November 24th was our wedding anniversary. And M. never ceases to amaze me. Like last night for example. I passed out while watching porn on the laptop. Waiting for her to come to bed. And she didn’t. For a long time. And this morning (well, at two AM to be precise) I found out why. She had been busy doing this:
As I write this I can’t help but think back to our first major argument. Nuclear. One of those make-or-break meltdowns that comes early in every couple’s relationship. Our’s came at the laundromat of all places. After only two months together.
I was living in that old Bauhaus on the upper end of Dizengoff Street. No washing machine. No dryer. So I would throw on an old rag that wasn’t smelly or soiled, stuff an old suitcase full of dirty clothes, fill a ziplock bag with five shekel coins and jingle jangle down the trendiest street in Tel Aviv like some homeless hipster. And if someone I know spotted me they would inevitably ask me where I was flying to. And I would laugh and say: “India”.
The laundromat is tucked in between a kiosk and one of Tel Aviv’s oldest Chinese Restaurants. And there were five or six old washing machines with coin slots, three industrial dryers, a small sink; a coin operated detergent dispenser and one wooden table to fold your clothes on.
And I would always find myself there on a Friday afternoon, at the time of day Cinematographers call “Magic Hour”. And it’s a small window of two or three hours that even the great metropolis, the city that never sleeps, gets a quick power nap before the nighttime revelers take over and make it their playground of inequity.
And while the machines rinsed I would read Updike and Marquez and Vonnegut. Or I would people watch. Or talk to the German tourist doing her laundry. Or the homeless man smoking a butt at the kiosk. Or the owner of the Laundromat, a slim balding man who would appear and disappear at random intervals to empty the coin dispensers or issue stern warnings about the apocalyptic consequences of not cleaning the lint traps on those enormous fire hazards.
M. liked to cook Friday night dinner for us in that dilapidated old kitchen. Any man who has lived in solitude for any period of time will tell you that there is nothing more heartwarming than the woman you’re madly in love with cooking you dinner. It’s something that I’ve taken for granted in my years of marriage, but in those days, when I was a bachelor and living off microwave TV dinners or tuna sandwiches, there was nothing more enticing than coming home to that wafting aroma of a home cooked meal.
The sun would set as I walked back towards my old Bauhaus on Dizengoff. And the bars and café’s would start to fill up. And my friend who had asked me where I was flying to would joke and say: “Back so soon?” And I would laugh. Or at least feign a laugh.
I could hear Leonard Cohen crooning all the way from the stairwell.
“If it be your will… that I speak no more…”
I could smell the roasted chicken and seasoned potatoes. Thyme. And as I climbed those set of stairs, dragging that raggedy old suitcase, I could hardly remember being any happier in my entire life. I didn’t turn on the hallway light. My own paradise shone like a beacon from beneath that door. And like a ship lost at sea it would guide me safely to the shore.
And those people that die a clinical death and come back say they see a bright light. And I would see a bright light as I opened that wooden door. Like in a dream. And the table would be set. With lilac colored placemats and candles. And M.’s beautiful saintly smile. Happy to see me. Me. It had been so long since anyone in the world was happy to see me.
And she would tell me that the food was almost ready. But not quite. And she would help me unpack my suitcase in the meantime. And I would kiss her on those glossy lips and the smell of cherry would bring a smile to my face.
And the two of us would unpack that suitcase, sorting all the clothes in the various dressers. Or hanging them up on hangers. Or combining socks and putting them away. And it would be the picture of happiness. Bliss. Love. Unity.
Until it would end. Abruptly. Violently. Shattered thunderously by a sexy pink thong that in no way belonged to M. Or me. With a look of sheer horror she held that sexy pink thong between her thumb and her pointer. “These aren’t mine.” And for the life of me I have never seen them before. Ever. But she didn’t believe me. Couldn’t. No matter how much I pleaded with her. And proclaimed my innocence. And professed my love.
Nothing would ever be the same.
And whether or not that sexy pink thong belonged to some stripper I was seeing on the side or whether they had, by some horrible twist of fate, been left in the dryer by the German tourist, was, entirely, a question of trust. And most relationships, marriages, partnerships hinge on precisely that question.
And every man will tell you that a woman never forgets. Ever. And that pink thong hovered over our relationship like a storm cloud every time I went to the laundromat. And every time I received an SMS. And every phone call late at night. And every Facebook message.
A year or so later we moved to a small place in the Florentine section of Tel Aviv.
And got married.
And our first purchase as a married couple was a washing machine.