Yossi Faybish - hobbies - prose
back to Prose...




And It Rains Forever...

    It did not happen to him for a long time now.
    How long?
    He doesn’t know anymore. Nobody knows.
    Years? Maybe hundreds of years?
    For a long, very long, very very long time - he didn’t cry.

    Much laughter, yes, lots of laughter, and jokes, and quarrels, and resentment, indifference and attention - laughter, yes, much laughter, lots and lots of laughter.
    Yet not even one tear.
    Not one single tear.
    Not one, single, gratifying tear.

    Respectable. A skilful professional with a safe job and an excellent salary. Nice house, nice wife, beautiful kids. Mornings driving to work, evenings coming back, content with the daily performance, playing with the children, strolling with the wife, visiting friends - a good life. And comfortable. A respectable person. At peace with himself. With life. Settled.


    An autumn day it was. Tiny, freezing raindrops darted swiftly across the asphalt black lawns and soft, hesitating thunder, shyly disturbed from time to time the clouds’ imposing serenity. He drove at reckless speed. The windshield wipers drummed incessantly, and dim pedestrian faces squinted angrily for short meaningless seconds from underneath a sea of wobbling mushrooms.

    His foot squeezed the accelerator to the floor.

    ...What the hell!?...

    His clenched teeth grated in anger, overheated brakes grated in melting pain, locked wheels grated in desperation... black skies grated in thunderous mocking cacophony...

    The car stalled somewhere across the middle of the street, he crashed out of the door and ran up the sidewalk. His hand shot forward.

    “A moment... just a moment...”

    A moment was all it took. And in this one glorious moment he saw it all. He saw summer’s flower seas opening up to sun’s hot embrace, he saw life’s sparkling springs bursting out of the mountain’s solid rock, he saw mankind’s unborn children beating their way out with life’s terrific cry on their lips, he saw... Two questioning eyes looked up at him. His own regard was locked into an unblinking stare. Silent. Paralyzed. Miniature rivulets slipping along the rugged trails across his forehead, down to his cheekbones, and then falling the unending miles down to the unseen ground. Her voice was soft, hesitating.

    “It’s you...”

    He didn’t utter a word. Didn’t dare move lest the magic will break. Just looked. Her image kind of hazy, kind of remote... He could not see her clearly, something was disturbing his vision. He trembled. Something was clutching at his throat and he trembled. Slowly, her shape seemed to get into focus, nearer, unaware his hand moved forward - a mute tremor running through it, unaware his fingers touched the back of her head sliding through the soft hair, pulling gently, hesitatingly, mindlessly...

    “No... please, no...” With a soft move she slipped out from his hold and moved slightly away.
    “Hello, it’s been a long time”. Startled, he shivered and jumped back with sudden apprehension, moving his hand across his wet face.

    “Oh, sorry, forgive me, please... yes... yes, it’s a long time since we last saw each other. How... how are you, what are you doing in this part of town?”

    The frightened look on her face changed suddenly to laughter. She opened her bag and handed him a handkerchief.

    “Here, take it, dry yourself a bit, you’ll catch a cold.” Still embarrassed, his hands limp at his sides, her offer came like an unexpected face saver. With sudden jerky movements he took the handkerchief and mopped his face and hair. Her laughter won over his own embarrassment and he started laughing as well.

    “Dammit... you forgive me, don’t you? It was too... unexpected. Where are you going to?”

    She hesitated. From the corner of her eye she glimpsed at him and murmured almost inaudibly.

    “I... sometimes I pass through this area. I have some business here...” She turned away. “I believe I should go now.”

    “Oh, no, my dear, you don’t, this is more than just a class reunion. How long have we been out of touch? Eight years?... More or less.” His self confidence was catching up with him in great strides. “What we are going to do now, unless you are hurrying to this business place of yours, is sit down in some dark corner in some small warm café, where we are going to drink something hot... And then you are going to tell me the story of your life and I am going to tell you the story of mine. After all these years there’s nothing to get overexcited about, is there? Old friends we are and old friends we stay.” He winked at her. Her smile was a bit artificial, yet exuding absolute calmness.

    “Yes, okay, I’m not in such a hurry. And actually yes, why shouldn’t we chat a bit, like old friends do?”

    They sat facing each other across the small square table. Two steaming cups held in their hands, chatting. Remembering those old high school days through the fuzzy distorting lens of passing years. He, doing most of the talking, she, hiding her eyes in the mist rising from the hot drinks in front of them. Starting all sentences with one or another derivative of “...do you remember?...”

    Do you remember?...

    The days when, awkward and shy, he courted her with all his accumulated inexperience tying him up mouth, hands and feet. Compensating his inefficient attempts by wild, uncontrolled behavior, some misplaced masculinity he imagined to be convincing.

    He paused for a second.

    Do you remember?...

    One day he wrote her a letter. Asking her to meet him. It was a cumbersome, immature, clumsily worded letter, but he hoped. And he waited. And she came. He will remember it, for the long eternity of his short life he will remember it. She appeared, a naughty sweet smile on her lips, her skirt softly fluttering around her legs, and without uttering a single word she took his hand in hers. He panicked, his usual clumsy self. But his heart burned. His lips burned and his eyes shone with the fever of the moment. She talked to him, soft, whispering sounds. He tried to answer through a constricted, unresponding vocal tool. They strolled under the descending darkness, sweet flowers perfume assailing their senses, oblivious to world, oblivious to time. They sat down, hugging. And at evening’s end he kissed her. It was strange, it was new, unknown. He was surprised at himself, even a bit... ashamed? frightened? Maybe he did it wrong, maybe it would drive her away? Maybe?...

    He paused again. His eyes moist. Her eyes sparkling.

    Do you remember?...

    Stupidly, inconsistently, for many days after that magical evening, he avoided meeting her, he avoided meeting her questioning eyes and her uncomprehending glance. Something kept pulling him back into some kind of hiding, choking him to death every time she tried to cross his way. Was it?... What was it?... Will he ever know what was it?... And time to find out he did not have. Because, shortly thereafter, the other came.

    His voice broke. A teenager again, the long forgotten, forbidden memories biting back with all the power of live, blinding pain. She closed her eyes. She listened.

    Do you remember?...

    He followed them from the corner of his eyes. It started as long, interminable discussions. And then hands, hidden under the desk, touching fleetingly, and then knees, pressing against each other for longer and longer moments. And then, one day, a kiss. An insane, previously unknown powerless anger, a terrible feeling of an irreplaceable loss seared a fiery trail through his brains. Impotently, he tried to run away. Tightly shutting his eyes, gritting his teeth, clenching his fists. But he kept seeing them, together, touching, hugging, lips sealed in passionate abandonment..., he slipped faster and faster into a maddening, terrifying darkness, he was afraid, he was afraid of himself, he was afraid that...

    His hand touched the handle of her cup. She didn’t move her fingers away.

    Do you remember?...

    He wrote her. Again. His second letter. Asking her again to meet him. And if she didn’t want to, all she had to do was not come. He would wait. And then he’d know. Whatever the answer - he would surely know. And she answered. Actually she sent a friend with her answer. And the friend told him she didn’t want to meet him. A short sentence. That’s all. Nothing more. No if, no later, not even a painful timeless maybe. Absolutely nothing more. He will remember it. For the endless eternity of his meaningless short life he will remember it. That terrible night when he died tens of times, those terrible thoughts when he killed hundreds of times, that incessant begging cry his pagan self raised to skies asking for, pleading for... her... you know I love her, please, please, pour your pity on poor mortal me, please give me a sign, give me my girl, give me my love, please, give me... And the skies didn’t give him a thing. Anything. Nothing.

    Now they were sitting here. In a quiet dark corner. Holding hands. When did he take her hand? Or was it she that took his? They didn’t know. They just talked. Not with words. With their eyes. They talked with their faces. They talked with their hands. What else was there to talk with? Or about? Was there anything else except that tight, desperate, hand hold?

    When they stood up to go they didn’t say a thing. They didn’t say a thing also when they walked up the stairs of the small lost hotel. Also when they kissed.

    Also when they loved.


    She smiled back, a quiet, hesitating smile.

    “No. Not goodbye. Farewell”.

    Another infinitely short touch of the hand. Did he see diamond sparks at the corners of her eyes?... Was the fog invading his vision not pouring from his own eyes?...

    She walked swiftly away, getting lost in the thinning crowd. Tall. Proud. He followed her with his eyes for as long as he could. Thunderstruck. Jaws tight, lips tight, fists clenched tight. Still following her with his eyes. Still seeing her. Frozen, riveted to his place and still seeing her. For a long time. Even when she completely disappeared. For a long time.


    His car was in the same place. Stuck between the wiper and the windshield was an official looking paper telling a long story about a traffic offence. With unseeing eyes he pulled it off and gazed at it. Hazily. Blindly. Fingers closing slowly to a fist, squeezing the piece of paper to an indefinable, shapeless ball, dropping it. Legs bending underneath him. Falling to his knees. Crying. His body shaking spasmodically, his head stuck between his arms, his arms stuck between his knees, crying so much, with so much pain, with so much happiness, with such enormous, everlasting emptiness...

