by Mitchell Grabois
Painted white with blue stripes, Stars of David on its sides, the bus left Tel Aviv. I was already asleep, my serotonin-deprived brain anaesthetized with hashish and codeine. Time/miles passed. The bus hit a pothole large enough to shelter a terrorist on the lam, and my lolling head hit the forward seat’s chrome bar. I awoke, disoriented, itchy, nauseous, dry-mouthed.
Not yet realizing that I was a holy man, I’d been looking for a mentor, and had settled on Morris Mordes. His dated New York hipsterism appealed to me but, ultimately, my destiny set us against each other.
Morris Mordes (the man I’d chosen to fill the vacancy my father had never inhabited) and I stayed on a kibbutz. I worked hard, occasionally stopping to wipe my brow and look out at the summit where Jesus had given his Sermon on the Mount. I weeded crops inspired by His love, though I was still a dark, denying Jew.
I don’t know why the State of Israel admitted Mordes, other than the notion that hard work in the Holy Land would redeem any Jew. Mordes didn’t work hard. He’d always been a slacker and malingerer, and the proximity to Jesus’ mount, David’s tomb, and Mary’s well meant nothing to him. For Mordes, the return to the Promised Land was just another ineffective rehab.
On days off we hitchhiked to Afula, the nearest Arab village, and sat in a restaurant with high, cement walls and a slowly rotating ceiling fan. We dragged scraps of pita across a muddy sludge of hummus and tehini and sipped Arak until the room whirled around us, whirled us out to a pharmacy across the road where they dispensed cough syrup heavy with codeine. No prescription needed. Mordes grinned, revealing yellow teeth. We weaved our way out of that dusty town, passing the cough syrup bottle between us. I was always aware, somewhere down in my cranium or my heart, that if my father had inhabited his life, I would never have considered spending time with Morris Mordes.
All the windows of the bus were open. I cursed myself for forgetting my water bottle in the station. Dazzling sunshine illuminated the window rivets, the eyes of intrusive bugs. I was sitting on the broad back seat, rubbing shoulders with an Arab workman with a bristly moustache (I could feel his hard muscles against my soft shoulder) and an Arab woman just entering middle age, who wore a flowered blouse and held a green, cloth shopping bag on her lap.
The workman ignored me. I wondered if he hated Jews for taking his homeland and laying on theirs, but the woman saw something in me. I knew it when she lay her hand on my arm and I turned to her. Her eyes were sparkling and filled with tears. She was the very first of those who appealed to me for spiritual help.
The bus pulled to the curb. The workman got off. The woman took my hands and told me this story:
The faceless face of the U.S. Military showed itself to me last month. A drone came through our roof and killed my husband. He was in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet. He spent a lot of time there, having developed a case of ulcerative colitis. At least we thought that’s what it was.
America is my aborted home, meaning I spent a year there on a student visa until I was deported in the post-911 panic. I associated with the wrong person. I didn’t know he was involved with Al-Quida. I just wanted to fuck him. He was my terrorist lover. He nearly fucked me to death, but I always survived and came back for more. He fucked me to deportation.
I loved the U.S, specifically Berkeley, California. For breakfast I ate donuts and for dinner, Bongo Burgers, made by Iranians. As a Pakistani I had always loved Iranians. I don’t know if I can explain that to you.
The drone was meant for a terrorist who lived next door. He was unharmed in the attack. We didn’t know he was a terrorist. My radar for terrorists is clearly non-operational. If it functioned I’d still be in Berkeley with a PHD and a university position.
I was ready for my marriage to be over but didn’t have the guts to end it. My husband, with his bad gut, had become a burden, a pitiful person, and we had stopped loving each other even before that.
Terrorists have ruined my life and the U.S. is my unfulfilled destination. Still, a blow from the faceless face has freed me.
I started to say something, but the woman shushed me and grasped my hands tighter, until they were in pain.