May 16th 2012
A Storm is on the Horizon…
Ben Gurion Airport: the passenger lounge, half an hour before boarding. I could try and explain how desperately I want to leave this place but I doubt my words, as precise as they may be, could actually convey the choking feeling I have. A feeling of complete and utter suffocation. Not the kind where you try to hold back tears, but the kind where you can’t breathe, as though you’re drowning.
I put in earphones and attempt to block out the irritating clamor of the other passengers who are busy exchanging words of where they’re going and what they’ll do when they get there.
I’m running. Fleeing for my life, trying to save the little bit of sanity I have left. London is waiting for me, loving and anonymous, the perfect place to hide from the world.
And Danny is waiting for me, my older, protective brother, whom I’ve missed terribly. All I’m taking with me are my words. This blog is my escape from the day-to-day routine, a safe haven for me to share everything that is yet to come, all the shit, and all the happiness.
I spent my last night in Israel alone. I saw no point in spending it with some meaningless guy. No point in wasting my time. I know exactly what the intentions of those guys are; I’ve been down that road.
I don’t need them. Not on me, nor inside me, with their needs and desires, and their idle chatter, which they assume is what I want. Instead, I preferred cuddling up alone in my small bed, without strange hands smothering me, caressing every inch of my body, making me nauseous.
They’re all the same, trying to paralyze me, control me. Take your pills, go to sleep early, you’re so thin…
I imagine my new life in London, without a responsible adult looking over me, thinking that even at the old age of twenty-six I still need parental guidance. I’ll make do with divine guidance. Not that I think I have any; I don’t believe anyone is looking out for me. It’s all a matter of karma. We live with what we create. So it’s time to start creating a bit of noise, a bit of a mess, within the boring order that is my life. I’m not stopping at any red lights. I’m going to ignore the warning signs. I’m on the highway to chaos, and that’s exactly the way I like it.
Stay on top of things. It’s going to get wild!
Have to finish up, it’s boarding time.
Live life to the extreme, don’t give in to fear and to what everyone tells you is allowed or forbidden. Live on the edge. It’s worth your while and the view is amazing…
Have a pleasant flight.
* * *
I proofread my blog for the last time. Writing it in English was a spontaneous decision I made years ago. Maybe it was another attempt to try and maintain my anonymity. I click ‘post.’ Just me and about two hundred bored followers who read my blog, flying to London…
At least I’ve got a window seat. I glance out the window at the busy workers running around on the tarmac and shuffle through a few songs on my phone. As I raise the volume, all the noise in the plane is consumed by Adele’s voice, burning my ears and scorching my heart. My stomach is turning upside down, doing crazy somersaults and a million different thoughts fill my head. I fasten my seatbelt and wait to feel the engines burning underneath.
Let’s go already. I’m dying to get away from here.
Eventually, I manage to close my eyes…
* * *
A gentle hand nudges my shoulder softly.
“Excuse me, Miss,” I hear a voice and remove the earphones. A charming flight attendant is smiling at me. I glance around; the plane is empty and I’m the last one remaining. “It’s time to disembark, unless you’re coming back with us.”
I pull my bag out from under the seat in front of me and get up.
“Sorry, I must have fallen asleep,” I apologize, blushing from embarrassment, and exit quickly. I take out my British passport, thanking my good luck that I don’t have to stand in the long line under the sign ‘Other Passports’. My dad was British so I can hide out in London as long as I want without worrying about visas or work permits. An elderly man with a stern face sitting behind the glass window glances quickly at my passport, no questions asked.
As I pick up my heavy suitcase several minutes later, I remember all of the times I’ve flown to London in the past with an empty one, waiting to fill it with shopping.
But not this time. This time the zipper of my suitcase strains to contain all I have, my whole life packed inside. At the entrance to the arrivals hall, my eyes start to wander. There are so many people it’s hard to focus.
Where are you, Danny? Maybe he’s late? No, he’s never late. But how am I supposed to find him in all this chaos?
Danny is everything I could ever wish for in a big brother. He’s four years older and has always been there for me. Every time I ran into trouble in school, or whenever my demons decided to pop their heads up in celebration. Three years ago, he met John, packed up his life, and left for London, leaving me behind.
I see two almond-shaped eyes, identical to mine, grinning at me warmly. My feet rush to him and he hugs me, and envelopes me, in that sense of security I crave. I collapse into him, my arms hug him with such relief that, for the first time in weeks, the defenses I’ve crafted for myself crack and the tears burst free as they stream down my face uncontrollably.
“Hey.” He hugs me even closer, surprised by the tears overwhelming me as I sob into his jacket.
His voice is confused, “What’s going on?”
Nothing’s going on. This is how I am. I shove my hand into my bag, pull out a tissue, and wipe my nose while I attempt to calm down.