    People rushing by gazed curiously at him.
    The grumbling skies drummed their fury on him.
    And he cried on.
    A sea of tears.
    A cloudful, a skyful of tears.
    A universe of tears.
    An infinity.


A Winter Night's Dream...

    The party ended late. At four in the morning. It was dark and the air was freezing cold. They neared her house with short, rapid steps. Still not hand in hand. They had just been introduced to each other. A week ago.

    His hands were pushed deep inside his pockets, and from time to time he turned his head and smiled at her. She returned his smiles. Her mood was treetops high. His as well. They rounded the corner into the narrow street and stopped before her door. At first they kept quiet. He didn’t know how to say ‘Good Night’ and she was a bit afraid that he might be insulted if she said it. So they didn’t say anything.

    “It was a great party.”

    “Yes, a beauty.”

    The chilly air started seeping into his bones and he made a supreme effort to keep his body from trembling. If anyone looked at us they’d think we were crazy.

    “Let’s go closer to the wall. It’s less windy there.”

    They moved close to the wall, at the same time closing a bit the gap between them. Still not touching each other.

    “You know, when I’m close to you I feel suddenly warm” he said, hoping she didn’t see the blue creeping furiously under his tan.

    “Same with me” she replied, teeth chattering.

    He leaned against the wall, hiding in the insufficient shadow.

    “Let’s keep our voices down, otherwise we may wake up someone.” He whispered the words in her ear and his face stayed close to hers. Quiet again. His breath was warm on her face.

    “We’re lucky it’s not hot outside.”

    “Yes” she replied, and he hardly recognized the one syllable against the incessant teeth rattle. His lips touched her face. She was frozen solid.

    “Are you cold?”

    She looked up at him, hardly keeping from exploding into laughter. It was he that finally gave in to the explosive urge, looking at the ridiculous twitches her face was going through. She joined him. When they were quiet again they were hugging. They were not talking. His lips stuck to her cheek and his arms around her. She didn’t get out her hands from the pockets but she pushed her body against him. They were still shivering, but somehow didn’t care anymore. They were just afraid that the other would feel it, yet knew that the other did feel it. They wanted to get home yet they did not want to get home.

    “Do you see the stars?”


    “Even through the clouds?”


    A dog started barking inside the house.

    “Oh, God, he’ll wake up everybody. I have to get in.”

    “Go, get in fast, make him shut up. Damn dog, I could have stayed like this all night long.”

    “Yes. Me too. I feel so good.”

    “See you later.”

    “See you later.”

    “Good night.”

    “Good night.”

    Did they kiss? He didn’t remember. With this kind of frost even his thoughts froze. But on his way home he danced. He may have shivered as well, but he surely danced. He was in love.


Hello My Love...

    Hello my love.

    Today I dreamt a dream.
    I dreamt that you loved me.
    I really did, don’t laugh. It was night, and it was cold, and we walked the streets side by side, and suddenly your hand sneaked its way into mine and your arm squeezed itself to mine and you said - you know, you’re very sweet, you’re very nice, and you know - I think I love you. And then you stopped talking and you blushed, and I blushed too, and I turned your face to mine and... I kissed you. On the lips. In a cumbersome, immature way - but I kissed you. And you kissed me back. A long kiss.

    Hello my love.

    Today I dreamt a dream.
    I dreamt that we were lovers.
    And we were happy, gay, and the days too short to watch, and to kiss, and to hug, and to laugh and whisper and sing, and we were running and we were dancing - and I was yours, and you were mine. And we were ours, only, alone, we...

    Hello my love.

    Today I dreamt a dream.
    I dreamt that you loved the world.
    I dreamt about parties, about you mingling with the world and aughing at their jokes and pointing to their’ manners and pointing to their dresses. You danced with whoever touched you with his eyes, with his smile and sometimes... you even allowed them to squeeze you a bit too much, swirling round and round, your nice legs flashing bare from underneath your short skirt... And once, when one of them kissed you - light-heartedly was it?!... you came to me and snuggled against me and asked me to dance with you... It was so strange... so out of grasp...

    Hello my love.

    Today I dreamt a dream.
    It was a bad dream. I remember us shouting at each other and you accused me tying you down and I shouted that I wanted you to be mine and if everybody else’s you want to be then you should not include me among them. And then we parted, and I cried and I waited for you to return but you never came back.

    Hello my love.

    Funny dreams I dream lately... don’t I?!...


    It was late. It was night, and it was cold, and they walked the street side by side, and suddenly her hand sneaked its way into his and her arm squeezed itself to his and she said - you know, you’re very sweet, you’re very nice, and you know - I think that I love you...


Differently Same...

    She ran to him. Fast, fast. Her bare feet barely touching the unkempt green mane of the clearing, her long loose hair streaming back like a storm’s tail cutting the space in undulating motions. Wave after wave of her laughter’s crystalline bell tones sent sweet cool shivers along the wild flowers’ spines - ding, ding, ding... He caught her, his fingers closing almost a full circle around her narrow waist, and with almost no effort lifted her body for the full stretch of his arms.

    “Let me down, let me go... “ she screamed with make belief terror, her hands windmilling all over the place and her laughter exploding with additional intensity. He let her down but did not let her go.

    “Kiss me”.

    She touched one thin finger to his lips and pushed gently away.

    “Dear sir, don’t you think you exaggerate?” Their laughter rolled the full way to the surrounding mountains and then all the way back in a never ending echo of itself.

    “If the lady will forgive me, I didn’t mean to make such a bold proposition to the pure demoiselle. Please, do not order that I be whipped.”

    The tip of her finger was in her mouth.

    “I shall think about it. Now, if you be so kind and return all my shoes...”

    They rolled on the grass, unable to control the hysterical laughter shaking their bodies, the more they were laughing the more they couldn’t stop.

    “Yes my lady, of course - if you’ll only be so kind as to return all my kisses...”

    The word hardly reached her ears. He got a kiss for each shoe, and two kisses for each one of his kisses, and many more kisses on top of all that. How many? Maybe a hundred, a thousand, maybe many many more...

    They walked. He held one of her fingers in his hand and in his second hand he held her shoes. She held with one finger his hand and in her second hand she held a flower.

    “Let’s swap - I’ll give you my flower and you’ll give me my shoes.”

    “Let’s swap. I’ll give you your finger and you’ll give me your hand.”

    They stopped. She lifted towards him a blue gaze, her cheeks a deep cherry colour.

    “Let’s not swap. I’ll give you my flower and I’ll give you my hand. And I’ll give you my heart and I’ll give you my body. And I’ll give you my soul and I’ll give you my self.”

    “I love you.”

    “I love you.”


    The heavy furniture filled the room with a depressing atmosphere. He sat on one chair and she sat on another. His eyes were blue. Her eyes were black. It was one hour already. Heavy, depressing. He tried to talk business. She tried to talk fashion. They both tried to talk poetry.

    "So you don't think that a businessman can be as well a sentiments man?"

    "Yes, correct. As I see it one cannot mix sentiments with money matters. It never worked together. And it never will."

    "Meaning that, in your opinion, since I am a businessman then I cannot be a sentiments man?"

    She looked at him straight, unblinking. A black flame trying to smother a blue flame. She spoke with tender restraint.

    "I don't want to hurt you. But that's the way I see the world turning. Business dinners, business courtships, business marriages. That's the way society works. People see the color of the money before they see the color of the eyes. And this is the way it is going to be. I am sorry that I think this way, but that's how it is."

    His fists were rolled into tight balls, he wasn't even aware of it.

    "Are you trying to tell me something?"

    Her eyes were steady, her face calm.

    "Yes. I am trying to tell you that I believe we will not make it together. Not ever. I am a woman, I need the extra bit of sentiment. You are a businessman. It never happened yet that we'll talk about something different than daily matters. You never told me that I am beautiful."

    "You are beautiful."

    Her eyes sparkled. His eyes locked into hers. Steady as a rock. She tried a weak -


    "I would have said it to no one else. I am saying it to you. You are beautiful. And I say it because I mean it."

    She was on the verge of drowning the black flame burning deep in her eyes in a few drops of sparkling salty water.

    "Oh, God, and when you say it already can you not say it softer, sweeter... you see, that's the way with you, the words may already get there yet the sound of them is as if you were talking to a client..."

    "You are beautiful..."

    "Don't, please, why are you making it harder? I intended to say it all along, and... now I cannot. You should not have said it. Not now."

    "You are beautiful..."

    "No, please stop it. Please don't force me to show more than I have already done. I will spend my life hating myself for that."

    "Will you hate me as well?" She didn't move. "You wanted to tell me something, I understand. You wanted to tell me that we should stop seeing each other, correct? That we will fail each other and better stop now, correct?" She didn't move. "You wanted to tell me that I am cold, no warmth flowing from me, that my presence is dull and depressing. That all I am in for is a calculated social commitment, correct?" She straightened up a bit then froze again.

