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My Day

           My day started out well enough.  It started out pretty good, actually.  It was one of those mornings where you wake up early, not really for any reason, and you just lay in bed for a while, kind of sleepy but not like a nighttime sleepy.  The opposite of that. The morning version. Sleepy but heading towards an energized feeling. This morning I had that.

           Really all I did was lay in bed and watch the light as it came through the window and caught these lacy curtains my girlfriend put up.  It seemed to be coming straight through the window, the light I mean, I guess because the sun was still pretty low, and it was really strong.  Hot, even. It looked like the curtains could burst into flames. But it was pleasant, and calm. I was glad she had put them up. I don’t think of things like that.  If the window doesn’t have a curtain, it will never occur to me to put one up. Maybe if its a weird building and other people can see into your room pretty easily. Then it might occur to me to put something up.

           Even if I knew other people weren’t looking in through my window, but it was one of those buildings with a skinny shaft in the middle to let some light in and you were so close you could spit onto someone’s window sill across the way, it might occur to me to put one up.  Apartment buildings are weird when you can see them that way. Like those bee farms, the small white boxes with smaller boxes inside to replicate the honeycomb. That’s what apartment buildings are, if you think about it. And buildings with the small skinny shaft make you see it that way.  They make me, at least. Lot’s of buildings in New York are like that.

          But our building isn’t like that.  I live in Jerusalem now, in an old building that has a really big courtyard with a huge tree growing in it so you can’t see across.  You also can’t get into the courtyard. It’s locked for some reason, and now its all full of trash. But I live on the top floor, the sixth floor, in a tiny studio built onto the roof.  Really, it looks like a small cottage built on as an after thought, which it probably was. But I like it. It’s a tiny space, really small, and I’m quite large, and some places I have to duck because the ceilings too low, like in front of the sink, which is inconvenient.  But I can’t complain. I have a friend who’s seven feet tall and he has to duck everywhere, really, he’s hit his head so many times he should probably start wearing a helmet.  We actually talked about it once, but we were mostly kidding.

           The roof, though, which our apartment leads right onto, is huge.  Like 6 times as big as the apartment.  It has the buildings water heaters on it and lots of thick cables and some other stuff that I’m not sure what it’s for, but it’s really big and there’s a big open space with none of that junk that we’ve sort of turned into our living room.  I don’t mind that stuff though. It gives the roof character, like the scenes in On The Waterfront.  To make it a living room, though, I bought a carpet, and then just walking around I found lots of other stuff people were throwing out.  It feels kind of gross, taking stuff out of the garbage. Even if its not in the garbage, which none of the stuff was, it was all next to the big dumpsters, it’s still garbage.  So what I’d do is bring it home, lug it all the way up to our top floor, then put it outside with all of the water heaters and everything but in a place that was still easily visible to me so I’d see it a few times a day without even meaning to.  It would get plenty of sun, which I figured would decontaminate anything that might have been on it. I’d kind of forget about it for a while, and after not too long it would stop feeling like garbage and start just feeling like mine. It had become familiar to me.  Now I don’t even think about it, and I’ve got a pretty good set up.  Only cost about 25 bucks, for the carpet. Everything else I found.

The best part about the roof, though, is that tree from the courtyard.  The tree is huge.  I’m on the sixth floor, and the tree goes even taller than that.  But not too much taller. If I was maybe eleven feet tall and standing on the roof, I’d be just about the same height as the tree.  So the best part is, is that the top of this tree just sticks over the building, and in the evening, when the sun is low and the light comes straight in from a slant, you know, that warm gooey type of sunlight, not at all like the crisp hot morning slanting sunlight that almost lit my curtains on fire, when that gooey sunlight hits the treetop in the evening the whole thing glows.  It looks like the sunlight is being poured onto the tree, onto the leaves, really, like it’s golden honey.  Which is fitting, I think, for a tree growing out of an apartment building.

            So that’s how my morning started, nice and easy.  Then I read a little bit in bed, while Leah, that’s my girlfriend, was still sleeping.  I usually get straight out of bed and don’t do nice things like read or notice the sunlight, but it was early, and I’d already noticed the sunlight, so I figured I’d hedge.  