“Shalom,” I mumble in Hebrew, knowing that soon my native language will disappear from my life completely. Danny and I make an effort to speak only English whenever we’re around any English speakers. It’s only when the two of us are alone that we allow ourselves to fall back into our old habits and return to our safe haven, speaking the language we grew up with.
“I’ve ruined your suit.” I wipe my cheeks with my hands.
“It’s nothing, don’t worry,” he says with concern. This isn’t how he expected to find me, not in this state.
“Have you been waiting long for me?”
“No, I’ve just arrived,” he says, trying to smile, but his eyes betray his worry. “How was the flight?”
“Fine, I slept the whole way.”
“Come on, I’m parked right outside.”
Gradually, I manage to stop crying. Danny leads us out to the big parking lot, pulling along my suitcase, and we leave the terminal. The cold Wednesday morning wind gives me goose bumps and ruffles my mane of curls, which I swiftly tie up with a hair band. Typical mid-May weather in London.
As the car accelerates toward the city, I stare out the window at the familiar view of bustling London. We pass my favorite buildings and streets. It’s cold and grey at eleven a.m. and it seems as if everyone is rushing off to some place. Everyone but me.
“Talia…” Danny sighs, his voice still shaky, though he doesn’t take his eyes off the road. “What’s going on?”
“I’m sorry about the welcome,” I reply quietly.
“You didn’t answer me.”
“It’s just the excitement.” I’m trying to avoid answering him, although I know it won’t work with Danny. He’s my brother, it’s his instinct to realize something is up.
“Who are you trying to kid, me or yourself?” He isn’t pleased. He wants answers, and I know he won’t give up until he gets some.
“The past two months have been…” I choose my words with care, “… have been rough.”
“Don’t play word games with me. What does rough mean?” He steals an angry glance my way.
“They were shitty, okay?”
“You’re so thin…” he continues, his tone unforgiving, his eyes still on the road.
I know that’s true, and I knew he would notice.
“A little…” I answer.
“Things haven’t been so great. You know how it affects me.”
My struggle to stay thin at all costs is extremely familiar to him.
“With Mom?” Even though he’s witnessed enough fights between us, he still asks.
“She drives me nuts. At least now I know where I get it from.”
The past few months have been a nightmare. We couldn’t be in the same room without getting on each other’s nerves. My mother can be exhausting. Her constant interfering with other people’s lives, especially my own, drives me insane. My attempts to stay in my room or avoid her at all costs were to no avail. ‘Meaningless’ is what she calls my life.
“What did she want?” Danny won’t leave the subject alone.
“Same thing as always.”
“For you to take your pills.” He doesn’t ask; he already knows.
He stops the car at a red light and turns to me with a serious look.
“Haven’t you been taking them?” He’s not pleased, and I can understand why. He’s seen me at my worst, completely unbalanced, and it’s not a pretty sight. But I’m totally against taking my pills, which causes non-stop quarrels with my mom.
“I’m not taking them,” I confess.
“For God’s sake, Talia!” He sighs and pushes against the steering wheel, showing his frustration.
“They kill me. I can’t think, I can’t write, I can’t draw. I can’t feel anything.” I utterly despise those damn pills. They paralyze me; make me numb like a puppet on a string. “If you want to turn the car around and take me back to Heathrow to put me on the first plane home, now would be a good time.”
The light changes to green and Danny accelerates, the car racing down the busy streets.
“I don’t want to put you on a plane. I want you to be alright.” He sounds upset. Danny has always felt responsible for me, and my being here with him now only enhances this feeling.
“I’m fine,” I lie to him. I’m far from fine.
“Talia, you suffer from bipolar. You’re not taking your meds and you look like you haven’t eaten in months. Who the hell are you kidding?”
He has no idea about the state I’m in.
“Can we delay all the reprimanding until we get home?” I implore. “I’ve just landed.”
“This conversation isn’t over.”
We continue driving in complete silence, not saying a word to each other. We cross over Hyde Park toward Kensington. I know the way; we’re not far. Danny parks the car in the street and unfastens his seatbelt.
“We’re here.” He smiles in concern, and I’m not sure who he’s more concerned for: me, because of the shitty situation I’m in, or him, for inviting me here.
“Come on, your room is ready.”
Danny’s house is the brightest house in London. Since he moved here, I have often exploited his open invitation and come over for weekends filled with shopping and good times. I love his house—the spacious living room, the inviting kitchen where one can indulge oneself and, my favorite, the patio with its sofas, which I love sinking into while drinking my coffee and smoking my cigarette. You can count on Danny that his house will be styled to perfection. He works as an architect in a construction company, where John also works as an attorney. Together they bought this place and renovated it. Now it’s my getaway from the world.
