Searches, Rotem Elbaz_Gerusalemme

_Mention Energheia Israel 2017

Six o’clock on a wintery night, and the darkness is looming. Hanna is walking towards the big window, closing the shutters that bring a terrible cold into her house. As she tries to close the left window, her arm gets too tired so she decides to leave it open and sit on her big armchair. The TV is on, and there is darkness in her home. She thinks about the days that pass, about the routine, and especially about tomorrow. What will tomorrow bring? According to the news, there was a bribe in Bat Yam municipality. Would it be the same as today, or will there be a day that will bring her new pain, another difficulty, and more tiredness to her heavy body. Yonit Levi, the news anchor, looks pale. Hanna hears faint knocks on the door. “Who is it?” she asks in a gentle voice. While getting up from her chair her left leg moves slowly following the rest of her body. She opens the door, narrows her eyes, and sees Amit, her granddaughter, behind the white screen door. “Hi Grandma” Amit walks into the house with a smile, gives her two kisses and asks her how she is doing. “Everything is ok ‘abinti’, come and sit” she replies warmly.

“How’s school?” Amit’s phone is ringing, “Is everything alright?”

   Dor_32: Would you like to meet today? Are you spontaneous? lol

“Yes grandma, one sec, I just had to answer a message,” she types quickly.

   Amit.bn: today I can’t, we can set another day spontaneously, even tomorrow maybe…

Amit smiles sheepishly, looks at the bright television screen and says, “It’s going really well. We have a short break now so it’s fun”.

Grandmother: Great ‘abinti’, that sounds great.

Dor_32: Ok, but before the real meeting, wouldn’t it be better if we will discuss our expectations first? What would you like to do..?

Grandmother: And how is it in Tel-Aviv? Do you have friends over there?

   Amit.bn: umm discuss our expectations… ok

Amit: (while typing) umm yeah, of course.

   I’m in the mood for a beer without making a big deal, to meet and get to know you… if it feels like we should move forward then great(:

Amit: I’ve got a lot of friends.

   Let’s say that I’m not in the mood for casual sex… if that was your intention.

Grandmother: … and what about a boyfriend? When will you have a boyfriend?

Amit (laughing): I’m in no hurry Grandma.

Dor_32: But if it feels like we should move forward then there would be sex right?

It will happen, it’s not like in your generation.

   Dor_32: ?

Grandmother: Sure, it’s not like in my generation.

   Amit.bn: yep.

   But if you’re in a rush I think you have better options than me. No?

   Dor_32:

 

*

 

The truck was big and dirty, the driver stopped at the middle of a desolate desert where there are only few sabra and olive trees. Quietly, he said, “Wait here, I’ll come back”. The driver dropped Hanna and her husband off and drove away. They passed their first night there with a little suitcase and a lot of fear, hoping that no lion will sneakily devour them in the darkness of the night. Their fear was that they would simply disappear, and no one will ever know, as if they never existed.

“And if they won’t come back?” she asks him, as her fingers search for a stone in the sand. “Everything is fine Hanna, they will come. Don’t forget it’s the land of Israel here”. He tells her while his eyes wander, looking for a rock they can sit on or a high place where they could see an animal roaming in the darkness of the desert. “Where is everyone? And why are we the only ones left here?” She promises to herself that this is it. This will be the last question and she will not bother him anymore, she would not cause him to be as afraid as she was. “I don’t know, Habibti, but they will come, everyone will come”. He says while prolonging the words in a comforting tone.

The following day they arrived. They built a tent with some tarp and few sheets that later became a hut in a small transitory camp filled with Moroccan immigrants. A year later they built a house in the middle of the desert, which cost them 50 thousand liras. Surrounding it were still sabra trees, olive trees, and sand. This is their new home. They had no choice, no argument, and no wishes. Where are they? How far are they located from Jerusalem and how far is Tel Aviv? Who knows?

