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RUNNING AWAY DIARY by Avital Gad-Cykman

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). 

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