drew's blog

there & then (part 2) | February 10, 2011

In my new seat I spent what felt like hours in limbo-in this case, the space between being awake & asleep.  It turned out to be 40 minutes.  Then I sat up & reached for my guitar.  I haven’t played James Taylor or Stephen Fretwell for some time, but for some reason that’s what I ‘picked.’  When I got bored of that, I set my guitar down & as I was doing so, I heard, “Thank you, that was a treat.”  It was Penelope.

I didn’t even realize she was sitting next to me.  I was still in limbo.  Flying is exhausting, especially when you’re nervous the whole time you’re in the air.  Penelope doesn’t get nervous about flying.  Her visa had expired in Israel or something & she had to leave for a spell.  She had just returned from a tiny hiatus in Poland & was waiting for the same train as I.  Penelope is from Australia.  Or was it New Zealand.  I think it’s Australia.  She has no family to speak of.  She’s got to be 60, at least.  She’s got a a boy-cut for hair & piercing blue eyes.  Most blue eyes are.  She generally looks worn-out, but the good kind of worn-out.  Not from drugs or alcohol or any other vice or sin but from enduring in careful work.  It’s how I want to look.   She’s volunteering service in Jaffa & has been there for a year.

I told her this was my first time to the Land & that already, I was probably a suspect.  I told her about what happened with my luggage.  She laughed hard.  Not the kind of laugh that’s half natural, half forced, & still hard. But the kind of laugh that links people unconsciously.  For a moment, we were the same age.  After another couple zingers about bombs, I made myself simmer.  When she settled, I asked her if she was Christian & she was.  I said, ”Me too,” and that that’s really what my trip was all about-a peaceful journey to grow closer to God through Christ.  I also wanted to re-up my energy to continue teaching in Georgia.

A negro janitor came by & saw my bottle of water on the floor.  He gestured as if to take it & I told him ‘No, thank you.’  He made a face, I think because it was empty.  What he didn’t consider is that I had plans to refill it so that I didn’t have to pay $3 for every bottle.  He lingered by.

Negro.  I don’t know if  ‘black’ works in Israel, although, I suppose the difference is the same.  African Israelian?   Here, we shall call him Efah.

Efah is a small man who was one of the darkest men I’d ever seen.  Some negro people are light skinned, maybe because they’re mulatto or something.  Others are dark, but they have a shine to their skin.  Efah was so dark, he had no shine.  He looked like he got plucked straight out of Ethiopia & dropped in the airport.  I don’t think he even spoke Hebrew (which I really want to learn).

Penelope asked me my denomination.  I told her I’d been raised Catholic but converted to LDS (Mormon) when I was 19.

“I think that we’re meant to progress through different religions before we land where we’re supposed to, ultimately, closer(closest) to God,” she said.

I chortled.  “Yeah, maybe you’re right.  For some people, anyway.”  There was a pause & then she asked about my guitar playing -how long? Who do I like?  What do I want to do with it? -that sort of thing.  I told her she probably wouldn’t know any of the musicians I liked, except for James Taylor, but I did mention Age Pryor (from New Zealand) & Tommy Emmanuel (from Australia).  “I’ve been playing for about 7 or 8 years & I suppose I want to do what everyone else does: play my songs & let people know it’s all ok if you use your body for love… The recognition & fame & all that’s fine too.”  She smiled & I reached for my guitar when I noticed Efah was there again gesturing for a half-eaten bag of potato-chips.  I grabbed it & started eating the rest.  Penelope was laughing hard again.  I found myself thinking I’d rather be a comedian than a Musician.  I would too.  But I’d rather be a funny musician than a musical comedian.  Efah was happier to know this time there was a reason he could not  have the trash.  It wasn’t yet trash.  Penelope & I discussed whether or not we should give him SOMEthing; an old wrapper we had stuffed in our pockets, a piece of note-paper we no longer needed.  It felt a little too much like giving a table-scrap to a dog, or a bread-crum to a pigeon.  He was gone anyway.

Finally, it was time to go catch our train.  Originally, Penny (yep, I’m calling her Penny now), was heading to a different location via another train, but she decided to catch a bus from where I was going.  I told her I could use the help getting to the right place.  I left a wrapper & the potato-chip bag for Efah & Penny escorted me to the train.  I really believe Efah was happy to have something to do that wasn’t just walking around looking unbusy.  He could’ve gotten fired had I not left that trash.

We arrived at the platform & Penny confessed she wasn’t sure which train to get on.  We asked an employee whose shift had just ended if she could help.  She told Penny what she needed to know & then basically held my hand until I got on my bus for Jerusalem.  Sometimes I forget how good people are.  We make friends & then stick to them.  This isn’t a bad thing.  It’s just that those friends gain more  & more power to hurt you & you them because of how deeply you know each other.  I like meeting new people.  It’s easy to go the distance with ’em.  They are often their best selves when they’re new to someone.  Call it a complex, but I think it’s a nice idea knowing that strangers can’t hurt you emotionally.  Especially when it’s the last thing I want to do to them.  And if by chance they say something at random that happens to bring tears or pain or what have you, you’re defenses are down because they don’t know you.  You let them in & you let them help.  This is eternal mercy, and evidence of God.

At one point in our conversation, sitting in the airport, waiting for the train, I was telling Penelope my feelings about being in Georgia & returning home.  I started to go a bit sour, expressing frustrations & worries over the pleasantries & joys.  Penelope stopped me, held a finger out (up) & simply said, “He knows.. He knows.”  I don’t think she just wanted me to shut up.  She believes that, & reminded me that I do too.   To be continued.

To friends:  Thank you for going the distance with me; for allowing me to forget the concept that one of us has control.
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I'm currently teaching English in the republic of Georgia. I started this blog so that those I love & those interested can read all about my experience.

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