I’m waiting at the edge of a square room, to my right there’s a narrow hallway with a long bench against one wall and couples sitting on it tightly. I’m surprised there are children.
I hear couples whispering and talking loudly. I hear doors opening and shutting. Light streams in from high windows past dirty curtains.
I wait for his arrival.
People come up out of the stairwell and make a right into the hallway, but none of them are him. I haven’t seen him in four months, the longest we’ve ever been apart.
My arms fall to my sides, sweat gathers on my palms, where is he?
I’ve tried calling all of the people who might know where he is- his father, his mother, friends. The conversations are stilted and short, foggy with heartbreak.
I wait. I feel self-conscious, bloated, the color drained from my face, my hair falling past my shoulders.
Will he come?
Will he be sad? Apathetic? Furious? Will desire flood my body even after all of this? Even though he didn’t come for me this summer like he said he would? Even though when we spoke it felt like we didn’t speak the same language, like somehow we had never understood each other, could never understand each other? Will he lean down and kiss me? Grab my hand and run, run away with me?
Will he come?
Suddenly, I see his feet and his legs and then his torso and the whole of him, and my heart quickens and I press my palms into my thighs to slow it down.
I’m sitting at a table in the sun with my parents and my best friend and there’s a black stroller with a small baby in it. We order awkwardly from the menu. I get coffee and, what else? I don’t remember.
I feel light and odd and heavy and filled with a sadness that gathers up like a rock and free falls past the pit of my stomach, deep into the bottom of my uterus.
I smell grilled fish being brought to the table behind us, a heap of potatoes fried in hot oil, a chopped salad drenched in lemon and parsley, a sudden peal of laughter.
Did my father order ice cream?
We wait, looking at our watches, time lapsing slowly in the summer heat.
I feel unmoored
So lonely I could scream.
I walk him to his car, and ask: “Will you have coffee with me now?”
He says: “It’s late and I have to get back”.
The sun is high in the sky- a great big ball, perfect and round- it can’t be four.
The car is parked behind a café where we’ve had nice dates, during the dark, long period we lived in Jerusalem. His friend is waiting for him, the passenger seat rolled all the way down so that he’s lying flat. It’s the same friend who had gone to set up the cave on the shore with candles and rugs and roses on the night he had proposed to me. He wakes him up with a tap on the window, and when he comes out to say goodbye to me, I’m tall and rigid but all of my bones are broken, so I don’t extend any part of myself toward him.
He says: “I have bags for you”.
He lifts open the trunk, pulls out two oversized bags, hands them to me.
I take them from him, tears streaming down my face.
He says: “No matter what, no matter when or where, just know that you can always ask me for anything”.
He looks at me, the tears streaming down my face, the bags heavy in my hands, and he doesn’t offer me a tissue or a ride.
Shakshuka, Middle-Eastern Style.
Heat a big pot of water to a rolling boil. Take 6 tomatoes and slash their bottoms twice to form an X. Plunge them into the boiling water and leave them there until their skins begin to curl. Remove, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Then, peel the skins, and chop the tomatoes.
Thinly slice 3 fat cloves of garlic. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and an easy handful of basil chopped into ribbons. Stir around until it gets aromatic. Add the chopped tomatoes with their juices. Season generously with salt and pepper, plus a bit of brown sugar and a few drops of red/white wine vinegar. Cook, stirring often until juices threaten to evaporate. Drizzle with more olive oil. Taste and season again until the flavor pops.
Make little wells in the sauce and careful add four eggs one by one. Season with salt + pepper. Lower the heat, and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny.
Top with a shower of fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, mint, oregano- anything goes) + the zest of a lemon.
Dig in with fresh warm bread.