 

*

 

The clock hit noon. It was a Thursday. Tomorrow, she would have to pack the small apartment she had been renting for two years, and go back to her parent’s house. After a long search for a new apartment, Amit decided to give up, “God dammit, why should I pay $800 to rent a place where I had to shower with flip-flops? What’s wrong with the people here?” The waitress puts two cups of coffee on the table, an Americano with cold soymilk on the side, and a small cappuccino. A young homeless man who was crossing Rotschild Boulevard caught her friend Netta’s attention. As he began walking towards the coffee shop, Netta says: “I think you’re right, but eventually, if you want to live in Tel Aviv you have to pay. The question is whether you want to pay the price or live outside the big city, like in Ramat Gan. Or maybe you want to stay with your parents, I don’t know”.

The young homeless man stood silently in front of their table. Amit was staring towards the warm air while Netta looks at him uncomfortably, signifying a “No!” with her head and taking a sip of the cappuccino with embarrassment. “Can I have a cigarette?” he signals to her with his right hand and points to the blue camel pack. Netta takes out one cigarette and lit it for him.

“I visited my cute grandma a few days ago. She has high blood pressure and suffers from dizziness. Her health puts her under so much pressure so every two days she’s given blood tests”. Maybe that’s why they call it blood pressure? The homeless man with the lit cigarette and torn clothing went to the next table. “Really? poor grandma. She’s the only one left, right?” Netta looks again at the homeless man as she talks and smokes. “Yes, everyone’s gone already. Waiii! The coffee here is too light!” As I take a sip I recognize Yoni and his girlfriend, Almog, on the right side of the street holding hands like true lovebirds. I already knew she is his girlfriend because I saw that his Facebook status changed. Who updates statuses these days? Does anyone even care?

“Yoni!” I whisper to Netta. “Where?” She responds half whispering, half screaming. “Shh, don’t look! There, on the right side of the street with his girlfriend, the model. She does have nice hair and a tan, but probably nothing in her head”. Netta laughs, surprised by the outburst of indignation. “You said you didn’t mind”. She says to me while smiling. “I couldn’t care less!” I take a last sip from the Americano with all the bitterness from the bottom of the glass.

From the very beginning, I knew that we weren’t a match. He likes parties and I love staying at home. He likes to eat junk and I’m a health freak. He is always crazy about succeeding; progresses from position to position, opens a risk management company, looks for places to invest, and for people to recruit for his company. I move horizontally in life, doing all sorts of things that do not always benefit me now but are investments for the future. I especially focus on things that bring me more satisfaction and fulfillment and less on economic stability. During our first month of dating, we were both on cloud nine.

In the first month, she thought that this is it. In another six months they will move in together and after a year he will already propose. Within two years she will have a home, a dog, and an eighth month pregnancy belly. Finally, she would no longer have to hear the ordinary blessings of her close family. Those who came up loudly, sometimes obnoxiously, especially during weddings, when aunts and uncles find the opportunity to tell her with a smile while holding their glass of beer “Soon by you!” Besides for them, it was only her grandmother who gently asked her to find a boyfriend or the distant aunt who pushed a mystical charm into her purse that promises to ‘help her find her soul mate’. Around her married friends, she always showed confidence and ease. She is waiting for it and knows that it will come soon. Sometimes it feels as if it is almost there. This was true, occasionally. Sometimes she felt that it was good for her to be alone and that her strong and deep friendships filled her sufficiently.

 

*

 

He met her in the Florentine neighborhood at 9:30 p.m. She barely knew anything about him; his name is Uri, 33 years old, makes wood furniture, born in Russia, and lives in Holon. “Uri the Carpenter” was how he signed each of his messages and that was all. After a few simple questions, he asks her if she would like to meet up for a beer and she agreed. After all, what could be so wrong? She does not know anything about him, but he seems nice to her, neither handsome nor ugly. She likes men who work with their hands, a kind of craftsman. To her, there is a measure of sex appeal in jobs requiring material interaction, work that requires solitude and proficient hard-working hands. She hoped she might find him to be a guy that she can talk to, to sail in deep and exhausting conversations until they couldn’t any longer. The last time she had met a man like this, she waited patiently for two months to discover some hidden depth. She always believed that no one can be satisfied with only small talk and that it will be probably change soon. Just a little more time and he would finally stop interrupting her with a grin as she spoke passionately about the gas supply deal, the upcoming elections, and how technology was threatening to take over the world. Obviously, this never happened.