Eventually I got up and made breakfast.  I made oatmeal with lots of nuts and raisins and bananas and peanut butter.  It’s one of my favorite foods. But I made too much. Even as I was making it I knew I was making too much.  But I still went ahead and kept on making too much. I don’t know why. Then I ate all of it.  I hate throwing food away, and oatmeal doesn’t save so well.  Besides, we don’t really have room in our fridge, it’s tiny, on account of the tiny apartment.  So I ate all of it, which was too much, especially first thing in the morning. The thing is, though, is that I almost always make too much, and I very often eat too much.  I don’t know why. It’s a very strange thing that I do. I never feel good after I eat too much. But I do it all the time. I only recently realized this though, since Leah and I started living together.  When I eat too much, especially too many nuts, which I love, I get really bloated and get really bad gas. I’ve been doing it all my life, but I never realized it, because I didn’t mind my own gas, and I didn’t really have someone else’s stomach to compare to.  I grew up with all brothers, and we thought farts were the funniest thing in the world, so I thought everyone’s stomach was like mine. Well, I didn’t actually think that, I just never really considered it is all.

But Leah doesn’t think farts are so funny.  Especially when they’re really smelly, which usually happens after too many nuts, especially too many peanuts, which aren’t actually nuts at all.  They’re legumes. I don’t know how they come up with these categorizations. I guess I could learn easily enough, but really, who cares? I guess the people who came up with the categories in the first place.  I don’t know. There’s probably a good enough reason.

               But Leah, she loves me, no doubt, but I can’t expect her to love my farts too, just because they’re mine.  And I feel bad about it, when I stink our tiny apartment up. It doesn’t bother me so much, they are mine, after all.  But it really bothers her, and I get that. But still, I can’t stop overeating. Leah thinks its part of a deeper issue.  She’s probably right. I don’t know. I tried telling her once that I was just a foodie, that I had a passion for food. She just stared at me, which I deserved.  I wasn’t trying to BS her, I was more just thinking out loud. But as soon as I said it I knew it was ridiculous. She is a foodie.  She loves really good food.  She tastes flavors in things and all of these subtleties that I never even knew theoretically existed in food.  Me, on the other hand, I love eating.  Chewing, really. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, because it’s a really strange problem, and I think Leah’s right that it’s part of a deeper issue.  But the deepest I’ve gotten to is that I love chewing. Even when I feel really full, I still want to keep eating - chewing, that is. It’s like an addicted feeling.  I don’t know. I’ll have to keep thinking about it.

              Anyways, this morning, I ate too much, and because it was nuts, I pretty quickly started to get some bad gas.  She had to leave to go to work about an hour after the farts started, which I was grateful for, because I feel really guilty when I stink up our place.  Even if we’re sitting outside together and I let one slip, there’s still a second or two where it’s just really unpleasant. But then I started feeling bad that I was happy she was leaving soon.  My overeating really is a problem.

              I think that’s where my day started to go downhill.  I kept walking outside onto the roof every few minutes while Leah was still there, because I didn’t want her to have to smell my farts, and I couldn’t tell her why I was walking outside, because I didn’t want her to know I’d overeaten again.  It put me in a funk of a mood, sneaking around her like that. And she knew I was acting weird too.  I’m not so smooth. Even though I was farting outside, they were still coming between us. So she left for work on a kind of weird note.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great, is all.  I looked at the curtains again to see if they were like this morning, but they weren’t.  They were just off white and kind of plasticy looking. They left me kind of sad.


