There’s this guy in the Muslim Quarter who has this big huge knife and splits pomegranates down the middle right in the belly. when he opens them, they sparkle, a thousand rubies. He takes each one and he squeezes till the juice runs, red and dusky into a plastic cup. It’s my favorite. And I was drinking with him, the sweet and bitter juice when a tour group came by – they stopped, and the guy who squeezes pomegranate juice said hi.

The thing you don’t know about the Man Who Squeezes Juice is he writes poetry — dark, and bitter, like the bottom of each pomegranate seed, and like each seed, it brings life, it brings life to everyone who reads. He also studied physics, and he can read the history of each planet in the stars, or something like that. I don’t know physics or stars or math or science, but I know the Guy Who Squeezes Juice from the ripe pomegranates, and I know he knows what was, what is… and he talks about what he hopes will be.

But now, he’s there in his dusty juice stand with the big red pomegranates , and it’s late afternoon and he hasn’t had a sale except for mine all day.

The Tour Guide was one of these big old guys with history under his fingers, the kind who laughs and it sounds like tanks rumbling over rocky terrain, a man who buried his best friend and his brother in the same week.

The Tour Guide stops with his group — they’re from Japan, they have little Japanese and Israeli flags stitched on their backpacks — and the Tour Guide says hi to the Man Who Squeezes Juice. “Hello,my brother,” he says in Hebrew. “Hello my brother,” the Man Who Squeezes Juice responds.

Then, turning to his tour group, the Tour Guide says in English, “This is the Man Who Squeezes Juice! He sells pomegranate juice. HE is nice! HE is a good Arab! He is a man of peace! A good Arab,” he repeats. “A Good Arab.”

The group takes selfies by the stand — they smile. The Man Who Squeezes Juice smiles too. The Tour Guide shambles away. His flock follows.

“That was a Good Arab,” they repeat. “That was a Good Arab.”

The Man Who Squeezes Juice turns to me and rolls his eyes.

“Wow, what an asshole,” I say.

“Eh,” the Man Who Squeezes Juice replies. “If he wants to treat me like his bitch, he could at least buy me dinner. Or a cup of my pomegranate juice, maybe. It’s the same thing every time he passes by with his tour groups — we’ve known each other for years, and he doesn’t even know my name.”

He laughs and it sounds like a hang  nail on tinted glass. And then he sighs, rolls his eyes, and drinks the last dregs.

***

For more stories like these, check out my memoir about love and sex and grief and hope in the hottest piece of spiritual real estate IN THE WORLD: Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered