Headlights_Noy Levin, Tel Aviv.
_Energheia Israel Prize 2014.
Mr. Yankelevich has fallen asleep in his armchair at 8:47 PM.
Odd. Usually he wouldn’t have sink into himself prior the end of the weather forecast, and in particular, he wanted to stay awake for Today’s, in order to tell when to put up the shutters for the upcoming storm.
On second thought, addressing him as Mr. Yankelevich would be a sin regarding his true age. The Health clinic’s subscription paper from his visit three months ago clearly states “39.9”
It’s just that this description is only accurate regarding his appearance. His hair has already started residing backwards at 21, and turn gray two years after that. He has reached final height at his 65th meter, and the constant blending with his armchair did not make justice with his face hue and weight. A decade ago he felt discouraged and retired for his domain.
The Health clinic’s visit was the last time he was to leave his house.
His daily routine started on the armchair, watching the 6:30 AM morning shows, then he would sit in front of his computer to work as an article transcriber and kept sitting on the armchair watching the 17:00 PM magazine shows, until falling asleep on the armchair at 9 PM. At 2:00 AM he would wake up and move into his bedroom.
Today also, he had woken up in the middle of the night at his armchair. Only this time, before he went back to sleep in his bed, he had manage to scold himself for falling asleep right before the end of the weather forecast. He grew fond of watching Live television, after all.
When he woke up at 6:00 AM, he was filled with excitement for the expected Supermarket delivery which was due lunchtime. For the first time, he has ordered a Jerusalem artichoke, after he found an interesting recipe over the Internet, and was curious about its flavor.
At 14:00 PM he wore a fancy shirt and waited for the delivery guy. When the guy arrived, he was offered to stay for an artichoke casserole. Only 20-minute preparation time, was stated.
The guest smiled politely, and said he was running late for the next delivery. Mr. Yankelevich responded that he would still be invited for later if he wishes to, while the delivery guy, turning already his back at him, just muttered “Possibly…”, and moved about his business. Mr. Yankelevich knew he would not to come back, yet kept his fancy shirt on until evening time.
At 8:30 PM, while flipping between the different news channels, he noticed that all of them have dedicated a large part of the show to traffic accidents. 7 casualties for today only. Seven. High speed, Road skidding, collusion as a result of not turning headlights on. No headlights? Mr. Yankelevich was clicking his tongue, making a tut-tut sound. How come one does not turn any headlights on? Even if he had forgotten, he would be able to see a car in front of him and reminisce. This thought made him restless until he fell asleep at 8:59 PM.
At 11:00 PM he woke up abruptly. The relentless thought of cars running with their headlights turned off bothered him.
He would had to test it by himself. He had put on the fancy shirt that was laying on the chair, and left the house.
The cool breeze struck him fiercely. He turned back into his house in order to wear a jacket, but changed his mind and went back up the road.
Traffic wasn’t especially busy at his street, which was why he decided to go by the main street at his neighborhood. He took the turn into a parallel street, crossed another couple of blocks, passed down a garden and a commercial center, crossed another 3 blocks, and another elementary school and finally reached the destined street. He didn’t recall it was that far off.
He sat down a bus station bench watching the cars going back and forth. Everything seemed ordinary. He came accustomed to the flashing of lights and slowly began to sink into his mind.
His awareness became increasingly vague, until he heard a car’s rumble, but didn’t go blind by it. He then opened up his eyes.
From afar, he saw a car driving towards him with its headlights off. He leaped from the bench, came close to the sidewalk and began flickering with his hand, opened and then closed, repeatedly, as to signal the other car for its headlights to be turned on.
The car was already very close by, as he was increasing his the pace of flickering. The car went by him eventually, even thought the driver was unaware of his signals, and left his lights turned off.
Mr. Yankelvich was disappointed, got back to the bench and after about an hour retreated back to his house.
The next day went on casually, until news time. Once again, traffic accidents, casualties, Mr. Yankelvich back on the main highway. This time right at the end of tonight’s news.
At this hour the traffic was far more alive. So many lights, he thought to himself. This time he kept himself awake and monitored the road. Soon arrived a first car with its headlights off.
Mr. Yankelevich began walking down the main road until cars at the right lane were honking at him ,fearful that he might leap towards them accidently.
He intensively opened and closed his hand to signal an upcoming darkened car, and as it went close, it all of a sudden lit up its front headlights.
Mr. Yankelevich opened his eyes in disbelief and could not believe he caused it himself. He then done so with 7 more cars, who were passing through that night.
At midnight, while the traffic went thinner, he went back home.
Before going to bed, he felt proud for all those cars which lit their headlights as a result of a close encounter with him.
The following day, he went out the road again at 6:00 PM, as it was turning dark.
He stood still there the entire hour. The cars passing by all had their headlights on.
Mr. Yankelevich was happy about that, yet somewhat wished another driver to come across his signaling hand.
A long traffic jam was flooding the road. Cars with their headlights on stood still for a while now, and Mr. Yankelevich has already began to sink into himself again, standing, but immediately scolded himself to straighten up.
The next line of cars replaced the one standing next to him for a while, and among them,
A white Suzuki Baleno with its headlights off was discovered.
This time, the car stood still, so Mr. Yankelevich didn’t have to open and close his hand rapidly. He signaled the car at a medium pace, and that car didn’t notice.
He kept on signaling, with increasing pace. Perhaps the rapid hand movement would catch the driver’s attention, he thought.