             After she left I just kind of moped around for a minute, not really sure what to do.  She’s been telling me about this meditation type thing that she does, where she gets very calm and distances herself from whatever she’s feeling.  “You observe the emotion without becoming it,” she says.  It seemed like a good time to try that.  I didn’t want to be feeling sad, after all.  So I went outside on the roof to our living room setup and sat on the carpet.  I sat cross legged and closed my eyes. And then I didn’t know what to do. I was sitting there with my eyes closed and my legs crossed and - and nothing, really.  I was still feeling kind of weird, and I knew that, but I knew that before I sat down.  How could I distance myself from myself?  I kept trying to observe the emotion, like she said, but all it felt like I was doing was focusing on me being sad, which didn’t seem to be helping.  If anything, it was making me even sadder than when I started. Then my legs started to get achy, because I’m not that flexible and sitting cross legged usually makes my legs ache, especially if I’d played basketball recently, which I had.  So I got up and sat in the chair behind the desk and tried again. But it didn’t feel right. I was sitting in an office chair behind a desk trying to meditate, to split myself in half or something, but I just felt ridiculous. I don’t see how you can meditate sitting in an office chair at a desk.  So I moved the chair away from the desk and sat in it and closed my eyes again, but then I felt even more ridiculous. It’s weird to sit in a plastic office chair and not be at a desk.  You feel out of place, like you’re floating or something.  I don’t know. By now I’d felt worse than when I started. Well, not worse, exactly.  I wasn’t any sadder. It had actually taken my mind off of being sad for a moment because I got so caught up in my sitting position.  But that just made me kind of frustrated. So now I was just a little bit sad and a little bit frustrated.

            I figured since I wasn’t helping anything, I might as well just get started working.  I just got this new job as a content writer for this company that owns vacation apartments in a bunch of different cities in Europe.  Yesterday was the training day, so today was my first day I could start working. When I applied for the job I thought it would be a lot more creative, but it turns out that most of the work is just editing existing stuff and making sure its all accurate on the different websites.  So I wasn’t thrilled about that but I was excited to start working, and to be able to say “I’m a writer,” when people asked me what I did. I loved that. It made me sound intellectual and creative and interesting. Which I am, I guess. But sometimes I just feel really dopey or goofy.        

            Anyways, I brought my computer outside and brought the chair back to the desk and sat down again.  “That’s more like it,” I said out loud to myself. I was feeling kind of weird. I don’t always talk to myself like that.  So I sat down and opened my computer to the email that had “everything you’ll need as a content writer,” or so the subject heading informed me.  The email was way too wordy, basically just repeating a lot of what they said at the training session, which wasn’t very clear in the first place, and had about 15 different links to all the different instructions and documents and I’m not even sure what that I would need for this job.  So I spent about thirty minutes just trying to organize myself to understand what it was that I was even supposed to do, because, like I said, they weren’t very clear at the training day. Eventually, though, I pieced together what I was supposed to be doing. It took almost an hour though, which is okay, in one sense, because I’m a freelancer, technically, but I usually wouldn’t say “I’m a freelance writer” because I couldn’t figure out how to say that without sounding a little bit snotty.  But because I am a freelancer, I charge them by the hour, so they would have to pay me for that hour of just figuring out what the hell my job was supposed to be. But that made me kind of nervous, because they could see in that hour that I hadn’t actually done anything.  I knew of course that no one was checking the hours I submitted against the digital history of the websites, and that I really did need to take that hour, and that they should pay me for it, but still.  I wasn’t trying to cheat them out of anything, and I knew I wasn’t. But it still felt weird to me.

             So finally, what I figured out was, I had to go onto the website which was linked to a bunch of other websites, and I had to look at the existing descriptions of the apartments and decide whether they were okay or if I had to re-write them, and make sure they were the same on all the websites.  To do this I had to sign into all of the websites individually, for which they gave me about 50 different usernames and passwords in about 50 different places, all with weird passwords like 2xy(log(x)+log(y))=sin(xy) and other things that didn’t even look like correct math equations, not that I’m such a brilliant mathematician or anything.  And I couldn’t copy and paste them, because the website knew if I did that and thought I was some robot hacker trying to infiltrate the system, or something like that. So I had to hand type all of these crazy formulas which took about another hour, but really felt like 10 hours. Here I was, bigshot freelance writer and all, and all I was doing so far was typing in weird formulas that I don’t even think were real equations.  And now I knew I was going to charge them for two hours, and I still hadn’t even done anything.  

