Proof of life

So today, I found a space in a pocket of sunlight, warmed by a radiator at the cafe I love with all my heart.

And just like every Monday, at the table in the corner, the old salts sit together to trade kibbutz intel. They’re known as the “sewing circle” for good reason: Because the Mossad ain’t got NOTHING on these guys:

They know who got laid off.

And who’s getting laid.

They even know about love affairs before they even start. 

They’re weathered, these men: They’ve seen too much.

They’ve seen their friends die during those bloody weeks when Israel fought for survival during the Yom Kippur War.

They’ve seen marriages crumble – even a few of their own.

They’ve seen people get sick – too sick to get better.

These are the men that grew this kibbutz into what it is: This small town on steroids where things roll along like an old jalopy that should have up and died years ago, but will outlive us all.

These men have history under their fingernails.

They don’t talk much  – except when they’re together and drinking their coffee at their table in the corner.

And when they do, they trade stories – sometimes about their own lives: Like who’s going to have a new grandchild, or who’s going away on a trip to Eilat with the family, or who will renovate their apartment before the end of the year.

But usually it’s about others: Who couldn’t pay their convenience store bill on time, or who drinks too much at the pub, or what kind of shoes the American expat is wearing.

And when they’re together, they laugh a lot: It’s the sound of gravel crunching beneath army boots. A little too rough, and not always nice to hear.

But it’s proof of life.

And now this song is playing during a break in the Bob Marley that usually fills the space here between silence and sips of coffee. It’s a gentle song – yet even before I understood the words, it made me hurt a little inside in the best way possible.

I was a child, sad at night, wandering alone, I let no one know you were the love of my youth…

The longing sweet, but not too sweet.

And I look over at these men while the song plays: These men with their calloused hands, deep wrinkles, and grey hair — what’s left of it. These men who have lived more than most people would ever want to live. These men, who have told too many stories – for every truth, two stretches of the imagination.

These men, who look down at their black coffees, each in their own sacred space, and sing along to themselves

I was a child, dreaming by day, strumming and singing, imagining you hearing the first song of my life.

Maybe it’s a trick of the light, but they look younger to me, these old salts who have earned the markings of their shared years. And I wonder what memory they each hold softly in the space of this moment as the song plays. 

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, Times of Israel's New Media editor, lives in Israel with her two kids in a village next to rolling fields. Sarah likes taking pictures, climbing roofs, and talking to strangers. She is the author of the book Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered. Sarah is a work in progress.