Dina sits across from this man and she feels.
This has not happened for quite some time.
She really thinks about it in the weeks after, and she comes to the conclusion that she blocked the part of her brain that produced uncomfortable emotions and was mostly just numb for fifteen years.
It’s fine, though. She’s willing to bet that a good majority of the adult population of Bet Hatikva feels the same way.
She wonders if feeling or being numb is better.
On one hand, she was alive that night, more alive than she had been in years. He pushed her straight into the ocean and the cold shock of the water woke up her nerves and senses.
On the other hand, now she can’t stop feeling, and that might be a problem.
Not an hour has passed by since he spoke his last words to her that she has not thought of him and felt a physical pain in her chest.
She also keeps crying for some goddamn reason. She hadn’t cried in fifteen years.
She really hates that she feels this way. Not only does it hinder her ability to function properly, it effectively cut quite a few things out of her life.
Things Dina Cannot See, Hear, or Think About Without Wanting to Cry
-The bench they sat on
-The little restaurant they went to
-The dress she wore that night
-The pen that she used to write “Petah Tikvah”
Dina sits in her apartment and does more thinking than she would like. Many, many nights are spent by the phone. She has the same debate for hours on whether or not to call the bus station and ask for a one-way ticket to Alexandria.
She knows deep down that she will never dial, though. That would be something she would have done at twenty-four.
At forty-one, she sits and waits for nothing. She did not give him her phone number. He does not know how to reach her again, nor does she know how to reach him.
She could find out the number for the Petah Tikvah Cultural Department, she supposes. She could call and continue to find out numbers from there until she could reach him.
That would be ridiculous, though. The amount of money she’d spend in long-distance fees would probably be equivalent to her electricity bill, and she couldn’t talk on the phone without electricity, now could she?
Part of her thinks that if she could just erase the memory of that one night she could go on living as usual.
Numbness is better than feeling, she decides. The one night of being truly alive did not make up for the unceasing torrent of unwanted emotion that followed.
It’s quite oxymoronic, she thinks. Her favorite feeling is the absence of feeling altogether.
She spent so long carefully building the barricade between her and her emotions, and all he had to do was speak before it collapsed.
She blames him for the stupid things she did that night. Kissing that trumpet player. He was practically a boy, but he said she had beautiful eyes and she could not go another second without doing something.
”Habibi, ana bahibak. Hal tuhibnee?” she’d said that night. Darling, I love you. Do you love me?
She knows she doesn’t love him. She only knows his deepest shame. Sharing with someone is not the same as love, she reminds herself.
But doesn’t she love him? His eyes, his hands, the way he laughed when they re-enacted the train scene from The River of Love. The way he sang with such honesty and passion. The way he smiled at her when he said that fishing was the most important thing. The way he looked at her when he said she was a good woman. Everything about him reminds her how beautiful it was to be in love.
Weeks now, Dina has been thinking these torturous thoughts over and over again.
Thinking is tiring. Feeling is tiring. Crying is tiring. She wants to be done. She wants to be numb again.
She decides that she can be, if she works hard at it.
And so she does.
She moves in the circle that is her life and does her best to block any complicated feelings.
Slowly, her walls start to rebuild themselves.
Until one day, when a small envelope with a hundred-shekel note arrives in the mail. The accompanying piece of paper has two short words and no signature, but she knows.
”Thank you,” the author had written in English.
And it all comes crashing down again.