               By the end of that second hour I needed a break, so I stood up and just kind of paced around the roof.  I wasn’t sad anymore, that’s for sure. My mind was a million miles from that. I was more just frustrated the way only technology can frustrate me.  Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era, because I really have a dislike for using technology. It’s funny I ended up with this job, which is all on the computer, and alone.  I thought it would be more writing and creative, but so far I was just wrestling with my laptop, and the laptop always beats me. Even if I finally figure it out, I feel so drained by the end, and the laptops just sitting there, maybe slightly warm and with a few less percentages of battery.  It’s unbeatable, really. Even if you figure it out, you still can’t win, not really, I mean.  

               I went inside and picked a clean cup off of the drying rack, which happened to be a coffee mug, and filled it with water and went back outside to sit at the desk again.  I sat back and sipped the water from the mug with my computer open in front of me, and then I just kinda started laughing. I just thought I looked so cliche, sitting at a desk and drinking from a coffee mug, even though it was only water.  I don’t drink coffee. Whenever I do, I feel great for about ten minutes, then I crash and I get super irritable and my nerves feel all shot and my insides dried out, and my hand starts to shake.  Not real bad, but if I hold it out flat and try to keep it really steady, it shakes a little bit. And it makes my mind race, jumping from one thing to another without really any connection.  Its okay when your mind jumps from one thing to another because it notices this really cool connection between them, it’s actually pretty awesome when your mind does that.  But when I drink coffee it just starts racing all over the place and I don’t like it. So I pretty much only drink water, like I was doing now, out of the coffee mug.  

               I didn’t really feel like laughing, and it really wasn’t that funny, if we’re being honest, but for a split second I noticed the cliche and it was kind of amusing and because I had all of this frustrated energy inside me I just sort of started laughing, kind of pushing each laugh out and trying to make it take some frustration with it.  It kind of worked too, which I thought was pretty cool. So I kept laughing until it felt too forced.  Then I sat back and put the mug down and thought to myself that I’m only two hours into this job and it’s already making me insane, sitting here laughing all by myself because I’m drinking water out of a coffee mug at a desk with a computer on it. They’re expecting 30 hours out of me, what am I going to be like by the end of the week?

              Boy, was that prophetic.  I’d just spent an hour typing in all of these crazy algorithms into this huge hyperlink that I needed to access in order to even do my job, and so far I was charging them for two hours before I could even begin, which I felt weird about even though logically I knew there was nothing wrong with it, and I was all set to hit this big button at the bottom of the screen that said ENTER.  I pictured the computer saying “ENTER” in this deep, Dracula like voice. It seemed sinister to me.

             So I click the button and - a small window pops up on my screen saying “Device Not Recognized, Please Choose Method Below For Authentication.”  The two options were have a code sent to a pre-entered phone number, or have a code sent to a pre-entered email. I clicked the email option then called the woman at the company who hired me, asking if that code could be forwarded to me so I could get to work.  

             “Why don’t you just put in your email to have the code sent to?” she asked in this bored voice.  It really frustrates me when someone has a bored voice. Why is she okay with that?

             “I can’t put my email in,” I said, pretty calmy too.  “If anyone could just put their email in, it wouldn’t be such a secure system, and there would be no point to the authentication process.”  I thought this was pretty obvious, but I wasn’t going to get mad at her just yet. Sometimes I overlook simple things too. I try not to be to harsh when people act kind of stupid.  I certainly do, sometimes.

              “Hmmph,” she just sort of hmmphed at me.  I could hear her typing in the background, the faint click of the keys coming muffled through the phone.  I waited for her to continue, but she didn’t.

              “Umm,” I said after a few seconds of muffled key clacking, “can you ask the person who’s in charge of the authentication email to forward me the code please?”

              “What’s the email?” she said, in a kind of an angry sigh, like she was doing me the biggest favor in the world.

              “It’s ‘f——-erg@tr—’” I said.  The email was blocked out like that for security reasons.

              “No,” she said.  That’s all she said.  I expected her to say more, but all she said was ‘no.’  Who says ‘no’ to that? It doesn’t even make sense.

              “Umm, no what?”  I was struggling to keep my voice even.  It was coming out kind of terse.

