The customs lady asks me the purpose of my visit and I look her in the eyes and say ‘to visit my friends grave.’ I don’t feel like answering questions. She flinches a little, says she is sorry and waves me through. On the plane, I am wishing for the window seat. A young guy across the aisle wants to talk with me, we shuffle seats and I end up with the window.
We talk, both of us sleep deprived but sleeping proves difficult. Neither of us ordered meals nor have change for snacks. I eat some bread I have in my bag. He has been away for a while, offers for me to come and stay with his family. He wants to show me around. I consider it seriously. At one point I attempt to take a picture of him and he freaks out. He is superstitious, thinks if you take a picture of someone right before they do something like fly, then they might die. Distorted logic, I took a picture of the plane before we got on it anyway. I checked-in my (tiny crappy) bag because of my cosmetics being too large for carry on, and when we get to the airport, I tell him it will be lost. It is. He needs to pee, he is hungry, I tell him to go and I will come find him. He stubbornly refuses and instead floats around, edgily insisting my bag will come any second. I know it will not. At the luggage desk, they go to find it, it has split open during the flight, as I feared it would. The lady finds everything from it. Except for the crystal Eiffel tower I bought for my lil sister, the red box is empty. She goes out the back, and returns with four pieces. Devo. As we walk into arrivals he says, Look, its Ariel. I mutter, Very funny. He says, No, really. I look up and Ron is standing holding a ‘Angela (Ariel)’ sign. I hug him tight and don’t let go for a long while. He looks and feels so familiar. I get the plane dude to write down his number and don’t look back. Ron’s wife, Tal, is pregnant and ready to pop, they are moving house, he is studying to be a vet and doing exams at the moment. Ron only just got my email and here he is. I am touched and warmed. In the car he smokes a joint, offers me some and I say no, then say yes and have a little. Fuckin Ariel.
I stay with Gidon, his wife and their son. Gidon has waited up and gives me some food. I have seen movies of these people from when Ariel came overseas last year. (I remember when he left for the airport, I started sobbing like an idiot, and told him to come home safe. He had came back to hug me one more time, and flipped me upside down.) We talk, I sleep. Next day, I go to find a post office and Western Union, have little luck. I slept too late (and maybe am in the road of the cleaner given I was in the middle of the loungeroom floor. My bad). I buy some ridiculously cheap undies and a bra that is like, 2 Euro, 4 dollars. I find the beach, the sand is fine and beautifully soft. I swim, the water is gorgeous and warm, and calm. Europeans love break walls. I sit with some guys I met in the Mediterranean. We drink liquorice flavoured Mohitos and talk. I find myself sharing all kinds of things with one of them, Sam, gorgeous eyes with big eyelashes. The kinda eyes you can talk to. With a girlfriend too. And the other guy… he is in pain, he needs a massage. He has stuff he needs to deal with. I can feel it. He is drinking and making it worse, I rub his shoulders for a while. I tell him something, like, when you have pain in the back, it is about not feeling supported… It needs to be listened to. He tells me, no, he was hit by a garbage truck. (ha.) And the pain comes spilling out, he is still angry and upset about it. I give him the card for a massage place across the road, he promises to go but I suspect he won’t. Wants to just ignore it and push through and see his girlfriend. His prerogative.
My phone rings as the sun sets, Ron tells me they have to put the kid to bed and to go to Gidons. He gives me the number of Mikey and tells me to call him. I am moving. When I pick my things up from Gidon’s, I show them a movie of Ariel; it makes them laugh but maybe ache too. Perhaps too much when I show them the video of us jumping together. I belatedly realise maybe they haven’t started to deal with this yet. I promise to mail them my DVD of the memorial and say goodbye. Mikey is waiting. He gives me the key to his place, tells me to use the Internet, and leaves for his girlfriends. I want falafel and we walk together for a while. Brief conversation, not much mention of Ariel. Nice guy. Eat falafel and lots of salad; it’s pretty cheap too. Find some dairy free strawberry ice cream and the guy who serves me makes me smile. On the walk home, I need to use the loo. Then I really need to use the loo. Then I really REALLY need to use the loo. Like never before. I clench my bum cheeks together and go go go.
