Waiting for Broza
Sara kept her eyes on the passengers who got off the plane; she was afraid that if she took her eyes off of them, Eyal would suddenly come out and surprise her, and she wanted to look composed. She was … Read More
Sara kept her eyes on the passengers who got off the plane; she was afraid that if she took her eyes off of them, Eyal would suddenly come out and surprise her, and she wanted to look composed. She was sorry she had worn the small, pink T-shirt that rose above her belly. She had gained weight since he last saw her and was afraid he would notice. Her unruly brown hair was tucked into a bun, high on top of her head with rebellious spikes sticking out of it. The jeans she had bought in a rare moment of self indulgence were one size too small, and the waist band was eating into her flesh, so she sucked her stomach in.
The automatic doors popped open, and suddenly she saw him; He stood there wearing a tie-died shirt, flip-flops, and faded jeans, the same ones he’d worn three years ago when she met him at Masada. In a moment of bravery she’d bought a ticket to the Masada Music Festival, and decided she would go down there by herself to see David Broza, her favorite Israeli crooner.
At night, before the concert, she saw people sitting around a fire playing guitar and singing in quiet and hesitant voices. She was painfully shy, but the music called her, and the night served as a comforting sheath. The tongues of fire lit people’s faces red and gold and everything seemed friendly.
Eyal had been sitting across from her, playing guitar and she thought she had never seen anyone more confident. He had long, shaggy hair, dirty blond from the sun, and a deep tan. And even though, he wasn’t the best guitar player she had ever seen, he pounded the guitar as if he himself was David Broza. She fell for him immediately. And somehow, he had noticed her too, the Jewish American girl in Israel for the first time. She listened to him play and smiled and joined in when she knew the words. When their eyes met, she looked down, grabbed a fistful of cold dirt, and let it run through her fingers, thin like flour.
Later, he offered to share some pot he had hidden in his tent with her, and she went with him, a stranger and yet as an Israeli, also not a stranger. He was a former IDF soldier in an elite secret unit, he told her. She felt terrified and exited by this.
They smoked the pot and he kissed her. Then she threw up, and he held her hair and said, “It’s the first time I make a girl throw up.” That night, she had sex with him in his tent, on top of his sleeping bag.
As if from a distance, Sara heard a loudspeaker announcing a flight. She had almost forgotten she was standing before Eyal at the arrivals gate in Kennedy Airport. He had not changed; His hair was still shaggy, although shorter, sandy and bleached from the sun. His small brown eyes, like two dark caves inviting and scaring her away, narrowed, and his lips turned slightly up in the corners. She waited until he was close enough, then threw herself at him.
“I knew you would be happy to see me,” Eyal said.
She buried her nose in his neck. He smelled like summer sun and the sea, like Israel.
“Hey.” He pushed her slightly away from him and looked into her eyes. Before she knew it, she was crying. “Hey, hey.”
His backpack, the same sleeping bag she slept on at Masada rolled at its base, was still on his back. She wanted to reach in and touch all his worn-out T-shirts, smell his clothes, rub them against her face, maybe rub some of his life into her.
Lately, she had been sinking further and further into a tedious, gray routine, into this funk she couldn’t snap out of. She started to think that she would end up living alone in her apartment, never meeting anyone, never doing anything. It was as if all around her people lived their lives and experienced happiness, and she watched from behind a glass window, a spectator. Eyal held the promise of feeling something again.
She had not seen him in four years and was going to take him home, let him sleep in her bed, and pretend to be her boyfriend for one week, until he caught a plane to his next adventure, and she went on with her frigid life. Maybe, she thought, he would stay. Maybe he’ll find a job in Connecticut. She would cook him dinner and have it ready for him every night, just like a married couple. They would fall asleep together, watching the Late Night Show. She remembered that when she stayed in his apartment in Tel Aviv, he’d hugged the remote, constantly changing channels, and mocking the movies she wanted to watch. “Girl movies,” he’d call them.
