She finishes smoking her cigarette and asks me why the hell I moved back to Israel. For the first time since she met me. Six and a half years ago. And so I tell her. Somewhat cynically.

“The universe guided me here so I could meet your daughter. And fall in love”.

And she rolls her eyes. Like she does at most of the rubbish that comes out of my mouth.

“You shouldn’t have.”

And what about your daughter’s happiness? Your adorable ninja of grandson (who was at that precise moment breaking something of value in her house)? Or our memorable discussions regarding those god awful Korean soap operas?

She shakes her head. Silently implying how much of a dafuk, a dumbass, I am. For moving to Israel in the first place. And maybe she’s right.

But M. doesn’t see it that way. And I feel sorry for her. Because she fell for the oldest con in the book. The ol’ bait and switch.

Here’s me before we got married:

I'm here to pump you up.

I’m here to pump you up.

Here’s me two days later:

um, I'm here for the stomach pump...

um, I’m here for the stomach pump…

And here’s the thing. Well, the things. I make my lovely M.’s life a living hell on a daily basis. And yet she loves me still. Somehow. Someway. Miraculously. Defiantly. And most would have tossed me to the curb by now.

1. Road Rage. Which I have a severe case of. Particularly if I am tired, hungry, impatient, have to pee, hungover, lost or otherwise in a bad mood. Like last week. We turned left. When we should have turned right. And there was no way to U-Turn for a kilometer or more. And we found ourselves driving in the wrong direction. And she found me banging on the steering wheel unleashing a string of obscenities so vulgar Henry Miller would lower his gaze in shame. And she just looks away. Out the window. While our angelic offspring slumbers innocently in his seat. Impervious to my ferocious festival of fuck yous. And that just angers me more. So I hurl hurtful words at her. Just to get a reaction. But she’s too mature. Too classy to get dragged down into the mud with me. Oh and I’ve got enough shit in my shoes to stink up that Suzuki without her adding to it.

2. Her ex boyfriend. Who’s only slightly less of a loser than me. Who lives with his mom. And his wife. And his son. In the next building. And I see him every day. And sometimes she sees him. And talks to him. Casually. But I use that. As ammunition. “Oh, you saw him, did you?” Playing the jealous type. When all I do is flirt with everyone I see. From the receptionist at the office to the lady selling my son’s “Toy Story” crocs at that sad excuse of a mall in this sad excuse of a town. Which, my mother in law will tell you, is a lovely place. But I trust in M. more than I trust the sun to rise in the East.

3. Pornography. The real issue here is the depravity. Well, that and the frequency. Which M. tolerates. Even though she hates it. Like cigarettes, karaoke music and doing the dishes. So she turns her back and pretends to be asleep. But the glowing blue light could lead ships through a midnight fog.

4. 200 job interviews. All bungled. All promising a brighter future. Full of hope. Of professional satisfaction for me. And fantasies of far fetched dreams of a vacation. Or a manicure. Or a new pair of shoes. Or a blouse. For M. All dashed. By my overwhelming ineptitude. So we’re forced to move back to the one place she desperately escaped from. And I see it in her eyes. The disappointment. Never uttered. Never spoken. But felt. Heavy on my shoulders like a ton of bricks. This is most definitely to be laid at my doorstep.

5. Beer, sports and illiteracy. Which never used to be the case. The first time we met I was reading Marquez’ “Love in the time of Cholera”. Outside the fitness club she used to work at. And I would never drink beer. Because I was in tip top physical shape. A specimen. A real beast. With a six pack for a belly. And the other night she stepped out of the shower and caught me drinking a Goldstar while watching a basketball game. On TV. Even though she had bought me a book. At my favorite used book store on Allenby Street. And it had yellowed pages. And it was falling apart. Just the way I like my books. But I’ve grown stupid these past few years. And illiterate. And there I was. All fat, lazy and stupid sprawled out on her mother’s couch. And what thoughts must have been going through her pure and rational mind. But none uttered. Just a kiss on the lips and a tender:

“Don’t stay up too late. I’ll be waiting for you in bed. You know I can’t fall asleep unless you’re there with me.”

She’s a sharp one. My mother in law. Sees right through me. Not like her daughter. And when I dipped my spoon with the Turkish coffee grinds still stuck to it into the sugar and left blackish grains in the jar she turns to me with unbridled rage and says:

“I’ll kill you! Wash the spoon off before you put it in the sugar!”

So much rage.

And nothing I could say or do could placate the grandmother of my child. No amount of contrition could atone for my (unthinkable!) transgression. No, only her cigarette could do that.

And in a lifetime full of questionable decisions, poor timing, bad luck, immorality and unfulfilled potential –

I’m left to wonder whether or not she was right.

Whether or not my coming back to Israel was a mistake.

And as cynical a man as I am, I love my M. Dearly. With every ounce of my soul.

And as foolish a man as I am, coming back to Israel is a mistake I would gladly make over and over again.

The best possible mistake any man could ever hope to make.