Oh, not to say I’m not, but what is it to be happy, really? There’s always some disaster waiting for you. Always some new humiliation, a drop of ink that is hovering and simply hasn’t hit the surface of the water yet. I love Rafi dearly, of course I do, but love and dignity live at odds with one another, and, as you would always say, Orna, they tend gossip about each other with discord every night.
If Rafi did anything for me, it was that he gave me children. Motherhood is rewarding - of course - and -you’ll find this, too - you’ll wonder how you could have ever been just you? But of course, my children inherited their father’s habit for being easily entertained by the slapstick variety of humor and, well, my home was a hopeless caricature of family life for many years. It was all I could do to get out of the house in one piece, and I can hardly describe the rages I would find myself gnashing my teeth upon when I would walk past some shiny window and discover I’d been going about my business all day long with a noodle in my hair or some mysterious and disgusting stain on my chest. Love and dignity, you see? They don’t understand one another. And I lost sleep, and somehow over time I lost the shape of my face, too. What is this amorphous cushion on top of my wobbly neck? Ha! Ask Rafi. Always with an opinion about how I looked. Of course, he was being cooked for and he got the full nights of sleep, so how could he understand? I sometimes fantasized that I never joked around with him and his friends the night I found them heading for the port. Never started the whole business of us becoming husband and wife. I fantasized that like some mysterious woman in a movie I just smiled demurely and let them go to their whores, and went on to continue my glamorous existence until I found a man who mistook me for a princess and drove me around in a Fiat on curving mountain roads. In the evenings in beautifulEuropean hotels, I would tell him a little bit about my experiences in the war. Stoically, of course, not the way I actually talk about them, which I hardly do, because I know that I sound like how my grandparents used to sound to me, and I can’t stand my own voice in my old age, except that it certainly doesn’t keep me from talking, does it? Ha! I would say a bit of something here or there about the war, and a dark look would come over the man’s eyes and he would furrow his brow and grab me and hold me close, angry on my behalf, good to me on the world’s.
Of course Rafi cheated on me. And he will never ever admit it, even as Dina confesses their affairs to her friends, trying on womanly maturity like it’s a costume, and even as her parents come to our door with a pitchfork and tell him to never come near their home again. And he smiles and insists there’s some misunderstanding, easy going and magnanimous like someone counted his change wrong at the market.Is anyone surprised? Everyone was waiting for it, and I, ha! I was willing - not just willing, but trying with every ounce of the tower of babel of beings within me to pretend - to inhabit an alternate realm where it wasn’t true. But in a kibbutz, there is only one version that everyone votes and agrees upon with every whisper and pointed finger, and in that version, Rafi cheated on me with that little whore Dina. And you know the hardest part? That my own children, these people I created so that the voices I heard and the presences I felt around me would be real - these little people who have no idea what pain is thanks to me, they hear me start up about the affair again and say to me, “Mom, I can’t deal with this right now.” And I don’t know what’s worse, knowing the truth while he meets my gaze and denies it or being silenced by the fruits of our silly, bullshit, makeshift, indispensable love.
About the Author: Nitzan Meltzer was born in Tel Aviv and grew up in Kansas City. Her flash fiction has also been featured in Poetica Magazine. She currently lives in Denver with her family and Great Pyrenees.