“You know where your room is.”
I go down the wide hall to the guest room, enter the first door on the right, opposite the bathroom, and throw my suitcase on the floor. My room. It has a luxurious queen-size bed, two white chests of drawers, an armoire, and a big window that looks out onto a quiet alley. Perfect. This is all I need.
There’s a clatter of a utensil from the kitchen and I guess Danny is preparing some coffee for us. I know the conversation we began in the car is far from over. I take a deep breath, mustering my strength, and go into the kitchen. He places a big cup of coffee on the black kitchen island in front of me.
I’m addicted to coffee. I can live on coffee, Diet Coke, and cigarettes. I get up onto the high bar stool, close to the island.
“Is John home?” I run my hand over the cold marble. It’s probably the only black item in the house. The walls are painted in bright colors, and the inviting sofas in the large living room are a matching grey. The kitchen is big and accessorized, and I love cooking and baking in it. Near the island are a big, white, wooden dining table and six light-blue upholstered chairs.
“John’s at work. He’ll be back in the evening.”
I’m dying to see John. The fact Danny has a boyfriend never came as a surprise to anyone. Somehow, we always knew, and John is his perfect match. They seem so content together.
“Did you manage to rent out your apartment?” Danny sits on the chair opposite and sips his coffee.
“Yes,” I rush to answer, hoping I might gain some points with him. “You can’t imagine how high rent has become in Tel Aviv.”
After our dad passed away four years ago, I moved into the apartment, which he had left to Danny and me. Danny insisted he had enough money and it became my responsibility, at least until we decided what to do with it. Now it’s rented out and brings in a nice sum of money every month for me, so at least I have one less thing to worry about. I have a little bit of money put aside to keep me going until I decide what I’m going to do with myself.
“So…” he takes a deep breath and I know the inquisition has begun.
“What happened? How did you get yourself into this terrible mess?”
He’s being direct, no playing games. The thing is I can’t pinpoint anything specific that caused me to be in this situation. I have a collection of things which I’ve dragged behind me for too many years, like pearls of pain threaded on a long chain.
“What happened with what’s-his-name?” Danny makes no effort to try and remember the name of my last boyfriend.
“It ended badly, as always.” I sigh. It wasn’t a complete surprise. I was naïve again, hoping for true love, but all I did was a ton of compromising for a mediocre guy who treated me like shit. I’m really good at that. The more screwed-up they are, the more attracted I am, and the more I allow them to treat me with disrespect, so long as they don’t leave. But in the end, they always leave—once they understand.
“Why did he leave?” Danny doesn’t let it go.
“Why do they all leave? He was just like the rest. He didn’t really want me and I’m not going to waste my energy thinking about every guy who was around for a couple of months and then ran off.” I stare at the hot drink, the steam rising out of my cup. I can’t even say how much of it was actually his fault. If anything, I think it was mine.
“Talia, you can’t fall apart every time something goes wrong. You can’t let things affect you this way.”
He’s seen it happen so many times before.
“It’s not like I choose this.”
I look up from my steaming cup. His eyes are staring at me and he doesn’t like what he sees.
“I want you to eat and sleep properly. You know you can stay with us as long as you like.” He doesn’t tear his eyes away from me. “But I can’t worry about you all the time. I need to know you plan to take care of yourself.”
I know all about Danny’s attempts to fix the situation. To fix me.
“I’ll try,” I reply softly.
“Elusive as always. What’s wrong with you?”
“I said I’d try!” My anger grows. “What do you want, promises I’m not sure I’ll keep? Do you want me to lie to you?”
“I want you to be okay.” I can hear the frustration in his voice. He hasn’t seen me like this in a long time.
“Have you thought about what you’re going to do while you’re here?” He takes another sip of his coffee and looks up from his cup.
“Don’t know, maybe find a job.”
“What kind of a job?”
“I’ll go waitress in some restaurant, what else can I do? It’s not like I have four degrees and am on my way to my PhD,” I answer sarcastically.
“Are you still writing your blog?” His familiar smile, which I love so much, returns. I breathe a sigh of relief. I think the difficult part is behind us.
“Yes.” I give a timid smile.
My blog, Lust on the Internet, has a knack for details. Sometimes I can be really crude. My smile widens of its own accord as I remember the juicier descriptions I’ve written there.
“When can I read it?” Danny interrupts my naughty thoughts as he tries to pry information out of me.
Oh, it doesn’t work like that. My blog is anonymous; no one knows it’s me.
“Never!” I give a little laugh.
“Come on, don’t be like that!”
“It’s not going to happen and believe me, if you read it, you’d regret it.”
“What does that mean?”
“Let’s just say, it’s intimate, and I’m your sister, and we’ll leave it at that.”
