by M.L. Carmeli
The story haunted her like a scarlet letter for weeks on end. It
in the classrooms, in her homework, and even in her outings with her friends;
it affected her by giving her a daydream look. She couldn't drink it away,
for it was
the drink that started it. What had started as fun ended as an invocation of
her morals and principles.
"His hands began to roam," she read and reread. Trying to distort the
she tried this way and that, experimenting with styles. It didn't work: the
facts still haunted her. After three bottles of red wine, the type to say
Kiddush to, a stranger molested her.
"I should tell Gabriel I was seduced by an Israeli brother," she
smirked. Gabriel always said that once you have a Jew nothing else will do.
She fashioned a weak American being taken advantage of by a huge, larger than
life Sabra wearing army boots, cigarette smoke frothing from his mouth,
making gods of the Corleones.
His lips were upon hers, his hands were hot and wet--it was fake. It was all
"There was nothing special about him," Rita shook her head as she struck
at the keyboard. "He was just a common man." His face was an indistinct
field of yellow grass with two blue flowers.
"Maybe I imagined it all," she mused. "Maybe I made up everything. His
roaming fingers, my desire to roam the land of Israel, his longing, my
take root in Israel." Ilan was dressed entirely in black, reclining on a
patio chair, smoking a cigarette as his inquisitive eyes studied her face.
His shoulders were bulging from his T-shirt as his ego released an aroma as
thick as the tangles in
the hair of wild sheep and as bitter as lemon peels. She could still smell
"I'm cheating!" she had screamed inside. The reverberations of that
were contained inside her. Rita got up and looked out her window. Below her
was an Arab village, or the modernized remains of it clinging to life as it
huddled between tall buildings. Gray stucco among limestone. She sat back
down to concentrate. Soon themes sailed out of her head and out the window,
they hovered over the
Dome of the Rock, they rolled out to Gethsemene and tiptoed through
the Armenian quarter, avoiding the Kotel.
"Ilan was becoming a monster--no he is a monster," she wrote. She tried
writing in a diary style. It sounded too cheap.. She tried to voice her
characters like in Yehoshuaís "The Lover"-- it sounded too imitative. The
story burned within her. She couldn't sleep, eat, or sit still. Life seemed
to elude her.
She trembled as she remembered her lover's huge, gentle fingers tossling
her hair, slowly sliding down to caress her face. He had tried to comfort her
airport before she came to Israel. "Everything'll be okay," Gabriel said as
he held her. "You'll still be my sacred temple when you come back."
She twitched to the memory of Ilan's deep voice whispering, "you smell really
good;" his serpent tongue upon her ear. She wanted to run away. Escape! To
where? Back to Gabriel? Already she couldn't breathe with the thought.
"Not all Israelis are like Ilan," she fidgeted as she thought of her
Israeli friends. Arm in arm. Rita, the Americans and the Israelis walking
down the cobbled Ben Yehuda Street. Passing the Kikkar Zion and Bank
Hapoalim, walking through the alley of restaurants and shops of trends, past
the Underground, a place of pickups, and to the waffle place. She
contributed nothing. Rafael's black hair and glasses. Shira's flowing red
hair and flirtiness. Na'im's racism and looks that killed. Ron's height and
sweetness as he spoke about his band. Yosef's honest green eyes.
She contributed nothing. They existed without her.
"Maybe if I opened my womb to an Israeli army, just maybe I can give
birth to the monolith of Zionism," she mused. "And why not? Aren't there
other Americans pioneering here?" Her head split open and a sail sprouted
out, flapping in the Haifa winds. It sailed down to Cesaerea and continued
till it reached Jaffa, then it slammed into Andromeda's rock and sank.
Reality kept slipping away. Suddenly, his hands were trying to fondle
her as he would a gun named after a woman he wants. "Bang, bang!" said The
Godfather. Where were her friends? Why they were on the bed next to Ilan.
Tom a doped up doll. Skinny guy with boyish charm. Natasha, her blond hair
flowing, her big blue eyes bulging at Ilan's hand reaching for her thigh.
Tom shielding Natasha. They didn't know anything. They were drunk. Rita was
The phone was ringing; it was Gabriel. Her lover called every day. Her
voice soothed his heart. "Yes, I love you," she reassured him through
clenching teeth. "I belong to no one else." She was back in Israel when she
got off the phone. And there was Ilan's huge figure huddling over her, his
blue eyes pointing to The Godfather as a sergeant would Ammunition Hill, his
face in a drunken stupor. His hairless body there to decorate his deep voice.
He makes a statement: "The Corleones are gods.."
"No, they're not. They get punished in part three."
"With that power they're gods."
"They use fear."
"So does God."
"Abraham worshipped God out of respect."
