David (or Dudi if you prefer) and I were to become good friends. “Good” in the way that a 20-year-old who is too shy to make a move, and a 21-year-old who is not attracted enough to make a move herself and yet attracted enough to not want to discontinue the relationship, can be good.
And so began my first post-college boy-girl friendship/relationship. And I wonder now about what could have been. Yes, there were men with whom I exhibited my temporary loose qualities, but not with David. And there certainly were none who wooed me as he did. And me, well, I did not deserve his attentions. Or maybe I did. It’s just that the end is so painful for me, since I am still ashamed of myself; I thought that I was so mature, but in reality, I was as young and unthinking as anyone I might have mocked.
It was a lovely romance reminiscent of the kind that happened (I assume) when a man and a woman got to know each other by spending time with each other before they had sex.
Not only that, but David was my weekend knight-in-shining armor taking me off the kibbutz for a change of scenery and company. Of course, that was when he got to take off his knight uniform and relax. So every few weeks when he would have a weekend off (he was doing his military service), we would spend Saturdays together. But it wasn’t just the two of us, it would be with friends from his army unit and their girlfriends (also in the army). Maybe he used me to show that he had a girlfriend, when, in fact, we had never kissed. Who knows?
Those were wonderful trips. A bunch of carefree 20-year-olds (at least for those hours together) walking through the rivers that feed into the Jordan River and standing under waterfalls whose waters originated in Syria or Lebanon. We would find restaurants in off-beat places, or go to a friend’s house for tea in a glass and biscuits (some Britishisms remained from the time of the Brits in Israel). Yes, those Israeli soldiers might be strong and mighty, but they are young and still finding their way from childhood into manhood. One moment they are in high school and the next they are being taught how to protect the homeland.
Any way. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. What was this? We didn’t talk much; after all, my Hebrew was still sketchy and his English was not too impressive. I was thinking that this should probably end, since it was so undefined and I was beginning to feel that maybe I was leading him on.
And then the first Lebanon War began (June 1982).
Reality came knocking hard. Many of the men on the kibbutz were called up to their units. The boyfriend of my one female Israeli friend on the kibbutz was called up. Even though she had lived through wars and skirmishes and situations before, she was overwrought.
And a “friend” with whom I exhibited my looseness on the kibbutz, someone I barely spoke with even though his English was good since his father was American, sought consolation after learning that his best friend from the neighboring kibbutz had been killed.
A few weeks into the war, the extremely handsome soldier from the kibbutz came back for a few days leave bringing me news of David—that he had been injured. He had received shrapnel to his skull.
I’m figuring that he must have told me what hospital he was in because a day or two later I went to visit him. He wasn’t as bad as I feared, but I must admit, I was pretty freaked out by the whole experience. A friend wounded in a war was so far from my life expectations, and then to be treated as his serious girlfriend by his parents and his friends, and, at this point, by him, was overwhelming. I can remember that the way he looked at me had changed, and I wasn’t ready for that. It had a very very serious quality to it. (I guess being wounded in battle would be a pretty likely circumstance to bring about an epiphany.)
The first night I visited him I slept on a chair in his room. The next night I slept in a hostel in Tel Aviv. Sleep. Hmm. The hostel was full, so I was given the manager’s bed. Everyone seemed to be watching some important soccer game, while I literally crashed on the bed. That is until I rolled over and discovered a shard of glass in bed with me. End of sleep.
I went back to the hospital the next day and spent a few hours with him and then I went back to the kibbutz. A couple of weeks later, I went to visit him when he was recuperating at home. (Digression: his home was large and lovely, and his parents as welcoming as any potential daughter-in-law could want.)
Finally, he had the nerve to kiss me. Maybe his epiphany told him not to be shy any more. But I said no, in all the awkwardness of feeling that he needed me, but feeling, too, that I couldn’t be needed by him. And so that is how I left him. With a white bandage wrapped around his head and an intense look of disappointment. Or was it frustration at not getting what he wanted? It doesn’t matter, because since that moment I have regretted how I acted. And though we are not supposed to carry our sins or our disappointments in ourselves from year to year, and maybe I am making my self and my life out to be more dramatic than they really are, I still regret how this ended and that I did not contact him when I returned to Israel seven months later to see how he was and to explain myself.
But by that time I had met my future ex-husband (I kid you not, at a different bus stop), so what was the point of stirring up his feelings again, since he had probably moved on by then any way.
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