I left a little late for work and hurried to the bus station, when I realized I couldn’t remember where I worked. I looked at the route map and chose to go downtown. In one of the alleys, I met my son. He asked me what I was doing there. I told him I was at work. He said he was at school. We hooked our elbows together and went to an Arabic bar to have a coke.
An old friend from high school, Rona Cohen, sent me an email full of memories I could not remember. I did not want to insult her, since she had been one of my best friends. I wrote her back, inventing more memories about people whose names she had mentioned. I wrote: “Do you remember how Arnon rang the bell of an old man’s house like a madman? The old man chased after him screaming he’d kill every trespasser and they ran until I couldn’t see them anymore.
She wrote back: “How could I forget? The old man died from a heart attack in the middle of the chase. It really marked me.”
I carried a plastic bag full of sour cheese to the garbage can where I would not smell it. As I passed the gate, two boys chased a dog right at me. Its paws ripped the plastic bag, and the cheese covered us both. The boys ran away and the dog licked my shoes. I caressed its back until it finished eating.
My daughter said we were out of water. I showed her the mineral water standing beside the yellow mustard.
She peeked at it and said, “We’re out of everything.”
A baby-girl with soft cheeks raised her large eyes at me. Her mother was smoking and drinking coffee by a café’s counter. I picked up the baby and held her to my chest. She rested there with trust for a moment, then started screaming.
The smoking woman snatched her away. “What is it with you?” she asked.
I said, “I’m sorry. I could not help it.”
When I looked up, the family was gone. I turned on the TV and watched a woman having a breakdown in an open field. I turned off the TV. Instead, I read a short story by an American writer, whose name was lost for me. It was about adultery. I took the daily paper. The weather prediction was that of too much rain.
The telephone rang. Before I said anything, a man said, “Sorry. It’s a wrong number.”
A man with a brown stash of hair started following me. He went everywhere I did, keeping a few steps behind me, and when I was home, he waited behind the thick bushes and peeped into the house. I didn’t mind it. I opened the window to invite him in for dinner. But when I looked out, the bushes were gone, and the street stretched long and empty.
I kissed the postman. I kissed the man who delivers the gas cylinders. I kissed the Sedex man. I kissed the neighbor who came to collect money. I kissed the mirror. All the lips were cold.
I bought myself a birthday card with a little joke about going over the hill to pick flowers. I signed the card and went to the post office to send. I never received it.
I passed by a glass door and saw myself, with a prettier face, playing ping-pong inside. I wanted to go in and play, but knew I would lose, so I left.
I finally got mail. It was a rejection of my application for a Philosophy course at the local university, UFEE. I had not applied anytime I could remember, but suddenly it seemed like a good idea. I looked the university up in the telephone book and Golden Pages, and then at Google. Such university did not exist.
Nothing happened. I mean: nothing. Not the slightest wind, a barking dog, a passing man, nothing. The clock was stuck on 7:25. If I died then, nobody would have noticed.
I was resting in bed when I heard steps in the empty house, crossing the room from the left to the right, the way it would sound through a sound system at a good cinema. The steps grew quick and urgent. I opened my eyes. The sound did not come from anyone walking, but from my own feet.
Originally published by Portland Review and then appeared in Life In, Life Out (Matter Press).