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Leaving Jerusalem: 2nd Iteration

October 27, 2010

I wrote this in San Francisco after reading David Hare’s “Via Dolorosa”. I want to continue having this series be completely transparent so I decided to include the full draft. However, some parts of it are sections I copied from the book that I was looking to tie in somehow.

What’s most interesting to me about keeping track of the changes like this is seeing into how nonlinear the process really is.

“I don’t know where I fit anymore,” you said. I listened. Said: “I know what you mean.” I don’t think you believed me and that was okay. Because right then all I really wanted to do was  listen.

Tomorrow I’m leaving this place. The streets are familiar now and I know where to park. I don’t slip on the steps of the Old City anymore and I can dodge the walking traffic without looking up. I’m ready to go and still I’m sad at leaving. David Hare calls the Jerusalem stone subtly pink rock. The Dome of the Rock– saffron-yellow golden. I wonder at the pink. The Jerusalem stone. I think of the marble in our apartment. I imagine my newly-wed mother choosing it. Matching the stone to the Lincoln Center’s. White with black. Natural-looking, as if the black is the sediment from the side of the cliff it came from.

My friend’s roommate wanted him to bring back arabic coffee. I found him in a convenience store in East Jerusalem, trying to figure out what to get. I told him that all their coffee is imported from the same places we get our coffee. What makes it Arabic coffee is the ground cardamom. I don’t know where they get the cardamom from. He doesn’t believe me and gets the coffee anyway. The store smells so good. It’s hard to leave without wanting to take some of it with you. But my suitcase is almost at capacity.

I buy vintage photographs from the Armenian–as he is known in the Old City. We ask a vendor where his photographs are from and he gives us directions to the Armenian’s shop. Tells us his son, who is seven, will take us there. We follow the boy through the crowds to the photographs. They are his father’s photographs, taken in the thirties and forties. They are in black and white so you can’t see the gold of the dome. Even still it reflects the light in such a way that you almost know it is there. There are pictures of other holy sites. Pictures of people in their every-life. Pictures of people leaving.

Leaving is all I manage to keep on doing lately. My friend once told me that all you need when you go anywhere is a credit card and a passport. I hold onto both, and bring dad everywhere. Assemble his features into anecdotes. Each one a fracture of his personality. Some stories I know and some I’ve been told so many times it feels like they are mine. They’re not but still they bring me back.

My life translates between the two realities.

First: I am listening to WQXR with him. Making the Champaigne cork popping sound along with the commercial. Falling asleep and drooling onto his white T-shirt. The room is showered in shades of gold. The sheets, the picture frame. The sun is setting into the corners of the window. The shade is closed nearly all the way down.

And then: I am on the plane, drinking coffee alone. I add some half & half, hesitantly after reading the label. NO REFRIGERATION NEEDED. I think about where they keep these Land O’ Lakes Mini Moo’s. Decide there is a drawer somewhere. The man sitting next to me orders some orange juice. Searches the can and says he’s not sure if it’s from concentrate. It is. I tell the story about dad and the oranges. The one from his early days on the road, making his first sales calls. He’s at a B&B with his sales manager getting breakfast. He asks if the orange juice is fresh squeezed. This is somewhere in Connecticut and the waitress just looks back at him, says that it probably isn’t. Dad leaves and later returns with a grocery bag filled with oranges.

you are just an idea

stones or ideas.

we see only what we want to– we remember only what we want to.

the memory cannot be complete, just as the stones are only tastes lefover of what happened. an important history

that we have access to– another reality.

And what’s more — hold on, here we go — is the stone, in fact, on the right spot? Nobody knows. Archaeologists also dispute. Nobody can know because nobody knows where the city walls were. Nobody agrees. Where was Calvary indeed? So for now — look, is anything certain? — let’s just do as the family next to me and drop alarmingly to our knees, on the working assumption — let’s just assume — X marks the spot, and kiss the stone. After all, does the literal truth of it matter? Does the literal truth matter? Aren’t we kissing an idea? Stones or ideas? Stones or ideas? (37 Hare)

But even I, inside the Arab sanctuary, taking in the cleanest, most oxygenated sun-dazzled air you ever breathed, looking across to the Mount of Olives, yield to the splendour of the place and realize: oh I see, how provoking it is to own beauty, to own the most breathtaking space of them all (37 Hare).

We begin to feel the sun. Voltaire said you have to choose between countried where you sweat and countries where you think. The confusing thing about Israel is that it’s one where you do both. And my mind is racing now. We’re all blind. We all see only what we want to. Don’t we blank out the rest? (39 Hare)

Tell stories about him endlessly to leave him nowhere.

Assemble anecdotes into his features. Each one a fracture of his personality. Some stories I know and some I’ve been told so that they feel like they are mine. The stories that are mine bring me back. Back to naptimes after school. White T-shirts and Scope. Smooth hands, perfect even. The perfect hands that my mom first noticed about this Brooklyn business-man. Fingernails perfectly kept.

If I close my eyes I’m right there. Smelling your stinky breath and giving you a hug. Watching TV and eating dinner at six. Always. Hearts of Palm. Manhattan Clam Chowder.

These are only tastes left in your mouth. Reminders.

Yesterday was the first day of Ramaddan. My friends say that fasting is easier if you  don’t brush your teeth. That your empty mouth will haunt you less.

But no matter the stories told, I am always incomplete. Like it is a fact. Fact not feeling. Feeling you disappear again and again and again. Like it was yesterday. I’m reminded of it whenever I feel for my heart because I can feel its holes.

Tonight is my last night in Jerusalem.

I walk around Jerusalem. I know its smells and how smooth the stones are. I imagine what it would feel like to walk on them barefoot. To absorb the heat from the day onto the soles of my feet.

Holes that I try to fill with my deepest memories. The memory of you can never be precise and is reduced to shades. I can’t keep you

no matter the stories told, I will never be complete again. I know this. I’m reminded of it every time I feel for my heart, feel its holes.

right after the morning meal.

But all i can do is to keep leaving.

Leaving all the places that don’t feel right.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 12, 2010 10:29 am

    “We all see only what we want to”
    you are so true
    Eden Jerusalem hotel

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