              “I need the full email.  How am I supposed to know who’s email that is?”  I could still hear her typing in the background. She was really starting to annoy me.  It really annoys me when people don’t give their full attention and try to do a bunch of things at once.  In the first place, it’s rude. I’m pretty sure she setup this stupid inconvenient system with a million different password anyways, and now that it’s not functioning so smoothly she’s too snooty to even help the problem that she created.  And secondly, it’s never more efficient to try and do two things at once.  Whatever she’s typing I’m sure she’s not paying full attention to.  And I’m very sure that she’s not paying full attention to me and is certainly not being efficient or useful here.

             “It doesn’t give me the full email.  This is a security check.”  I said that a little harsher than I should have, but she was just being so useless.  “It’s only going to send the code to either that email or a phone number that ends in ‘347.’  It doesn’t give me the rest of the number.” I preempted her stupid question.

              She just kept typing.  Clack clack, click clack, clack clack, muffled through the phone.  It sounded like ‘screw you, fuck you, screw you,’ to me.

             “Ma’am,” I said, trying to be as polite as possible but finding it difficult not to have my words sound all strained and tense.

             “Mmm,” she said.  Boy oh boy.

             “I’m sorry I’m taking up your time,” I began.  A part of me really was sorry. Even when people really frustrate me, I always feel a little bad for them.  I just seemed to be causing her so much pain.  “But I can’t do the job you hired me for unless I can get this authentication code.  I wish there was another way, I really do. But the way the system is set up I can’t get in without this code, and this code can only be sent to this preset email.”  I held my breath. I didn’t know how she would respond. For all I knew she would think I just criticized her for setting up a crummy system. She seemed like the easily offended type, which is sad.  And annoying for other people. But it’s also sad for them. Who wants to be offended all the time? Well it seems that some people do, because they are offended all the time, but they can’t really want that.  

             The clacking stopped suddenly.  

             “Send an email to Sara Leifstell.  It’s in the main email you received.”  Then she hung up.

              I kind of just looked at the phone then.  I looked at it with a confused, disgusted look.  It’s strange how we can react to technology. I was on the light rail the other day, this basically fully automated tram that runs through Jerusalem, and some guy wasn’t really paying attention as he was getting on.  The doors started closing on him and bumped him on the shoulders and snapped him into the present moment from where ever he was off daydreaming. They didn’t smack him hard, they were just closing.  And they opened again once they realized that there was an obstruction and couldn’t close.  They’re smart doors. But the guy who was just snapped on the shoulders, he looked around all bewildered and indignant, and looked at the doors angrily but realized he couldn’t be angry at them, not really, and so he just kept looking around for someone to be angry at.  But because it’s pretty much a self running train, there was no one for him to unleash on.  So he just kind of kept looking around for someone to be angry at, but because there wasn’t anyone, there was just this self running train, he didn’t really know what to do.  He’d just been smacked on the shoulders and he was angry, for Pete’s sake, and he needed to be angry at the person responsible.  But there was no person responsible, just some wires and metal.  So he kept looking around and round all indignant but he was becoming more and more confused as he wasn’t finding his expected outlet. Eventually he just sat down and stared at his shoes with a hurt look on his face.

              Anyways, after the woman hung up and I stared angrily at my phone, I remembered that guy on the train.  I put my phone down without screaming at it, even though I wanted to scream at someone, just like the guy, and just sat at the desk.  I could call the woman back and scream at her, I reasoned with myself.  But I knew that was a bad idea and that I was just frustrated. So I just sat at the desk for a few minutes, not really doing anything.  It’s nice, to not do anything for a few moments. I do it sometimes. I had a friend in college who would always ask me kind of angrily what the hell I was doing when I was just sitting somewhere.  

              “Nothing, I’m just sitting,” I’d respond to him.  “It’s nice, you should try it.”

              “What do you mean, ‘I’m just sitting’?”  He’d say, upset. “What the hell do you mean, ‘just sitting?’  What the hell do you mean?”

