Suddenly I could do it. I’d say “Freeze!” and everyone would freeze, just like that, in the middle of the street. Cars, bikes, even those little motor scooters delivery guys use, they’d all stop in their tracks. And I’d walk past them till I found the prettiest girls. I’d tell them to drop their shopping bags or I’d take them off a bus, bring them home and fuck their brains out. It was great — it was really, really great. “Freeze!” “Come here!” “Lie down on the bed!” And after that, wham-bam. The girls I had were incredible, centerfold material. I felt fantastic. I felt like a king. Until my mother butted in.

She told me she didn’t completely approve. I told her there was nothing not to approve of. I tell the girls to come and they come. It’s not as if I rape them or anything. “God forbid,” my mother said. “It’s just that there’s something very impersonal about it. Unemotional. I don’t know how to explain it, but I have this gut feeling that you don’t really connect with them.” So I told my mother that she could keep her gut feelings to herself. She said something and I said something and she said something back and I said “Freeze!” and left her standing there in the middle of Reiness Street in the pouring rain. Since then, it hasn’t been the same. What she said suddenly bothered me, about my not connecting. I kept fucking the girls, but now I didn’t feel connected. Everything was ruined. At first I thought it was the sounds. So I’d say, “Make sounds.” And the girls would make all kinds of sounds: Mickey Mouse, jackhammers, political impersonations. It was a nightmare. I had to demonstrate the actual words I wanted them to say. “Aaaah, aaaah,” “That’s so good,” “Harder.” That kind of stuff. And they’d repeat them when we were fucking, but always in my intonation. “Oh, oh, please don’t stop. I’m coming,” they’d say, lying there on their backs with their eyes glazed. I could tell they were lying and it made me so mad I could’ve strangled them. “If you don’t mean it,” I yelled a few times, “don’t say it,” but I still couldn’t get it up. It was depressing — it was really, really depressing.

It took me a while before I realized what was fucking everything up. The trouble was, I kept on being too specific. So at some point, I figured that out and then I started giving them more general directions like, “Act like you’re really enjoying it,” and when the feeling they were faking it started to bother me, I’d just say, “Enjoy it.” It was terrific — it was really, really terrific. They’d scream. They’d dig their nails into my back. They’d say, “You’re the best.” Can you see what I’m describing? Models, air hostesses, weather girls — in my bed. Telling me I’m the best.

Except that then, knowing they were there just because I told them to be started to bug me. This feeling — this brain wave — hit me out of the blue. I was walking down Reiness Street, where it hits Gordon, and there was my mother, still standing there where I left her looking apologetic, and suddenly I got it: This wasn’t the real thing. It never would be. Because none of those girls really appreciated me. None of them wanted me for who I really am. And if they weren’t with me for who I was, then what was the point? From that moment on, I decided to stop and start hitting on girls the normal way. It sucked. It blew the big one. Girls I used to fuck standing up in the street, leaning on a mailbox, wouldn’t even give me their numbers. They’d tell me I had bad breath, or I wasn’t their type, or they had a boyfriend, or something. It was grim — it was really, really grim. But I wanted a genuine relationship so badly that even though the temptation to go back to fucking like I used to was enormous, I didn’t give in.

After three months of living hell, I saw that gorgeous girl from the cider ads walking right down Ibn Gvirol Street. I tried to make conversation. Then I tried to make her laugh. Then we walked past a florist, so I tried flowers — but she wouldn’t even turn around. When we got to Rabin Square, there was a little Mazda waiting for her with a male model at the wheel, the one from the potato chip ads. She was about to get into his car and drive away. I didn’t know what to do, and without even realizing what I was doing, I yelled “Freeze!” She stopped in her tracks. Everyone did. I looked around at all the people frozen there like that. I looked at her, and she was just as beautiful as she was on the commercials. I didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, I couldn’t, I just couldn’t let her go. On the other, if she was going to be with me, I wanted it to be for who I am — because of my inner self, not because I ordered her to. And that’s when I got it. The solution just came to me. Like an epiphany. I took her hand, I looked into her eyes and I said, “Love me for who I am, for who I truly am.” Then I took her back to my apartment and fucked her like a madman. She screamed and dug her nails into my back and said, “Do it to me, oh yes, do it to me.” And she loved me. No shit, this was the real thing. She loved me for who I am.

Translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverstone. Etgar Keret is the author of The Nimrod Flip-out and codirector (with wife Shira Geffen) of Jellyfish, winner of the 2007 Camera d’Or for Best First Feature at Cannes. His new collection, The Girl on the Fridge?, is due out in April from FSG.

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