    "And what if I told you that you are everything I ever wanted, everything I really want, everything I will ever want? And what if I told you that just being next to you stirs my blood into maddening roar and the throbbing against my temples is close to knocking me out into terrible nothingness?..." She stood up. "And if I told you that I turn and turn around and around night after night in my bed crying to you with a thunderous voice deprived of sound, that my drawers are full to the brim with love letters burned to hellish fire with the blood of my pen yet nailed to my room with the hammer of fear?..." He stood up. "And if I told you that full is my house with bucketfuls of tears because of me being so sure you would despise these my words, that you do not want these sentiments, that all you want is get up on the obvious social ladder? While all I can do is stay locked in my question marks chains, afraid to come over to you and kneel close to your body, and ask for your hand... Afraid to be laughed at... by you..." He stopped talking. It was quiet. "You do not laugh."

    She was quiet.

    "I am crying".

    She kneeled close to him.

    "Will you forgive me?"

    He kneeled close to her.

    "Will you marry me?"

    He kissed her hand and she took his hand and laid her cheek into it.

    "I love you."

    "I love you."


    "My dear,
    "My sweet little dear,
    "If sweet words of love you are expecting to drink, alas, not such this letter is. But rather a letter of pain, of tear, and of torment. Because leave you I must.
    "No, not because of not loving you enough that do it I must, but rather because of the blaze devouring my insides for you that doing it I am.
    "Because the earth underneath my feet is all that I have,
    "And the soul in my bones is all that I am,
    "And as little as nothing in endless infinity is all of me,
    "And forgive me my love..."

    "My dear,
    "How could you say these awesome words,
    "Because you know that the earth with such passion I love, and your soul day and night with abandon I drink, and as much as nothing and everything and all you are in all this deserted emptiness that engulfs us. You are all I have, you are all I need. Would you want the earth to flood, the volcanoes to stifle, the skies to drown in the rivers of my tear?
    "Make me your wife my love..."

    "My dear,
    "I love you my love."

    "Dearest of mine,
    "I love you my love."


Is It?...

    “Hi honey..”


    He kisses her.

    “There is food ready in the kitchen. How was it today?”

    “The usual. Same routine every day.”

    He eats.

    “There was no cheese today in the shop. So I didn’t buy.”

    “Did you go to the bank?”

    “Yes. There’s almost no money left in the open account.”

    “Do you want to go to a movie today?”

    “No. I am tired. I prefer to go early to bed.”

    “OK. Good night dear.”

    “Good night.”

    He kisses her.


    “Bye honey.”


    He kisses her.


    “Hi honey.”


    He kisses her.

    “There is mail. We are invited to a wedding.”

    “That’s nice. When?”

    “Next week.”

    “Fine. I’ll get me a day off.”

    “The bathroom door is screeching. Something has to be done about it.”

    “I’ll deal with it. What are you doing now?”

    “TV. I don’t feel like going out.”

    “I’m going for a walk.”

    “Fine. See you later.”


    He kisses her.


    The rush of cool air slapped his face with sudden force. His nostrils widened instinctively. Rain’s damp smell floated in the air and a shiver of primitive pleasure shook his body. He started walking up the sidewalk at an easy pace. The street was deserted. No person, no car, no animal. Just he and the rain. Wonderful, simply wonderful...

    “‘Xcuse me...”

    The sweet tones echoed in his ears and for a disoriented moment he couldn’t identify where they were coming from.

    “Excuse me, sir, it’s me, here.”

    He could clearly see the outline of her face. The rest looked a bit fuzzy. There was about her something airy, something silky – as if she was transparent. He tried to focus what he was persuaded looked like a very dumb stare on his face.

    “Yes, sorry, please?...”

    “Could you please try and explain it to me where exactly am I?” Her question was assisted by a shy smile, timidly hidden underneath partly lowered eyelids.

    “Why, yes, of course, you are... ahmmm... you are here... or actually... actually what does it matter. You are by my side.”

    She laughed, loudly this time.

    “Yes, you are right. But am I really by your side or are you by my side?...”

    “I don’t really see the problem, let’s think together. You are pretty and I am here. Your eyes are deep and I am looking into them Your hair is flowing and I am caressing it. Your hand is small and it is holding my hand. I am here and you are by my side...”

    “...us, both, together...”


    He kept still and looked at her. She didn’t return his regard and he puzzled over it. Is she frightened of me or doesn’t she want me to see her eyes?...

    “Are you frightened of me or don’t you want me to see your eyes?...”

    This time she looked at him. With black eyes. Black, black. And deep, deep. Her voice murmured soundlessly.

    “I do want you to see my eyes. I do want you to talk about my eyes, I do want you to kiss my eyes, I do want you to love my eyes – softly, quietly. Please, tell me a love story, whisper sweet words in my ear, bring me a flower...”


    They kissed.


    He returns home. His wife is asleep. He bends over and kisses her. Then he gets into bed and falls asleep.

    Next evening he returns home. He kisses his wife. He sits down to eat.

    “How was your walk yesterday?”

    “It was refreshing.”

    “I would have joined you today. But I want to finish the book. If you feel like it you can go out again.”

    “OK, I’m going. Bye honey.”

    He kisses her.


    Outside it was still cold. Stars peeking occasionally around the clouds’ dark edges, in a supreme effort to sprinkle a few useless light drops into a sea of darkness. There was no wind. There was no rain. There was nobody. Only she. He felt a soft hand sliding into the callousness of his and a soft cheek brushing against the prickly roughness of his. Her cheek was cool and her eyes were burning.

    “I love you, I love you so much.”

    “I love you...”

    She laid a fragile finger on his lips.

    “No, you be silent and I will talk. You said so much and I said so little... Now be silent and let me weave in your ears a myriad marvelous golden words into the enchanting fabric of thousands of love stories... now lean drunkenly on my shoulder and absorb the never ending silver thread of unfinished magic... Are you listening?”

    He smiled. He bowed his head.


    “Good.” And he listened, and she whispered, and he listened... “Do you want more?” And he listened on, and she whispered on, and he listened on... “And more?” A naughty smile crept upon her face. “Then let me tell you about...” – her eyes shining in tears – “about how warm and sweet I feel with you, about how much I would like to open my wings and fly...”

    “No, don’t say that...”


    “I don’t want you to fly.”


    She laid her head on his shoulder, her lips close to his ears, and kept on whispering gentle sweet syllables, warm sweet words, tender sweet poems. And he listened and he cried. And she drank the tear from his eye and she whispered on, and she colored the magic with the red of her lips, and she painted the wonder with the black of her eyes... for a long time... an unending flow of words... much love... much...

    They were about to part. He took both her hands in his and looked straight into her eyes for a long moment.

    “Strange, you look so much like my beautiful wife – same color of hair, same shape of lips, same dimples in your cheeks. Even the same beauty spot on your neck. But why can’t I clearly see your eyes... why are they so deep and so infinite?...” It was a long forever that they stood there, embracing.

    “See you again.”

    They kissed.


    His wife is still awake. He kisses her. He kisses her on the beauty spot.

    “You’ve got a beauty spot. Here.”

    “One may think it’s the first time you see it.”

    “I love it.”

    “Please. Don’t talk nonsense. On the first occasion I’ll get rid of it. I have to keep powdering it all the time to hide it.”

    “Don’t remove it.”

    “What do you care so much, all of a sudden?”

    He looks at her, his eyes cloudy, his regard unfocused.

    “Doesn’t really matter honey. Good night.”

    “Good night.”

    He kisses her.


    In the morning he left for work.

    In the evening he returned. Late.

    He kissed his wife and she went immediately to bed. He didn’t. He went to the front window, pulled aside the thin curtains and opened it wide. The curtains fluttered incessantly, the evening wind playing its monotonous tune across the treetop strings. Yes, not a whistle, a tune. And actually it wasn’t a wind at all, it was a caressing sensation, a sensation of two velvety hands softly sliding down his cheeks... With a jerky movement he jumped back. Scared.

    She was there, in front of the window, her long hair a flurry of wild movement, her mouth smiling. Her hands stretched towards him, calling...

    “My love, my sweet sweet love, to me please come, in my arms please let me hold your body, in my lap please lay your head, and songs of love in your ears I’ll whisper... come my love, come to me, my clear tear to drink, and to my heartbeat to listen, and in the depth of my eyes to drown... come to me my love, so much I love you, so much I need you... now my love... now... now...”

    “I’m coming my love, my sweet sweet love, my sweet sweet bride, I am coming...”


    They found him on the sidewalk. At the bottom of the building, his body smashed to unrecognizable shape. And only on his lips... on his lips... a strange kind of smile that the thin line of blood dried on.

    And his wife didn’t tell anyone about the cry she heard. And she kept it to herself. And she cried.


They Say...

