Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Better now

Well.... a mood swing for a change. I'm just too lazy to sit and write a journal and I always feel more comfortable with typing, after all it's easier to remember those thoughts I've been thinking even in those days when I'm not thinking any thoughts. Last evening and this morning I awoke to those horrible pangs of pain, of deep emotional pain, irrational and irreversible. Those feelings that make you regret being alive at all, being yourself at all.

Things turn out exactly the way you didn't expect, and that's one of the greatest highlights of human lives, you can't plan anything in advance, you can't promise a good deal of things and whenever you've got the chance to make an "educated" decision on whether to go on this trip or to buy that present for such-and-such there's no way to establish comparisons, because you live only one life, and as such there's no way how you can know whether such is right or wrong. Yesterday it all seemed like a beautiful day, didn't write any letters and didn't hold any thoughts in my mind, basically concerned about nothing.

I heard the following story from my adoptive grandmother, Chaya Liberman. Her father was born in a shteytl in Russia, I can't remember exactly where, but it was some god forsaken place that started with an "O". Her mother was born in Russia too and thanks to her provincial life she didn't speak a word of Russian, but rather a broken Slavic Yiddisch and then a broken Yiddisch German. They were raised up in a generation about a hundred years ago and because they were poorer than a rat, their only motivation in life was their ideologies, Zionism and Bundism after all. Mr.Such-and-Such was a Jewish atheist communist. With the turmoils of early 20th century Russia he and his wife immigrated to the Argentine where they settled in a small village even smaller and more pathetic than their shteytl in Russia. My grandmother grew up there, in the Argentinean countryside, she attended catholic schools like most of her fellow correligionaries and although there was not any attempt to teach them about the Jewish religion she knew from the earliest childhood that she was a Jew, that it was a bad thing and that her father hated contemptuously the religiously-observant Jew who lived next door. The story is beyond all mermerizing fascination but I'm unable to make of it a literary piece at this very moment.

Then we had a conversation about how people lived and loved before the IT era, before television and the internet. For a state-of-the-art sucker like me it is impossible to think about a world without television, airplanes and internet. Then she told me a beautiful story, that reminds me of all those small and meaningless deeds that bring people together in this world, you can call it god (and if so he's a real fuck up) or coincidences, or faith or anything you want. When she was a little girl in that god-forsaken village there was nothing to do, basically other than working in the fields in order to send their children to the "big city" to become doctors and lawyers, from what she tells all the doctors and lawyers in the village were Jewish. But she was a woman, her duties were to graduate from school (whenever they had the means to pay for it) and then later on find a "fine" husband (preferably one who owns a store, for doctors and lawyers were out of the questions, they were to marry off women from the aristocracy, not miserable girls from villages that couldn't afford long stockings in the winter) and bring offspring, someone's got to get the work done.

It took my grandmother at least forty years to realize what she wanted to do in her life, and me her adoptive grandson here in the Land of Israel feel as someone entitled the honor to continue her pursuances. She became a poet, although she wrote only in Spanish as she never really learnt any other language, and spite of more than half a century in the land of Israel her Hebrew can hardly compete with mine, and same goes for her yiddisch. Well, that's another story. She published a few books of poetry with her own money, books that I've been translating into English and Hebrew over the last twelve months, together we founded a literary group based in Tel Aviv whose members were never more than a bunch of frustrated intellectuals and dilettantes, but it's still running. It's been two years. I'm leaving them in two months, she's decided to finish with it for good. It's my fault, I'm the one to blame. I don't care. My grandmother is a poet, and me? I'm just a shadow of one of the greatest women that saw and lived the birth of the State of Israel.

When she was a teenager the Jewish community in the country had a pen-pal club founded by the Youth League of the Zionist Movement in Buenos Aires. There boys and girls from all over the country exchanged letters and built friendships, it was a different world. No one had any money, no one had any education, any aspiration. But nevertheless they all yearned for that "higher something" that couldn't be found anywhere, life was just too real and cold as to be taken as it was. The only thing they had were ideologies, dreams and more dreams. My grandma joined this club and for a couple of years she exchanged letters with a boy from Buenos Aires, the big city, almost twelve hours ride from her village in the valleys. Years went by until she was able to travel to Buenos Aires with her father and there finally she met this boy in a meeting of the Zionist Youth League. They had a community in which they trained (mostly ideologically) a large group of boys and girls that were to be sent to Eretz Yisrael to settle down in the land and join the recently formed (and even not as yet formed) kibbutzim. Chaya at the time was too young to be accepted in the group and she had to return to her village and at age sixteen left her parents (and knowing the conditions of the time it was very unlikely they would see each other ever again) to join the Zionist League. Back then there were two big Zionist movements, Shomer HaTzair and Dror. In other fronts in Europe the Revisionism of Jabotinsky and the movement Chivat Tzion were growing stronger and stronger. Chaya was a member of Dror (the movement disappeared many many years ago and the only remnant of those glorious days are a few settlements of the Shomer HaTzair movement). And because of this boy and those letters anxiously sent and received over the years she became a Zionist herself and during this time she met Shimon, her husband for more than five decades.