In the far reaches of her mind was an ancient city next to a blue-green
The sand of this sea was not made up of sand but of shells and clay pottery
shards. Half-mosaiced floors flourished in the palace nearby. The sea could
be seen from the Roman Theater. There was a promenade too, but all existed
years ago. Only
the dilapidated remains could be seen now. If only she could live by
this ruined city and its sea of Gilead, then the remnants of Ilan wouldn't
haunt her. Jerusalem wasn't helping. Even then, as she was seated at her
desk she was also back in Yosef's dark room lying on a bed with Ilan looking
"He asked me if I love my boyfriend. Of course I do. I got sick of it.
I was in his arms and in love with another man. His face was above mine, as
if he wanted to do something." Her face turned away like an actress on a
movie-screen. It read like a romance novel. Yes, a cheap romance novel.
She looked him straight in the eyes and with her sexy voice said, "Why are
you trying to kiss me?"
"It's not too far away from such filth," thought Rita.
The sorority girl was there too. She added fuel to their fire. She
danced to every game, never losing courage. The men applauded her. Rita
participated too, but
after Ilan kissed her she began to worry. Had she really changed? She wanted
to examine her shadow maybe it grew darker. Rita turned away and hid her face
in disgust. She got up and fled the room. She wandered downstairs and found
Lonely Swing, an automatic swing for children.
"For shame, for shame!" it taunted her. "Children and Israel do not
arise from crushed grapes."
Rita stared at Lonely Swing. Upstairs was the drunken haze. Downstairs
was loneliness and memories of her lover's fingers, his hands reaching for
her back. Crushed grapes? Upstairs was a broken mirror of her dream.
Throughout the house was a foreboding stillness. With the determination
of a prophet, Rita catwalked up the stairs. With the determination of a
Protestant who does not want to deviate from her morals, she stomped into the
room, weakened, and ended up sitting in-between Sergeant Ilan's legs.
Her story continued. She struck at the keyboard playing Chopin and
Beethoven. She listened to the sound of Rafael's trumpet as God's cure came
to save her from the intertwining branches of Ilan by walking into the room
and ending the party with his look of disapproval. At night, the lights from
the Old City appeared. The walls stood relentlessly existing, born from
Muslim eras and Herodian stone. Lonely, forbidding, they stared back at Rita.
In the mornings the muezzin called,
his voice emanating from the hills and mountains--at night the rooster
disturbed her. Young faces smiled anxiously at Kikkar Zion. Rita
daydreamed. Her lover appeared in her dreams; she reached for him to awaken
only to the air.
"Everything'll be okay," Gabriel's voice echoed. Rita tried to
will get over this, she thought. He'll accept me, right?
Ilan had tried a last attack. Before she left, he asked her to sit down
next to him. "The Corleones are gods," he told her, his back like a huge
black wall; his face was hidden from her.
"No," she replied. "You need to fall in love." Her lips were hurting,
her breasts were sagging in her bra, and Ilan's back was still to her. His
huge figure was shrinking. Her chest was burning, as if there was something
on it. The sea in Ashkelon likes to cause pain too; its shores of shells had
once pushed into the
flesh of her feet. Like a mermaid, she had danced on top of the seashells.
The fallen drums of Ionic columns watched her, as did the cliffs with their
bangs. She could've danced till her feet bled; nothing would have saved her
from the cruel beauty of Ashkelon. Presently, her chest was burning; her
want to come true anymore.
After a few more weeks, she finally produced the story. It was written
heat of passion. The style suited her it was almost allegorical. It was
titled "The Confession."
"I've never seen Ilan after that night. I wonder about him. What would
he do if he saw me again? Turn away or hug me? Or simply glimpse into his
empty hands? I heard from somewhere that he told Rafael he would take
Natasha if Rafael didn't want her. It never happened. Oh, I'm sure he's
around somewhere. An individual among the armed masses, roaming Israel in his
sergeant uniform," it ended. It was
a cubistic slice of a grotesque slab of life. Proud, she printed a copy and
sent it to her lover. She slept in peace that night, dreaming the dreams of
The following night Rita was haunted by a different dream, one of
Gabriel. She dreamt that across the seas, in Los Angeles, a man looked into
the valley and saw
a sea of lights. As the foam of car and ambulance sounds crashed into his
ears, he looked sadly at the story in his hands. It was titled "The
Confession." He thought about his Israeli brothers and his hands formed
fists. His mind remembered the shape and curves of Rita's body. His heart
beating fast, his fists crumpling
the story, his wits breaking. Gabriel's knees buckled and his body began to
water. Gabriel became the sea, sad and salty. Rita stood at the shore.
Gabriel's foam slowly peeped up Rita's toes to pull back in terror. Rita
hugged herself. She was
on Israeli ground: she could not enter the sea. She was by herself and she
was smiling. She belonged to no one.
Margie Carmeli was raised in sunny Southern California. Now living and working in Los Angeles, she
has been experimenting with different forms of literature which vary from plays, poems, short
stories, and novels to children's stories.
~Miss Brown to You
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