               I tried explaining that you don’t always have to be doing something, but that idea just angered him for some reason.  I think it scared him, actually. He was one of those kids thats always talking no matter where he is or who he’s with and is always running from one thing to another and always seems to be the busiest person that ever lived.  And he wasn’t happy about being so busy, he’d let you know often enough, but that was a hell of a lot better than not having something to do and just having to sit with yourself.  I don’t think he ever actually just sat with himself.  I think he was afraid to.

              So after a few moments of doing nothing except noticing that the light was nice, and the paint on the outside wall had chipped in a pleasant way, I went back to that poorly worded “everything you’ll need as a content writer” email, found Sara Leifstell’s info and emailed her explaining what the situation was.  

              I couldn’t start working until this was fixed, and I didn’t feel like staring at my computer until Leifstell responded, so I figured I’d go to the park and play basketball.  I was pretty frustrated, and even if she had responded immediately I don’t think I would’ve started to work anyways. Which was ironic, because part of my frustration, besides technological and besides the useless person that was on the other end of my phone call, was that I’d had this whole plan vaguely formed in my head that I would do a ton of work today and the next day, basically try to do the whole weeks work in a day or two and then have the rest of the week free, and now I couldn’t do that.  That’s how I like my schedules to be. Get everything done in one big chunk and then have a big chunk of nothing to do. That’s how I did college. I was a history major, so all of my finals were papers, never in class exams. We had about 2-3 weeks to write all these final papers, so what I’d do is the first day of finals, I’d go to the library super early and make outlines of all of my papers, and it would usually take the full day, maybe 10-12 hours. Then I’d go play basketball or something, always by myself, then I’d go somewhere off campus to eat because I didn’t want to speak to anybody and get out of my working mode, and then go to sleep and avoid my roomate.  Then the next day I’d get up super early again, go back to the library and write all my papers straight through the night. It usually took about 30 hours, and I would work pretty much straight through. So I’d finish all my finals in about two and half days, then I’d have about two weeks to just hang out.

              But I couldn’t do that now, and that frustrated me truthfully more than anything else that happened already that day, because now my whole plan for the week was moot.  I think as a species we’re uncomfortable with a change in plans. I am at least. Maybe I shouldn’t speak for mankind.

              So I put on gym shorts and sneakers - up til now I’d only been in my underwear and a t-shirt - grabbed my ball and headed to Gan Sacher.  It’s pronounced Gan Soccer, and for the first few weeks I lived here, I thought it was only a park with soccer fields, kind of like they have in Central Park with the baseball fields.  But then I walked by it one day by accident and saw a sign with the spelling Sacher. He was some guy who did something in history here. I don’t remember what, though I’m usually really good at remembering random minutia like that.   

               There’s only one soccer field in Gan Sacher.  It’s right next to the basketball court. I walked to the park, maybe a 20 minute walk, and stopped and bought a chocolate bar on the way.  I usually eat pretty healthy, but sometimes I get a really bad sweet tooth, and today I just didn’t feel like combating it. Besides, I get a kick out of this guy’s store, right next to my apartment building.  He has this small rectangle of a room on the ground floor, and stacked all along the walls are just cardboard boxes overflowing with chocolate. Some of it looks pretty old, with the chocolate getting that weird dusty look that old chocolate gets, but the boxes closer to the door seemed to be fresher.  And he was always in the middle of trying to clean up the store, but it seemed to just make it much worse, because he always started his cleaning process by unstacking a lot of the boxes and just making a mess in the middle of the room trying to rearrange them, and because he was alone and customers were always coming in interrupting him, he never had time to finish rearranging the boxes he’d pulled away from the wall, so by the end of the day he’d have to put back the boxes in a worse state then when he’d started.  That’s how I found him as I was walking to the park. In a mountain of crumbly, dusty chocolate, angry that I’d interrupted him from his cleaning. Sysphus the Chocolatier.