They embarked to Eretz Yisrael shortly after the establishment of the State, boarding a ship filled with poor Italian immigrants and a bunch of Jewish youngsters whose only desire was to return to that Land of the Ancestors. She came to Israel and witnessed the growth of the state as a founding member of a kibbutz located in the Negev. Years later she returned to the Argentine, resided in Buenos Aires and her children were born and raised up between Israel and Argentine. Today she's a mother of five children, grandmother of some fourteen children, greatgrandmother of one and adoptive grandmother of a gay kid. Me. One day I need to write this story down, to remember who we are, not to forget ever, all those chapters of history that have been deleted by the internet, by casual sex, by infatuations and mobile phones. Of those days that will never be again. Of those days that no one remembers.

All that made me think of how Vitaly and me met, and how we forget each about, how we forgive each other. Life is made up by an endless number of meaningless events that determine the course of our lives and there's not much freedom of choice. Not even in the United States of America, and certainly not in the Middle East. It seems we're condemned to live our lives, and there's nothing you can do other than gathering little details just in the case that we may be right one day, perhaps after we will day. Yesterday I wrote a poem with the title Vitaly, ironically the poem is in Hebrew, I thought about publishing it here but I don't know if it makes sense at all because maybe sometimes he might be popping up here reading my stuff, seeing my naked. Perhaps it's just my ego that makes me think that he thinks about me sometimes and this interests him at all, but it's always healthy to keep some hope. Hope is the only thing that separated the skeptical and the disbeliever from death. It was a while since I last managed to write anything in Hebrew at all, although I must confessed my poem wasn't influenced only by that dreadful memory of him and those pangs of emptiness that stem from sleeping alone without his snoring and his arms around my delicate body as if it were a protective endeavour. It was also influenced by Chaya's story and by a poem of Rachel. I feel a bit unworthy today, but it all will pass as that will pass.

I will take my unhappiness and my sadness anywhere I go, but so do the rest of the humans. I've got nothing to worry about. I've got other worries in anycase, my health deteriorating over time and my willingness to feed myself, questioning by the police because of old and forgotten debts, relatives dying, a frustrated father, a contemptuousness for my very own god and a desperate hate for my very own country, for my hometown. A thousand regrets and those faces I wish I never had to see again. But his memory lingers... and doesn't seem to fade, makes me feel somebody else, somebody special, important. Just like I felt as Chaya made of me a continuation of her 100-years-long story, of her poetry, of her dying Zionism, of her liberalism almost edging on hedonism. I state at his picture sometimes, out of stupidness and it makes me feel loving and loved. It really makes me feel something else beyond the cold minded intellectual, the cruel and cynical survivors that lives within me, makes me feel human and innocent and that feeling is priceless. I have my regrets and my dreams also in regard to him, I'm not a pessimist and maybe I'm more romantic and dreaming than most people, in my very own way. I yearn for his smile, yet I'm feeling just fine. Musical almost.

The day before yesterday I found myself back home, in good old Tel Aviv. I despised it. I found myself being "that" I can no longer be, "that" for whom death is a secure road, wasted way behind his time. But I learnt a lesson from Eyal, my journalist friend who desperately wanted me sexually for such a long time. He told me, "You're too precious to waste yourself with a guy like me, you need someone that will love you like children do, someone who cries, who walks off in the middle of the night and who knows how to say I'm sorry". I don't think I'm "that" worthy and life has proven it so, but worthier now more than ever. I love Chaya, that woman I'll never forget, that woman who taught me the value of ideologies, of beliefs, of creating an image of yourself as chief ruler of your own world, who taught me the meaning of art. I doubt whether she'll live much longer after I'll leave and I wonder if I'll ever remember it as my unhappiness and my sadness will be walking with me past my shadow in the streets of New York.

I'm wondering.... "someone who will make me feel as if I'm living an extraordinary life". Oh hell, my life is just too extraordinary at times. They say alcohol is just like life, it must be drunk in small sips. But I'm stubborn. Life and alcohol altogether I drink in long and deep sips, and my drunkenness never leaves me, fortunately. This autumn will come, next will too. Life's gotta be extraordinary after all. Don't you think? (That's not something I'm asking myself, rather....). I've got to finish a book today, find some park (got enough cigarettes) and a bottle of cola maybe. Then I gotta mail the book to America tomorrow. Maybe it'll get estranged on the way, someone will steal it, he'll never read it, maybe the neighbor will or the garbage man. It's interesting to think about it without being able to answer at all. I wish you would realize how extraordinary it is.


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