    ...they say there is one day, every one hundred years or so, when all living things human shape wear they... and they writhe with fever, and they burn with passion... and they forget...


    The forest was but a dark green blur behind her back. She moved quickly away, her naked feet hardly touching the narrow path cutting through the undisturbed yellow wheat field stretching endlessly before her, soft earth pleasantly tickling the soles of her feet. The sun smiled at her and she smiled back... or was it just her imagination?...

    Strange. Enchantingly strange. No birds querulously chirping, no butterfly clouds sucking color and life from the flowers carpet, even the field mice seemed to have hidden many layers deep in their burrows.

    “I would like to fly, I would like to spread powerful wings and with one mighty flap soar higher, and higher – to sky, to sun, to the blue and the deep, to fly...”

    Trrrrr... a four wheeled steel monster screamed by with deafening thunder, and she jumped back scared and panting. A restrained laughter sound behind her made her turn around, partly laughing partly angry.

    “Hey, what’s so funny about it?”

    The young man turned towards her a pair of brown round eyes and smiled.

    “Sorry, but it scared me as well, and when you jumped it made me laugh, don’t know why. It just felt like laughing.” He regarded her for a moment. “Anything special that you are doing around here?”

    “...No, just strolling the fields, counting the wheat grains, and the grass leaves...”

    “So could we maybe do it together?”

    She hesitated between loud laughter and childish derision. His expression was so serious and the words carried a tone of such gravity that one could easily imagine he asked her to marry him at the least. Her mouth took a mischievous shape.

    “Maybe... and what would the young gentleman propose?”

    “Well... so I’ve got this sports car waiting for me in my villa at the other end of the village, a swimming pool the shape of a star, a basalt castle in the heart of the forest, and...” he halted and his eyes drowned for a long moment into hers – “and lots and lots of green fields where if you’d just agree to walk with me, hand in hand...”

    They walked through the fields. Hand in hand. His grip strong, confident. Her small hand almost lost inside his large fist and she loved it. It was as if all of her body was being hugged in a smothering soft and warm embrace .

    “What’s your name?”

    “What’s your name?”

    “What’s your name?”

    The sun finished its lazy run across half of the skies and started falling towards the mountains.

    “Good evening.”

    The sudden sound of the voice startled them and her hand stiffened inside his with sudden fright. The stranger approached them at a slow pace. He was thin, a tall muscular body ending in a long narrow face.

    “Good evening.”

    They watched him, a bit curious, a bit apprehensive. The road was deserted, the forest nearby, and the village was far behind them. Where did this one come from? It was her mouth that formed the question –

    “Who are you?”

    The man smiled weakly.

    “And who are you?...”

    He started walking away, his eyes searching thoughtfully the skies above.

    “Very soon the sun sets down.”

    She shivered and squeezed against the young man, his hand protectively embracing her shoulders. She looked up at him.

    “It’s a bit frightening, you know... maybe we should go back?...”

    “Where to?”

    “Let’s go back, I’m afraid. I... I don’t know you, who are you?... I... No!...”

    He hugged her. Strongly. Tightly. Was he trembling? Her hands clung to his back with incredible strength, unwilling to let go, her words barely audible.

    “No... don’t hold me... I cannot do it, it’s forbidden... don’t let go of me, hold me, tighter...”

    Was he trembling? She trembled, her body shivering and her lips murmuring meaningless words, incoherent sentences. He took off his coat and laid it across her shoulders, his hand gently holding it in place. They walked on, small, hesitating steps.


    It startled them again. The stranger was lying on the green grass surrounding the field, a yellow straw between his teeth, his lean long body relaxed. The darkness kept him hidden from their eyes. With a swift step they moved away. Why is he again in their way, what is it that he expects? She whispered.

    “I do not want.”

    “What is it you do not want?”

    “I am afraid again – more. I don’t know why. I am cold. I am tired. Let’s sit here.” Slowly she let her head lie in his lap. “Kiss me.”


    “Kiss me.”


    “Kiss me, kiss me, please, just once, kiss me...”

    They sailed to the clouds, their eyes covered by the thin mists of ethereal starlight, sailing on, to the warmth, to the tenderness, floating on the sweet softness of honey waters, the blood in their veins alight, their hearts struggling to survive the flames flowing through them, burning themselves, melting away and filling every empty corner of their bodies with terrifying liquid fire...

    “You will not leave me, will you?...”

    “I will not leave you...”

    “You love me, don’t you?...”

    “I love you...”

    She stopped. Big eyes shining, sparkling in the dark, looking at him, hesitating. Just for a moment.

    “Oh, no, oh, no, do I tempt you to believe this terrible illusion?... do not... please... do not... let me go, please let me go, it is wrong, I am not the right one for you, I will not be able to give you anything, nothing, let me run away from here, let go of me, please... let me go!...”

    She cried. He cried with her. Her head buried in his shoulder, his head buried in her hair – and they both cried. Silently. His voice blending in the soft rustle of the forest breeze.

    “No, no, I know... does it have to be this way, why does it have to be this way? Is there no one that can help, is there no one in this entire universe that can help... does no one exist?...”

    They fell asleep. Dark distant horizons were swiftly losing their desperate fight against daybreak’s increasing pallor. A red bloody puddle started raising its head in the east and the moon started drowning in the thinning night.

    “Children, soon there will be light in the world.”

    “Stranger, soon there will be darkness in the world.”

    They lay side by side, embracing, tired. The grass around wet with night’s salty dew.

    “Stranger, can you save us?”

    He looked at them, his face a frozen mask.

    “I ache for you, yet no pain tears can wet my eyes. Poor children, of all the others it is you I was meant to meet and torture my soul.” There was no hesitation in the smooth monotonous tone of his voice, no pain in its sound yet so much of it in the words. “Yes, I will help, but help me to. You must, else I cannot. Yes, I feel something... they say I don’t but I do, because a heart I have. Say you want it, that there’s no other way, that otherwise dreary your future and bitter your fate, say it, promise me this is your wish, promise me...”

    Was he begging them to let him help them? Didn’t he feel how fearsome their will, how fierce their embrace, how terrifying the power of his big fist smashing her tiny fingers in his clenched hand?!...

    “...please, please... hurry... it’s dawning... sun’s needles are piercing my skin... sky’s winds are scorching my breath...”

    “...death’s taste is drilling its way into my soul... with a final... irreversible... verdict...”


    ...and some say that once, at forest’s edge, they found a brown bear and a white wild goose bitten by a snake – dead... and funny thing – the snake didn’t allow anyone get anywhere close to the entangled carcasses and fought furiously, until they killed it...


A Day...


    I look at you.

    You sleep.

    Your body curled like a puppy’s, your hair tangled all around your head and shoulders in a surrealistic mess, a tiny wisp of it finding its way inside your mouth.

    One hand hiding underneath your pillow. One hand holding tight to an end of the crumpled bed sheet. Not that it helps.

    The white thin cotton having slipped away from you bare body, revealing half of its hidden flesh treasures. Half the neck, half the back, half the waist, half a bare bottom, one leg bent at an unnatural angle. Typical of unnatural you.

    I pull the bed sheet back to your shoulders, worrying that you may catch a cold. You stir and rebelliously pull it down again. Even more than before. Your breath still very regular. Sleeping.

    I walk to the window, closing it and at the same time pulling the shades even more open, giving in to the full moon trying since begin of the night to force in all of its millions of candles light power. Okay, moon, enjoy it as well. Bathe her body in this eerie, magical, yellowish brightness, and let me breathe in this unending dreamland beauty. My flesh tingling with the sensation. One hour ago we made love. And an hour earlier as well. The first one was wild. The second one was soft. She promised that the third one would be different again. But she fell asleep.

    I approach and look at your face, carefully. Are you really dreaming of me, as you pretended so many times, or are you dreaming of somebody else under those fluttering long lashed eyes? Certainly of me. You promised.

    My finger touches your shoulder. I let it run down along your side, your waist, your thigh, down to your toe. Your skin responds, goose bumps goose bumps. Your breath doesn’t change. It is calm.

    I sit on the bed again. My back against the cool wall, my toes playing lightly with your hair. Listening to the soft breeze that keeps your body alive. Looking at you. Loving you.



    I feel you stirring next to me.

    I fell asleep just as the east started catching fire. Now I open one reluctant eye. You get off the bed, the thin cover falling off your body and dragging behind you, hugging your shapes hungrily until it has to give in to the laws of physics. Lying inert behind.

    You stumble a bit, still drunken with sweet sleep, and continue your walk to the bathroom. Unaware of the golden rays washing your naked body clean even before you reach it.

    You leave the door open. I can hear water running. Waking up sounds. The rustling toothbrush sounds. Then the whooping sounds of encountering the cool on getting warm water shower. The water noise hides your humming, or rather provides a random orchestration to it. Which tune is it you are humming?

    I hear the orchestra being cut off unceremoniously. A new rustling sound, are you toweling yourself dry now? I peek at the door, my second eye joining the first one in a supreme effort. It is quiet. I don’t like this quiet.