               When I got to the park I sat down on the side in the shade and drank some water.  It’s hot in Jerusalem in the summer.  The court was smooth cement, painted a faded green with white lines.  Growing up, we, my parents, that is, had a lake house in Connecticut and we had a basketball court built in our backyard, also green with white lines.  I pretty much grew up on that court. At one point in my life I would’ve said it was my favorite place in the world. Sometimes when shooting here and seeing the shadows on the court in the afternoon, around 4:00 pm, I have these crazy flashbacks to the court in Connecticut, because it’s the same colors and the shadows are in the same place, the left corner of the far basket.  The shadows come from the trees around the court, and they let light in the same way, with little splotches of light shimmering in between the shadow, wavy slightly in the wind. It’s pretty crazy when I have those flashbacks, because for a moment it feels like I’m actually back in Connecticut. It kind of jolts me. We don’t have the house anymore. It’s a long story, not a very pretty one, and so it’s pretty startling to be back in that place, even if I’m not really, but for a split second it seems like I am.  And so to be back in that place knowing everything I know that led up to me not actually being able to be in that place, even if I wanted to, it’s a strange sensation.  Pleasant and unpleasant at the same time. Containing within yourself two directly opposing forces that emerge at the exact same split second is, well, it’s just a weird feeling is all.  I don’t think I could explain it much more than that, because I don’t think I can understand it much more than that.  

               Anyway, that’s how the light was that day.  When I got to the court there was no one else there, but after about 20 minutes another kid showed up and we started playing 1 on 1.  He was a good athlete, maybe only an inch or two shorter than me, and clearly hit the weight room. I think he hit the weight room a bit too much, if you want to know my opinion.  Not that he was one of those freakishly muscular guys, but he was very stiff.  He was quick, but only in a straight front-back, side-to-side type of way.  He looked kind of like he was moving on a grid. He had no fluidity. Everything he did looked as if he had grooved the movements in a, well, in a weight room.  There was no grace to his movements, just strength.  It’s pretty easy for me to toy with guys like that on the basketball court, because they have no subtlety.  Every little jab or pump fake, they go flying. And because he moves as if he’s on a grid, I know exactly how he’s going to react to whatever I do.  So I was having a good time, making him dance, albeit stiffly, all over the court.

              I could tell he was getting frustrated.  He’d only scored about 5 points in as many games, and you could tell he thought he was a pretty good player.  Whenever someone’s image of themselves turns out not to always be accurate, they’re liable to get pretty upset.

The next time I had the ball, I caught him with the same move I’d already caught him with the past three times.  Just a simple jab, pump fake, jab, and everytime I beat him with it. It really is an unstoppable move, once you really get it, because no matter how you react to it, there’s always another option for me.  I’m a pretty simple basketball player, really, but I’m very hard to guard. I’m not really good at all the fancy through the legs behind the back dribbling. All I use are jabs and pump fakes for the most part.  I’m also a great shooter, so you’re pretty much damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You can’t give me space and let me shoot, because, like I said, I’m a great shooter. But you also can’t guard me too tightly, because I can just throw a pump fake or a jab and send you flying.  So that’s what I was doing to this kid, just showing him some good old fashioned fundamental basketball. Really, I’m a very clean player. I hardly even speak when I play.

             Like I was saying, next time I had the ball, I drove past him with the same move I’d been doing, and I was going up for a layup when he just pushed me in the back.  He wasn’t even making a play on the ball. He just pushed me. It wasn’t an overly aggressive shove, but it wasn’t a basketball play.  There’s almost nothing I hate more than dirty plays.  I’m lucky I didn’t get hurt. It’s one thing to get hurt by accident, during a normal play.  But to get hurt because he was pissed off I was beating him? That’s pretty hard to stomach.  

             “Don’t do that again,” I said seriously.  “Just play basketball.” He didn’t say anything.

              We checked the ball and I immediately took a jump shot and made it.  Next play I did the same move as before, jab pump jab,  and drove past him.  And he pushed me again.

               I landed fine.  Again, luckily I wasn’t hurt.  I gave him a hard look. He just kind of smirked at me.  I probably shouldn’t have done what I did next. But I did it anyways.  My day had already been a slowly more frustrating series of events, and this guy playing dirty basketball was about all I could take.  Basketball to me is a damn near sacred ritual. Even on a non-frustrating day, dirty plays like that drive me crazy.