But being around him made her whole body throb. She remembered how one afternoon she watched him transfixed, as he repaired his motorcycle on the sidewalk outside his apartment, his arm muscles shifting up and down, as his blackened, tarred hands lifted and turned the wrench.
“Come here, Eyal said.”
He pulled her close to him, and through her tears, she could see blurry images of people hurrying up to greet their loved ones. She wondered if she and Eyal looked that happy. As if reading her mind, he took off his large overstuffed backpack and dropped it to the ground.
“Nothing.” She sniffled. “I’m just happy you’re here.”
“How was your flight?”
“You’re crazy, you know that?”
He held her face between his palms. His tanned skin stretched too tight on his face, like old weathered leather. She was surprised to see that time had aged him too. She thought of him as an eternal boy, forever younger than her. Although she was only four years older than him, he held his youth over her like a lever, like she had to know that she was lucky he had chosen her when he could have been with an eighteen year old. She saw that when they walked on the beach, his eyes always scanning for young bodies. “You’re old,” he’d tease her. But that was then. Now, it seemed, time was catching up with him too. Somehow, physically they were evening out.
Eyal put his arms around her and she felt the tautness of his chest pressed against her small unripe breasts. He had always said he loved them just the way they were. “You’re lucky, you know,” he would say while cupping them, “they won’t ever sag.”
As they started for the parking lot she said, “So, tell me.”
“Tell you what?”
“I don’t know, everything.”
“I quit my job.”
She opened the back of her car, and he lifted the massive backpack. She could see those intricate, small muscles in his arms, doing a crazy dance.
“And I decided to get away from everything and come here.”
She envied this confidence he had, like he knew someone would always be there to pick up the slack.
She never did anything spontaneous, except for that summer when she followed Eyal, against her better judgment, from Masada to Tel Aviv after having just met him.
“I’m happy you came.”
“Come here.” He touched her face with the tips of his fingers, like he was brushing some hair away from it. It had been a long time since he had touched her face.
“I forgot how pretty you were.”
He hugged her hips, and she felt her stomach squeeze against his pelvis. She held her breath for a second, hoping he wouldn’t notice the chunkiness around her waist.
“What’s this?” He pushed her away and pointed at her belly.
“Are you’re becoming a fatty?”
She felt her cheeks burn and suddenly she remembered how, after they had been together for a few days, he’d started to criticize different parts of her body and mock the way she groomed herself. When they were at the beach he would say, “How come you don’t shave above the knee? Girls here shave everything.” She hoped he had changed.
“You’re still cute.” He gave her a quick hug and sat inside the car. She took a deep breath, forced herself to smile.
“Tell me about Israel.”
“What’s there to say?” Eyal turned to her. “Same shit as always.”
Sara hoped he would talk some more, and she would forget feeling humiliated.
“Hard times, you know. Everybody is nervous, everybody is on the edge.”
“I miss it so much,” Sara said.
“There’s nothing to miss, trust me.”
“I miss the beach, the sunsets, Masada…I miss you.”
Eyal smiled and rested his palm on her thigh, and she felt her anxiety melt away.
“Eyal…” She wanted to ask him to stay with her longer than he had planned. He had come for a week, and she knew soon after he left, she would go on with her lonely life. He wasn’t perfect, she knew, but he made her feel alive.
His features were less than perfect: his nose was too wide and his eyes too small, but put together, they worked. He was short too, and there was a sexual quality about him, compacted into his small stature, saturated. Once they were in the car, Eyal turned to look for something in his backpack, and after a minute, he produced a yellow plastic bag.
“This is for you.” She opened the bag and touched a cold, smooth CD. It was David Broza, Live in Masada. Sara felt her eyes well up and her throat tighten.
She tried hard to keep her tears in. “I love it,” she said. “It’ll be just like being there.”
The night she met him, she’d lain in his arms, listening to Broza and singing along with the sweet guitar strumming.