    Then, funny. I first see a few strands of loose hanging hair carefully advancing from behind the door frame. Followed by an ear, and not so far behind an inquisitive eye. I tense myself, I know something is happening, I don’t want to think about it... I cover myself over the head with the bed sheet.

    A shriek.

    A rush of bare wet feet across the cold stone floor. A wet dripping hurricane crawls its way underneath my bed sheet, climbs upon my chest with a wet thump and glues a wet, hot mouth to my lips. Good morning darling.

    You did not forget.

    It is different.



    I let you take your car.

    If only to be able to concentrate on looking at you. You have one of these big, automated-gear American trucks. Little you almost lost inside the big frame, well, little you but what a personality... I doubt if you make many friends on the road. Or any friend, actually. Small furrows on your concentrated front head, a soft curse leaping involuntarily to the air and then shooting a fast glance and a blinding smile in my direction as if saying... sorry love, do you still love me?...

    If I still love you?

    First – of course I still love you. Second – keep your eyes on the road darling. Third – your driving is what I care less about, we will get there in one piece – of that I am certain, though not the same could be said of everybody else. What I care more about, is how will I get in or on all those new modern instruments of torture which unimaginative people call amusement machines, without turning pale blue, or pale green, or pale yellow, or whatever shade of pale.

    We get there.

    In one piece. Of course. If there is one thing I know you will not hurt for anything in the world is your car. Ouch... sorry... okay... sorry darling, kiss?

    You are red, hot, enthusiastic. Pulling me through every damn machine in the damn unending amusement park, mingling with kids three generations younger, shrieking with delighted terror at every roll of the mountain train, stamping your feet impatiently at every queue longer than three minutes... your eyes bright, your delight immense, your joy sky reaching... your ice cream appetite rocketing.

    I drive the car on the way back. Your head leaning on my shoulder, eyes closed. Not asleep. I know it from the tight grip of your fingers on my thigh. Driving slowly. Trying to focus on the driving, on listening to your breathing, on removing from my face a few strands of tickling hair.

    We reach the house back late afternoon. You refuse to open your eyes, almost fallen asleep with the lull of the road. I pick you in my arms, fumble a bit with the keys and bring you into the bedroom. Laying you on the bed. Removing your shoes, your trousers, your blouse, your bra, your panties. Dragging the bed sheet to cover you up to your chin. You drag it further above your head. Within seconds your breath regular and soft.

    You are asleep.



    We call a cab.

    You decide your spiked heels deserve to be treated nicely, and you also want to enjoy a bit of wine. So you call a cab.

    You dress in red. I told you I like red so you decided you like red too. A one piece dress, tight around the middle, ending a bit above the knee. A respectable outfit. If it wasn’t for my knowing that you are completely naked underneath. “It will be easier later” you wink at me. I don’t argue. Who ever argued with the woman he loves and won? So I don’t even try.

    It is chic. A bald waiter, glittering necks, glittering fingers. And you, glittering more than all together. For me. In my eyes.

    We dance. What is it we dance? Does it matter? You stick to me, every cell in your body hungrily sending out anchoring tentacles straight into my blood stream, your hand part caressing part scratching the back of my neck, your eyes closed, your breath hot in my ear, my hand squeezing the life out of you in a... is it desperate?... grip...

    We finish eating. The cool wine leaving a warm glow of dizziness hanging in the air. Your eyes sparkling with untold promises, your lips forming unspoken words. Promising the after, the later, the ever.

    We both look at our watches. Unintentional. We look at it together. Trying to forget the relentless crawling rotation of the seconds’ needle, of the minutes’ needle. Of the hours. So much love. So little time to live it in.

    We call a cab. Funny, the same driver. Babbling a long philosophical story about statistics, and coincidence, and Einstein. Doubt if he knows even how to spell it. Not that we hear.

    You are rigid. So soft your flesh, so rigid your muscles. So tight your grip on my arm cutting my sleeve, cutting my flesh, cutting my blood...



    For how long do we embrace? One hour? Maybe two.

    I walk through the gates. A last glimpse of a small lost figure in the crowd. The neon lights reflecting flashes from her eyes. Then she is gone. A door closes and cuts off our worlds.

    I climb the stairs. Sit on my chair. A lady in a blue uniform tries to explain something that I don’t quite get. Then she bends over and latches the belt tying me to her plane. My eye fixed to the window. Not trying to see anything. There is nothing to see. Nothing to feel. Nothing to hear.

    A rush. A howling monster takes to the sky. Leaving on the ground a tiny figure dabbing at moist eyes. “Sorry, can I help?” No, thanks.

    Nobody can help. Maybe later. Maybe the pain that cannot go away will go away. Maybe the man that cannot stay will stay. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe next time.

    She exits the crowded terminal. Alone in the crowded city. Hurt. And happy. So happy that she could cry. She cries.


Solomon's Judgment...

    I finished my law studies about five years ago. Nothing brilliant, my mother insisted that her son should become either a lawyer or a doctor. And who could resist a Jewish mother? Surely not her son. The problem being, that all I had to do in order to faint without indulging in simulations was to see a drop of blood, human, animal, or even fish. For Yom Kippur my parents, who were on the traditional side, had to accept that the traditional sacrifice chicken supposed to carry away all my sins, would be a plastic one. They found somewhere a rabbi that for a few dollars accepted to see it as a kosher ritual. So you understand that anything to do with doctors was out of the question. Therefore I became a lawyer, or rather finished my studies on the subject. The enthusiasm I displayed at my brand new diploma which, must be mentioned, did not place me in the top tiers of student achievements, was obvious in the temporary career I chose while waiting for a position in my uncle’s law firm. Temporary career which consisted of playing the night bartender in a New York suburb’s almost respectable club, with my mother only aware that I am heavily involved in the drinks industry. With a slight parallax view that I did my best to maintain. And when my uncle’s business got involved in some legal tax evasion schemes that proved not quite legal, I exploited the opportunity to extend my temporary career indefinitely.

    I liked the job. All you had to do was understand the mumbled occasional Cuba Libre, know how much water to add to the whisky on the rocks before it became discernible, and disregard certain activities that even law college freshmen know they should be disregarded. A question of personal health hazards. The human landscape fascinated me. I observed the regulars, the random one timers, the rare show-offs that appeared with a married ring on their finger and with a peroxided blonde who clearly had nothing to do with this ring. A real, true to God, American melting pot, predominantly white males, a few blacks from time to time which I took extreme care with to call Afro Americans (shall I demand to be called myself Judeo American, or Polish American, or maybe Polo American... I kept laughing to myself), and I even recognized once a guy from my community and was wondering to myself in which pocket he hid the kippa. The bar owners did not discriminate any color - all dollars were green to them.

    Specifically, the drinking girls were my greatest source of fascination. I knew all of them by name, at least those who survived for longer than a week, most using Hollywood names like Rita, Dorothy, Marilyn, and here and there the occasional real thing that didn’t give a damn about using their real name as long as the pay was good and the involvement minimal. I was surprised actually that some of them were not real professional hookers and tried to make an honest living out of it. There were the occasional physical touches of course, it was inevitable. Some clients acting quite ugly about it, some just leaving their hands lingering on the way of a passing girl as if by chance, touching a breast, a buttock. Some squeezing quite hard in, on the few occasions that they claimed to try to dance. The girls were tolerant. They knew the money was kosher, the tips fat, and the touch to be forgotten in an hour or so. A well paying game. The few who left with the clients, trying for an acting career’s foggy promise - well, they were just... a few.

    I never got involved with any of them, my mother would have killed me with a frying pan, but at times, before the first clients were getting to the tall stools or at times even after the last one left, we engaged in serious discussions, sometimes going deep into their personal lives. I never knew some scars could go so deep, be so well hidden, and occasionally, never healing. I remember a special one, when was it, some years ago? So different to the others. She wasn’t the normal run of the mill candidate for the job. Beautiful, not very tall, nice figure, yet I was intrigued by her from day one that she took her place at the bar. Not very talkative, even a bit retracted. But there was pain in those incredibly big and blue eyes. Real pain. I remember the first time she laughed, it was part of the job to laugh and get customers to drink and forget the drink’s taste, of course. And with passing time the laughter became more free, the simulation more realistic, even probably quite real. But this first time, it was clear that the pain took over the laughter and if it wasn’t for he partly drunk client, she might have lost her job. She saw that I observed her, and her eyes implored me not to say or do anything. It wasn’t my intention to, I served the drinks, observed for my own self, and for the rest the bosses could well take care of the business themselves. But this first time, this first look, created a strange, unreal bond between us. As if I knew her so well, though, I hardly knew her at all. And it seemed at times that I was the only one which met with a real smile from her. For all the others she was the accomplished professional. I admit, it induced me into covering up a bit for her, when she was pushing a bit too aggressively from an embrace that became too demanding, when she was sliding away from the regulars that were known to be the professional ass holes of the joint. I didn’t have to do it, she never asked or inferred that she would expect it, but every time it happened I saw a thankful glint in her eyes and short nod of her head telling me she appreciated the gesture. And I kind of enjoyed my invisible protector’s role. Kids at play in the real world.

