For what turned out to be a very short moment in 2001, before smart phones appeared on the market and Google maps showed us earth’s every corner with a click. I still had a map of the world hanging from the ceiling of my childhood room, pinned to its place by toothpaste smeared on its four corners. I would lie in bed and think of the National Geographic pieces I’d read as a child. I would dream of African countries fighting for independence in the 1960s and wished I could have been there. The world still cast a dark spell on my impressionable mind. I was very much in love.
Ehud Barack was prime minister, and for a while, everyone I knew thought there might be peace. I dodged the draft and went traveling through the woods of Slovenia. This episode of travels would become a mythological chapter of youth I would later relate merrily to many a listener in a pub. In reality, I know those days were filled with the pain of a nineteen-year-old learning that men can disappoint. The intense struggle to tell the truth apart from popular wisdom concerning journeys, adventures, farfetched, exotic places—that struggle is more of an uphill ascent in our youth. Today I will tell you, without blinking an eyelid, that it’s all bullshit. It is the difficult experiences that are worth experiencing, like a country that has frustrated you in a myriad of ways throughout the decades is your home, or a man who has disappointed you ad nauseam—that’s most probably your true love.
So you came to pick me up in a dirty, knackered old white Subaru on a hot evening in 2001. I had nothing in the way of feminine clothes, having received contradictory messages about femininity all my life from both my mother and the Zionist doctrine. So I wore red Teva sandals with a black mini skirt I had managed to purchase when my mother wasn’t looking. You would later comment it had looked funny. I would take offense. Maybe I cried over it; so silly I should cry when I was so beautiful. You were squarely built, and you smelled nice. You also wore Teva sandals, as many middle-class Ashkenazi kids did at the end of the twentieth century. Teva promised hiking trips in the desert and I liked that promise. I smiled at you and sat in the passenger’s seat, anxious to please, anxious to hide that I was anxious.
We drove to downtown Haifa and I can’t remember whether the Carmel Mountain was already lit by the festive lights that now dance up and down from the German Colony to the Bahai Temple. I think the lights weren’t yet there, so the hanging gardens lay fragrantly in the darkness of our humid city and we went into a random little falafel place not far from the docks. I had never been there before, or since. I can recall looking down at my sandal-clad feet as I crossed the road, with the pavement still steaming from the humid day that had just passed. My feet were tan.