She could feel his heartbeat thumping against her back. Then, slowly, like a golden, crimson ball, the sun had started to rise behind the slim body of the dark haired crooner. His voice had been deep and oaky like a good Cabernet, intoxicating her senses. She’d swear she could feel all the other hearts pounding inside the thousands of young Israelis, sitting on the warm, hard ground. Right then, she felt loved. And Eyal turned her head to his and kissed her.
They drove quietly heading north. Eyal stared intently outside as if he was looking for something and it made her remember the ride back to Tel Aviv, on the bus, at night. Eyal had walked to the back of the bus. He’d been talking to a girl they had met at the concert. From her seat Sara could see their silhouettes. It looked like they were kissing. Sara had turned her face to the window trying to make out the dark landscape. There was a full moon. The water of the Dead Sea glittered as if it had been sprinkled with a thousand diamonds, and the dark, biblical mountains towered in the distance, beautiful and luminous. She’d felt alone in the vast and ancient beauty, but it was a sweet loneliness. Sitting there, on the cold vinyl bus seat, she was surrounded by her ancestors, and every glittering star was Abraham and Yitzhak and Jacob. And they were looking down on her and smiling.
Then, after what had seemed like an eternity, she saw Eyal’s figure slowly walking up the isle, like a shadow.
“I saw you,” she whispered. “You were kissing that girl.”
“Her Grandmother just died,” he said. “She needed somebody.”
She’d spent the next three hours wondering why she was still considering going home with him.
Sara felt her hands tighten around the steering wheel. “Let’s play my new CD,” she said.
“No. I’m tired of Broza,” Eyal said. “I’m tired of Israeli music.” He squeezed her thigh and chuckled. “Maybe later.”
They crossed the Whitestone Bridge, and the Manhattan skyline came into view. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and the sun reflected golden rays on the skyscrapers. She thought about how different and beautiful it was to look at Manhattan from afar, than it was to actually live there, with its subways and noises and dirty streets. She felt lucky to have escaped the streets of the city, saturated by strangers.
“Hey, you know the East Village?” Eyal asked. “I have this friend that lives in Manhattan; he moved out here a couple of months ago from Israel, and when I told him I was coming, he made me promise I would visit.” His eyes sparkled. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“Of course not,” she said. She had imagined them driving up to Connecticut on the Merritt Parkway, taking in the leaves changing red and gold and orange, and then her cooking him a romantic dinner then letting him tear her clothes off, impatient, like he’d done in Israel. But she didn’t say anything. She thought about how the nights were turning cold, and how alone she felt in her queen-sized bed, like it was threatening to swallow her whole.
Sara could see the large green sign to 1-95 and she toyed with the idea of hitting the gas pedal and speeding home. They would need to backtrack, she thought. They may have to pay another toll, and she knew Eyal would not offer any money.
“I have the address.” Eyal turned to his backpack again and opened a zipper on the front.
“Here it is.” Eyal produced a small and scrunched ball of paper. “Do you know this place?” He unfolded it and opened it and she took a quick look at it.
Sara immediately recognized the address. It was way downtown, East Village, where she only rarely ventured during her year in New York. There were cool, no name bars and young, hip people always lining the streets, all dressed better than her, all better looking than her, thinner than her, with better lives.
“Yes,” she said. “I know the area well.”
They drove silently for while, through the long avenues of Manhattan, heading downtown. The streets were fairly empty, with the laziness of a weekend afternoon. Sara felt surprised at how easy and fast she navigated the city. It was almost as if, now that she no longer lived there, she was protected.
“I like this,” Eyal said, once they left midtown. Sara saw the brownstones, the little bars, still closed, the small cobble-stoned side streets, which you stumbled upon by chance. Some people lived happy lives in the city, Sara thought. “I think it’s here,” Eyal said, once they reached a reddish, very old brownstone building on a quiet, residential street. She always wondered what it would be like, to see one of these from the inside.
“Are you coming, or what?”
