We meet on the light rail. My Hebrew is non-existent. I ask if he knows the stop for Machane Yehuda. He answers in English. “I’m on my way there,” he says. We wander the crowded alleyways together. Stop for espresso and ice cream. Exchange names and stories. “I came here to find something, someplace different,” I tell him. “Somewhere to inspire me. Something that is mine. Exotic and mine.” This is to be a ten day respite from my job as editor of a small magazine. It is 72 hours since the plane landed at Ben-Gurion Airport, and already I am thinking of leaving my life behind and settling in Israel.”
He had been here for four months. Teaching English in an Anglo high school in Modi ‘in. This is not one of the many visits he has made to the country over the years. This is permanent. He had family in here.
“Where?” I want to know. “Everywhere,” he answers.
Standing in line for plums he tells me about his long deceased great grandfather, a mystic—with descendants by the hundreds. Waiting to order from the side-curled proprietor of the schnitzel place, I tell him about my sister and my parents—all of whom will expect me back at the designated time. All of whom cannot fathom why I have traveled alone—rented an apartment instead of paying for a hotel room.
It is his eyes and his shiny black hair and his black moustache and his slim frame and his smile. We walk to the bus stop. “Dinner?” he asks? I answer, “Yes.”
Will there be children? And flowers trailing in cascades of pink from the window boxes of our terrace? Will our sons and daughters wear army fatigues? Will we worry incessantly and with pride? Will I wear flowing dresses and coloured earrings and sandals?
The tomatoes will be sun-warmed in summer. We will drive up north among the brown hills and the oasis of green. Our skin will be tanned. We will speak of politics and history, of faith and fear and strength. The stones of the Old City will be lit from within. We will walk and walk and eat warm fava beans from paper bags.
We are young—our lives— a field spread out before us.
I am a graduate of Bard College. Barely five years past the ceremony marking the end of my academic career and the beginning of my life as a novelist. “A novelist.” I say the word aloud sometimes. I have written two to date. The reviews have been encouraging.
He is a professor of Literature at NYU—his graduate school alma mater. He has read about my most recent work in the book review section of the Times. He sent an email: “Will you speak at a writing seminar that I will teach this fall?” I answer, “Yes.”
I drive to the city from upstate—hating the traffic, worried about parking. I carry a hemp bag with copies of each of my books and two pages of notes. I hope there will be questions.
He meets me in a coffee shop near the school. We have slightly more than an hour to introduce ourselves to one another before the class is scheduled to begin.
I tell him that Bard gave me the courage to imagine—to believe that I could do what I had always wanted to do. He says his doctoral dissertation compared William Faulkner and Thomas Hardy. I knew that already because I had researched him online. Seen his photograph. He is among the youngest on the faculty—not much older than his students.
Dark hair, dark eyes. A moustache and an appealing sadness about him. He says that that he has read one of my books and found it “intelligent.”
The students sit in a horseshoe. I speak for 30 minutes. I read several excerpts. Hear polite laughter, answer questions. Stand to leave, and he says, “Would you might waiting a minute?”
I wait. He asks me to dispense with the formalities. Tells me to call him by his first name. “Contrary,” he explains, to his “haltingly typical approach to women he barely knows,” he wants to know if I would be averse to having dinner with him.”
His eyelashes are long, as are his fingers. “No,” I say, “I would not be averse.”
He is several years my junior. Sometimes, he seems older. A man with sorrows. But then I sing to him and he smiles with one chipped tooth.— almost always hidden by his black moustache.
We live not far from where I lived when we met. Ours is a small house with a wall of small-pained windows overlooking the forest. In winter the snow is deep and thick on the tree limbs and our roof. He commutes to the city most days. I write in a room on the second floor from where I am at eye level with the birds.
Our travels will take us to Greece and Italy, to Spain and England. We will see Switzerland, Holland, France and Israel. We will mingle with university colleagues and editors. Always though, we will be glad to return to our nest.
Offspring? Two, or maybe three—sometime in the future. But we are young—our lives a field spread out before us.
Age? 73. Husband’s age? 70. I am retired after 30 years as editor of a small magazine. He is a literature teacher in a private high school. He holds an ABD (a stage in the process of obtaining a research doctorate).
At 17, I wanted to attend Bard College to learn to be a novelist. My father was opposed. I went, instead to American University to learn to be a journalist.
He and I met at my parents’ kitchen table. I was with a first husband. He was not yet married to a first wife. It would be years before we would come to know one another again. But I remember him as the 19 year old part- time spiritual advisor’ (a term coined by my father) of the small town synagogue to which our family belonged. He was a graduate of Yeshiva University, the son of a rabbi, not a rabbi himself—attending law school at the time. He switched to English later. He had long hair.
Later, we would meet again—after two divorces—his and mine. And two children—mine from the previous marriage—his because he reared them with me from the time they were six and eight years old.
And now these children have children of their own—several of whom are on the cusp of adulthood.
We live in a suburb with trees in the yard, flowers in clay pots and skylights in the ceiling of our living room. The grandchildren visit less frequently.
His black moustache is white. My dark hair is grey. He buys me earrings. I buy him books. We have seen Spain and Italy and England and Israel— Israel many times over.
Sometimes I see us there as if—as though—we are younger.
We visited Bard last year. I wondered then, what might have been. Occasionally, I see a field spread out before us.