I am overdue to write, but spend a few hours into the morning Skyping instead. After all this time, a friend and I from the Czech republic go back and honestly spill our guts about what happened when I was there. Someone I got my heart into a tangle over. And now, going back and sorting out the mess we made. When we get into in, I realise, maybe I am angry and disappointed in him for not being a friend to me when I needed him. For reasons of his own. I don’t know how that turned into me thinking I wanted to have sex with him. Crazy. Musta been those crazy beautiful eyes. I have no other explanation for it.
Next day I slept late again. As I travel, there are periods of rest and periods of vigorous activity. I am learning to deal with the guilt that resting brings. I am in Israel and sleeping until lunchtime. What would my father say? I walk into the centre, the banks keep strange hours. No love for my MasterCard. Ah well. MasterCard, where everything is priceless cos you can’t buy anything. I wander through shops. Float into a shop on Dizengoff, number 85. Shandan. There are jeans and I might like some. The sales guy is attentive. Tells me I have a beautiful smile. As I try on jeans, he passes me new ones. They aren’t covering my bum properly. He tells me, it doesn’t matter, they’re not so bad. As I describe what it is I want, he tells me I am high maintenance. I try on more. He says they look good, I tell him, I want a pair of jeans I can fall in love with. He tells me, girl, you needa like the jeans, and fall in love with a guy. I shake my head. I lost my favourite jeans; I wanna love the new ones. I draw him a picture. I think the picture is ridiculous, but he smiles. Goes out the back and hands me a pair of jeans I can fall in love with. Baggy, tight bum, comfy. I put on a purple dress and wear it around the shop with my new jeans. I am ready to go to Jerusalem to see Ariel, but I suspect Ron has my travel planned out. I am waiting for him to call me, at 230. I sit in the chair and talk with Arik, as the girls come and go. He asks what I am doing tonight, tells me his friend is playing in a club. I tell him, I don’t know. Wait and see. But I do like to dance. I eat liquorice and offer him some.
I sit on the bench outside his store and he lights up some hash. People pass by and he seems to know everyone. When I speak to Ron, he says to come to Jerusalem tomorrow. I am free for the evening. Arik will call me when he finishes. I wander through some flea markets, see, touch, hold many things I would like to buy. With absolute bare minimum money, I find myself freed, sitting slightly outside of the commercialism. I don’t have to decide what to buy; the decision is made for me. Doesn’t matter how cheap or how pretty it is. With a loud gasp I come to a standstill in front of a beautiful woman with long grey hair sitting out of the way. She has an unopened set of Osho Zen Buddhist tarot cards. Just like my old ones that were in my bag. I ask how much. 2000 shekel. (Get the shekels off my feet so I can dance… I just wanna praise you…) These cards are more expensive than in Australia. But it seems right. I tell her to hold them for me and I will buy them tomorrow. Funnily enough she is also going to Jerusalem tomorrow. Sam from yesterday calls. We decide to meet up for eats, at the fountain. I wait there for a while and realise we are thinking of different fountains. Eventually we find each other at the fruit stand, but only after I have sampled some amazing gelato that may or may not have had dairy in it. Trust me to come to find amazing ice-cream, seems I only visit ice-cream capitals of the world, I cant even fricken eat most of it. We go for dinner and I still enjoy talking to him as much as before. Words just pour from me, about where I’ve been and what I’ve seen, Standard. But also about life, about philosophy, about religion, about love. He reminds me a little of Ryan. He chats over friendly with the waitress, as we walk away tells me he saw cut marks on her arms and he thought he saw the same thing on me too. Good lord no, I tell him, slightly disturbed that he sees that everywhere he goes but also that I seem like that type! He walks me home with another ice-cream. We say goodbye.
