I’m meeting Jess for a coffee, and the sun is out and the sky is blue, and all the women in me are done.
First it was the taxi driver:
“Basel Square please”
I have my headphones in and no shame I’m listening to Taylor, and the taxi driver motions for me to take out the headphones, so I do.
“Kapara, you wouldn’t believe the day I’m having. My girlfriend is on her period – you know how women get, and she’s, wow, well, first of all she isn’t putting out, and I swear to God, this happens every month, but then when I told her I want to go to the strip club she gets angry, and says she’s going to her mother’s, so then I gotta drive her to her mother’s, and then the air conditioner conks out on me…” he stops at a red light and lights a cigarette.
“And then my girlfriend calls and says to me that she wants to go to Greece for the Holidays — but no, she still isn’t coming home tonight because she’s mad at me about the strip club, but she wants us to go to Greece because we need to reconnect… so I gotta work overtime, and then my…”
My phone rings, and it’s work.
“Don’t answer,” he says “I’m not finished.”
I take the call anyway, and he’s still talking.
We get to Basel Square.
And I think to myself: 40 shekels? For real? Shouldn’t he pay me for the free therapy?
But I pay him
He hands me his card and he tells me that I should call him next time I need a taxi.
I walk into the restaurant, with my headphones back in and Taylor back on, and I’m wearing my sunglasses, and I’m all Gretta Garbo 2.0.
Namaste and I vant to be alonnnne.
“Table for two, please,” I tell the hostess. “and do you have a place close to a plug so I can charge my phone?”
She takes me to a table near the back, and it’s wedged in between two other tables. They’re two couples at one table, and there are a group of guys at the other.
I squeeze in, plug in my phone, headphones still in, sunglasses still on, and the guy closest to me does the old lean in. I can smell Axe body spray on thick.
“Why don’t you sit at the bar?” he says. “Don’t girls themselves usually sit at the bar? If you do, I’ll buy you a drink.”
“No thanks. I’m meeting a friend,” I say as I angle away from him.
“You need to order the salmon here,” he says. “It’s the best.”
“No, really, you need to order the salmon. You won’t find anything better on the menu. And too much pasta isn’t good for you.”
Headphones still in. Glasses still on.
“What does your bracelet say?” he asks pointing to my olive wood Mahmoud Darwish bracelet.
“It says stand on the edge of your dream and fight,” I say. “it’s a line from a Mahmoud Darwish poem.
“So stupid. No need to fight!” he says. “You just have to enjoy life. Go to the beach, maybe a movie, go for a drink…”
“Take off your sunglasses,” he tells me.
Fuck you. I think to myself, but I don’t say it.
“I have a headache, and I prefer to keep them on,” I say instead.
“No need to fight for your dreams!” he says again, grabbing my arm with the bracelet.. “Fighting is such a waste. Really, he should go to the beach more.”
And now, I’m starting to get pissed.
I pull my arm away.
Shake it off. Shake it off.
“You know, for some people they do feel that they have to fight for the things that are important to them,” I say.
“Including the simple right to enjoy a day at the beach.”
“No way,” he says. “It’s a waste. You should just enjoy life.”
“I agree that it’s important to enjoy life, but for 2.3 million Palestinians under occupation, they can’t just go to the beach… It’s easy for us to say that the true purpose of life is to relax and hang out with friends when we’re sitting in a restaurant in Tel Aviv and have the right and freedom to do whatever we want, but try being a West Bank Palestinian…”
“Oh, you’re interested in politics? That’s a waste of time.”
“For me, it isn’t. It’s important, and there’s a lot here that we need to change.”
“That’s stupid. You should just listen to music and go out with your friends. Hey, take out your headphones and take off
your sunglasses. Let me see your eyes. You look annoyed. Why don’t you smile?”
And that’s when I lose it. No, actually: That’s when I get it back.
I take out my headphones. I take off my sunglasses.
And I smile. But it is the smile of a woman who is very, very tired and who also has literally zero fucks left to give.
“Do you think this is Ok?” I ask him.
“Do you think this is Ok?” I ask again. “I sat down here, not because I want to, but because I have to. I need to plug in my phone. Why? Because I’m working. I have my headphones on. That is a clear sign I don’t want to talk. Not to you. Not to anyone. And yet, here you are, lecturing me about my way of being in the world. Here you are telling me what I should value. And here you are telling me to take off my sunglasses and take out my headphones. Is this normal?” I take a breath. “No. It is not ok.”
He stares at me with his mouth half open.
“No. We are done.”
I think about getting up and switching tables, but HELL NO. Why should I?
I turn up Taylor. And get back to work. He and his friends settle their check, and get up and leave.
And can I just tell you? I feel GOOD. I feel REALLY GOOD. I feel GREAT. 36 years of conditioning has taught me to smile! To be polite! To smile again! To bend and stretch myself in accordance of what others want, and I. Am. Done.
And after they walk out – muttering “bitch” under their breath – the waitress walks over to me, and says “that was awesome.”
“Thanks, I’ve been wanting to say that for the past 20 years,” I say.
“Me too,” she says. “Next time, I will.”