VIEWS: 4 PAGES: 30 POSTED ON: 2/28/2012
1. Los Angeles The Santa Ana winds were blowing from the east through the narrow canyons of Southern California, bringing arid desert air to the awakening city. I was driving my brother Nir’s red sports car along Highway 101 from the San Fernando Valley to the city. The dry wind caressed my face as if it was trying to lull me. Shlomo Artzi1’s voice filled the car: ‘Yesterday was good, and tomorrow will be too,’ he promised, and I eased the pressure on the gas pedal in order to have a little more time to myself before I reached the city. I needed to calm down and to introduce a little order into my jumbled thoughts. The reddish-brown manzanita shrubs were swaying restlessly, but there was a heavy silence in the air. The mountains were bare and what was left of the wilted greenery was spread sparsely over the hills and canyons. The long fall season which had followed a cruel summer had exhausted the plant life. The tiny pale wildflowers, the tall oak trees, the yucca and vine blossoms – all were crying out for water. I gazed out at the parched landscape and tried to gather my thoughts, to slow my pounding heart. Yoni’s telephone call had caught me by surprise and filled me with longing and excitement. ‘I’m here,’ he announced. ‘I have a few meetings in LA. I’ll be in town for a few days.’ I hadn’t seen Yoni for eleven months and in that time I’d tried to summon up the strength to leave the past behind me, but memories still 1 Famous Israeli singer haunted me and his image was imprinted on my brain. We tried to bridge the distance in our trans-Atlantic calls, filled with love and yearning. Nothing interested me except him. That afternoon I started searching frantically for something to wear. I wanted to look attractive and sexy, to impress him but not to overdo it, to look good but not so that he would notice that I had made an effort. I tried on and then stripped off endless dresses and tops, leaving my closet in a state of total chaos. In the end I chose a black mini dress with a flattering plunging neckline,, simple and classic, yet short enough to expose the shapely legs I inherited from my grandmother. Unfortunately for my mother, the legacy skipped a generation. I slipped on black high-heeled shoes and examined myself in the mirror. The contours of my long slender body were clearly visible through the thin material of the dress. I rubbed on some lip gloss, brushed my straight hair and let it fall freely over my shoulders. At last I was ready for my rendezvous with my private Eros. I could hear my children laughing in the next room. Jessie, their babysitter, would be here soon and I would be free to leave. I was eager to see him again. I didn’t dare hope for much more. Just to see him. To please him again. Then we would see…He used to call me ‘My beauty.’ Would he think me beautiful again today? Would the spark in his eye be there again at the sight of me? I drove down Wilshire Boulevard. The wide sidewalks, the luxury buildings and the designer boutiques, everything radiated glamour and prestige. I found the small exclusive European style hotel and parked opposite the main entrance. A doorman in a smooth white uniform greeted me and opened the door of the car. As I stepped out it seemed to me that he was looking at me admiringly. Was he impressed by me or by Nir’s sports car? Without saying a word I handed him the car keys and tried to relax. Massive chandeliers lit up the lobby with a lustrous glow and I trod the soft carpet with false confidence. Only a few minutes separated us. My heart was hammering wildly. In a corner of the hotel lounge with its heavy Louis Quinze style furniture was a polished mahogany bar. He was sitting there, his back to the entrance with a golden drink in front of him. Vodka and orange juice, his usual, I guessed. He was wearing a black windbreaker, and his dark brown hair was combed back and had several new silver streaks in it. He turned to me and our glances met. His brown eyes caressed me. I did not dare to look away, afraid that if I did, he might disappear. A shiver of joy went through me from head to toe, and I was flooded with warmth. I inspected him and he inspected me and we gazed at one another, as if we were awaiting mutual confirmation. I felt that he was sharing my confusion, sharing my passion. And then, finally, as if some approval had been given, he stood up and came towards me and we found ourselves in an embrace, his arms around my waist and on my back, my legs pressed against his and his smell in my nostrils, a sensual blend of delicate aftershave, shampoo and cigarettes. I brushed aside a lock of hair which had fallen on his forehead. He held me at arm’s length and his eyes strayed over my body, as if he were seeing me for the first time. ‘You look wonderful,’ he said with satisfaction. So did he. Even more impressive and charming than I remembered. I let him order me a drink, trying to conceal my confusion, my excitement at what was about to happen. I didn’t feel like engaging in idle chat, and in any case we spoke over the phone almost daily and could skip the prosaic reports of what we’d been doing in the past few months. I wanted to talk love talk and hear it too, to wallow in my romantic novel, to exploit every moment of the brief span my hero had allocated me. ‘Let’s go out?’ he suggested when I had finished my drink. ‘Let’s go to Café Maurice.’ I nodded my consent. I had been living in the city almost a year but I was sure Yoni was better briefed than I was. ‘I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,’ he said when we were seated in the cab on the way to La Cienega, and he stroked my hand. His was warm, strong and protective, the delicate and firm hand of an artist. ‘Me too…’ I gazed at him and he looked back at me and we were both silent. His look told me everything. I was overcome by the familiar sensations I had been longing for, which I can’t do without. Café Maurice was a buzzing cosmopolitan bar. The charming French owners were perfect hosts. The place was lively, and the background sound was a blend of English, French, Italian, Arabic and Hebrew. The mood was elated. People were drinking, talking, smoking and dancing to seventies music. I felt that I was in love with all of them, that I loved the whole world. We sank into leather armchairs and continued to gaze at one another, surrendering to the sweetness of anticipation, as excited as teenagers. We held hands, and from time to time exchanged covert kisses. Yoni scrutinized my face, my neck, my breasts. His eyes undressed me and a shiver went down my body. I closed my eyes, savoring the moment. When he looked at me like that, with that penetrating gaze, it was as if he was touching me. I craved his sensual mouth. I could almost feel his hands straying over my body, his lips brushing my skin. We sat there till we could no longer hold the passion in check. The moment Yoni opened the door to his hotel room and held out his arms, I rushed into them. I breathed in his familiar smell, whispered words of love, and felt his arms laying me gently on the bed. He stroked the length of my body and I groaned, calling his name, urging him on. Past and future were the same. I felt that I had returned home, although I knew the return was only temporary. The first rays of sun were lighting up the street as I left his room, wearing last night’s clothes, my hair uncombed and my face flushed I could still taste him on my lips, which had never looked so swollen,. I ignored the doorman’s stare and hurried to my car. I needed to get home before Omer and Gil were up, drive them to school, take a shower and get to work on time. I needed to stick to routine. The sports car sped along the road homeward to the San Fernando Valley. My body was not yet satisfied; I felt as if I’d enjoyed a pleasurable entrée but been denied the full meal. I was still hungry. The night has gone by too fast. Was this my fate? I had the most important thing of all, but it didn’t belong to me. Where is all this leading, I wondered gloomily but immediately scolded myself. I had to stop thinking. There were only a few days of euphoria left. And then? He would return to his life and I would be alone. 2. Tel Aviv Three years earlier a want ad in the paper caught my eye. ‘Wanted: interior designers for a unique and interesting project.’ Yes, thanks to that ad that I met Yoni. I called Mina, who was in charge of human resources in the company. She refused to give me details over the phone, as if it was some kind of secret mission. Her patronizing tone didn’t appeal to me. ‘Look,’ I insisted, ‘there’s no way I’ll come to the meeting without talking to the director first.’ ‘Hold the line, please,’ she said in an impatient voice and a minute later she announced: ‘I’m putting you through to Yonatan Shavit.’ A deep masculine voice, slightly hoarse from his last puff on a cigarette, came onto the line. He was more stubborn than I was. ‘You’ll either waste half an hour out of your life or gain much more,’ he said in such an authoritative voice that I couldn’t refuse. ‘So that’s settled?’ he asked casually, as if his mind was already elsewhere. ‘Yes,’ I mumbled obediently. ‘OK, then I hope it works out,’ he said in conclusion. The next day at one p.m. I presented myself at the address Mina had given me, a typical Tel Aviv building close to Dizengoff Circle. The office was on the ground floor. A stylish bronze plaque on the front door announced: ‘Yonatan Shavit and Co. Architects.’ The office was spacious, with a respectable modern ambience. On the walls were framed photographs of buildings designed by the office, together with pictures of famous architectural monuments like the Parthenon, Villa Katsura in Kyoto, Villa Savoy in Paris. On the wall beside the secretary’s desk hung a photograph of Tel Aviv in the nineteen thirties or forties, showing white Bauhaus-style buildings with clean lines before the pollution had colored them grey. In the large and light central space were long architect’s tables, and piled on them were files of blueprints, catalogs and samples of bricks. The receptionist greeted me with a warm smile and led me straight into Mina’s office. It turned out that Mina was going to conduct the interview since Mr. Shavit was at an important meeting outside the office. Too late to change my mind, I thought to myself. Mina was dry and matter-of-fact in manner. ‘The office deals with architecture and interior design,’ she told me. ‘The company specializes in architectural planning of a variety of projects: private houses, condos, hotels, office buildings etc,’ she said as if she were reading a grocery list. ‘This year we started working on a large unique resort project and most of the professional team are engaged in it. That’s why we need additional staff. The salary is not particularly high, we know that, but the working hours are very flexible.’ That year I had graduated in interior design from the Administrative College and I lacked practical experience. I was anxious to put my theoretical knowledge into practice but I hadn’t succeeded in finding a job which would allow me to spend time with Omer and Gil. I didn’t want to leave them for hours at a time with substitute mothers. ‘I’m interested,’ I told Mina. ‘OK,’ she said with a self-important expression. ‘You can start for a trial period.’ The tasks assigned to me were disappointing. I was sent to the smallest clients, people who wanted minimal redecoration of their homes and were looking for an interior designer. The work was boring and frustrating. In order to alleviate the boredom, I took to roaming up and down Dizengoff Street. I visited all the stores and didn’t miss a single café. My low salary didn’t cover half of the money I spent. I endured it for three weeks and then I decided to resign and scheduled a meeting with Mr. Yohanan Shavit. When I entered his office, I found him absorbed in a telephone conversation. Till then I had almost never run into him. Apart from a polite handshake on my first day and several brief exchanges of ‘Good morning,’ ‘How are you today?’ we hadn’t talked. All the staff called him Yoni and nobody stood on ceremony with him - but at the same time they maintained a certain distance and respect. I sat facing him and waited for him to finish his conversation. His appearance attested to self-control, there was an aura of power about him and he was talking in an assertive tone. I stole another look at his face, at his full lips, at his smooth hair which was unfashionably long. It was not surprising that he was the object of eager discussions among members of the opposite sex and that there was considerable gossip about his flirtations and brief affairs. I knew he was married and that his wife was in the late stages of pregnancy. I had heard Mina colluding with him when his women friends called. She knew how to maneuver between them, choosing which one to put through to him and which to fob off by saying he was out of the office. I gazed around me. In a corner stood a large draftsman’s table, beside it a bookcase full of professional literature. I glanced at the piles of blueprints on the desk and then my gaze returned to the good-looking man sitting exactly opposite just as he ended the conversation and looked up. His look caught me unprepared. All morning I had been practicing what I intended to say to him, formulating my arguments for resigning, but now they flew out of my head. ‘I’ve decided to leave,’ I said without looking straight at him. ‘May I ask why?’ ‘Because I’m bored.’ My self-confidence began to return. ‘Is that a satisfactory reply?’ ‘A very good reply. Without enthusiasm there can be no architecture, only technical, impersonal construction, without soul. Good design is exactly like good sex. If it doesn’t fill you with adrenalin, if your heart doesn’t pound, there’s no point to working.’ There was a slight smile on his lips. ‘How can I be enthusiastic when I only get meaningless jobs? I expected a unique, interesting project, just like you promised in the ad.’ He didn’t look at me, just leaned on his desk and rummaged among the papers. Finally he showed me a large blueprint. ‘What do you think?’ he asked. I leaned over the blueprints and held them down with a hand. His long artist’s fingers traced the black lines as he explained them to me. As he talked, his hand touched mine, or perhaps it was the opposite I pulled away as if I had been scalded, dropped a pencil onto the floor, and bent down to pick it up. ‘Sorry,’ I mumbled in confusion. My clumsiness didn’t bother him. On the contrary, I seemed to have impressed him. He asked my opinion on several issues and said my ideas were fresh and interesting. The rewards for this project were also minimal but at least the future was now more promising, or so I hoped. And apart from that, now I was working in close proximity to Yoni. From the very first, I wanted to appear perfect to him. I chose my words carefully, afraid to sound nonsensical, to make mistakes. When he invited me to join him at meetings with clients, I sat quietly, listening and uttered one or two sentences only when I was convinced it was necessary. Nothing more. And from the very first there was a sexual charge between us which was heightened by our body language, a delicate imperceptible touch on the thigh, the random touch of hand on hand as we passed a lighter or cigarette. ‘I want you to join me in Jerusalem to check out a new site,’ he said one morning, in a tone which left me no room for refusal. ‘We’ve been asked to draw up a plan for a certain plot of land and I want to get to know the shapes and patterns of the landscape, the colors, the spirit of the place.’ ‘Every good house starts from an idea,’ he explained en route and was drawn, as always, to talk lovingly about the architect’s work. ‘An architectural creation is like a living, organic body. It’s like a plant rooted deep in the soil, feeding on it, developing because of it…’ I looked at him as he spoke. He talked passionately and I remembered how he had compared design and sex. He was talking about buildings and I was thinking about sex. Was I the one who was finding double entendres in everything he said, I wondered. Interesting to know what he’s like as a lover. Does his wife feed on him all the time and thrive? On the drive back from Jerusalem, as his long arms helped me to click the safety belt, he asked me: ‘Have you ever cheated on your husband?’ he said teasingly. . I shivered at the touch of his hand on my bare arm. His smell filled my nostrils. I sat motionless. Although I had never cheated on Alon, I said: ‘Yes, a couple of times.’ My heart beat faster. ‘How many times?’ he asked with a smile of enjoyment. ‘Three,’ I said and blushed. More might indicate recklessness, and to tell him the truth might suggest that he had no prospects, I thought and immediately caught myself. For God's sake what was I thinking? What kind of a question was that. He was trying to provoke me, to attract me, and I was falling into his hands like ripe fruit. ‘A good number,’ he seemed satisfied at the answer. I noted the laughter lines around his eyes. In the days following I was happy. I preferred to forget the gossip about the way he flattered other women. I felt attractive, tried to keep close to him, wondered how he would react if he knew that in my thoughts we were naked in the throes of an erotic act. I felt both ashamed and excited. As always, I confided in my two closest friends, Dana and Michelle and, as always, their reactions were very different. ‘You’re out of your mind, you’ll destroy your marriage,’ Michelle attacked me. ‘No way! I love Alon, Yoni will just introduce a little interest into my boring life.’ ‘Remember what I say. You’re going to make a terrible mistake. You have two small children. Alon is a great husband and you love and admire him. At least, that’s what you say. He looks good, too, comes from a good background and he’s bright. Have I forgotten anything? Oh, yes, he’s successful too. What more do you want? I know at least a hundred women who would change places with you. Don’t spoil it!’ Michelle was a successful movie producer, twenty six, two years younger than me. She was looking for love, yearned for a normal life, a husband, children, a dog, an SUV. Most of all she wanted children. She saw my life as a idyllic and here I was, the one who had ‘everything’, about to destroy the dream. She persisted. ‘This Shavit guy is a notorious womanizer. You’ll get hurt.’ ‘No way. I’m strong, everything’s under control. Don’t worry.’ Dana gazed at us serenely. After years of unhappy marriage, she had learned to curb her stormy temperament and had gained the ability to tolerate her husband. She had even developed a certain degree of liking for him, but always announced that if the opportunity arose to spice up her boring life, she wouldn’t hesitate. She knew only too well that an adventure like this would fill my life for at least a few weeks. ‘Why are you making a big deal out of it?’ she rebuked Michelle. ‘Sharon, don’t listen. Seize the moment!’ That was exactly what I wanted to hear. Healthy logic had vanished. Until I met Yoni, I thought of myself as practical and stable. I wasn’t easily lured into illusions. Now suddenly I had begun to doubt my choices, my norms. Despite the ideal appearance of my life I was bored and dried out and the meeting with Yoni had aroused something latent, pulled me forward. I had no intention of allowing Michelle to spoil my lecherous plans. ‘Go for it,’ Dana kept saying again and again when she saw how my eyes lit up as I told her about Yoni. ‘Stop being so virtuous. Let yourself live for once.’ One morning I simply took the plunge. I was at Sdeh Dov airfield waiting for a flight to Eilat for a business meeting. A room had been reserved for me at the Edomit Hotel, Alon knew I would be staying overnight. For several days I had been toying with the daring notion, running the fantasy through my mind, and a few minutes before takeoff I stopped fantasizing and took action. It was crazy and impulsive action, totally out of character. I called Yoni. ‘I’m on my way to Eilat. Care to join me?’ I asked casually, my heart pounding. ;Sure,’ he answered immediately. ‘I’ll be there this afternoon.’ As if he’d been waiting for the invitation. Two hours later I was checked in at the Edumit, a no frills hotel in the new tourist center of the town I had chosen it because the office was footing the bill. After a quick shower I went to my planned business meeting, recalling Yoni’s comments. I could hear him reminding me that the first meeting with a client was intended to promote mutual trust and to learn the client’s needs, that I should find out where the lot was located, what the budget was and what functions the house was intended to fulfill. It was important to me to prove myself and promote my career, and above all, to impress Yoni. I returned to the hotel in the afternoon. The message light on the telephone was flashing. ‘Hi, I’m here. I’m at the King Solomon, Room 403. Call me when you get in.’ At that time, in the late eighties, the King Solomon was the newest and most luxurious hotel in Eilat. Yoni, as usual, had gone for the best. ‘Come over,’ he said, and two hours later I was at the door of his room, showered and perfumed. I knocked faintly. My arms were heavy. Yoni opened the door and greeted me with a light kiss on the cheek. Then he flung himself on the bed nonchalantly, legs crossed, lit a cigarette and inhaled pleasurably. I entered hesitantly and found myself standing bashfully in the center of the room, with my backpack, like a little girl on her first day at school. Yoni tapped the bed at his side, inviting me to sit down. I was embarrassed, blushing like a virgin. What was I doing here? A married woman with a married man. I sat down, still wearing the backpack, not knowing what to say, where to put my limbs. Yoni was calm and relaxed. He came to my aid and took off the backpack. ‘Let’s go and eat,’ he proposed. I was happy to let him take the initiative and to escape the room, which felt claustrophobic to me. We went to the ‘Last Refuge’. The owner had known me in my single days, when I spent a lot of time in the Sinai, on Naama Beach or on Nelson’s beach. I used to stop over on the way back to the center of the country and feast on his fish delicacies. He was used to seeing me with loose wild sun- bleached hair, dressed in a white galabia2 with thin tinkling silver bracelets, and bright turquoise rings, my tanned feet in worn leather sandals. Now, although I was wearing tailored jeans and a white sleeveless shirt and my hair was in a smooth ponytail, he recognized me instantly. ‘Good evening, Sharon,’ he smiled cordially. ‘The best table is vacant.’ He led us to a side table, very close to the water. Yoni ordered a bottle of semi dry wine. The light liquid flooded my veins and began to have an effect within a few minutes. We ordered a conch shell of seafood and devoured it together. As the hours passed and more glasses were drunk, I began to feel free and relaxed and my pulse slowed down. The conversation was lively. My self-confidence was restored. ‘How was your meeting,’ asked Yoni. ‘Excellent. I think we’ll get the project,’ I said proudly. ‘Great. You’ve fitted in to the company very well. You’re doing a wonderful job.’ He looked into my eyes penetratingly, smiling. ‘Thanks.’ I knew I was blushing and was ashamed of the tendency to blush which had begun in my adolescence and over which I had no control. 2 Loose long robe worn by Beduins and Egyptians ‘If you’d offered me your services, I would have taken you on,’ he said with his devilish smile. I smiled back, feeling myself reddening and smoothing my hair to disguise the confusion. He filled my glass again. I lit a cigarette, drew in the smoke and tried to calm myself. He did not shift his gaze, enjoying my confusion, checking his impact on me. It was time to talk about him a little, I thought, to deflect the spotlight from me. ‘I’ve heard you started out from nothing, is it true?’ ‘Yes, it’s a long story.’ ‘But still, how did you start.’ ‘I worked at anything I could get in order to finance my studies- at a poultry farm, a bakery, sales. I didn’t turn down anything. I left home at an early age.’ ‘Were you ever hungry?’ ‘That too,’ he said indifferently. ‘And didn’t you care? Didn’t you want to go home, to your parents?’ ‘No,’ he replied laconically. I wondered how to interpret his behavior. Is he answering curtly because he doesn’t want to get too close? Perhaps he doesn’t like talking about the past. I tried another tack. ‘Do you come to Eilat often?’ ‘I was here at a convention a few months ago.’ ‘With your wife?’ I couldn’t resist asking. ‘No, I generally travel alone.’ ‘How do you two get along?’ I dared to interrogate. I knew he’d been married less than a year and that they had a small baby. ‘What do you mean, ‘get along’? He looked at me, amused. ‘Do you love her?’ ‘I don’t know.’ His amused expression was unchanged. ‘Isn’t it worth checking that out before you get married?’ ‘Preferably, but in this case she was pregnant.’ ‘Why didn’t she have an abortion?’ I queried like a KGB agent. ‘Because she didn’t want to, and what’s your story?’ His impatience put an end to the interrogation sooner than expected. ‘Married plus two,’ I said. ‘Great love?’ Yes, I suppose so.’ ‘So what are you doing here with me?’ ‘I don’t know, I said, shrugging. What could I say? I’m here because I long to have sex with you? Because I want to feel your naked body on mine, want you to desire me, want to guide you inside me? ‘You interest me,’ I muttered flirtatiously, and gazed deep into his eyes. It seemed that the wine had given me courage. He didn’t respond, but continued smiling that confident, slightly arrogant smile and looked satisfied. After the meal we strolled on the wharf beside the restaurant until we reached the edge. We leaned on the tall rocks and gazed out to sea. His hand sought mine. Hand in hand we stood facing the sea and listening to the waves caressing the shore, the hiss of their retreat. We watched them flirt with the sand, seductive, inviting, whispering stories from the heart of the sea, soothing turbulent souls. The silver moonlight was reflected in the water, myriad stars glowed in the sky. The Eilat silence and the dry hot atmosphere instilled dreamy tranquility in me. For me, Eilat had always been a place remote from the real life of Tel Aviv. Yoni started to stroke my hair. His hand caressed my head and then continued down my bare neck, lingering over the curve of the shoulder, my weak spot. His caresses were like music to my body, like the sound of the water and the wind. He brought his face close to mine and brushed my lips with his tongue. A quiver of excitement went through my body and between my legs. I was wet. It was an excitement I had forgotten. ‘Come,’ he said and led me back to the road. A passing taxi stopped for us and I climbed in drunk with excitement. I laid my head on his shoulder feeling like the heroine of some old movie. The ‘real’ Sharon had surrendered to the dictates of the script, of the heroine’s body. Yoni’s hand on my thigh sent waves of feeling between my legs. I was aroused by what was about to happen. At last we reached the hotel. This time I didn’t sit down on the edge of the bed. I stood facing him with closed eyes, surrendering to his embrace. I undid the buttons on my shirt. There was no warning light in my head. I was swept with desire, felt free of all responsibility. My body was more alive than it had been for a long time. Yoni ran his hands down the length of my body, his lips licked every inch, from my nipples down to the pubic triangle. He played on the most intimate strings of my body with the expertise of a virtuoso. I moaned, and that was his sign to continue. I couldn’t breathe; I didn’t want to breathe. I gave in to my passion, forgetting that real life was going on outside the walls of the hotel. This night, this bed, they were the essence of my existence. Yoni began to lick my ear, breathing into it, sending shivers down my spine. I could feel his breath. I pinched and stroked his nipples until they were as hard as mine and took each rough nipple in my mouth, running my tongue round it in slow decreasing circles. I moved down to his navel and from there to his balls, caressing them and wetting them with my tongue. I enjoyed watching his pleasure and listening to his groans. He turned me around, his fingers straying over my body, his tongue teasing my clitoris. I writhed on the sheets, damp from my own fluids, and pulled his body towards me. He crushed me to the bed. I loved it, and I wanted more. I tried to reach his cock, but he caught my arms and stretched them above my head, pinning me down. His thighs pressed my legs apart and he pushed into me against the mattress. We moved together in perfect harmony. I made strange noises, without shame, without regret. ‘Come, Sharon,’ he urged and bit my nipple gently and I came so fiercely that I felt as if my heart had stopped. My thighs trembled and my head was spinning. I could feel the contractions of his body inside mine. He rolled onto his side, his head on the pillow. I listened to his breathing, lying motionless on my back, until we both fell asleep. The next morning we returned to Tel Aviv on separate flights. 3. Today, when I think about it, I can’t understand where they disappeared to, the feelings of guilt and remorse. Some kind of false blindness afflicted me and it spared me pangs of conscience. Perhaps what helped was Alon’s naivete; he never dreamed that his beloved wife might cheat on him. I returned from Eilat drunk from my sleepless night, with a foolish smile plastered over my face. Even the disorder which awaited me at home didn’t succeed in wiping off the smile. Alon returned home towards evening as cheerful and pleasant as usual. ‘How was Eilat?’ he asked. Gili was hanging round his neck, bouncing merrily. ‘Excellent. I think we’re going to land the project,’ I replied naturally. The buzz of the telephone galvanized me. With an impressive leap I reached it first. ‘Hi, everything OK?’ it was the voice of the master-builder on the line. ‘Sure, what’s new?’ I said, trying to sound casual and calm. ‘I had a great time with you. How about having lunch together on Sunday.’ As usual, he left no room for hesitation. My positive response was taken for granted. I put down the phone. ‘It was my boss,’ I said to Alon. ‘Wanted to know how things went in Eilat.’ Alon nodded and handed Gili over to me. Then he sat down in the large armchair, put on his soft earphones and became engrossed in listening to music. Beethoven, Mahler or Tchaikovsky were the only composers he enjoyed hearing. Sometimes he was so moved by the beauty of the music that there were tears in his eyes. But as far as I was concerned, be was both deaf and blind. Sometimes, when visitors arrived, I had to tear off his headphones so that he would greet them. For hours he hovered in an ideal world, answerable only to himself. Since Gili was born, the situation had been deteriorating. Every evening he sat deep in the armchair, lost in his private world, while I pretended to watch a stupid TV movie, hoping that he would be asleep by the time I went up to bed. Sex had become a brief act, without fervor and passion, a matter-of-fact activity aimed at satisfying physical needs and nothing more. My excuse for lack of libido was tiredness, headaches and whatever. When I had no choice in order to keep the domestic peace, I lay in the missionary position, hoping he would come quickly. He usually came within a few minutes and then he would roll over onto his side and say contentedly: ‘That was great, Sharoni, we should do it more often,’ and fall asleep like a baby. I lay awake, gaping at the dark ceiling and asking myself if we had been in the same bed. We had been together for six years and the fact that we were a couple was taken for granted by both of us, but until I met Yoni it had never occurred to me to cheat on him. Until Yoni appeared, fidelity had been a supreme virtue for me. That was how I was raised. I knew it was permitted to make mistakes but forbidden to lie. A believer in monogamy, I was a one-man woman. I had promised to be faithful, and till the morning when I called Yoni and invited him to join me in Eilat, I had every intention of keeping my promise. But this man filled me with an uncontrollable need to follow my desire Since his appearance in my life, I had been behaving as if I were conducting an empirical study in which nobody would be hurt by my actions.. On Sunday I awoke seething with endorphins. I chose my outfit as carefully as if my life depended on what I wore. As he did every morning, Alon took the children to their nursery schools and continued on to work. I poured myself a cup of coffee and took the cup with me to the car. I was impatient to reach the office. It was early and Yoni hadn’t arrived yet. I sat at my desk and tried to work, gaping at the pile of papers before me but unable to concentrate. I was afraid he might have forgotten our date. Every ring of the phone in the office made my heart leap. Time passed slowly. It was only towards lunch, when I was already a bundle of nerves, that Yoni came in. He threw a ‘good morning’ into the air and went straight into his private office. I wanted the earth to swallow me up. In my stupidity I had cancelled all my meetings outside the office for that day. I had been sitting waiting for him and he had ignored me, scarcely noticed my existence. An hour later he appeared beside my desk. ‘Shall we go?’ ‘Yes, give me five minutes.’ I needed to recover from the storm which had buffeted my body and mind, from the intolerable wait. We walked out of the office like two strangers, without exchanging a word, and went into a nearby café. A smiling waitress greeted us and handed us two menus. Yoni ordered a salad for both of us. ‘Is that OK?’ he asked as he ordered. I nodded. Whatever I ordered would stick in my throat. I pretended to be surveying the restaurant, examining the passersby, as I waited for him to say something. He was the one who had asked for the meeting. ‘What happened in Eilat was very special for me,’ he said. ‘I want it to continue.’ He spoke confidently, with a half-smile, having no doubt that I would agree. I had no idea what future he imagined for our relationship. I had no idea then and I still don’t know. I knew that I wasn’t the only woman whose body he pleasured, that I was not his first extramarital affair. And still, I believed that for him the time we had spent together had been unique. Such phenomenal sex, such perfect physical compatibility, couldn’t possibly occur with just anyone. ‘Yes, so do I,’ I smiled back, trying to maintain a serene expression. My stomach was in spasms and my mind was empty. I was afraid to say the wrong word at the wrong time. Beside him I felt like a little girl. His larger dimensions, height, wide shoulders, self-confidence and the charismatic authority he radiated, as well as the obvious fact that he was my boss, aroused in me a blend of excitement and tension. Our lunches became regular events. Every morning I woke up as excited, tense and happy as if I was on amphetamines, greeting the new day gladly. We met in pubs and cafes near the office and from time to time in the evenings as well. I developed a talent for inventing stories for Alon: a meeting with a nervous client who was going abroad next day, the last day of an exhibition I simply had to see, professional commitments etc, all born out of my imagination. Deep within, I was cultivating a liar, who was both courageous and cowardly. I tried to analyze how it had happened to me. Was there a precise moment when I fell in love with him? How had a stranger managed to take up residence inside my soul, in the most private places which I had struggled for years to block and conceal from other men. Had it happened at our first meeting, or did I give him the key to my heart only after we had surveyed and measured one another? The protective cover of my self-awareness was now exceedingly thin. The world opened up, flashes and rays of light reached me. There was a sense of vast movement in the world outside my home, outside the world of Sharon and Alon. It was strange to sense the existence of another man apart from my husband. Yoni’s presence hovered around me, above me. Everything that had been latent, hidden in my subconscious, now began to stir and reveal itself, as if I had set up a mirror reflecting my hidden world of instinct and passion. ‘So, what’s to become of you?’ asked Michelle. Although she was opposed to my forbidden affair, she was a true friend, conspired with me and often covered for me. ‘I’ve no idea. I like the way things are right now. I don’t care what happens in the future, don’t think about it at all. The only thing that interests me is how to spend more time with Yoni.’ ‘You follow him like an addict. You know it won’t end well and yet you continue.’ Dana listened and grinned dismissively. ‘Forget about Alon. If a man’s wandering round the house in underpants and you don’t want to strip them off, it’s better if he doesn’t live with you.’ I knew Michelle was right but I didn’t care. The gun was aimed at me and I was enjoying it. The danger turned me on, the stolen pleasures and the tensions of a new beginning stirred me. Fidelity, which all my life had been a stable and clear value, now took on new meaning. Now I equated it with ennui, boring habit, lack of imagination, austerity. I paced the house like a caged animal. The home which had once been my castle, had become a prison. Restless, I ran up and down the stairs, rearranged objects which were already tidy, and roamed from room to room. I lost all desire to go out with Alon and could no longer tolerate the need to lie to him all the time. But when I didn’t lie I found myself trapped at home, thinking about Yoni, impatient and on edge. The most difficult evenings were when I knew that Yoni was out with his wife at various social events. In my mind’s eye, I saw the two of them dressed with restrained elegance, the light elegance which was characteristic of him, mingling with influential people. Yoni said that he too suffered on such evenings, that he was forced to listen over and over to his wife expounding at length her views on life, politics, the security situation, architecture or cinema; scattering false smiles in all directions out of a need to ingratiate herself, to be liked, to create the impression of an interesting society woman, darting about in her tailored business suits. He told me repeatedly how he hated those evenings, her constant need to impress other people. But I still suffered. In my imagination I saw people coming over to shake his hand warmly, trying to start a conversation, to be friendly, to express admiration, to display goodwill. Yoni knew how to create the right relationships with the right people. I could envision him chatting with one of the guests, his charm, his courtesy, so very human. Making the other feel important and then turning to another acquaintance, peeking surreptitiously at his watch and awaiting the time when he could allow himself to be alone, far from them all. I thought about him incessantly. In this post-Freudian world, I said to myself, I must reconcile myself to the fact that my conduct is motivated by sexual urges. But I’m not that kind, I thought, mulling the matter over endlessly, and I’m not the kind to divorce. I’m the kind who suppresses whatever doesn’t suit me. Why focus on the bad things. Everything turns out OK in the end. Khalil Gubran wrote: I saw a woman sitting between two men. One side of her face was pale. The other was blushing. He must have seen me.
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