Miguel

Tel Aviv; November.

 

For months I had anxiously counted the days until my return across the ocean and into the embrace of a boy a had grown to adore. There was never a moment that passed that I did not think of Miguel’s striking green eyes and that I did not long for his presence. Even as I stepped off the plane and down the halls of the airport with which I had become so familiar, I felt I could not make my shaking legs go quickly enough to match the urgency I felt.

It took only a week for us to develop our own routine. This night was no different; it was well past midnight and we had been lying in bed for hours listening to the winter’s rain hammering relentlessly against the building. We were intoxicated by each other’s presence.  Our limbs were tangled and my face had found a home nestled against his neck, his beard rough against my cheek.

The air weighed heavily in our silence. I squeezed his hand, trying to convey an intensity that I refused to voice. At length, I released myself and rolled over, breathless.

“Fuck, Miguel. I am so fucking crazy about you.”

He responded immediately. And he, though always so careful in his words, fumbled: “I love you too.”

My heart stopped, and I am certain that for a moment I could not breathe. I turned to him, desperate to see his face through the darkness.

“You love me?” I winced; I waited. I felt the span of a week pass as I lay there, blind to his expression, waiting for his response.

“I think so.”

I exhaled, barely noticing that my breath had been stuck in my throat. “Thank god,” my arms found his his body once more. “Thank god. I think I love you too.”

We lay in silence. I could feel the tension in my body ease. The tumult that had existed within me, fighting against my tightened lips, finally rested with my confession. I inhaled deeply, enjoying the comfort that this release had bought me.

But the air turned cold and our hearts beat wildly. Miguel’s words had come unexpectedly and we were unprepared for the stark bareness that they caused. My calm had been fleeting. I bolted upright; clutching the sheets around me as though they could provide my heart some sanctuary.  Miguel’s warm hand rested on my back, but I hardly felt it.  I could say nothing.

Panic.

 

 

 

 

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11/9

I’m in the airport.

I have 45 minutes until I board the plane that will take me again to the place I tried to put to rest in my heart: my beloved Tel Aviv. I am writing as I sit in my terminal and sip red wine. I am happy. This feels right.

A few hours ago I was in a different frame of mind. I was frantically sending text messages to my friends as I wiped tears from my eyes. This trip seemed absurd to me. I was supposed to have come to terms with being home. I was supposed to have let Israel go for a while. But I’ve learned again and again that I will never be able to anticipate my feelings. As much as I tried to convince myself that I would be okay staying in Massachusetts, the more my heart rebelled. So it goes.

So, I’ve been home for two and a half months and I have not yet forgotten that sweet Israeli city and the boy I’ve come to adore. I don’t know how these things are supposed to work. But I can truthfully say that there hasn’t yet been a day that’s passed that I have not found myself longing to go back. I have felt for months that I should be in Tel Aviv. Even still, earlier today I became caught in the idea that going back was crazy and inevitably destructive. As it turns out, all hearts are fickle.

It was never truly an option in my mind not to go, if course. Everything was in order: I had worked relentlessly for two months and covered three weeks’ worth of shifts; I had a ride to the airport in just a few hours; I spent the previous night out with my closest friends. Once my plane landed some 6000 miles from home, a boy planned to pick me up at the airport and bring me back to his house. I had felt secure in all this and jittery with anticipation. I woke up this morning and sent a text to the boy I’m so fond of, expressing my excitement. Even so, an hour later fear had overtaken me and I was crying to my best friend.

This trip, I think, requires me to nake sone choices. Frankly, I’m feeling utterly unequipped. My life is fuller than it used to be. I find myself deeply attached to people and places on opposite sides of the world, and the realisation hurts in a strange way. I am preemptively miserable at the thought of leaving Israel while I simultaneously anticipate discovering homesickness. What did I get myself into?

Tel Aviv blues

Tel Aviv 2

 

Tonight I walked the city. I watched the sun set over the ocean and I tasted the breeze of the salty sea air. My feet are blistered and caked with sand. My thighs burn; my hips are stiff.

I purposely walked too far south. I turned east, then north. But these Tel Aviv streets are not the Manhattan grid I know so well. It’s not always so simple for me; this western sea has turned my internal compass upside-down and suddenly I am unable to trust my instincts. Even still, I can think of no better way to learn the ins and outs of a city. I sounded out signs, even if it took too long. I found my way home. Like always.

It’s strange to me that I can fall so easily and so wholly into a place. Not only do I feel in sync with the people, but with the city itself. I cannot seem to make anyone understand this time around. Being here was never a vacation for me. I never came here with any intent to tour or to take photographs or to buy a tshirt; I came here only to be. There is so little I do here that is different from the things I do at home. Still, I feel enveloped by this city.

