Ev’ry Time We Say
Goodbye I Die a Little
From a novel by Yossi Waxman
Translated by Baruch Gefen
Paintings by Yossi Waxman
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I was young, I believed there is life, real life, with awareness and understanding and love, and even hatred… I believed there is life in rocks and trees and flowers and other objects. I used to imagine those objects and to create entire reincarnation cycles, against their will. Ever since I can remember myself, I had scary secret abilities to notice the souls of things. In those days, I dismissed them all as mad ideas, as childish flashes that will surely fade with time. They never did.
I’ve learned to accept the world as it is, to make peace with it and not see the fears and hates that were not really in it, but were reflections of the twisted mirror of my soul. It was a single-dimensional and evil looking-glass that I’d pleasurably smashed into thousands of sparkling pieces that blinded me, but also illuminated things the way they were, without the covers that we hold on to because they protect us. I learned how to enter people’s thoughts and delved into their petty and funny desires. I learned to walk through walls.
My youngest son Tom no longer listens to me. I am transparent to him, nonexistent. He is old enough to make fateful decisions (says he) because he is twenty-two. Tom is so pretty when he brushes his hair in the morning, looking at the mirror. He is a real man. I want to hug him really hard and scream how much I love him into his delicate ears. But he is thickheaded, X-headed. Sometimes I can see my own milk crusted on his fleshy lips. I walk around his rented room and he cannot see me. I will wait until he does. I will not yield. I know that he will wake up one day, my sweet X, walk up to me and say: “Hi Ma. I’ve missed you.” Until then, I will keep coming and going through walls. After all, I am really good at this. A real champ.
Sometimes, when I happen to visit Ahuva or Shifra, I miss the old days. Yes, I have forsaken those clothes and covers and emotions that became my prison, but even today, whenever I come across a well-tailored cotton dress or carefully designed hat, a gentle memory of a missed opportunity once again rises from the dark depth I’d been freed from.
How is it that the curse of time still stalks me? Perhaps this is why I am here, against my will, looking for love, contact, a soft touch only to regain something of my lost youth? Looking at the world in simple black and white was easy: Ahuva has malicious thoughts while Shifra’s thoughts are full of grace. Ahuva took my Moshe away, while Shifra restored my faith. But the world is full of people, and they cannot be divided into good people and evil people. The world itself is neither good nor bad, and it sometimes happen that good things are bad, and the other way around.
On the first days, I was tempted to poke Ahuva’s heart. I used to knock on her satisfied thoughts and upset the rosy dreams she relished in her sleep. I used to walk around their new bedroom and terrorize them. I’d wait all day for night to come when I would visit and rattle the seemingly delicate balance of their existence. My desire for small pleasures made me do those things, following material jealousies that lingered on before I cleansed myself. I was drugged by and addicted to evil despite myself.
Longing was hard. Yearning blinded me. I longed for the weight of the body, the dwindling flesh, my cellulites, the rattling bracelets on my wrists, the pinch of earrings on my earlobes, the artificial taste of lipstick. The longing killed me over and over again. So where do I start? Perhaps in the old days, when the British ruled Jerusalem, or when Moshe and I first met, or when our children were born, or when the heat waves started, or maybe in the days of cancer?
Everything is whirling in my head, pressuring me, closing in on me, stabbing what can no longer be stabbed, choking the little that can still be choked. Perhaps I shall reincarnate as a rock, a tree, a flower, as Shlomi and Dani’s little statue of the Burmese Buddha, or as a stray cat – just to get some attention, a pat on the cheek, some fondness.
I watch it all from the outside and cannot believe my eyes. My rings were removed from my fingers and deceitfully placed on the hands of the other woman. The house is crumbling. The family furniture that I worked so hard to polish now migrate to other people’s homes. I am present and absent. I scream but am not heard. I settle scores, but am ignored. My old body is left forgotten like a worn out winter coat, bloated with liquids that were not drained out in the cold hospital morgue, spent, crumbling, vanishing. Heat waves were replaced with cold flashes. For the first time, I could see my inner organs: my liver, pancreas, lungs, metastases. My beautiful and often admired teeth still shine in the brown mountain soil. The nipples vanished in the early days. My vagina and rectum quickly melted away. I wish I could comfort my loved ones, my children, and my siblings, and tell them I was right here, next to them, with them.
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