Illustration by Dana Collins
Surprised? Of course I was surprised. You go out with a girl. First date, second date, a restaurant here, a movie there, always just matinees. You start sleeping together, the fucks are dynamite, and pretty soon theres feeling too. And then, one day, she arrives all weepy, and you hug her and tell her to take it easy, that everythings okay, and she says she cant stand it anymore, she has this secret, not just a secret, something really awful, a curse, something shes been wanting to tell you the whole time but she didnt have the guts. This thing, its been weighing down on her like a ton of bricks, and now shes got to tell you, shes simply got to, but she knows that as soon as she does, youll leave her, and youd be absolutely right too. And right after that, she starts crying all over again.
I wont leave you, you tell her. I wont. I love you. You may look a little upset, but youre not. And even if you are, its about her crying, not about her secret. You know by now that these secrets that always make a woman fall to pieces are usually something along the lines of doing it with an animal, or with a Mormon, or with someone who paid her for it. Im a whore, they always wind up saying. And you hug them and say, No, youre not, youre not, or Shhh . . . if they dont stop.
Its something really terrible, she insists, as if shes picked up on how nonchalant you are about it, even though youve tried to hide it. In the pit of your stomach it may sound terrible, you tell her, but thats mostly because of the acoustics. Soon as you let it out itll seem much less terrible youll see.
And she almost believes it. She hesitates a minute and then asks: What if I told you that at night I turn into a heavy, hairy man, with no neck, with a gold ring on his pinky, would you still love me? And you tell her of course you would. What else can you say? That you wouldnt? Shes simply trying to test you, to see whether you love her unconditionally and youve always been a winner at tests.
Truth is, as soon as you say it, she melts, and you fuck, right there in the living room. And afterward, you lie there holding each other tight, and she cries, because shes so relieved, and you cry too. Go figure it out. And unlike all the other times, she doesnt get up and leave. She stays there and falls asleep. And you lie awake, looking at her beautiful body, at the sunset outside, at the moon appearing as if out of nowhere, at the silvery light flickering over her body, stroking the hair on her back.
And within less than five minutes you find yourself lying next to this guy this short fat guy. And the guy gets up and smiles at you, and gets dressed awkwardly. He leaves the room and you follow him, spellbound. Hes in the den now, his thick fingers fiddling with the remote, zapping to the sports channels. Championship soccer. When they miss a pass, he cusses the TV; when they score, he gets up and does this little victory dance.
After the game, he tells you that his throat is dry and his stomach is growling. He could really use a beer and a nice hunk of meat. Well-done if possible, and with lots of onion rings, but hed settle for some pork chops too. So you get in the car and take him to this restaurant that he knows about. This new twist has you worried, it really does, but you have no idea what to do about it. Your command and control centers are down. You shift gears at the exit, in a daze. Hes right there beside you in the passenger seat, tapping that gold-ringed pinky of his. At the next intersection, he rolls down his window, winks at you and yells at this chick whos trying to thumb a ride: Hey, baby, wanna jump in back so we can all have some fun?
Later, the two of you pack in the steak and the chops and the onion rings till youre about to explode, and he enjoys every bite, and laughs like a baby. And all that time you keep telling yourself its got to be a dream. A bizarre dream, yes, but definitely one that youll snap out of any minute.
On the way back, you ask him where to let him off, and he pretends not to hear you, but he looks despondent. So you wind up taking him back home with you. Its almost 3 a.m. Im gonna hit the sack, you tell him, and he waves to you, and stays in the beanbag chair, staring at the fashion channel. You wake up the next morning, exhausted, and with a slight stomachache. And there she is, in the living room, still dozing. But by the time youve had your shower, shes up. She hugs you guiltily, and youre too embarrassed to say anything.
Time goes by and youre still together. The fucks just get better and better. Shes not so young anymore, and neither are you, and suddenly you find yourselves talking about a baby. And at night, you and the fatso guy hit the town like youve never done in your life. He takes you to restaurants and bars you didnt even know existed, and you dance on the tables together, and break plates like theres no tomorrow. Hes really nice, the fatso guy, a little crass, especially with women, sometimes coming out with things that you could just die. But other than that, hes great fun to be with.
When you first met him, you didnt give a damn about soccer, but now you know every team. And whenever one of your favorites wins, you feel like youve made a wish and its come true. Which is a pretty exceptional feeling for someone like you, who hardly knows what he wants most of the time. And so it goes: Every night you fall asleep with him struggling to stay awake for the Argentinean finals, and in the morning there she is, the beautiful, forgiving woman that you love too till it hurts.
Etgar Keret is the author of The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God and Other Stories. He lives in Israel. This story was translated by Miriam Shlesinger.
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