“I never use public transportation in Israel,” he tells me, as he’s typing on his computer.
We met on the ground. I asked him for directions as our gate changed at short notice. He described the way in detail, explaining exactly where I needed to go, to then tell me to follow him, as he was taking the same plane.
Oddly enough, we are now sharing an arm rest, as our seats are next to each other. And even though we have never met before, our brief exchange at the airport seems to have broken the ice enough for it to be eligible to start a conversation.
“You should avoid buses,” he warns me.
If there is anything I do not want right now, it is a conversation.
“I always take a taxi, where ever I go. But I never leave Tel Aviv,” he shares.
As he is talking, I’m nodding, trying to be respectful the way my mamma raised me, yet not too engaging, ’cause I’m just not that good of a person. He talks on different topics; safety, work, politics, sharing his knowledge with me who isn’t capable of absorbing half the information he lets me in on.
He wouldn’t notice it, but I am a bundle of hot mess right now. Saying goodbye to my parents who I won’t be seeing in months was hard. I’m still caught in the emotions of leaving. Could I please have a moment to let these tears out?
Could I please have a moment to let these tears out?
“I’ve been to Tel Aviv over twenty times, wouldn’t recommend going to Jerusalem, though,” he adds.
I smile politely, as I sip on my coke, staring into my plastic cup, trying to avoid far too close eye contact.
“So where are you going?”, he asks.
Oh, Lord have mercy, have mercy on me. I think to myself. Here we go.
“Jerusalem,” I answer concisely.
He smiles, breathing out loudly enough for me to hear it. The type of smile that seems to be laughing at me rather than with me. The type that in my mind should make me feel belittled, yet at this point I’m uber emotional and therefore could be wrong.
“First time?” he asks.
“Yes,” I respond, being truthfully honest to a stranger. (Even though in this case, I wouldn’t consider a little white lie to be of sin).
He gives a short expression of laughter.
“Oh, good luck with that,” he responds. I can hear his thoughts through his half bald head. “Poor woman, so naive, cute little thing. Poor little woman.”
Poor woman, so naive, cute little thing. Poor little woman.
After explaining him that I will be volunteering in Ein Karem, a little village near Jerusalem, trying to justify my plans as if I needed to, I realize that this conversation is not taking me anywhere. It is not bringing me any kind of calm, in fact if anything I am starting to doubt myself more. As he is typing and mumbling a few words that I choose not take in, I lean into my seat and close my eyes.
Was I really naive? Was I doing the right thing? The answers I do not know, but with every second that passes, I’m getting closer.
Photo by Yosny Castro