Real Israelis

A36 semgirl6

Listening to the opening bars, I recognized the softness in the back of my throat as nervousness and tried to remind myself there was nothing to be nervous about. Being wanted means you can stop being insecure, I thought. My cell phone rang.

“I’m in front of the building,” Sami said in Hebrew. “Where should I park the cab?”

“Around the corner there are usually spots.”

“Will you meet me in front of the building in a minute?”

“No problem.”

I left the lights on and the music still playing, taking only my keys and my jacket before closing the door behind me. Downstairs, I undid the latch and stood in front of the light blue waist-high gate, resting against the metal curlicues of decoration, smoothing my skirt against my thighs and concentrating on not being afraid. Sami came around the corner, and I smiled at him. When he was close to me he put one of his hands on my shoulder and leaned in, kissing my cheek. It felt nervous but right, his lips dry on my skin, but his hand warm though the fabric of my shirt.

“Hi, what’s up?”

He grinned. “This is where you live?”

“No, I live where you brought me before. My uncle lives here,” I opened the gate and we walked up the front steps.

“It’s a great building.” His voice was sincere.

“We’re on the third floor,” I said, and then felt his hand on the small of my back as we climbed to the first landing. The music murmured through the door of my uncle’s apartment. It was a loud song, and as I fed the key into the lock, I looked up at Sami’s face and watched him trying to decipher the music, his face serious in concentration, hands no longer touching me.

“Ready?” I said unnecessarily, and pushed the door open. Sami stood still for a moment, his eyes reading the room from right to left with its wooden floors, sleek leather couches, and the long table that stretched toward the stereo. I walked into the front hallway and he followed me, his steps slow.

“Your uncle has a lot of money,” he said as I shrugged off my fleece and hung it over the back of a chair.

I nodded. “He doesn’t have a family, so he keeps all of his money.”

“You’re his family.” We walked into the kitchen, and sat on the counter stools.

“But I’m not dependent on him,” I said. “I have my parents.”

“He doesn’t have to pay anything for his parents?”

“His father is dead, and his mother doesn’t really need anything from him.”

“Wow.” Sami was still looking around, taking everything in, and I felt both guilty and proud. The song that had been playing ended, and then a new song came on. It was ‘Soon.’

“What music is this?”

“It’s a trumpet player named Louis Armstrong and his band.” The brass section blasted a few notes, and Sami and I sat very still.

“A trumpet?” Sami asked.

“It’s an instrument made out of metal…You blow into it and press buttons to make it sound different?” I waited for him to nod his understanding and say the Arabic word, but his eyes were blank.

“What does it look like?”

I stood up and retrieved the album case from the bookshelf. On the cover a grinning Armstrong headed a V of musicians holding their instruments, his trumpet at his side, held loosely in one hand. I handed the case to Sami and pointed at the trumpet.

“That’s a trumpet. What’s the word in Arabic?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I think I’ve seen one before, but we don’t use them in Arabic music.”

I took the case back and laid it on the counter.

“Do you play any instrument?”

“No.” He shook his head. “I don’t really know anything about music.”

“You don’t listen to anything in the taxi?”

“I only listen to our music.”

“You mean in Arabic?” I tried not to let my voice show it, but I was shocked. Our music.

“Yes,” he said, and in the silence that came afterwards I felt the space between us beginning to grow. Then, quickly, he blurted, “But this is nice. What is it called?”

“Jazz. Big band jazz.” I stood up. “Would you like something to drink?”

“Do you have coffee?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, although I had never made coffee at my uncle’s apartment before, and wasn’t sure how to work his coffeemaker. I found the metal container of coffee in the refrigerator. There were a stack of filters next to the sink, and as I guessed a measurement Sami studied the newspaper that was rolled up on the counter in front of him. I heard him remove the rubber band and spread out the top page. Once I had poured some water and pressed the button to start the coffeemaker, I turned around and saw him leaning over the front page, his lips moving as he read the Hebrew slowly. The headline proclaimed the capture of a Hamas organizer in Gaza.

“The coffee will be ready in a minute.”

Sami nodded and continued reading, then stopped at the end of a line and looked up at me.

Continue reading…

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.