They climbed five flights that seemed to go on forever. When they got to the top, she was out of breath and the door to his friend’s apartment was already open. A dark- haired, tall guy stood by the door and greeted them with a smile. His eyelids were half closed like he had just been sleeping. She thought the only time she had seen hair that dark was the hair of David Broza.
“Hey, how’s it going?” he asked in a mellow voice. “Come on in.”
The apartment had very little furniture, but small details gave it a personal, warm feeling; the Bedouin woven rug in the living room, two green plants propped against the windowsill, a few tin ashtrays scattered about an old coffee table, and some colorful pillows strewn on top of a brown worn out couch. “Nice to meet you,” the guy with the dark hair said. He extended his hand to her. He was taller than Eyal, and his hand felt warm and dry in hers.
“Thanks,” she couldn’t think of anything else to say.
She looked up at Eyal and he winked at her. Her back muscles tightened and her neck stiffened.
“I’m Ori,” the handsome guy said. His eyes were blue, and they sparkled when he smiled.
“Okay, who wants coffee?” Ori walked barefoot towards the kitchen.
“We do,” Eyal answered for both of them. “Man, I’m tired,” he said to no one in particular. He took off his flip flops and dove onto the couch next to her. “Baby,” he said and looked into her eyes. “Don’t worry so much, we’re going to have a good time.”
She wondered if he was ever going to kiss her, and she wondered if it would feel the same as it had felt that night in Masada.
Ori walked in carrying a tray with three small glasses on top of it. The smell of bittersweet, Turkish coffee filled the room. It reminded Sara of starry nights by the Dead Sea, with the warm desert breeze caressing her skin.
“Man, where’s the grass you promised?” Eyal asked. “I’ve been on a plane eleven hours. I could use some.”
Sara picked up her glass and took a small sip. The coffee was sweet and spicy.
Ori got up. He went to the kitchen and came back with a small wooden box. Eyal pulled the shades shut and the room glowed in a red, dark, afternoon light. Then he leaned in and kissed her cheek. He smelled salty and sweaty and she wondered how it had not bothered her before in the airport.
Kneeling next to her, Ori opened the wooden box and took out a small Ziploc bag filled with the green stash. She felt a tickle of excitement in her belly. It had been four years since she had smoked pot. The last time she’d smoked had been with Eyal.
“Do you want to do the honors?” Ori asked and Eyal immediately began rolling a joint. He did all this with extreme concentration and with a serious look on his face.
Eyal lit the joint and took the first puff. Immediately, he started coughing.
“Take it easy, man,” Ori said.
Eyal laughed and passed the joint to Ori. Ori held the joint between his index finger and thumb, and passed it to Sara without dragging on it.
“We met in Masada,” he said. “Last year.”
“Thanks.” She held the lit joint between her thumb and her index finger. The smell of the sweet burning weed filled her nose, and she placed it between her lips. The rolled paper felt smooth there. She took a swift drag, and felt her body immediately relax.
She passed the joint to Ori, and fell back against the soft couch. He took the joint from her and she felt his hand brushing against her own, smooth and warm.
“Damn,” Eyal said, “This is powerful stuff.” The joint was back between his fingers and he took another deep drag.
“Only the best America has to offer.” Ori said with a smile.
“None of that B stuff they have in Israel,” Sara heard herself say, and her body felt light in her skin, and the words floated out of her mouth, on their own.
Everybody burst into laughter.
“Here.” Ori passed her the joint.
“I should really watch it,” Sara said. “I get stoned easily.” Eyal and Ori were laughing again, and she laughed too. She took another drag and held the smoke in her lunges for a moment. Then everything went into slow motion. The room filled with the soft sounds of David Broza, and all of a sudden she was on Masada, with a thousand young Israelis, watching the sunrise, while Broza played his guitar feverishly and yelled, “Good morning Masada!”
“Good morning!” Sara yelled back.