As she walks into the bar, she notices four people sitting inside with the bearded owner. Right away, she recognizes Uri among them, so she approaches him with a smile and says “hello”. He shakes her hand and for a moment, she wonders if he’s going to give her a kiss on the cheek, but immediately realizes that he isn’t. He asks her what she would like to drink. “Tuborg” she says gently. “On the way!” She hears the bearded owner shouting with a smile. He is the archetype of the kind of people that can be found in Florentine. Most of the time they are too nice, like community people. Those who always want to speak to the people that are located around them; only that sometimes it could be disturbing. She used to live in this place, she quite liked the friendly people, but sometimes it was too much for her. She didn’t always want to share the small choices in life with those around her. “What bread should I buy?” a bald guy with a butterfly tattoo on his neck once asked her while they were standing in front of the shelf in the supermarket. “Cheap and whole wheat flour? Or rye?” She answered without looking into his eyes. She knows them, the Florentine people, if she makes eye contact now, he’ll just keep talking. He would probably go off and start a conversation that would make her think for a moment that maybe he might be hitting on her. Or maybe he just wanted to make small talk? He probably has a girlfriend waiting at home, or maybe a boyfriend? Surely, he’d be in favor of polyamory.

“Cheers” Uri says without a smile, looks her in the eyes and lifts his glass. “Cheers,” she answers in a low tone, smiling. Silence. It seems like neither of them knows how to start the conversation. “So… what did you do today?” she asks quietly after a few moments, “I built a chair”, he answers flatly as he looks at the empty street. She wonders how to keep the conversation alive but she hates forced conversation, so she chooses to remain silent like him. As she was sitting next to him, shoulder to shoulder, she looks at the empty street and takes a sip of beer. A camera flashes behind them. Hopefully it’s not the pub owner who wants to upload photos to Facebook so that he can publicize his bar, she thinks to herself. That’s would be exactly what she needs now, to see a photo of herself on Facebook, with a blind date, in the middle of Florentine. She turns around and sees that the flash came from three Asian tourists who are busy taking pictures of themselves with the beer, with the fries that they ordered, and sometimes with each other. Amused, they look at the pictures. She’s thinking of saying something about it to Uri, but he seemed to be absorbed with his gaze on a dog that was crossing the road, so she chooses to remain silent.

“When did you first sign up for this app?” He asks suddenly as he shifts his gaze from the street to her.

“About two months ago, why do you ask?”

“Doesn’t it seem strange to market yourself in order to find love?”

“I don’t feel like I’m marketing myself!”

“Really? Uploading your best photos and writing the best things about yourself isn’t called marketing yourself?”

“You know what… Maybe, but that’s the way the world works today. No one has the courage to approach a person they might be interested in anymore, but at least behind the screen, everyone can be a hero”.

“Have you ever approached anyone?”

“Yeah!”

Surprised, he looks at her, finally reveals a little smile. “Really?”

“Really!”

There is a silence again; a couple arrives and orders beers while sitting facing each other in the seat next to Uri. Amit is searching for a new place to look at now that this couple has obstructed her view of the street. Somehow she is finding her gaze floating between the woman’s face and the street in front of them; wondering what the woman is thinking about her or maybe about them. She probably realizes that it is a first date. After all, Amit can always tell when a blind date sits next to her. She used to try to imagine what was going on in their heads, what topics of conversation they had raised in their minds until they came to ask another question. Now, she wonders if Uri is going to touch her, stroke her hand, or look with excessive curiosity at the gold chain around her neck.

“Do you want another beer?”

“No, thanks!”

“That’s it, Are you already drunk?”

“No. I’m tired!”

“I’ll walk you home”.

“It’s okay!”