I remember one Thursday evening a few months after the war. Gordo was on his way back home from the army. Idan and I were both in Klita waiting for Gordo to send us a text telling us when to come pick him up from the Kfar-Saba bus station. We were drinking Goldstars I bought at Itzik’s.
I remember at the cash register – when I bought the beers – Itzik asked me, “Tomer, my brother, are you really eighteen already? Have you enlisted yet?”
I said, “Yes. About a year ago.”
Itzik saw that I was only buying four beers, and nothing else.
He said, “Tomer, my brother, you should buy some Arrak, too. It will grow some hair on your chest. Arrak will make you a real man.”
I said, “Maybe next time, Itzik.”
I paid for the Goldstars and walked to Klita. Idan wasn’t there. I sat down by the short wall that separated Klita from the sidewalk of Ostrovsky Rd. Idan drove into Klita about a minute later. He was driving his mother’s green Malibu. The car looked like a cheap plastic toy. Idan got out of the car and came to sit down. I gave him a beer.
Idan said, “Thank you.”
Idan opened both of our Goldstars with an opener he kept on his keychain.
“Gordo just texted me,” he said. “He’s in Tel Aviv. He said he’ll be in Kfar-Saba in half an hour.”
Idan and I clinked our beers. We drank. I was looking in at the Absorption Center’s small, green garden. I could see it all through the fence that separated the Klita parking lot from the tiny yellow apartments.
“You know Gordo’s getting his release next month?” I asked.
“I wonder how that will work out for him.”
“How what will work out?” Idan asked.
“Gordo, going back to civilian life.”
“He’ll manage,” Idan said. “If I managed, Gordo can also manage.”
We finished out first beer. I took out the other two bottles from the shopping bag.
“A toast,” I said. I raised my beer. “To civilian life.”
Idan raised his beer to mine. “Amen,” he said.
I was still staring at the fenced in trees in front of us. Nothing was happening in the garden of the Absorption Center. There were no girls anywhere.
“Do you really think you managed?” I asked after a while.
“To come back to civilian life.”
“All things considered,” Idan said. “Yes.”
His phone beeped, announcing a new text message. Idan picked up his phone.
He said, “It’s Gordo. He’ll be in Kfar-Saba in five minutes. We should probably go.”
Idan and I got up and walked towards the Malibu.
I said, “You know, this car really does look like a toy.”
Idan handed me his beer. It was half empty. Inside the Malibu, he turned on the ignition and the radio turned on to channel 91.8. Meir Ariel was singing about falling off of trains and not being able to get back on. We drove past Itzik’s. Itzik was standing outside his supermarket helping an old lady put bananas in a bag.
Idan said, “I’m meeting my Communications Officer tonight.”
“The one from Baalbeq?”
“The one who screwed up the Channels?”
“Why are you going to meet her?”
We passed our old high school. It was being painted in faded shades of yellow and red.
“Because she’s hot,” Idan said.
“But she screwed everything up.”
“But she’s hot. And anyway, it wasn’t really her fault.”
Idan turned left on Brenner.
I said, “I thought that bitch just got up and left to make coffee. Right in the middle of her shift. That’s what you told me. You said she just left Yuval there to die.”
“Then what happened?”
“I can’t really explain it.”
On Ahuza Idan turned right.
He said, “I hate driving on Ahuza. Too many traffic lights.”
The Ra’anana—Kfar-Saba intersection came into our view.
I said, “I don’t understand what happened with your officer.”
“Forget it,” Idan said. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“I want to, though. Why are you going to see her?”
“Forget it, Tomer – Fuck! Another red light.”
We were at the intersection. I handed Idan his beer because the light at the intersection always takes the longest to change. We finished our bottles and put them away. The light turned green and Idan gunned it. We drove forward through the intersection to pick up Gordo. I saw the back of the Peugeot way before we hit it. It was silver, a ’98 Coupe. The way I remember it, we had years to get away. We glided and screeched, and I know the music was still on, but there was no sound. It was over in a second, and I distinctly remember thinking, Can I move my legs? Thank God they moved. I shoved the airbag away from me.
I said, “Idan, are you ok?”
“Yes. Are you?”
The radio bars were dancing up and down but I didn’t understand what they were saying. I got out of the car. Idan got out, too.
“Tomer,” he said again. “Are you ok?”
“I’m fine,” I said. “Maybe a little drunk.”
