Stories on the Way to Tel Aviv

 By the time we got to the bus stop it was painfully obvious that the puffer I had forgotten at home was in the wrong place. Panting, I sit on the bench and Oren begins the walk back home to bring me my symbicort . There are no words to describe my appreciation to the scientists who spend years of their lives creating medication that support our quality of life. I am not speaking about the multimillion dollar pharmaceutical companies that flog their products to doctors who over prescribe. That’s another story, but as I sometimes experience asthma, I use medication every day of my life and  am profoundly grateful to both the researches and to my husband of who offer me a quality of life that I can never take for granted.

The bus trip from Ra’anana to Tel Aviv is about an hour depending on traffic. One of my favorite occupations is looking out of the window of the bus and observing the people and the incidences that flash by. Every time the bus stops my eyes rest on someone or something and a story begins to gather like stream rising from the dew in the early morning sun.

 A tall, thin man with salt and pepper hair, wide rimmed glasses and a newspaper rolled under his arm sits down opposite me. I’m surprised I didn’t notice his camera until it was resting on his lap. A Minolta. How did I miss that? He sits playing with the focus lens. Turning it around so that it slides it in and out, in and out.  It looks erotic in some strange kind of way. I wonder if it would look equally erotic if a woman did that. I suspect not.

The man is wearing dark blue jeans, a beige and white checked shirt under a rather shabby looking grey jacket. His knees touch the seat in front of him and his brown lace up shoes are planted in perfect parallel position on the dirt streaked floor.  He is reading the Jerusalem Post so I gather he is from the US or some other Anglo country. I notice his glasses again. They are tortoise shell and every so often he peeps over the top of them to check out where we are.

I’m staring. I know I am, and my children have often reminded me to stop staring but as they as not with me I indulge myself in staring and fantasising this man’s story.

Possibly a tourist? No, I don’t think so. There is a knowingness about him, a certain, “I know where I am’, look that tourists don’t have. A new immigrant? Perhaps? He lets out a little snicker over something he has just read and I try to look over to see what ‘s funny but I can’t see without being blatantly obvious.

 I turn away and imagine he is on his way to a photo shoot. Six models have arrived from Paris, London and New York are here to be photographed in Tel Aviv against the background of the Mediterranean. They will be wearing the new seasons swimwear, a stunning collection put together by the worlds leading designers. He is a demanding photographer insisting on perfection, dismissive of discomfort including the cold wind and the gathering crowds. He works with one model at a time, oblivious of the others wrapped in their flimsy coats, bare footed and covered in goose bumps.  There is an penetrating obsessiveness about him that enables him to focus intensely on only one thing at a time. One of the models complains about the cold and he shoots back at her, “Shh quiet. Deal with it.”

In silence, he clicks away and softens, realizing his reaction was unkind.  He  looks over to see what she is doing and sees she is holding a cup of coffee. He says gently,  “Good idea. I’ll get one too in a minute.” The tension has gone.

My musings are interrupted by him pressing the stop button. He stands up and the woman at the door makes a comment, “Will you photograph me?”

As he steps out of the door he throws her a crumb.  “Ill send it to you.”

 The bus door closes and we are off again. I turn around in time to see him sit on the bus stop bench.  Now why would he do that and where do the busses go from that place. I begin to image he must be working for the Mossad and perhaps he noticed me looking at him, and being an experienced spy, he changes direction to make sure I am not following him. After all,  I too could be working for some foreign government for all he knows.

I rummage in my bag for a chewing gum and noticing my puffer, slide my arm through Oren’s and put my head on his shoulder.

“ How long till we are in Tel Aviv”, I ask.

“About fifteen minutes”.

A young Ethiopian, her long hair covered by a huge African scarf sits across the aisle from me. I imagine she arrived with her parents 6 or 7 years ago. She must have been only …. and with that, I begin another story.



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