Arik will be here in a minute to pick me up. I wash my armpits and face, apply deodorant and take my jumper. And another dress in a bag in case I wanna change. There is a frangipani tree outside the door and I pick a few. He tells me I look beautiful and I give him a flower. The others go in my hair. The club is underground, I like the music, he buys me a Malibu and pineapple, and I give him back 50 shekels he loaned me today. He knows everyone and introduces me to way more people then I care to keep track of. He wants me to be happy, checks my drink is full and gets me water. I meet his hairdresser friend and ask him about dreadlocks. Arik says, what, chu crazy?? Tells me, no. No no no, your hair is beautiful, shakes his head at me. Ariel used to say that, and used to dance like him as well. He puts the flower I gave him behind his ear and doesn’t know how bittersweet it is to see him do it. Israeli men, in my limited experience, seem to be gentle and light, playful in a slightly feminine and unselfconscious way. He carries it around for people to smell, is delighted with the flower. On the floor while he moves from friend to friend, I want to Melbourne shuffle but am afraid to draw too much attention to myself. So I dance small even though I feel like letting loose. Funny how little dancing my feet have been doing on this trip, luckily my soul and my spirit have been doing enough to compensate. Everyone is smoking underground and after a while it gives me a headache. He nearly kisses me on the dance floor and it feels delightful.
I request outside air; we don’t go back in. We sit on a brick wall about a parking lot with a breeze and view from the sea. We play with the frangipani until it falls with the wind down to the cement below. He asks me if he can be rude and kisses me. Being with him is nice. We snuggle. I yawn and feel sleepy. We drive down to the beach. Of course I want to go near the water, and once I am near it, of course I want to go in. He tells me, girl, what, chu crazy? I tell him, better to regret the things you do then the things you do not do. He holds my clothes as I run into the water. He teases me for holding my boobs after I take my top off. Even though the night ocean scares me, BECAUSE the night ocean scares me, I have to do it. Feels so good. Only needs to be one moment. The clothes shop is his, he has four, and luckily for me, this means he pulls a change of dress out of the boot, asks me if I like it. I am hungry, I want falafel, instead he gets me this potato thingy. We go to his house; he kisses me all over and asks me what I like. I tell him, strawberry sorbet. And everything else I can think of under the sun. Who is this man? He asks me what I am thinking and he tells me I’m crazy. He is exhausted and we sleep. I wake up with a coldsore, makes for an unhappy Angela. He has to work. I don’t want to get out of his bed, don’t wanna face today. Foetal again, and he doesn’t want me to cry either. Only with him, it’s not because he is uncomfortable, but because he wants me to be happy. He listens, he knows. He understands life is to be enjoyed. He tells me to call him when I get to Jerusalem.
Ron picks me up at Mickey’s and we drive. His life is still hectic and I am glad he has made the time for me. He tells me how he and his wife have a house that is made of renovated train carriages. Very cool. We drive up into the hills and are in the graveyard before I realise it. It is surprisingly hot and dry. The bodies go in the ground and a large slab of stone or concrete goes on top of them. Cement everywhere. Not the grass I expected; how can I sit on him here? I sob as we walk in; Ron says it happens to him every time. The grave is beautiful, despite the dry hotness. Someone has planted cacti at the end. Around the edge of the grave are seashells. His middle name is George, I didn’t remember that. In Hebrew it says, he loved all and all loved him. Ron says, ‘I told my father, not all.’ and we laugh. I take off my shoes. I have bought frangipanis for him, as many as I could hold. I spread them across the end and put a bunch on top. I take a picture of Ron sitting nearby. He tells me that Ariel, last time he was here, came and took a picture on this very spot with his arms spread wide and a grin on his face, and of the view across the valley. I say to him, I wish I lived near here so I could come and sit with him. Ron pauses a beat and says- It’s just a grave.
