I awoke this morning with beams of light streaming through the few cracks in my plastic sliding shades. Two rays, perfectly warming, lighting my eyes, giving rise to an untimely wake. I pulled my blanket over my eyes, grunted, and tried to close the blinds in desperation to secure the artificial darkness in a dire attempt to fall back to sleep. The sound of roaring Tel Aviv buses barreling up and down King George Street careening back and forth below my apartment window kept me awake, withholding me from falling back to sleep. I teetered on the edge of soporific bliss, distressed by the cold air pouring from of my air conditioning unit, tense for the dreaded cold walk to the bathroom. I mustered the bravery to emerge from my cozy cocoon, blindly got my things together, dithering with thought of the painful sunlight, the brightness on my black accustomed eyes. I threw my essentials in my backpack, quickly brushed my teeth and I headed out the door.
The morning was warm, a cool breeze rolled in from the Mediterranean, the light just right to keep the sunglasses off to enjoy the morning bright. Still early enough to enjoy the somewhat fresh air before commuters motor in dirtying the fresh slightly salty sea air. The sunlight evenly speckled across the uneven, dog dropping riddled pavement, glinting through the annoying trees planted in the middle of the sidewalk every thirty feet up and down King George Street. I saw my homeless friend; at least I call him a friend. Sitting on the bench outside my apartment wearing his tattered dark grey red striped sweat suit, his tan face and mighty round crazed yellow eyes poking out of his unkempt grey beard littered with little pieces of bread he had just devoured, yesterdays loaves from the bakery down the street. He was engaged, having fervent, fierce, fiery conversation with…his imaginary friend. He’s yelling, crazed hand gestures, spit flying, he suddenly pauses, to hear his fictitious friend’s opinion on the matter of discussion. He looks into the eyes of a concocted illusion so deeply that it convinces even me that someone is there.
I walked across the street to catch the number twenty-five bus. The bus stop was full of Tel Avivi’s off to work; all look shlubby for work for what I’m used to back home. One man in a suit stands out, he gets looks not recognized for his distinguished style, but more of a, “why are you wearing that?” snarl, coming at him from all directions. The bus flies up, you can see all the rider’s bodies in the bus’ lean forward with the force of the abrupt stop. Being a passive overly polite American, I get pushed to the back of the line; other more assertive people shove to the door all around me like a vacuum. I flash my bus card, take my ticket, crumple it and put it in my pocket with the one from yesterday. I walked to the standing area; before I have a second to set my feet and get positioned in my balanced bus stance, the bus driver is off. Honking, weaving, cutting people off, throwing me around the buss like a giant ragdoll. I’m holding on for dear life, I smash into a woman behind me, she gives me an irked look that read, “Look at this amateur bus rider, how embarrassing.” The ride seemed l like it took forever, with every bump and turn my frustration grew. Battered and bruised the bus spits me out at the stop next to Rabin Square. I stumbled out, took a deep breath, checked for bruises, and stretched, trying to recover from my bitter bus beating.
I crossed the street, the cross walk was encroached on by opportunistic scooters, to the sunny side of the street to absorb the balmy heat from the still rising sun. As I walked, every few minutes an eager taxi driver honks at me to see if I need a ride, honk, step, step, honk, and for some reason each time I respond with a stare, teasing them, drawing in each to slow down only to have them peal out horn blazing with a heavy metal foot of frustration, the middle-eastern twang music disappearing down the road. I look across the street at Rabin Square. The shiny silver chairs are all inhabited by groups of crotchety old men discussing only god knows what all yelling at each other at the top of their lungs at the same time. They sit in the shade of the few trees, populating the shady shapes of elongated trees casted over the concrete square.
As I continued down the street a man with an accordion was playing patriotic Israeli songs, his case open for kind donations to his alcohol dependence, as I passed by I could smell vodka seeping from his pores. I tried to not make eye contact with him; if you make eye contact you will surely be drawn in by the helpless look of pining and longing for the few useless agarot (Israeli equivalent to a Penny) jingling with your keys in your pocket. I couldn’t help myself I look. He asks me in Russian if he could use my cell phone, I don’t know how, but I understood, as if I suddenly spoke fluent Russian. I hand him my phone and he makes a short call. He takes the phone from me with a swift grab with his workman blackened hands, at that moment I thought he was going to take off with it, it would have been interesting to try and explain that to your Israeli phone rental company, I don’t think they have insurance for hobo stolen phones. Instead, to my surprise, he frantically tried dialing a number as tears welled up in his eyes. I told him to tell me the number and I would dial for him. Tears were running down his cheeks now as he listed the numbers. I pressed talk and handed him back the phone. He snatched it again. The person on the other line answered, a woman’s voice. Now tears flowed like glistering waterways from eye to chin. He spoke in Russian, a million miles a minute, to the woman on the other line. The call lasted five minutes or so, he was frantic, overjoyed, forlorn, pacing. After the short call he explains to me in Hebrew that he came here from Russia near Kiev and he called his wife who he hasn’t seen in years. He is trying to save money to go back to her and his children; he had a heavy, slow demeanor after speaking to his better half. He blesses me for helping him and reassumed his diffident despairing position on his cardboard box in the shade, head down hand out waiting for the next public-spirited passerby, now to tired and tenderized to continue playing the accordion. Feeling like a slightly smashing Samaritan, having helped a desperate man connect, I continued on to work with a smile, satisfied with my service. I walked up one more block to work, into the grey cracking Bauhaus style building, up the stale dark stairways to the office.