A Thing of the Past
Before you start reading this article, let me warn you: you shouldn't. It ends suddenly, and without a point. It's full of pain and frustration. Instead, I suggest you open a good book. A nice Meir Shalev, a thin Vonnegut. This is your chance because here I go.
I got out of isolation and back into the lap of freedom. I've been asked a lot if I've been missing the country, and I find the answer comes out of my mouth without hesitation: I missed the stinking hotness, missed the Israeli directness and even the sight of teens in soldier uniforms walking around everywhere. I missed the Hebrew language and the privilege of telling jokes with puns. Missed Turkish coffee, Middle Eastern hummus and mom's Tunisian cuisine. I even missed the fact that government departments are still working with fax machines.
Before my long absence, I didn't notice these things. Perhaps this is why Israelis tend to complain about the country when they're here but promptly defend its name anywhere else on the globe. It's more than longing; it's belonging, it's coming home after a long journey. Like a hot meal after weeks of canned food, or like sunshine for the first time after a long, grey winter and you can feel its heat on your skin.
It was a pleasure to see the family, who welcomed me with great love. The days I'm spending with them I use for something I should've done years before: getting rid of things.
I've always told myself not to postpone to tomorrow what I'll never do anyway, but it kept bothering me. I should've known that anything that doesn't eat me today probably saves me for tomorrow.
Last July, I wrote a post called Things where I talked about my hoarding. I expected to return vaccinated from my hoarding tendencies, due to the pressure of getting rid of things during my travels. I imagined sitting in my cabin, throwing things unceremoniously out the window, making room for new things with new memories and smells and sensations, because I had grown up and learned to let go. I noted that "My irrational sentimentality is nothing more than a portal to the past. The past is a world people forget so quickly, and I cling to it because it's my story." And then I wished "Let it be that when I return to my cabin in Israel one day, I'll be able to find the strength to get rid of all the storytelling-junk, and make room for new stories."
And here I am, and at this exciting moment, sorry to admit I failed. In reality, I walked into the neglected room and could feel the excitement of seeing the hundreds of books I had accumulated over the years. In the bed crate, on the table and dresser and in the drawers, scattered everywhere like rugs in a Persian house. I also took another look at my bookshelves, which are about to collapse at any moment.
I discovered, surprise surprise, that getting rid of things is still challenging for me. I take hold of the stories behind them and can't let go. Look for an excuse for why I should keep the damn things, why they'll be useful one day, and then initiate a conversation with myself:
"Gorgeous," I say.
"You don't need this cup. It's cracked, and you already have a lot of cups."
"I know, but it's sentimental." I say, "I received it as a gift, and it reminds me of my deficit era of 2013 in Jerusalem."
"If you accumulate all your sentiments, you won't have enough room for ourselves." I try to convince myself.
"Still, I enjoy seeing it in the cupboard, and use it from time to time."
"Because it's there. If it weren't in your cupboard, you wouldn't miss it. Throw away the damn cup." I lose patience with myself.
"All right, all right," I surrender, but not really, "I'll do it later." and put the cup back in the cupboard.
You'd think that as a writer, I have enough memories on paper and wouldn't need things. I felt so too until I realized that most of my stuff are stories themselves. Whether it's books, notebooks full of scribbles and fairy tales or items that tell a personal history. If stories were made of marzipan and whipped cream, I'd be dead from diabetes before I'd learn to walk.
I guess being addicted to stories takes its toll. But despite all these terrible side effects, I still highly recommend you abandon this pointless article and open a good book.