Illustration by Pamela Jaeger
Usually, we don’t kiss around other people. Cecile, with
her plunging necklines and fuck-me shoes is actually very shy. And I’m one of
those guys who’s always aware of every movement around them, who never manages
to forget where they are. But it’s a fact that on that morning, I did manage
to forget, and we suddenly found ourselves, Cecile and me, hugging and kissing
at a table in a coffeehouse like a pair of high school kids trying to steal
themselves a little intimacy in a public place.
When Cecile went to the bathroom, I finished my coffee in one
gulp. I used the rest of the time to straighten out my clothes and my thoughts.
“You’re a lucky guy,” I heard a voice with a thick Texas accent say
from very close by. I turned my head. At the next table was an older guy wearing
a baseball cap. The whole time we were kissing, he was sitting practically on
top of us, and we’d been rubbing and moaning into his bacon and eggs without
even noticing. It was very embarrassing, but there was no way of apologizing
without making it worse. So I gave him a sheepish smile and nodded.
“No, really,” the old guy went on, “it’s rare to
hold on to that after you’re married. A lot of people get hitched and it just
“Like you said,” I kept on smiling, “I’m a lucky
“Me too,” the old guy laughed and raised his hand in
the air, to show me his wedding band. “Me too. Forty-two years we’re together,
and it isn’t even starting to get boring. You know, in my work, I have to fly
a lot, and every time I leave her, let me tell you, I just feel like crying.”
“Forty-two years,” I gave a long, polite whistle, “she
must really be something.”
“Yes,” the old guy nodded. I could see that he was trying
to make up his mind whether to pull out a picture or not, and I was relieved
when he gave up on the idea. It was getting more embarrassing by the minute,
even though he clearly had good intentions. “I have three rules,”
the old guy smiled, “three ironclad rules that help me keep it alive. You
want to hear them?”
“Sure,” I said, gesturing at the waitress for more coffee.
“One,” the old guy waved a finger in the air, “every
day I try to find one new thing I love about her, even the smallest thing, you
know, the way she answers the phone, how her voice rises when she’s pretending
she doesn’t know what I’m talking about, things like that.”
“Every day?” I said, “that must really be hard.”
“Not that hard,” the old guy laughed, “not after
you get the hang of it. The second rule — every time I see the children, and
now the grandchildren too, I say to myself that half of my love for them is
actually for her. Because half of them is her. And the last rule —” he
continued as Cecile, who’d come back from the bathroom, sat down next to me,
“When I come back from a trip, I always bring my wife a present. Even if
I only go for a day.”
I nodded again and promised to remember that. Cecile
looked at us a little confused; after all, I wasn’t exactly the
kind of person who starts conversations with people in public places, and the
old guy, who’d probably realized that, got up to leave. He touched his hat and
said to me, “Keep it up.” And then he gave
Cecile a small bow and left.
“‘My wife’?” Cecile grinned and made a face, “‘Keep
“It was nothing,” I stroked her hand, “he saw my
“Ah,” Cecile kissed me on the cheek, “He looked
a little weird.”
On the flight back home, I sat alone, three seats all to myself,
but as usual, I couldn’t fall asleep. I was thinking about the deal with the
Swiss company, which I didn’t actually think would get off the ground, and about
that PlayStation I bought for Roy with the cordless joystick and everything.
And when I thought about Roy, I kept trying to remember that half of my love
for him is actually for Mira, and then I tried to think about one small thing
I love about her — her expression, trying to stay cool, when she catches me
in a lie. I even bought her a present from the duty-free cart on the plane,
a new French perfume, which the smiling young flight attendant had said everyone
was buying now and even she herself uses it.
“Tell me,” the flight attendant said, extending the
back of her bronzed hand toward me, “isn’t that a fantastic scent?”
Her hand really did smell great.
Translated from Hebrew by Sondra Silverstone.