She said: “You don’t believe I’d do it.”
The sun lingered over the Old City, glinting atop the gilded dome. A ripe olive plopped onto the fly-specked Formica table. White gravel crunched beneath booted feet and restless red-lacquered toes.
He smiled and lit a Gauloise. Chilled glasses clinked. The wine touched her lips like honey and set her throat on fire.
He said: “And would you?”
She said: “I’d do it for you.”
The smile on his lips snaked into a sneer. He said: “Wrong. You wouldn’t do it for me. You’d do it for us. For all of us. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with me.”
She said: “You’ve got something to do with me.”
For an instant she glimpsed her own face, reflected in his dark left eye. But in the curve of the nose, of the mouth shining back at her she recognized once more the face of a baby girl – or was it a baby boy? – entreating her for permission to join this world.
She still knew the plan. She had thought every step through. She had even learned the verses by heart: "Whithersoever thou shalt go, I will go: and where thou shalt dwell, I also will dwell. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God." But now that she needed them, the verses no longer needed her.
He scratched his nose and dipped his eyes to his wristwatch for the twenty-seventh time. He said: “We’re leaving in five minutes." He pulled a jacket the color of olives from off the back of the empty plastic chair next to him. He steadied his Uzi between his knees while he buttoned the rough fabric until just a tuft of inky hair spidered out from above his T-shirt.
She said: “Will you think of me there?”
He said: “I’ll think of many things there.”
She said: “It’s not forever, you know. I’ll be back.”
His sneer lingered as the truck engine sighed to life on the parking lot nearby. He said: “Of course you will. You all come back. The only question is, for what?”
He slung his knapsack over one shoulder and his gun over the other. He said: “Someday, you’ll have to take a stand.”
She said: “You know I’ve been taking a stand on one thing or another all my life.”
She reached above her head to break a twig off the olive tree. She slipped it into his breast pocket.
He said: “That’s the trouble with you. It’s always ‘one thing or another.’" He smothered the remains of his cigarette in the gravel. "Take a stand on one thing. Forget the other.”
She said… nothing more. He silenced her words with a kiss.
He said: “No, you wouldn’t do it.” He stroked the barrel. “Everyone who carries one of these must accept that once a bullet is released, there’s no calling it back. Bullets don’t come with return tickets. And if there’s one thing you’ll never be without in this life, ahuva, it’s a return ticket.”
A scuffle of boots across the gravel. The driver put the truck in gear and he was gone.
The waiter approached. He peered at his guest out of melancholy eyes that had seen many young girls’ tears and many trucks leaving for Lebanon.
She groped in her bag for money. Her fingertips brushed a rectangle of paper.
Ben Gurion – JFK.
“Be there early,” the travel agent had told her.
Just an hour earlier she had planned to touch the ticket to his lighter and watch the ashes float deliciously skyward before his approving eyes.
Now this lowly slip of paper grew between her fingers into a magic carpet that would sweep her onward to whatever came next.
What will be will be, she realized, but it isn’t going to be here.
It isn’t going to be now.
And it isn’t going to be with him.