              What I did was, I took two quick steps towards him, almost without realizing I was doing it, and I kind of just, well, I kind of just punched him really hard in the face.  It was a really good punch, too, if we want to look at it objectively. I caught him right in the nose, and it made this really sharp crack, and he immediately dropped to the floor.  He was bleeding a lot, and for a second I thought I’d killed him.  Honestly, I thought I just killed the kid. But then he started rolling around and screaming, cursing at me.  But he wasn’t getting up. At least I knew I hadn’t killed him.

              But then I started to get really nervous, and my legs felt wobbly.  If I’m going to be honest, I’ve never been in a fight before. Not once in my life.  I’ve never even practice thrown a punch in my life, except for this one boxing class I did with my brother.  But I didn’t like it. I started to go over to him, maybe to help him, I’m not really sure why.  But then my better instincts took over and told me to get away from this kid cursing your very existence.  After all, a broken nose shouldn’t stop him for too long. So I ran over and picked up my backpack and started to leave, but then I remembered my ball.  Like I said, basketball is holy to me. I couldn’t forget my ball. I looked quickly around the court for it. It wasn’t on the ground.

              This guy standing on the opposite side line.  I realized he was holding my ball. I stared at him for a second, unsure what was going on.  I was pretty dazed. This guy, he was maybe 50, was holding my ball, and he just sort of looked at me, contemplatively nodding his head from side to side a few times, then gave a satisfied sort of nod.  At least I think it was satisfied. I don’t know how long he’d been there. I assume he saw everything. Including the kid push me twice.  So he gave me this satisfied nod after thinking for a moment, then tossed my ball back to me.  Then he turned around real slowly, with his hands in his pockets, and walked away extremely casually.  Almost like a cartoon of someone walking casually.  

             So I had my ball and my bag, and that guy was being all casual, and the kid was still cursing me from the ground - it had only been maybe 20 seconds since I’d hit him - and I really had no idea what was going on.  I started saying “fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck” to myself rapidly under my breath and I started running home. I ran about halfway home, the whole time saying “fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck” until my lungs were burning too much.  I ran down some random narrow streets - there’s a lot of them in Jerusalem - and sat down on someone's stoop breathing heavily.

              It’s not one of my prouder moments, running away all scared like that.  Part of me wishes I had stayed until he got up and fought it out with him, if he was even going to try to fight me.  I wasn’t thinking very clearly though. Even when I hit him, I didn’t think about it and decide to punch him in the face.  It just kind of happened. Man, was I nervous though.  Sitting on that stoop it took me a really long time to catch my breath, I think mostly because I was so nervous and my adrenaline was running so much.  My hands were all shaky and everything and my legs still felt wobbly. And my hand was starting to hurt, I realized slowly. Like I said, I’d never been in a fight before, so I didn’t know I would get hurt also by punching someone else.  I kept trying to remember when I’d fallen on it or how I hurt it.  It took me a few minutes to realize it was from punching the kid. My mind was really racing.  Almost like I’d just drunk a gallon of coffee. That type of jumping around super kinetically that’s impossible to follow.  Boy was I nervous. I don’t know how long I was sitting on the stoop like that.

Eventually, though, I calmed down enough to stand up on legs that had by now grown stiff and started to walk home.  I was a little bit nervous that the kid would somehow find me and try to jump me on my way home, or that the police would come and nab me for assault.  I knew they were both ridiculous, but still. I couldn’t fully shake those thoughts.

                Mostly I just felt drained, the way you only can after a huge adrenaline dump.  My veins felt like they were filled with cement and I thought I was going to pass out by the time I climbed the six floors up to my apartment.  Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I was unusually sluggish. It had been an unusual day.

               But I opened the door to the smell of frying onions and a real uppity Edward Sharpe song and Leah dancing with a spatula in her hand.

               “Oh boobie,” I said.  I usually call her boobie when it’s just the two of us.  I’m not really sure why. I interupted her dancing and hugged her, dropping most of my weight on her and steering us to the bed so we could cushion our fall.  I didn’t feel like standing anymore. Luckily our apartments so tiny I could safely do that.

               “So how was your day?” she asked.  

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