Projections

Good morning, sweetheart. Hope you slept soundly.

 

This morning, there was a congealed whiteness at the corner of your mouth, spread across your cheek like lace. I opened your right eye, and as I let go, it closed like a bud hiding its sepals of life. The bed was warm, and you - cold. A car's horn reached up from Menachem Street, a crow squawked among the trees. However, inside of me, the sounds echoed and hit the sides of my skull with emptiness.

I sat astride your body, my hands on your heart. I pressed in and out, trying to wake the sleeping heart. You did not respond, and I repeated the motion - press, release, press, release. The sun beamed, penetrating through the sealed shutters. Just a few hours ago, you smiled at me, planning our life. This time, as we promised, is the last time. We'll return clean, as if reborn. I'll have a small car repair shop in the yard - so you promised - and you'll have a darkroom. You'll be as happy as you've been, I bet, all your life.

I thought you would wake up yawning. Ask, "What are you doing? Let me sleep", and turn to the side. Maybe roll your eyes and say you don't have the energy for drama, like you did the day we met.

You think I forgot, but I even remember what bench you sat on at Solel Boneh station and how the fluorescent lights were reflected like tiaras in your pupils. You offered me a lamington or something pink; I guess you'll be sure to correct me. You led me to tell you things I never told anyone and gave me advice that changed everything, but the words spewed out of your mouth as if they weren't important. You said, "Find something for which you will not want to leave." and out of nowhere, the decision to stay was explicit. Following you, I moved to Hadar HaCarmel and rented this apartment in the most dilapidated building in the street.

I love that you never wear a bra, that you always want to spend time at Garden-Cafe, and that despite the effort to look serious, your smile creeps into your lips like a pure gold solvent. I love how you prepare a lavish meal every Friday night, even when it's only the two of us. How you read the cereal box ingredients while you eat and the air purifier's instructions while on the toilet. You're the something for which I stayed.

My hands worked as if running downhill and unable to stop. The more I compressed, the looser your lips seemed. My hands paused but remained on your inanimated chest when I heard knocks on the door.

I got up and saw Jonathan's arched face through the peephole; his eye-bags carried a lost gaze.

"Be quiet," I said as he entered, "Ira is sleeping."

I don't need to tell you how Jonathan's failures are necessary stepping-stones for visiting; every drop-in is an announcement in itself of a declined manuscript. But he still sighed, sat down at the table and said, "I got another rejection."

I faced the window and opened the shutters. I must admit, my dear, only then did I realise that you were right when you refused to move to a nicer building on the opposite street. Otherwise, our view would have been this building. But I still insist it's a gloomy neighbourhood. Hostels, shabby apartments, sad falafel stalls, bats and forgotten parks, most of them abandoned in the early morning, except for drunk Ruben, who finds shelter under our window most nights.

I asked Jonathan if he fancied a coffee, but he just stared at yesterday's newspaper lying on the table. Let me also take this letter as an opportunity to admit that since you moved in, beer cans and coffee cups are no longer scattered around, and the newspaper finds its way to the corner of the table every morning.

"There will be more opportunities." I said, "Keep writing."

As always, Jonathan said he needed a place for the night, and I replied that we don't have any room. I made two cups of coffee, put his on the table, and took mine with me to the window. He managed to wipe his forehead in a desperate motion just before I turned to the window. Through it, there was nothing that required a second look, but Jonathan's face depressed me. I looked at the bats spiralling tree-to-tree with their trembling wings, struggling not to dive into the asphalt before clinging to a branch.

"Well, we'll be away for a while. Maybe you can stay here till we get back." I submitted.

That's the big news I'm writing to tell you, sweetheart. Since last night, I wanted to let you know: After you fell asleep, I called the number you circled in the newspaper. Yes, I saw it and dared for the both of us. They asked us both to come in today. Is it not wonderful? I want to give you a good life, my Ira. Since we've met, I've changed. You lifted curtains to plays I never watched before. I want to take your hand and walk downstairs, aisle after aisle, towards the stage until our noses are almost pressed into the actors' feet. Little by little, their familiar faces will start to show the wrinkles of years, creases on the sides of the eyes, a slight tremor of hand or a minor stumble on a rug - and the illusion dissolves. I want to sober up, live and die with you.

Jonathan shakingly lifted his coffee cup, and it slipped from his hands and shattered.

The mornings discharged intense noise from down the street. Fizzy sounds of bus doors opening, garbage containers being dragged on the sidewalk by tired city workers, the screeching of bats and the sound of their flapping wings. But of all of them, this sound was most loud and distressing. My chain of thoughts torn; every link I have thoroughly threaded.

"Sorry..." he murmured, "I'm so screwed up, I'm sorry."

"It's okay."

He probed me, "What happened?"

I looked up and got caught in the gazing web he weaved every time he finished talking about himself and moved on to me.

"You look bad."

I turned back to the window. Upon the backdrop of bulldozers standing frozen in Binyamin garden as if abandoned, my reflection stared back at me. Oily black hair hovered over my head like lilyturf, my eyes swollen, and my lips were dry.

"You're the one to speak," I said, "clean it up."

He got up to clean the pieces of glass bathing between the lumps of mud. While wiping the floor with a cloth, he looked up at the bed.

"She sleeps deeply," he said, "I think..." he got up and walked over to you.

"She's okay." I was quick to say, "she always does."

"No, I think that - " he raised two fingers and pinned them to your neck, "she choked."

"Leave her alone," I said; if you knew he was touching you, you'd slap his hand, "We had a hard night."

He was silent. I asked if he wanted another coffee, but he did not answer, only said that he should go. He put a hand on my shoulder for a moment and then left, leaving a strong aroma of black coffee behind that rose and filled the room.

 

From the window came the whining sound of a siren. Along the dismal street with its many heads and pistons, a police car made its way slowly, and the first rising rays of the sun turned the blue of its occupants' uniforms green and made them look like soldiers. They come to collect drunk Ruben.

I sat at the wobbly table, playing with some leftover tobacco. The cup of coffee in my hand cooled down without my lips leaving any mark on its side. On my wrist, from the corner of my eye, I saw a fly land for a few minutes and rest, rubbing its forelegs in anticipation.

I picked up the paper and read yesterday's headlines. It seems that the new theatre will open soon near the garden. Shame we won't be here to enjoy it.

 

See you later, sweetheart. Going to get us breakfast.