I looked over to the ’98 Peugeot we’d hit. The trunk looked like a slinky. The whole car was bent way out of shape. One by one, girls opened the car doors and walked out. Idan and I ran towards them.
“Are you ok?” Idan asked. “I’m so sorry!”
There were three girls in all. They said they were ok. They walked together over to the side of the road. I looked around again. The front bumper of Idan’s Malibu was in the middle of the intersection.
I said, “Let’s go pick that up.”
There were big pieces of broken glass on the road. There were tiny pieces, too. Idan and I picked the front bumper up and moved it. We lay it down on the side of the road where the three girls were now standing.
One of the girls was crying. Her two friends were rubbing her back.
“Are you sure she’s ok?” Idan asked.
“We’re fine,” said one of the girls.
It was rush hour. Cars were slowing down but no one was stopping. I looked at the Peugeot. It was totaled.
Idan said in my ear, “What a great way to hit on girls.”
“Except we got in an accident with ugly bitches," I said in his.
A metallic gold Audi A8 slowed down to a halt. The passenger-side window rolled down and a man called out, “Is everyone ok here? Is anyone hurt?”
Idan said, “It’s fine, we’re fine.”
The driver yelled, “Did you call a tow truck? You’re blocking all of the traffic.”
“We’re going to do that right now,” Idan yelled.
He and I walked to the Malibu to look for his phone. On the way Idan stopped.
He said, “Tomer, Lie down. Lie down over there in front of the car. It will be like you flew out the window.”
“Why?” I asked. “For what?”
“So no one will get mad that we’re causing all this traffic.”
I said, “You lie down.”
Idan said, “No, no. It has to be you. I’ll act like I’m trying to save you.”
I looked over at the girls. Two of them were now whispering things in the ear of the girl who was crying. I lay down.
I must have looked funny lying in front of the car because Idan laughed.
He said, “You look like you flew out the window!”
It was a long time since I’d heard Idan laugh. It was nice to hear. I shook my body like I was convulsing. Idan laughed again.
I looked over at the girls again. They were still sitting on the railing on the side of the road. But they were looking at us now.
Idan, laughing still, yelled out to them: “So, you girls come here often?”
I laughed uncomfortably. As soon as I did, Idan took off his shirt and wrapped my face in it.
He said, “We can’t let passing cars see you laughing. They’re supposed to think you’re dead!”
I remember, from deep inside that jacket, feeling white from the slowly advancing headlights. And I knew just how slow they were going, too. Every single one of them, I hoped she was inside.
Idan crossed my arms over my stomach, so there would be no question about it.
He said, “I want everyone to know you died here in this accident.”
He said he wanted that made perfectly clear. I didn’t care. I was tired of being Mentally Unstable and I wanted to be my mother’s hero again. All dead people are heroes in Israel. I wanted to be a hero. Maybe then my mother would show me affection.
Idan began yelling at one of the cars.
“Help! Help! Tomer’s dead!”
He was yelling at someone we knew.
“Tomer’s down! Come quick!”
I couldn’t see anything. My eyes were hiding in Idan’s shirt. I prayed it was my mother, I figured being hurt would make her want to care for me again. I stiffened up for real. I tried to make like I was dead. It’s in a mother’s instinct to love her dead child.
“Idan!” I heard Gordo yell. “Is Tomer alive?”
I realized that on the other side of the intersection Gordo must have been coming off the bus.
“I’m going to save him!” Idan yelled. “I won’t let Tomer die!”
I knew she wouldn’t come. I vowed to find some other way. A mother can still love a Mentally Unfit for Service child. Yes, even in Israel.
Idan’s shirt was being pulled off my face. Suddenly I saw Gordo. The way he was looking at me, after those beers Idan and I had, I couldn’t help but laugh. It wasn’t funny. But we all laughed like little boys in a field. Our minds were wandering. They had to be somewhere else just then. Because Gordo was the only one of us still serving, but at that moment it was like we were all back in the war.
Idan said, “Tomer just wanted some sick days!”
Gordo said, “You’re out now Tomer! You’re dead, they’ll discharge you for sure!”
Then Idan got serious again, and wrapped me up in his shirt, slapped my face over and over, and yelled out to cars to please bring us some fucking water. Then he raised the shirt that he himself wrapped around my face, looked me in the eyes and yelled, “Wake up Yuval, wake up – please, wake up!”
(Reprinted with permission from the author)