I am by nature a moody person and halfway across the world it is no different. I sometimes sleep poorly, I feel sorry for myself, and I get annoyed with the people I love. I cry and I drink and I get short-tempered. Tel Aviv is not the cure to my inconsistent happiness. It is a small piece of the puzzle, but staying here has never been the cure. This doesn’t make it easier to go home. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.
In a few days I’ll slump off to the airport and return home to a timezone that makes my body feel all wrong. I’ll go back to pouring coffee; punching in breakfast orders I know like the back of my hand; and arguing with the cooks in a form of Spanglish particular only to our kitchen. I’ll make the kind of jokes with old farmers that make me wince and my spine tense in humiliation. The muscles in my city legs will slacken. My brown sugar skin will grow pale and my sun-golden hair will begin to dim.

This is what I am facing. But this forthcoming low is only that: a low. It is no defeat. Call it a hibernation…maybe another level of growth. And I am always growing, growing, growing. It’s okay. Massachusetts or not, I’ll find my way home. Like always.

Goodbyes

There are times I’ve said goodbye and felt sure the separation was temporary. I would say most of the goodbyes I’ve said in my life have been this way. A few months ago, I experienced for the first time, that a goodbye I had said previously had become more firm and certain than I had initially realised.

An old friend dropped me off at an airport and begrudgingly aquiesced to a kiss on the cheek after an exasperated reminder that he had promised. It was a disappointing, half-efforted gesture to aptly finish off the recent four and a half years. I was well-learned and unsurprised.

A week later, I was driven by a very different boy to an airport some 6000 miles away. He kissed me goodbye warmly and readily. He laughed when I told him no one had ever sent me off that way, declaring, “This is classic!” The contrast turned my world upside-down.

I hardly spoke to the first boy for the initial few days I was back in The States, despite the sudden uncharacteristic spike in his need for my attention. I was reeling after my return and I knew with my entirety that I could just not fill the old role he expected of me; I couldn’t stomach it.

As it turned out, the goodbye with this boy wasn’t nearly so final as I had hoped. He sought my attention endlessly. He called me and stopped by my house without warning. When I spoke to him, the distance in my voice reflected that which was in my heart. His voice, though, dripped with gloom and longing. And soon, I was filled with guilt. After all, there was not much he had done wrong in the recent month.

We went out to dinner one night and spoke of nothing. He criticized the food I ordered. I told him of a nice letter I’d received from a former friend’s father. I had been touched, but he found lines at which to jeer. He contributed nothing to the conversation and left me to talk and talk, hoping something I said would intrigue him enough to reciprocate. I had begun to resent seeing him, even in its infrequency. Whenever my memory lapsed and I began to miss him, nights like this were the cure.

In the span of three months, I avoided him; guiltfully and remorsefully took him back into my life; fucked him; and found that our disconnect was omnipresent. Together, we are broken people. There is no mending it. The space between us is resoundingly heavy. And silent.

It should be no surprise that I did not request his help upon my next trip to the airport. Although it was previously my habit to allow numerous chances for there to be some change–any change–in our interactions, I have since wisened up. I do not need to feel indebted. I have grown far, far from him. Our persons simply cannot meld. And once again the finality seems concrete.

So, here I am again. For two weeks I am free to walk and lie in warm white sand. The taste of sesame is everywhere and the deep throaty sounds of this language make me melt. I spend my nights with someone who calls me amazing. My mornings are spent sleeping peacefully, wrapped in his sheet and holding his hand. Someday, too, I will have to move on from this ambrosia. Someday soon; time is tricky.

I have said goodbye too many times this year for one person to rightly stomach. I have severed relationships of all sorts and sat with their finalities, however fitfully. Family, friends, lovers. No one has been safe from my pursuit of self-preservation. And here I am now: drinking white wine at 3am in some cafe on King George Street in Tel Aviv. Is this the reward my severances have brought me? I’m inclined to say yes.

But what now? Now I must again say goodbye to this place I associate with such personal freedom. I have never felt such a home away from home, as much as I detest the cliché. It’s not possible to come back as quickly as I have just done. So how do I say goodbye, not only to this Mediterranean sun, but to this incredible Tel Aviv boy who helped change my life?

Last time I left I knew I’d be back soon because I felt it with my whole. Now, though? Now I know well that my time away from Israel will be long. I know nothing more detailed than that. I know that the world is open to me and I’m going to explore it. The same is true for this boy, for that matter. I know that entertaining the hypotheticals–the what-ifs, the coulds and woulds, the maybes– is pointless.

Most of the time I have distinct (and usually accurate) feelings about situations like this. When I last left, I refused to say goodbye, and instead said, “see you later.” I could say the same this time around, but every time I run that scenario in my head, I interrupt myself with the harsh resonance of one word: when? And if I truly have no idea how to answer that question, in what manner do I take my leave?

But I’ve already voiced my discomfort with this. And when I asked we responded in kind: the shrug was on our lips. There is no answer. This is just what I’ve gotten myself into. Oh, Tel Aviv. You have seeped into my skin.