brand of paralysis brought on. Paralysis it is indeed, a distraction - if I chatted frankly with history Iíd shoot myself - but because something is felt, because melancholy fills an absence, you think, look at me, Iím brimming with health, Iíve got my life in order, the past canít drive me into hiding. A subterfuge.
Around noon two girls arrive, only one of them carrying luggage. My reveries break. Iím again attentive. Theyíre young girls, eighteen or nineteen, both of them fairly tall, good figures. I canít see either face; both of them have their backs to me. They stand talking for a minute. Canít hear a word theyíre saying. All of it is unemphatic, low-key. The leaving girl takes her bags in hand. The two girls kiss each other on the cheek and part ways. The taller one stands waiting at the gate a minute. As soon as she turns a fraction of an inch I know without doubt she is my daughter.
Per Contra Fiction - Winter 2006