10 September 2015
Today was the worst day. It was the kind of day that made me want to teleport home. Bam. I’m home. I’m back. I’m safe. I can eat blueberries and read A Song of Ice and Fire and watch Netflix and float in my pool and speak English and drive and be lazy without being guilty. A week ago, I was asked what superpower I’d want to possess. Without even thinking about it, I said: That’s easy, teleportation. I said it with a bit of a smirk, a knowing look that showed how much confidence I had in my answer, how right I thought it was. Think about it, I explained to my questioner, No more paying for flights or trains, no more huge gas bills, no waiting, just zap and you’re there, right where you want to be.
But what gets lost in that zap? What if where I want to be is not where I should be?
Like today, the worst day. I walked for miles through a strange city in a flowy skirt in the blowing wind and rickety streets and honking cars and trilling bikes with a bag of books in one hand and a purse slung across my back. The heat pounded down on my laden figure and the street that had been promised to impress me with its impromptu graffiti and bustling avenues really, well, didn’t. There was something else too, a lingering whisper in the back of my mind that has been telling me to move on, to leave Tel Aviv. I had set out to embark upon my day in an effort to dispel that voice – to show it that Tel Aviv still has more to show me, more for me to see, more for me to learn.
It started off well enough: I finished my latest literary adventure – Room – in a café just around my block. Then, feeling adventurous, I took a turn down a street that I’d never been on before and, lo and behold, I find an English second-hand bookstore! This is perfect because I’ve already finished the two books that I purchased two days ago. So, four old-to-the-world-new-to-me books now in tow, I head down my mysterious street only to run into – Dizengoff Centre: the big mall that I’d accidentally been to the past two days as well. Shrugging my shoulders, I went into the mall to cool off and to peruse the shops. Headed back out, I’m now on a renewed mission to see the Florentin district, an up-and-coming part of the city just south of Tel Aviv and north of Jaffa.
It’s eleven o’clock and I’m sweating. It’s eleven-oh-eight and sweat is dripping down my temple and plopping down onto my collarbone like some cruel, self-imposed version of Chinese water torture. It’s eleven twenty and my hair, unmercifully loose, is somehow, though no breeze is present, flapping onto my sweaty face, into my wary eyes, happy to go anywhere except tucked nicely behind my ears. I check my phone. I still have twenty-five minutes until I arrive to Florentin Street.
I turn down Jaffa Street and suddenly everything changes. The sidewalks have disappeared. People have as well. Traffic lights don’t seem to exist and the once so commercial street I had been walking down has given way to a strictly residential version. The kind where a clearly American-looking girl in a flouncy, striped dress and a bag of English books sticks out horrendously. For the first time in Tel Aviv, I feel uneasy. It’s nearly noon, the sun is directly over me, my body is fully covered (in neutrally coloured clothes as in sweat) and yet still I feel as though I don’t belong – which is strangely, another first in Israel.
I still hold out hope: It was all be worth it for this cool up-and-coming area – there will be good food and great sights and chill vibes. I was my own Dory, urging myself onward, to just keep swimming. After a couple of turns and twists and quick iPhone navigating, I arrive at Florentin Street.
It’s just, well, a street*.
Sure there are more bars and cafes and drawings of Homer Simpson on an abandoned building than I’ve been seeing around here, but, really, sadly, regrettably, forsakenly – it’s just a street. After walking up and down the just-a-street street a bit to scope out the just-a-street, I settle on an unimposing café, have some gnocchi, read one of my old-to-the-world-new-to-me books, hook up to the Wi-Fi and try to recover from my official Worst Day in Israel.
It barely works. The book is great and the gnocchi is creamy, but after about ten minute my stomach is screaming and urging me to stop spooning the creamy pasta into my mouth and to find a toilet immediately. I look around. No toilet. I pay the bill, grab my belongings and scoot down the street toward the beach, where I can rent a bike and fly on home.
It’s another fifteen minutes to the beach and another ten for me to figure out how to rent the city bikes. Without checking the bike (strike one), I pick the closest one to me (strike two) and hop on (steeeeerike three). Of course, the front tire is hopelessly flat. So I muster up all of that strength that seems to always accompany mild anger and I pedal onward, dreaming of Dora’s apartment – bathroom ensuite. It’s slow work and I have to pedal constantly in order to keep the ol’ flat moving, but there’s finally wind in my hair and my sweaty thighs aren’t rubbing against each other, so there’s a plus.
Somehow it’s now two forty-five and the sun is still hot and my bike is locked into another rack and I’m on my way home – just a twenty-five minute walk. I indulge in a box of grapes and flip on some Damien Jurado to satisfy the part of me that wants to cry. For twenty-five minutes my sweaty thighs were chafing together and tears were clinging to my eyelids and my hair was flagrantly disregarding my only request for it to be calm and behind my ears. Zap, zap, zap, I kept thinking to myself, I wish I could zap myself home.
And as soon as I think that, I have a zap of my own as the door to my apartment building zaps me inside and I fumble for my keys. I open the door to a happily barking dog and my temporary Jewish grandma smiling at my arrival. She invites me to Shabbat dinner tomorrow and Rosh Hashanah on Sunday. I tell her (through Google Translate, after a failed drawing of the event) that it’s my birthday on the 14 September and she nearly jumps up and down with delight, a big smile drawn on her wrinkled face**. I smile a wilted smile back at her and try to fake-sign-language-tell her about my day – about the heat and the walking and how my stomach doesn’t feel well. She hops up and gets a towel to wipe my face off and a glass full of cold water. She tells me I should take a shower then a nap.
So I do.
And now I’m lying in bed in the cool dark of my room, glad as hell that I couldn’t just zap home.
Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, it is undeniably true that where I want to be is not truly where I should be.
*I’m sure I’ve done it all wrong and if I were to come back with a gaggle of friends at night when the sun isn’t threatening to suck the life out of every cell of my being – yes, I’m sure it would be a really grand street.
**Update: Dora bought me flowers for my birthday the next day. What a gal.