She saw Eyal laughing hysterically, turning into a ball next to her. Ori was still on the floor, close to her, sitting with his legs crossed. His eyes looked like two clear pools.
“Man, she’s stoned,” she heard Eyal’s voice coming from a distance.
“It’s cool,” she heard Ori say.
She wanted to say something, to yell, tell Eyal to shut up, but she couldn’t bring herself to care that much. She was watching the red ball rise over the ancient ruins, and joining the others in the Hebrew song. She felt two strong arms wrapped around her, and when she looked up, she saw Ori’s blue eyes, and his face was very close to hers, so close that she could feel his breath on her cheek.
“I’m getting hungry,” she heard Eyal said.
Why would he be hungry? She wondered. It must have been close to midnight. “I’m going to search for food.” She thought she heard him say.
Suddenly Eyal was standing by the kitchen. How did he get there? How long had he been standing there? How long had she been in this apartment? Sara thought she saw him winking at Ori. After that, she though she saw Ori shaking his head slightly. But she didn’t care. She was in Masada.
Then it was over. She looked around and she was back in the small living room. She didn’t know how long she had been out there, in Israel, at the concert, but it felt like hours. Now, she was sitting on the soft, Bedouin carpet, her legs stretched out and she was leaning against the couch. She looked up and there was Ori, above her, as if guarding her, sitting so close. The music had stopped, and Sara looked around.
“Hey, are you okay?” Ori’s voice caressed her.
“I’m really stoned.” Her head was a balloon, floating, detached, while her body was heavy, sinking into the ground.
“Do you feel sick?”
She shook her head, afraid that if she opened her mouth, she would throw up, right there, on Ori’s lap.
“Come, I’ll take you to the bathroom.” His eyes were clear and focused when he looked at her, and she wondered how he could remain in such control after smoking so much pot.
“No, stay here.” She grasped his hand. “Until it passes.”
She didn’t care where Eyal was, or that he had come to stay with her and she was spending all this time with his friend. All she wanted to do was look into Ori’s eyes.
“Just take a few deep breaths,” Ori said.
She leaned into him, and let her face rest on his chest. His faded cotton T-shirt felt smooth against her cheek. He smelled sweet and clean, like honey and lemon and soap all mixed up. Then the music was there again.
It was David Broza. She heard a base, constant and rhythmic. But maybe it was Ori’s heart instead. Broza’s voice was deep, like a well, sweet and tortured. He sang about a man who writes love-letters to his wife, to bring passion back to their marriage. But he doesn’t tell her they are from him, and the woman thinks she has a lover.
Sara closed her eyes and saw Broza closing his, stroking every string individually, his fingers moving fast, fluttering above them, accentuating every note. She lifted her face, and saw Ori’s eyes, bright and blue and deep like the water in the Red Sea on a hot summer day. He was looking down on her. She felt his breath, warm and moist, against her face. He wants to kiss me, she thought, and her skin tingled.
“Come here.” She suddenly heard Eyal’s voice like an echo from a faraway canyon. She turned around and saw him, sitting right above her on the couch. How long had he been sitting there? “You are one stoned chick.”
“No, I’m not.” Her voice sounded like a raspy whisper.
He brushed her face with his fingers again. This time they felt cold.
“Sara,” Eyal said. “How about you, me and Ori…”
“What? No, man, this is not a good time.” Ori stood up.
“Ah…he’s shy.” Eyal said.
“What?” Sara felt her stomach tighten. “What are you talking about?”
“Ori asked me, before we came, if you would be into a having a threesome.”
Sara felt like she was going to throw up. Something was wrong. Eyal was asking her something. He was gesturing with his hands and he had a weird smile on his face.
“You always said you wanted to try it,” Eyal said.
She felt cold all over. The words Eyal had said floated above his shaggy hair, like words in a comic book. “Threesome,” it said, and “Sex.”
She looked at Ori. He stood with his hands in his pockets studying the colorful Bedouin carpet. She felt a sharp hollow pain at the pit of her stomach.