I give him an impish look so he gets the hint.
“Okay, too much information!” He raises his hands in submission and rises abruptly from his chair, his eyes shining brightly.
“We have a surprise for you. Come.” He motions me to follow and opens the white door in the kitchen. It leads to the basement, if you could call it that. In truth, Danny’s basement is actually another self-contained guest room, with a wide sofa, a sophisticated music system, a bathroom, and a huge plasma screen. He turns the light on in the stairwell and I follow him down the stairs.
“John and I thought you would like this. We didn’t know exactly what to buy, so… anyway, you’ll see…” He turns the light on in the basement as I come down the last step. There, in the corner of the room, I notice a large easel with a huge canvas.
My heart swells. Danny knows how much I love to paint.
“Danny…” I walk toward the empty canvas and slowly brush my hand over it. It’s not completely smooth and the coarse texture excites me. At the tips of my fingers, I can feel a painting itching to come out.
“I know how happy you are when you paint. Maybe this is a good start.” He kisses my head. He really is the best brother in the world. “The paints and brushes are in that box.” He points at a large box on floor.
Oh, wow! Did he leave anything in the store?
I sit down on the floor and open the box. Inside is everything I need. I won’t have to leave the house for at least a week. When I look up, I have the biggest smile on my face, like a little girl who’s just received the best birthday present in the world.
“You shouldn’t have…” I’m amazed.
“Nonsense, look how you’re smiling.” His satisfaction rings in his voice.
I dig inside the box and find acrylic tubes of every possible color, thin and thick paintbrushes, and a palette for mixing colors. I just need a water jar and I’m all set.
“Okay, you’ll have enough time for this later. Come and eat.” His tone becomes stern, which surprises me, and I know his plan to fix me has begun.
“Okay,” I grumble. I don’t feel like eating. It’s still so early. I really hope he has a salad in the fridge.
* * *
At six p.m. John returns from work. He’s tall and lean, dressed in a gorgeous suit. His arms are powerful, his black hair stylishly cut, and he has a cute dimple that appears with his smile. What a loss to the female gender, I think. Still, it was a win for my brother.
“I’m happy you’re here.” He gives me a warm hug and kisses my forehead. John is thirty-two and I feel as though I’ve gained another older brother.
“I’m really happy to be here. Thanks for having me.” I smile wide with my thanks.
“Don’t be silly. Where else would you go? Do you like your gift?”
“It’s perfect.” I smile widely, indicating just how much I love it.
“Great.” He takes a bowl of pasta out of the fridge and shoves it in the microwave. “Do you want to eat?”
“No thanks, I already ate.” I ate enough salad for a week, I swear. Danny watched me like a hawk until I finished eating it all. I felt like a five-year-old. “I think I’m going to turn in early tonight.” I smile while he spoons the pasta on a plate and washes the bowl in the sink.
At home, I just let the dirty dishes pile up for days until I get the urge to wash them. But here I’m a guest and I’ll have to behave accordingly.
“Good idea.” He gives me another kiss on my forehead. “I’m happy you came,” he repeats.
John sits down at the table and I go into my room, sit on the queen-size bed, and stare at the walls. I take a deep breath. I’m here, and it’s either the best decision or worst mistake I’ve ever made.
Don’t think about it. Put it all behind you. You’re in London and you need to seize this opportunity and get yourself out of the situation you’re in.
Blog and then bed.
* * *
May 16th, 2012
Maybe There’s Still a Chance.
London was waiting for me with open arms, like an old lover sitting at the window, waiting for my return. The weather has decided to cooperate, as though all of nature’s elements stood to attention, anticipating the princess’ arrival.
The city received me with love and yearning, as I love and yearn for her. Just like a woman, preparing for her man’s return from the battlefield, bathing and perfuming in his honor and wearing her most dazzling and comforting smile.
And I wonder—have I left my battleground behind? Have all the cannons ceased fire? Am I moving toward serenity, or is the lull deceiving, while war rages on in the horizon, threatening to erupt again and to arrive at the doorstep of my small room. Must I be ready and alert for the next battle?
I’d like to think—or maybe live in the illusion—that I’m battle-weary, but my stomach clenches when I think of the quiet. I don’t know how blessed it is—I’m used to chaos, to blood, to victims lying on the side of the road while I storm through, leaving casualties in my wake. I’m addicted to chaos. Thinking about it makes my heart race, as though I’m preparing for an encounter with a mysterious stranger, like the first time your clothes come off and your defenses fall apart, and you’re left exposed and vulnerable.
I’m excited to be here in London, defenseless. Either I sink or swim, go crazy or die. I want to go crazy; I think I already am…
Stay a little bit longer. The battle isn’t over yet, and the quiet…well, it’s not my cup of tea.