    One day, about three months after she joined the club, she came to see me as I was cleaning the bar top at an early morning hour, we were the last two in the place and I was the one closing the joint. She took me by the hand and led me to a thinly illuminated corner of the room. We sat down and she started pulling up the hem of her short dress. I stopped her fast, whatever her intentions, they were clearly not in line with mine and my relatively conservative upbringing. Working in this joint may have been acceptable within the wide range of possible personal interpretations, which my long years of legal studies taught me to be able to justify under reasonable duress; sex with a potential whore, and I squirmed at the use of the word in my mind but nevertheless used it, would have been more difficult to sustain. She laughed, not smiled, laughed. It was the first time I heard her laughing this way, so different, so like the real stuff that kids laughter is or should be made of, I was taken aback as if hit by an underground train losing its brakes. She removed my clenched rigid and unresponding hand from her wrist and kept raising her dress, turning her back to me. I stood there, frozen, my eyes tracing old blue lines and patches across her back, already fading away yet clearly once dark, painful and bleeding. Then she proceeded to remove the shoes and the stockings, her bare legs not anymore sexy and enticing but pale and fragile, her ankles showing horizontal lines of healed skin above healed scars. And, after pulling her skirt back in place, with me embarrassed to a red color to the tips of my ears, she turned her palms up close to my face and the same whitish horizontal lines decorated her thin wrists side to side. I didn’t ask - did he tie you? did he beat you? did you try to commit suicide? I didn’t want to ask, don’t know why, embarrassed, didn’t want to know, or was I too curious and ashamed with being exposed so brutally to someone’s pain?

    She did not wait for me to ask. She was far too gentle to let me parade my obvious embarrassment, she started talking. In a monotonic tone, trying to be as dispassionate as possible yet failing at many of the crossroads of her narrative, hardly able at times to contain her tears or a twitching chin. But telling it as it was. So clear, so unexpected, so terrifying. It started as puppy love. The most popular girl in school with the best looking guy, everybody’s envy, the ideal couple. Not even engaging in sex before marriage night. So free, so excited, yet so clean in mind and body until that first night of all nights... it was paradise and she was a bird captured in it and happy to be. Until soon after, when it started changing, imperceptibly. He started getting upset at her gaiety, at her friends, started demanding that she stays at home, that she never sees anyone unless approved by him, the demands becoming more and more insistent, then violent. He started beating her. Mindlessly, furiously. She was still a bird but frightened and lost, paradise turned into a torturer’s cage with all doors locked. She accepted she pleaded, afraid to call for help lest it becomes worse, afraid to run to her family lest they may get hurt as well. Paradise, then hell, then pregnant. A few moments of magic, a short respite - he was soft, loving again, looked like he was his old loving good looking boy... birth... and hell again. She carried on, through it all she carried on, terrible pain in body, terrible pain in soul, and all the time the devoted loyal wife. One year, two years... I saw her struggling to go on with the story, wanted to tell her to stop but I knew I should not, she had to say it, what was coming was more terrifying than the rest, her chest was raising and falling gasping for air, sorting memories, arranging them in ascending pain order, like a human computer sorting out pieces of its life. She started talking again, eyes closed, reliving the moments or trying to kill them?... One day he pulled a gun. It was loaded. He caught my head in his strong hand and put the muzzle against my temple - I am going to kill you, I could kill you any time I want, he said. He pointed it to the ceiling and pulled the trigger. I was frightened to death, shivering. There were five bullets left, was the next one for me? ...She shivered under the pale light, as strongly as she shivered then, maybe more? For a moment I was afraid she may get into a fit of hysteria and start screaming in pain. Not this lady, God, where did she take this strength from? I knew she was reaching the last piece of the story, the last, most painful slice of the puzzle ready to fall in place... He tied me up. He tied my feet, he tied my legs. He beat me. Then he raped me.

    She left the bar job about one year later. I knew the rest of the story from broken fragments she told me at times when the clientele was thin. And calling at times after she left. She succeeded to run away with her baby, only to find out she was rape pregnant. But decided to keep the baby and this time to fight back. Running, hiding, fighting, she got her divorce. Then she started working and still living in fear to be found. Until her last phone call. She found a nice block, he fell in love with her and they married. I remember when she called to tell me the news. I was upset, cannot deny it, but glad she settled at last. Why was I actually upset? I didn’t love her really, not in a man woman way at least. But for some obscure reason I worried about her, even after she called me with the good news. Funny, she wanted my assurance about something, and it was my Jewish assurance the Catholic girl was looking for. And this last phone call ended as the strangest discussion we ever had. She said - “You know, one of the ten commandments is: thou shall not commit adultery. And I am now committing adultery with my second husband”. I didn’t know for a moment what the hell was she talking about, was it some kind of joke? But she was dead serious. “And God will punish me for that, correct?” Was it a question, a statement? All my law studying years rushed back to me in a mix of pity, misunderstanding, precedents, actually my head was such a mess of mis-indexed notions that the only thing I could tell her was to forget what her ignorant Catholic friends were telling her, and look at all those who divorced and re-married and lived forever, including Catholics, and Jews, and Indians... And I could just feel her on the other side of the phone, nodding her head sadly, in forgiveness to my great ignorance, wish me all the best and thanks for trying to advice me wisely, and the line went dead.

    Twenty five years ago.


    I didn’t marry. No real reason I could point to. Just didn’t feel like it. My mother passed away ten years back, and it left a certain melancholic stain in my heart. One of many. From time to time I had flashes of the procession in the cemetery, then the prayers in the synagogue, saying kaddish for her for a full year. Something was missing somehow in all this ceremony, the synagogue was kind of... too clean, too aseptic, too electric, no real soul in the old books, no real pain relief in the newly printed prayers books. I was in one of those moods. The bar, which by now I owned, was empty. I cleaned the counter, put some glasses back on the shelves, and prepared to close. It was almost 3am and I felt strangely tired. I chuckled to myself - probably a beginning of Alzheimer’s... I locked the door with a simple one turn key, what could they steal from me, some diluted liquor and a few glasses? and turned to get upstairs to my bed. Funny, I wasn’t at all surprised and just looked kind of askew at the ten seated shapes, all along one wooden table at the far end of the room, the yellow unwashed bulb hardly allowing any facial feature be seen. Did they have faces at all? Five were dressed white, five black. One, which I didn’t see previously, was dressed red. He advanced towards me and placed a small card sheet in my hand. I didn’t look at it and just waited for the vision to clear before going on to my bed. The vision did not clear, and I started feeling a bit uneasy, could be it was not a vision after all?

    She chose you to be her defense lawyer. I heard a voice saying, but it did not seem to come from anybody in particular. Who chose me to be what and when and why? Would you respectable visions be so good and disappear and let me go on to my bed and with my life? Strangely, I didn’t feel in any way impressed or awed by what I was witnessing, it just irked me into an impatient state of mind. Listen gentlemen, or... things, I am really in no mood for a practical joke or even for a supernatural one, seriously, these days are over, take as much drink as you would like, or my back ache, or whatever else and please be gone. If it pleases you then I will call the cops. But please, only tomorrow morning, ok?


    The worded letters struck home. With such force that I estimated a small miracle the fact that it did not shatter into tiny bits of unkosher flesh my suddenly rushing heart. The echoes sounding loud and refusing to die in the suddenly discovered hollow space inside my body. K.T. The name she allowed no one else to call her by. K.T. A memory. Realizing in one sharp, bright instant that I may not be dreaming. Something was happening here, something real and beyond my comprehension, and I was supposed to play a part in it, willing or not. Not - was not an option. The seated shapes stared at me impassively. Stared? Maybe. Whatever they were doing they did it impassively and it was crystal clear to me that I was given some kind of a one off choice here, and all they were doing was waiting for my decision. Take it or leave it. Take or leave what? Time stopped. It would go on ticking the moment I said my word. I knew as much. I said it. Yes. I said it almost automatically, not caring about the who and what and when and why. Something was expected to be done and I was chosen to do it, no other option existed and I could have refused. I could say - K.T.? I said - yes. Thoughtlessly. Did she really choose me? I doubted, she probably forgot me a long time ago but someone decided that she chose me. So I was chosen. And I just accepted. For what?

    I asked - for what?

    The same voice continued what looked like an uninterrupted speech. This court will decide, based on evidence presented by the prosecution if the person standing trial committed the crime of adultery in life as stated in the laws book of the ten commandments as known to the person standing trial on committing the crime of adultery in life as stated in the laws book of the ten commandments. As lawyer for the defense you are granted three time-slot requests to refute the allegation of committing the crime of adultery in life as stated in the laws book of the ten commandments. Failure of which will result in the crime of committing the crime of adultery in life as stated in the laws book of the ten commandments being punished. Sounded to me they were a bit overdoing it, repeating themselves as if their language was limited to two-three phrases. Maybe they were afraid of procedural mistakes like earthling - did I say earthling?... funny - lawyers?