“Fuck you,” the words came out of her mouth, as she looked at Eyal. Then she started to shake.
“She must have had a bad reaction to the pot.” Ori said.
Sara’s throat felt bone dry. Eyal leaned over her and kissed her, his lips scaly and dry.
Suddenly she felt an urge to throw up. “I need to go to the bathroom,” she said.
Before Eyal could say anything, Ori was on his feet holding onto Sara’s elbow. He walked slowly, guiding her.
“Do you want me to stay with you?” Ori asked as they entered the bathroom. “No.” Her voice sounded cold and stark like the bathroom walls.
“Sara, I’m sorry,” he said. “It was Eyal’s idea, not mine.” His blue eyes now looked watery and bland.
“It doesn’t matter.” She turned around and kneeled before the toilet.
“Go!” she managed to say before a stream of warm and bitter vomit spewed out of her mouth. She heard the door shut and then the room went black.
When she came to herself, Sara was laying next to the toilet bowl. Her cheek was pressed against the cold hard tiles. She opened her eyes and saw the little black grates, under her, like pencil drawn shapes on white paper. She felt tears well up her eyes and run down the corner of her mouth, tasted their saltiness as they mixed with the acrid flavor of vomit.
“Sara.” She heard a sandy voice above her head. It was Eyal. “Come on, I’ll help you.”
He placed his hands under her armpits, and pulled her up like a Raggedy-Anne doll.
She rose to her knees and looked into his face. His eyes were bloodshot and his lips looked blurred. This wasn’t the face of the handsome guy who she had met in Masada four years ago.
“I can do it myself.” She shook his hands away in disgust, as though they were contagious.
She stood up and supported her weight against the cold sink with her hands. Sara saw her own image in the mirror. Her face was flushed and her hair, a deep brown, looked almost red, tousled, giving her a strange wild quality, primal and vital. Her eyes, still glazed from the pot, gave her a fierce look. She turned on the cold water and let it run slowly over her hands, feeling each and every cool molecule. She cupped her hands, filled them with water, and splashed her face. The shock of the water made her see everything clearly, her face, her big brown eyes, the pink T-shirt she was wearing, and her protruding collar bone. She felt more focused and alive than she had felt in a long time.
Sara looked down. Eyal was sitting on the floor, looking up at her like a confused little boy. She noticed how short he really was, how small. She walked towards the door.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going home.”
It surprised her to hear herself so calm and resolved.
“What do you mean going home, what about us?”
“There is no ‘us’,” she said, working her hair with her fingers. “Even when we were together there was never an ‘us’.”
“What about Masada?”
“Well…” Sara said, “We’ll always have Masada.” She smiled to herself and walked out.
He followed her to the living room. Ori was passed out on the couch. From the corner of her eye, she could see his black curls covering his eyelids. He was no David Broza.
“We had plans. I was going to stay with you in Connecticut.”
“Connecticut is not for you,” she said and started looking for her pocket book. “And besides, it’s much easier to find threesomes here.”
She grasped her pocketbook, pushed her shoulders back and looked at Eyal one more time. His shirt was wrinkled and his hair looked tousled and crazy.
“Lehitraot.” She turned to go. Suddenly, she stopped abruptly before the door. She turned around and marched towards the stereo, pressed the eject button and there it was, her new Broza CD, spat from the system as though it too wanted to flee the apartment. She quickly located the maroon and brown colors of the sunrise at Masada, put the CD into it, and closed it with a click. She stuck it in her purse, and walked towards Eyal.
“And I’m taking my Broza with me.”
Sara opened the large brown door, and once outside, she exhaled. She skipped down the five flights of stairs and stepped outside into the warm night air. The moon glistened over midtown Manhattan, giving the tall, metallic buildings a silvery glow.
It isn’t Masada, she thought to herself, but for now, it’ll do. She got in her car, popped in her Broza and turned the volume all the way up.