But there was no response for the signal yet. He tried getting near the car by getting down the highway, but was instantly responded by another car’s honking.
He began waving his hand, and closed his eyes halfway through to focus on who’s sitting in the driver’s seat. And he indeed managed to see, a girl, in her 30’s, looking across into the opposite lane.
He kept waving his hand, until he caught her attention and got back to signaling by opening and closing his hand.
The girl looked at him baffled, and did not make a response. Perhaps even frowned a little.
Mr. Yankelevich kept opening and closing his hand repeatedly until the traffic jam was over and the white Suzuki was swollen among the rest of the jam, with its headlights off. A heavy sensation of disappointment filled his heart, and after a short while, when he felt he could no longer contribute, he went back into his house.
Before falling asleep he reminisced the Suzuki from last night, and was filled with sadness.
The next day, by 7:00 PM he has already signaled 4 different cars to switch their headlights on.
“Days like these make it worthwhile” he thought. And once again a massive traffic jam was flooding the street, and Mr. Yankelevich was left out of work for the rest of the hour.
When the traffic jam became loose, he has noticed another car with its headlights switched off.
A white Suzuki Baleno. He refused to believe it, but it was the same girl from yesterday.
Once again, she was looking across the other side, and he kept waving his hand until he caught her attention. He imagined she appeared to signal him as well.
He closed his eyes halfway through again, to focus, and realized she was also opening and closing her hand in the same style of motion. Why? Thought Mr. Yankelevich, and before he figured it out, the Suzuki went by, and drove off, with her headlights off.
The day after was similar to the one before. This time Mr. Yankelevich has waited to the white Suzuki to show up. It arrived indeed. This time the girl had her sight on him without him having to fool himself much.
He signaled her, she signaled back, He signaled her, she signaled back, this went on for couple of times for about 7 minutes.
As the traffic jam was loosening, the girl shifted her sight back to the road again, took her hand back over the steering wheel. Mr Yankelevich had sensed another deformed
expression from her face. She drove off, with the lights still off.
And so, days went by. Weather has turned stormy, yet Mr. Yankelevich, was always on duty, waiting for that same Suzuki Baleno. And, as it arrived, a flick of Joy was filling his eyes.
They exchanged hand signs frequently, yet she always kept on driving with her headlights off.
After a month of daily encounters, the Suzuki was late on arrival.
Mr. Yankelevich was moving back and forth anxiously at the Station.
Much time has gone by since the usual time of her arrival, and still she hasn’t arrived on scene.
He was looking forward to seeing her any minute now, but that did not happen. His body was shaking.
Every white car he has seen from afar, made him hopeful that it is indeed the white Suzuki Baleno.
Mr. Yankelevich has become really desperate. He was left upbeat till morning time, and at 6 AM got back to his house.
He has hoped that perhaps she’s contracted a mild flu and therefore was missing from the road, and still, he had a hard time falling asleep. When he finally did, he was barely asleep.
The following day, he kept his eyes peeled. Perhaps the Suzuki Baleno has made it through before the traffic jam, and he just missed it, so he thought.
But he didn’t get to see it before, or at the actual time she was supposed to get there.
“She will come…” he thought to himself.
At the 11th hour, Mr. Yankelevich has been filled with remorse and began to realize that today as well, the Suzuki will not be present.
“You fool” he scholded himself again.
“The lights were turned off. You could have knocked down her window and just tell her, you miserable coward. If something has happened to her, it is all your fault.”
He had a tough time withstanding the sorrow which came with her absence, and retired to his home early.
He sat on his armchair, and fell asleep until morning time.
At noon, the supermarket Delivery guy showed up. He grabbed the groceries from his hands, put them aside, and was unable to unload them.
He wrote to his boss that today he would not be send him any transcriptions, and went outside.
Today he will be at the Station starting 3 PM. Perhaps the Suzuki has been rising early lately, and so he was missing it, he reckoned.
He was standing on the sidewalk bed, and did not look astray from the road even for one moment.
Not a single car passing down the road, has skipped his inspecting gaze.
Every car was inspected sevenfold, yet the Suzuki hasn’t arrived even after dark.
At 9:30 PM, he sat on the bench at the bus station, and out of desperation began sinking into himself once more. When he had almost fallen asleep, an ongoing flickering has began blinding him. In reaction, he had shut them even harder.
The Flickering continued bugging him. Mr Yankelevich was annoyed. By the time he could get a decent nap, he was rudely interrupted. He opened his eyes and as vivid bright headlights were blinding momentarily.
When his eyesight was restored, he noticed a White automobile. He was filled with
Excitement. The Suzuki Baleno.
“She’s ok, it’s ok” he mumbled. He reduced his sight to focus and looked at the girl.
She raised her hand, and began opening and closing it. Mr Yankelevich wanted to open and close his hand too, but the car’s headlights were on.
He stood helplessly across the Suzuki Baleno. Out of the blue, the girl has stopped signaling, but kept her arm raised.
Now, she began to pound her chest. Two fast-paced, repeated poundings. Mr Yankelevich Had no clue about what she’s up to, but began pounding his chest as well. And so they were both pounding their own chests in front of each other for a minute or so.
Suddenly Mr. Yankelevich has stopped. He felt his heart pounding fiercely.
Tremor was filling his body. He looked into the ground, then looked at the girl once again.
She too, has stopped pounding.
She appeared smiling. He began smiling too.
“Perhaps Tomorrow would be a different day” he reckoned.