    There were three transparent sand hourglasses on the desk. As the last word died in my mind, one of them was turned over and the sand started to flow. I didn’t see the hand that did it. I wondered for a moment, wasting precious time, if it was real sand flowing. I don’t really know why, maybe stress, maybe memories, but suddenly I burst into an uncontrollable laughter. Wait a moment, wait a moment, if you or whoever chose me for defense lawyer then I must see the case file, the witnesses, where is the accused, she must be present at the proceedings otherwise there is an inherent procedural flaw and she must be declared innocent based on the basic assumption of innocent unless proved guilty... and some more of the same bla... I didn’t seem to be making much of an impression. Was I digging into dusty recollections and reciting real paragraphs from long forgotten out-dated law books that I had once studied, or just quoting a stream of irrelevant lines from a pseudo realistic scenario of a TV show that stuck into my mind? This court seemed to be ruled by unknown laws, acting in unclear ways and I was supposed to do a better job than I was doing. How? And how was I supposed to know? I felt anger bubble inside me choking the hysterical laughter, but could not let it out. The sand grains kept trickling as impassively as the images sitting at the table. I felt like screaming - is this farce the thing that you, whoever you are, call justice? But I began to realize that I would be just wasting additional time. And the time kept flowing in the filling up bottom jar. You mentioned three slot requests, whatever you mean by it. I hereby request to get immediate access to the city university’s law books library. I used ‘hereby’ to make it sound like I knew what I was talking. I don’t think I really did. I think at that very moment I even forgot how to spell the word ‘bed’, yet I definitely remembered all four lettered words in the dictionary and made skillful use of each and every one of them. Not loudly. Not that it mattered.

    I was there, in the library. Not interested for a moment how I got there, I just rushed to the ranks of books and started a febrile, disoriented search along the shelves and cabinets. Hardly knowing what I was looking for. Things changed dramatically since I had last visited the place, when was it, thirty years ago? Hundreds of desks, computers on every desk, scanners, printers, I didn’t see even one photo copier in the whole huge hall. And the books arranged according to the strange librarian rules which I never quite understood, with additional computer indexing rules overimposed upon those, I was lost. I looked at my watch, realizing the futility of the gesture - I have no idea how much time is left, I have no idea how to make efficient use of my request... Powerless frustration tears blinding my vision mixing with the sweat trickling from my brow in the dead, hot, airless room. I knew for a one hundred percent certainty that I was not going to give up. It was clear. I had to start concentrating. So I slowed down the rush, trying to forget the trickling grains, the unclear visages, the colors... looking for books, for counsel, for the ten commandments. I touched my breast pocket, suddenly remembering the piece of card sheet which I stuffed there mindlessly the moment it was handed to me. I took it out and read the lines, frowning at the irrelevance of the data there - just the list of the ten commandments, as any child could recite in their sleep - I am the Lord..., honor you father and your mother..., thou shall not... Big deal, what does this advance me with?

    I put it back in my pocket and continued my rummaging. I disregarded the time, confident I could buy additional time using some sharp legal lingo remarks, if necessary. So I concentrated wholly on accumulating information. Soon I had about twenty thick legal books on my desk, several old testament translations, several new testament translations, the declaration of independence, some poems books, collected anything or rather everything I could identify that had something to do with rights, and wrongs, and crime, and punishment, and belief, and had even a remote link to the ten commandments. I even took a copy of the Hollywood movie, ruthlessly cursing myself for the stupidity of this act. But doing it nevertheless. I tried to work my way through this pile of random documentation, feeling at times my eyes closing heavily, then as if by magic opening again and sifting further on through the paperwork and material gathered. Were these hours I passed there? Days, months? I laughed at the notion, but since I did not know on what kind of time scale I was measured I really didn’t know it. Until at a certain moment I felt, mainly subconsciously, ready. Probably part of it was simply feeling tired, but somewhere along the way I thought I had found defendable arguments, provided of course the prosecution would proceed with elaborating on the definition of the crime which was still fuzzy in my mind. I felt there were a few meaningful bullets in my legalities’ gun and was ready for the battle. Crossing imaginary fingers. I was ready.

    They knew it too. I faced then again, shooting a fast look at the hourglass and finding with relief that it was at the same level it was at the moment I, let’s say, left. So there was some kind of basic justice there at work, though not clear which. Being a bit disoriented, I asked for permission to approach them by calling them ‘gentlemen’, or ‘members of the court’, just for simplicity’s sake, taking their silence for approval. A white dressed figure rose and the simplicity of reading (reading, ha...) the act of accusation was as expected. Following evidence of denial of marriage to her husband as united under sacred conjugal law, and renewed conjugal life with a second man, the person under trial is guilty of breaking the fundamental commandment of Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery. I expected actually a much longer description, or sentence, but I was not surprised at the very concise presentation. I was just surprised by the irrelevant fact that the “bad guys” were the white dressed ones. Was this actually a correct interpretation? I refrained from trying to understand the setting, focusing on my carefully prepared arguments and statements. The white figure remained standing.

    Gentlemen. The United States Declaration of Independence: “... Men are created equal, ... they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, ... among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness ...”. Gentlemen. The Constitution of the United States, article XIII, Section 1: “ Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude ... shall exist within the United States...”. I was satisfied with my introductory phrases. Took me a long time to decide on the right formula among the many options proposed in the various books. I decided on this one, and actually felt a certain confidence return to me. I wouldn’t say I started feeling smug, but I was certainly getting a bit less apprehensive as I carried on with my monologue. Following the introduction I continued with a few famous maxims, part biblical, part contemporary, trying to impress I guess. Then started bringing forward facts, various precedents, religious essays, classical interpretations. I didn’t actually know with exactitude what it was that I was fighting and if facts was what they were looking for, but I was certain that the more facts I accumulated in favor of my invisible client (I even smiled at the word client in my mind) the better the chances that I would hit the one chord that would solve the case in her favor. The sand kept trickling, I stopped paying attention. I brought forward the fact that she was beaten, chained, treated as a slave, her basic human rights denied, the quest for happiness forbidden to her, it was her duty as human to free herself from slavery and seek happiness and love with another partner... all the time wondering how the hell did I remember all these details so many years later, so many more details than I consciously remembered her telling me... I moved on to religious paths, making the ten commandments the symbol of liberation from oppression to freedom, asserting with personal conviction that Catholics such as she and her teachers were misinterpreting the adultery commandment by forbidding divorce, and as proof pointing to the real descendants of the Hebrews who had given the commandments to the world, the rabbi’s, that allowed and practiced divorce themselves... and then I followed with a tirade about the virtues of the woman under trial (still wondering, where did it all come from?) in the last years with her incessant help to the weak and support of charities and volunteering passionately for good causes... I kept going on, and on, well... until I stopped. Satisfied, I didn’t think any experienced and exercised criminal law defense lawyer could have done any better. My breathing was regular, funny, I wasn’t shaking at all.

    I looked at the seated images, the standing one, not quite knowing what the next step was. A vote, a decision by the red gowned one, a counter argument? There was not much more sand left in the glass so if the same clock was working for the “other side” they did not have much time left for any counter argument. Feeling quite confident, wondering in the back of my mind about the drinks orders I had to place the following day. Playing the detached, the cool. Feeling actually as such. And nothing happened for a few minutes. Making me jump, startled from my background reveries when I heard it. And it was the same voice that earlier on read the accusation. Saying, actually quoting one word only from my presentation, the first word: Men. And in one terrific, awesome, blinding flash, I crumbled. Recognizing the whole terrible deadly reality of this one key word expressed in this Kafkaic setup. I opened my mouth to protest, to shout ‘I object’, my eyes sneaking an involuntary regard to the hourglass, just in time to see the last grain passing the narrow opening and floating lazily down to the top of the small mound underneath. The trial was over. I felt like cursing, like calling them bastards, like throwing bottles at them. But I didn’t, and watched fixedly as five white figures and three black ones put their left arm on the table. Two black ones put their right arm on the table. It was easy to interpret - guilty by majority decision. I felt wobbly, the room running round and round me, the pain of failure, the pain of failing the only one time when a forbidden memory asked for my help, unbearable. The red shape advanced towards me and put forward a card sheet. Another one? I felt like telling him, thanks but no thanks, I have one already, keep your presents to yourself, look - and put my hand in my shirt’s pocket. The card was not there. What the hell, pardon the expression, I remember sticking it there. I took it from the shape’s extended... arm was it? knowing already with increased certainty where I failed, extrapolating from this one single word ‘Men’ to the whole decision cycle and the final irrevocable verdict. Of this session, I thought with gloom and with some grains of hope leftovers. Yes, I started with the word Men and they were judging a woman. All those wonderful, penetrating and sharp arguments wasted on a literary grammatical interpretation error, so stupid. Felt like telling them - hey, there, wake up, welcome to the twentieth century where men stands for men, women, children, even vegetal life sometimes, c’mon, it is time you creatures emancipate. Let there be light. Yeah, but I discovered also with unbroken clarity, the moment the new card was pushed in my hand, that there was one additional factor which I kept denying from my mind until I had no choice but to face it. Yeah, Freedom, Liberty... arguments so foreign to the accusation that they were irrelevant to the case before them. And therefore meaningless. I felt really pissed off, with them, with myself. How was I supposed to know, who am I, Houdini? I had to use the information on the card, I knew. Now I knew. That’s where the accusation originated from. That’s where any defense, if possible at all, should come from. This was the laws book. None else. As much as possible none else. They were still there, which meant that I still had a chance, the trial was going on, I had to decide on my second request. And I did not feel like researching anymore. I voiced my request. The second hourglass was turned. I was in the middle of the cemetery.

