It was buy either a cappuccino or a lottery ticket on Herzl Street in Ramle.
And I chose the lottery ticket.
For two reasons:
1. I had already had a cup of coffee.
2. I’m an optimist, and why not?
Ramle is full of lottery kiosks — the poorer the town, the more it seems the guys line up with 10 shekels in their pockets, paint splattered on their jeans, missing buttons on their shirts, their fingers stained with nicotine, and thinking maybe this is it.
This is it, why not: a ticket to Greece on a boat with gentle waves and maybe a cold drink — yes, definitely a cold drink, Arak, or is it Ouzo? A frosty beer… This is it — a penthouse in Tel Aviv with clean lines And chrome and glass, and maybe Gal Gadot living next door, why not? This is it — tuition for their kid at a university abroad, somewhere, anywhere, their ticket out of the same shit different day.
Israel is a nation of optimists (abrasive, opinionated… and insistently thriving optimists).
I’m not a guy, but I had 10 shekels and there I was — an optimist — I chose that lottery ticket over a cappuccino because why not.
“Hi, how does this work?” I asked the guy with the mustache the same shape and shade as a rusted horseshoe who was sitting inside the kiosk.
“Well, depends what you want and what you’re willing to bet.”
“The luckiest and the cheapest!”
“No such thing,” he laughed. “Luck costs money.”
“OK, I’m willing to try.”
“Do you want the machine to give you numbers, or…”
“NO!” I want to pick my own.”
So I did. My kids’ birthdates, then my moms favorite number (11), and then mine (8) I paid extra to double WHEN I win.
“It’s really your first time?” the man asked while he rang up my ticket.
“You won’t win.”
“You never know. I’ve come to expect miracles.”
He looked at me. Like, really looked at me. Nodded. Then blinked and nodded again.
He fumbled in this little basket next to the cash register and took out two pieces of thread with tassels, tied together. One red, one white.
“Tie this on your purse,” he said. “It’ll bring you luck.”
“What does it mean?”
“The red string is for blood, and the blush in your cheeks. The white is for the sun and for light. Nu, give me your purse. I’ll tie it for you,” he said.
“That’s amazing! Where does this come from?” I asked, while he tied the strings to the zipper.
“Bulgaria, where I am from.” he squared his shoulders and his mustache quivered, almost like I should have KNOWN he was from Bulgaria, the land of blood and light.
“Thanks,” I said, fingering the talisman “But I thought you said luck costs money.”
“You paid for it,” he said nodding toward my ticket. “And anyway, faith is for free. And you’ll buy me coffee when you win.”