Even though she hasn’t been in my life for almost a decade, I think about her at least once a year. And I’ve noticed that her birthday is eternally etched in my mind. Its strange how someone who was once a major part of my life is now nothing more than a phantom birthday. She’s still alive. I know that as a fact. Because every once in a while I’ll see her avatar on LinkedIn of all places. Or Twitter. Or when Facebook suggests a friend to me. But she’s not my friend. She’s a relic of a different time. A different place. A different me. But as much as I try to forget her, she pops up like a ghost to haunt me on her birthday. And in an era when we don’t need to remember birthdays, because social media reminds us, that date is hard wired into my brain.
December 2. She was the archetypal mythological girlfriend. The one who would show up at my mom’s house late at night – after my folks were already asleep – wearing a beige trench coat with high heels, stockings and a garter belt underneath. And nothing else. And Lenny Kravitz would croon about Rosemary while we fucked. Or smoked a joint. And she would drop names like Issey Miake. Or Massive Attack. Or Matisse. Long before I knew what or who they were. And she was radically left wing. Rocking the Keffiyeh scarf long before it was the hipster thing to do. And she dodged the draft. Because she was a pacifist. And long after we had a continent between us we kept in touch via email. Like people did before Friendster. And then My Space. And then Facebook. And she traveled the world. India. Mexico. Rome. And dated DJ’s. Rock stars. And did drugs. Cocaine. Ecstacy. LSD. And then she stopped. And grew up. And married a businessman. And moved to some trendy European capital. And her ghost haunts me from LinkedIn.
December 2. She had a reputation for promiscuity. Which is hard to live down when you grow up in a small town like Kiryat Sharet. Stuff of legend really. Like the older brother of our classmate who was in Golani. And rode a big motorcycle. Or one of the teachers. Or that deranged Yugoslavian who was a soccer star. And despite his being two foot seven, he had sent at least ten guys to the hospital. Or so the rumor went. And of all the men she dated – yes men – I was the only child. But her mom would take me aside every time I came over and look me in the eye and tell me that I was destined for greatness. And nobody had ever made such bold predictions about my future. Not even my own parents.
December 2. And the world as I knew it had been turned upside down just a few weeks before. We left the old movie theater in Holon. The Savoy. And we were two lovers in that Gold Austin Montego that my dad had bought from his friend in Ashkelon. And Portishead is playing on the radio. And suddenly they are interrupted by the news that he had been shot. At a rally. And she put her perfectly manicured fingers over her mouth in shock with barely an audible gasp. And here’s a woman who had seen into the future. With fashion. With art. With sophistication. But this assassination had taken even her by surprise. She put her other hand on mine and looked away. So I wouldn’t see her crying. And we drove back to my place in complete and utter silence.
Decemeber 2. And I get an email. About a 1997 issue of playboy magazine. Found underneath the bathroom cabinet at her mom’s place. Because her mom is renovating and the Russian “Instalator” (plumber) as they call him here, found it. With a signed note from the January playmate. To Z. And it reminds me of that rainy night in Philly. When I met the playmate. And we shared a cab. And she mentioned in passing that she was on the cover of playboy. And I rolled my eyes. Because it was cold and she was bundled up and wearing a baseball hat. So she asked me to come up to her hotel room. And there was a stack of them piled up. And she asked me to whom she should make it out. And since it was December 2, I asked her to make it out to “Z”. And she did. And I sent it to Z. with a card. And she kept it for a decade. Underneath the cabinet in her mom’s apartment.
December 2. She picks me up from the airport. At 4AM. And drives like a bank robber in her manual transmission Fiat Punto. And it’s been a decade since I’ve seen her but she looks the same. Elegant. Sophisticated. Worldly. A woman in every sense of the word. Even in that beat up old car. And she invites me to her birthday party. But makes sure to warn me about mentioning our history to her businessman boyfriend. He’s the jealous type. And so I find myself under dressed in Tel Aviv’s trendiest restaurant. Surrounded by people I’ve never met. Discussing mortgages. And stocks. And investments. And I’m wildly out of place. Like a child at the adult’s table. And one of her gay friends is the only one talking to me. And I’m glad because I was sure I was invisible. And he pours me some sparkling red wine (because that’s all the rage now!) and says so loudly the valet outside could hear him – “So this is the boy that you used to love!” And the entire restaurant goes quiet. Like in the movies. And I tug at my sleeves and notice that my jacket has a hole in it. And she doesn’t look at me. She’s ashamed. Of her lie. Or me.
Decemeber 2. Dizengoff Street. Not far from where it intersects with Basel Street. A cold December morning. And I have my lovely M. at my side. And this is long before we had D. and we were young lovers out for breakfast on a Friday morning. And as the cool air gently chilled us we stayed warm in each other’s embrace. And kissed. Like lovers do. And when I looked up I see Z. walking by with her man. And he’s tall. And handsome. And stylish. And they look like a couple you’d see on the cover of a Pottery Barn catalog. And I hesitate. But M. doesn’t notice. And neither does her man. He’s prattling on about some article in the Wall Street Journal. And so we nod at each other and walk on by. Like two people who know each other in passing.
And I haven’t seen her since.
And every December 2 I think about her.
And not because I love her. Even though I still do in a way.
But because she symbolizes something that is slipping away from me with every year that passes.