    I didn’t visit it, for how long, now? Ten years? Probably more. I lost my faith way back when my mother died, and occasionally visited her final home to voice a kaddish as she would have liked. Not because I believed in it. I moved slowly among the cold stones, saying hello to her silent neighbors, most of them old acquaintances, some new faces... yes, I smiled painfully to myself, faces... It was dark but I was not frightened, dead people did not frighten me, living ones do. I stopped in front of her stone, sat on it, and started chatting. Told her about my last eventless years, about movies I’ve seen lately, asked her advice on some issues I was having lately with the neighborhood’s committee that thought a bar such as mine had unsuitable educational value for their kids. Unsuitable educational value, what words? All of them running tax evasion schemes left and right. At least I paid my taxes honestly. Then I told her about the trial, asking for her advice. She always had good advice when it was about people, a natural gift that I didn’t inherit. And even to her last day I still asked for her advice when it came to such kind of matters. Like today. Only today it was not really clearly with people. Though close. I didn’t wait for an answer. Said a low voiced prayer, wondering that I still remembered it, left a small stone on her tombstone to ensure she would know I visited her. And I was back.

    Didn’t look at the hourglass, somehow I knew it was meaningful yet irrelevant to the course this trial was going to follow. It would in the end decide the final outcome, but not yet. I was surprised to see this time a black shape standing up but it did not mean a thing anyway. So I disregarded it and went straight into my speech. Gentlemen. Members of the Court. We are talking here about a human life, one single human life. Not insignificant in its oneness. Wise people among my ancestors have said - he who saves one soul is as if he saved a whole world. This one human life is a whole world. The first four commandments are ordering us to respect God. They are the first because order matters. The fifth commandment is ‘Remember the Sabbath...’. It is the next most important commandment following respect thy God. And yet, my ancestors in their infinite wisdom rolled out an imposing ruling saying ‘Saving a life postpones the Sabbath’. Meaning saving a life cancels the Sabbath. Meaning saving a human life allows overruling God’s commandment. This human, this woman, had to save her life, she had to find a safe harbor to save her life and her children’s life. Even if the crime of adultery is withheld against her, the adultery commandment is the seventh of the laws, much lower than remembering the Sabbath. If ‘Saving a life postpones the Sabbath’, then ‘Saving a life postpones Adultery’.

    I moved to the back of the room. If my earlier rejected and much longer speech left me relatively fresh, this new short one left me gasping for breath. I felt I was measuring myself against forces beyond my comprehension, beyond my reach, I was probably standing on trial no less than the accused woman. For a short moment I was even able to think of her in third non-personal person terms. For a very short moment, before my inner human workings took over and filled me with this terrible compassion I tried all along the way to hide. Now I waited. Looked at the hourglass. I could clearly see the last grain of sand sliding down and I could swear it stopped, hanging in the air. It was quiet. No more good guys, no more bad guys, no jury, just decision makers. Until I heard the words coming. Distinctly. Thundering in my ears. Words. The fifth commandment is ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’. This commandment is higher than ‘Thou shall not commit adultery’ thus more important. The accused was informed by her maternal parent that she was committing an act of adultery. Thus she committed a crime of disrespect to her parents.

    I was trapped. Laid out my reasoning, laid out my arguments, and then I was trapped in them being used against me. With knowledge unavailable to me. And it was completely irrelevant if the link was real, if their argument was meaningful, if the logic was there. We didn’t talk here about logic, we talked about laws. And subjective interpretation. And some kind of an outworldly... what? team?... that interpreted them. I looked at their hands. The floating grain of sand landed. The hands took a bit longer, at least in my mind, to voice their verdict. Was it some kind of good sign maybe, was there some hesitation? Three white right hands were on the table, two left ones. Four black left hands, one right. Six to four. Like a sporting event. With me on the losing team. No sound. Quiet.

    I heard a dry dull noise. The third hourglass was turned. The final request. And I knew where my next station was going to be. That’s why they turned it.

    I pushed the screeching door, kissing the mezuzah still hanging on one nail on the door, and putting a handkerchief on my head. I didn’t have a kippa. The smell, I just could smell it, the oily smell of once burning candles soaked in the walls, in the dusty broken furniture, soaking now back into my bones into my subconscious, my eyes closed, remembering the murmur of voices, the cantor’s heart wrenching call to the skies, to his God, to my God, to open the skies and let our prayers in... and still, this unforgettable smell, the smell of my childhood, my innocence, my bar mitzvah. I advanced slowly in the barely lighted synagogue. Some prayer books still lying around, old, with the old smell of sweating hands around dog eared corners, with the smell of old ink still lingering between their pages. My eyes misty, my heart rushing like a cornered animal in my ribs cage. Remembering some faces, remembering some chairs, here is where my father was sitting, there is where I could catch a glimpse of my mother peeking behind the screen. The holy ark. I opened it. It should not have been there, by all the human laws, and human decisions and ministries of culture it should not have been there. But it was. Old, dressed in a worn out dust cover and leaning on a wall, a holy Torah scroll, alone, orphan. I took it out, remembering how heavy it was, remembering how as a kid I was afraid to drop it and burn in hell every time I was given the honor to carry it around. I laid it out on the desk, unwrapped it and started rolling it back to the beginning. It was warm, the unmoving air was stale, drops of sweat were hanging from my eyebrows, my nose, my chin. I slowed down, looking for that special paragraph, that special verse written in the old, holy language. Exodus. Decalogue. The Ten Commandments. I tried to remember the language I once knew so well, deciphering the codes, the letters, the meaning. I read the verses, reading them again, several times. Branding them on my mind’s surface. Then I closed the scroll gently, wrapped it in its covers, put it back in the ark. For a few moments leaning my front against the wooden door. I closed my eyes.

    Everyone was standing. The whites, the blacks, the red. I looked in their direction, seeing yet not registering. Were my eyes still closed? It didn’t matter. I knew what they were doing. I knew what I had to say. And I said it. I said: Men. I looked at the Hourglass. The small mound on the bottom was complete, no grain hanging in the air. It was the last request. The last decision. The final verdict. I counted. Five left hands on the table. Five right hands. The red figure’s hands were hanging at its side. Then it joined its hand to the others. The right one.


    I woke up with a terrible headache. Brushed my teeth, showered, smelled the shirt I wore yesterday and decided that the smell may warrant another day’s use. I hated doing laundry and postponed it until choice was not an issue anymore. Then went down the stairs to the bar and poured myself a glass of clear water. I used it so that my customers would think I was a heavy drinker of vodka and wouldn’t feel so lonely at the counter. The morning supplies arrived and I opened the door. The guy, a jovial Irish redhead, “a proud stereotype of my race” as he used to joke, brought in the merchandise and felt like philosophizing a bit. Previous time he came with the illuminated statement that “Irish, Jewish, we all have already three quarters of shit in us”, and it took me a few worrying minutes until I deciphered his remark. We always took pokes at each other’s religion and never had any bad blood about it. It was my turn this time. You know, I said, I had a funny thought this morning. Women can actually sin all they want, they cannot be punished. He made his usual face when ready to let go a free punch remark about his wife, but I continued. You know that the ten commandments were written in Hebrew, don’t you? It was an old argument I had with him several years ago, and by now he learned to accept it. Well, the Hebrew language has different male and female extensions to its verbs. Now take for example the ten commandments, for example (I knew he was going to like this specific example) - Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery. In any other language, certainly in English, this commandment is asexual and refers to both man and woman. Yet in its original Hebrew the words are Lo Tin’af and they are purely directed to the male population. Meaning your wife can join me unpunished in bed but you cannot. He burst into roaring laughter, sent some disrespectful remarks in the general direction of my ancestors and promised to come back tomorrow with something Catholic of his own. I liked the guy, drunk or not. I bent down to pick up the drinks box he left on my threshold. Something floated down from my pocket and landed on top of the wooden box. I looked at it. A small whitish card, and one single word written on it in a language I forgot a long time ago. Solomon. I looked at it. For a long time.