From anyone else, I would think they missed the point. And suddenly I am so glad to be here with him, to hear him say that. Because he would know something about this. I can open myself the truth in his words. We pick up his wife, she is so damn pregnant. She is vocal, we walk through the markets. She tells me that sometimes she just wants to bang Ron’s head on the steering wheel. Because she wants to fight, and nothing she says or does will upset him. I laugh and remember myself getting upset with Ariel about not putting out the rubbish, he was impossible to pick a fight with too. So chilled out and accepting. As I spend time with them it has never been more obvious, life is a force unto itself that just rolls on, dragging us with it, heedless to how we think things should be. Ron’s sister Rachel is in London and getting married this year as well. Birth, Marriage, Death; this is life. We eat, they pay and I let them, even though I know they will be doing it tight with a baby on the way. Girls gotta eat. We meet Ariel and Ron’s mum and dad, they are all going fridge shopping and I am getting the bus back to Tel Aviv. The whole time they are standing there, I remember Ariel telling me living with me was like being 14 again and having a midget control his life. I don’t share this with them (maybe I could have). Ariel used to say I reminded him of her but now her arms are folded and I don’t know how to reach in there. I need a backpack. We walk past a shop, and the man says there are no bags there that are what I am looking for. I’m sure there are. We return to the shop, and right on top is a purple one with padded straps. Buy it. God I love when that feeling is right. Ron’s wife is the same size shoe as me, and when I repack my bag, I want to throw out things- I give her my beloved sketchers. Tell her to wash them. I have my six-dollar pair of white Barcelona thongs to get me through, and it’s so damn hot they’re all I need. I wish Ron and Tal the best, tell them I hope the baby isn’t ugly, and we say goodbye.
I walk through the city, go to a money exchange. Declined, declined, declined. Not even 40 bucks? Some dudes let me use their internet- Netbank says that after buying the backpack, my account is empty. Ha. I buy some amazing toffee caramel coated walnuts thingys. I have just enough for the bus. First I walk to the Wailing Wall. Not so sure of the history, but as I understand it, people believe this is the last section of some kind of house of god. Maybe a temple Jesus was in or something. Hmm. (Don’t quote me). The point is, it is a very holy place. There is heavy security. It is divided into a male and a female section. There are ushers who check you are attired appropriately. The front of the wall is crowded with people. They hold prayer books to their face and chant in low murmurs, rocking back and forth, sometimes touching the wall. There is a hush over the place that defiant cell phones break into. I write a letter and find a crevice to cram it into.
I pray for acceptance. I wish and hope for acceptance. I ask for help in accepting the things outside my control. I wish Ariels soul a safe, light and joyous passage. I give thanks for my time with him. I pray to wash away the pain and heal the wound with each tear I cry from this day on. I pray for divine assistance. I give thanks for all I receive. I pray to spread the light in everything I do. I wish for love in life for everyone. I pray to better love everyone I meet. I pray for assistance in better loving the people close to me, especially when I disagree with their behaviour. I pray for everyone I meet in pain, for the ability to bring hope and spread joy. I pray for divine assistance for lost souls, when they are alone and cry out. I pray for acceptance of pain. I pray for light, love and laughter in everything I do. I pray for forgiveness when we are human.
I walk to the local bus to connect to the bus to Tel Aviv. I fall asleep propped up on the window and when I wake, I notice there is a soldier sitting opposite me. The entire time I was asleep, his big, semi-automatic (?) gun has been resting on my knee. I can see the bullets. At the bus station, security is tight, metal detectors; I am in the country of bus bombs about to get on a bus. I don’t feel scared, but I do feel mildly irritated when the girl shoves her hand in my bag.
I call Arik and he doesn’t answer; I sleep on the bus and he wakes me back up. He doesn’t answer calls that are on private. It’s getting late; He is in bed but will come and get me if I want. I don’t know. Really I want to sleep alone, but tomorrow night I leave. So I will go to him. He is tired, in his jamas and surprised I am carrying my backpack. Does he think I intend to move in? Settle petal. He wants to sleep, is getting sick, he’s overheated and sweaty. I wonder, perhaps I ought not have come. I wake up and roll to him and he pushes me away. Next morning he has to work again. Even his mum won’t cover for him. Ack. Choice between seeing Israel and spending time with him in his shop. You can guess what the girl chooses. Hopeless. I am grumpy about him pushing me away, he says, stop thinking like that, everything’s good, (like he seems to be saying all the time) and I say to him, a half naked Australian girl rolls over to you in the middle of the night and you push her away? What, chu crazy?? He asks for meaty casserole with rice from the markets for lunch. I come back with sushi for me.
