Kadima Street in Jaffa became Ed Koch Street with much pomp and circumstance in the mid 1990’s. The small street, which is more of an alley, is in a part of Jaffa that tourists (or locals) would never frequent unless they were looking to score some heroin at Davidoff Park or play tennis at the Israel Tennis Center. It intersects with Alfred Doblin Street, another dead end alley, named after an obscure German author who converted to Catholicism later in life. I was 16. I had no idea who Ed Koch was. But I knew who Dr. Ruth Westheimer was. And she was there at the ceremony that my dad, the manager at the Jaffa Tennis Center, was overseeing. And if I knew then what I know now I would have asked her whether my fetish for the wives of tyrannical despots was healthy. After all, this was before the advent of Google. Sex advice was sought by sending letters to newspaper sex columnists. I take M. there on Friday mornings and we play tennis. It’s a much anticipated oasis in our otherwise hectic lives in which we disconnect from everything that stresses us out. More importantly, my balls aren’t the ones getting smashed for a change.
M. and I have our wedding anniversary next month. So I brought up the idea of celebrity passes. A list of three celebrity men that she would be permitted to have sex with should the opportunity arise. Idris Elba. Not from “The Wire” so much as from “Luther” the British crime show. Channing Tatum from “Step Up” or “Dear John”. Finally, Alexander Skarsgard, that ridiculously tall and handsome Swede who plays vampire Eric in “True Blood” (but also Lincoln in “What Maisie Knew”). My list was considerably more amusing. And concise. Asma Assad. From the torturous Assad family.
We’ve both changed so much since our days as young lovers. Well, me mostly. I wasn’t a smoker. I wasn’t so depressing. I certainly wasn’t so bloody fat either. I often wonder whether she would still love me if we met now for the first time.
Our first winter together was enchanted. We strolled up and down Dizengoff Street in the rain. We had soup at quaint little café’s on side streets and listened to Leonard Cohen while the rain thumped against the old Bauhaus windows. The idea of two people so profoundly connected was foreign to a cynic like me. I imagine I must have been guided by some divine force greater than myself. Or she blinded. It was I, but it was the best, most noble self I could ever put forward. A self so worthy that it could only go downhill. And it did unfortunately. Like an alpine ski racer on Heisenberg’s blue meth.
Our wedding anniversary falls on the same week as Thanksgiving. Which means absolutely nothing to M. But I was raised in the States and it means a lot to me. It means giving thanks. And I am thankful every time I go to the bathroom and there’s no toilet paper. Not because I forgot to buy any. There’s like forty rolls in the cupboard under the sink. All you have to do is reach underneath and take out a new roll. But she never does. And it makes me soooo irate. I don’t know why.
And I’m thankful when she leaves scrap pieces of paper in jacket pockets and jeans and then stuffs them in the washing machine. Or ignores the clothes that I washed and folded on the dresser for weeks on end. Until they are so dusty and covered in cat hair they find their way back to the laundry bin.
And I’m thankful that there is someone out there patient enough to put up with me when I throw a hissy fit because of the petty aforementioned indiscretions.
I’m a terrible husband. I admit it. I take my wife for granted. I don’t tell her I love her as much as I should. I’m not a good provider. I haven’t been able to afford a house. Which is very important in some cultures. Like when we were newlyweds living in that converted warehouse on Herzl Street and our neighbors were young Arabs from some village up north. One of them asked M. one day why she lived there if she was married. He told her that no woman from his village would agree to marry unless her groom owned a house. Arabian women were spoiled like that. Thankfully M.’s standards were adequately low. Otherwise she’d never have given me the time of day.
I’m a terrible human being. Really. I embarrass M. on a daily basis. Not just on the pages of this blog. Like when I drive. I get a severe case of road rage and yell obscenities like a foul mouthed sailor should anyone cut me off. And she can’t slither low enough in the front passenger seat. I like to “graze” when I’m at the supermarket. I’ll “try” a handful of raisins. Then shake my head demonstratively as if to show others that I “don’t like” the raisins. That’s why I won’t be buying them. Or the dates. Or the dried pineapples. And she can’t get far enough away from me to hide her shame. Or when I get drunk. At her company bonding events. Or her friends’ weddings. And the drunker I get the louder I get. And she has to put up with me and whatever bigoted, insulting, misogynistic thing comes out of mouth.
I’m a terrible lover. I don’t send her flowers anymore. Or cuddle in bed. Sometimes she asks me to spoon but I’m comfortable and I don’t feel like it. Or I’m tired. And we go to sleep back to back. Or she’s had a long day and all she wants is a foot massage. Or to talk. But I’m lazy and all I want to do is sleep. The last thing I want to do is talk. Or massage feet.
We are all imperfect in our own unique way. We all lead lives that fall short of our own expectations in so many ways. But if we are lucky, and I mean really lucky, we find someone who will love us truly and profoundly despite what we have become. As Dr. Ruth once said attraction is only one part of a relationship. Loyalty, commitment, responsibility and maturity make up the rest.
So happy anniversary M. I hope this is the year that I quit smoking, lose the weight and finally buy a house. This is the year that I massage your feet as we talk into the wee hours of the morning like we used to. But if not I pray that you still continue to love me as much as I love you despite all my many, many, many shortcomings.
I also pray that this is the year I get to make good on my celebrity hall pass with Asma.