Then fetch saucy eggplant and mince on cous cous, with mashed potato and cooked sweet potato for him. He eats it, and then says to me, “That was good, thanks. You know what I do like though? Meaty casserole from the markets”. My jaw drops, a little. You didn’t like the food I say, cos it wasn’t meaty casserole! I liked the food, he says. No you didn’t, otherwise you wouldn’t have said that after eating. He tells me to stop thinking like that, but I won’t budge. I go for a walk, pick up my Moroccan blanket from Gidon’s and find some strawberry sorbet. Standard. I call dad, ask how that loan is coming along. He has sent wages into my account and they should land soon. I spend the day checking Netbank in Arik’s friends shop, checking to see if there is money there yet. I can feel myself being a slave to money, afraid of having none, although truly there is nothing of which I am lacking that I need it for.
When I get back two hours later, Arik is sharing a joint. His mate offers it to me, I say no and Arik says, she wants her head clear. He understands some things easily, and others, maybe not at all. He asks me if I will go now, he knows how I am feeling. Lovers tiffs this early in the game? It’s been a while since someone drove me crazy like that. I will stay until it is time for me to fly. He closes this shop, and then three others, while I wait impatiently. We drive to exchange for me to get money, I buy the tarot cards. He wants to share a beer on the beach but by the time we get there, it is time to leave. I ask him to lay on me in the sand, and he does, (what, chu crazy??) he gets unhappy covered in sand. He has a pretty car and doesn’t want sand on it. He refuses to drive me to the airport. He doesn’t do them, apparently. The train has now left so he puts me in a cab. He tells the driver to wait. He sits me on a bench and says, Promise me something. Don’t ever let someone break your spirit.
I promise, although I am not sure what is going on here. What does that even mean? Does he think there is a danger of that happening; perhaps I have been at my most vulnerable with him… but really? Am I that girl? What does he see when he looks at me? I am crying cos I don’t want to say goodbye to him. I don’t want to leave Israel, I like it here. I don’t like goodbyes, still after all this time. Today, we talked. He said, you could stay (and have my baby). When I was upset we didn’t have more time together he said, you are the one who is leaving. And for a moment, I thought, I could change my flight. I almost called British Airways. But life in Australia is waiting for me to sort it out, and I don’t like lover’s tiffs. I cry in the cab, then get distracted by the whole ‘might miss the plane’ thing when we get stuck in traffic.
At the airport, I am the last to arrive, they ask me many questions. Lab test all my things, empty my suitcase. Seem to take unnecessarily long. Test my jumper twice. I run to pee but I needn’t have rushed- they are slower then a wet week. A girl asks me to follow her. She takes me behind a curtain in a corner, tells me to empty my pockets and then spends a while patting me down. Once again, I am not sure what the point is, but I don’t actually mind it, its pleasant. (If she pulls out rubber gloves we’re in trouble). Thongs back on and she walks me through security. Why the special treatment? Through passport control and onto the departure gates. The airport has a fountain where water rains in a circle from the roof.
I am not making the mistake of going without food this time- falafel hummus and tomato it is. There is an airhostess in line; she says to me- are you paying? Yes, so I order. She meant, am I only paying. My bad. The flight still isn’t boarding- the airline is new and it shows- so I go to buy some Halva. Sweet hard sesame desert, two packets. A young girl argues with an elderly lady, I see her a minute later crying and walking away. Curious. When we board the plane I stand and wait, I have the aisle seat and I want the window seat (again). Two young guys are sitting with me and I ask if I can have the window. They are half drunk and don’t care. As the plane is taxi-ing down the runaway, I ask them where they’re from. One looks Israeli and he is, but the other looks Belgian. He says, nah, I’m an Israeli in disguise. I reply- Well, you will be in it a minute.
…Get it? Maybe the best joke I have ever made. As the plane takes off, I eat some passionfruit Arik gifted me. It is on my lap and I say to the boys, Well, at least if the plane crashes and I get it all over my face they can write on my grave ‘She lived and died with Passion’.