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The taxi driver who was a soldier

The taxi driver is really, really happy.

The radio is on.

Infected Mushroom.

He’s bopping along.

“What’s today?” He asks me. “Sunday? Monday?”

“Sunday.”

“Great. Sunday. — OK so I still have to wait two days for my weed. Not too bad.

“Nice.”

“Do you smoke, kapara?”

“Not really.”

“Ah too bad. It’s great for parties, you know?”

We ride together, and he tells me about the desert, about dancing all night at parties, about this girl he loves with bright blue hair and tattoos all up and down her arms.

He’s wearing a yarmulke, and there’s a sticker on the dashboard with the Rebbe.

I check the news — it’s my day off and sometimes I don’t check as often when I don’t have to.

My stomach drops when I read the headline:

1 Israeli killed, 2 critically injured in a terror attack at Ariel Junction.

“Oh my god.”

“What kapara?”

“There was a terror attack at Ariel junction?” I tell him.

“When???”

“This morning. Someone’s dead and two are fighting for their lives.”

“This is why I don’t listen to the news.”

He sighs.

“I don’t smoke weed because it’s fun,” he says. “I mean, it’s fun. OK, it’s a lot of fun. But I smoke because I have to, I swear. I even have a doctor’s note. After what I went through in Gaza, I have to smoke. I have to.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“And then I hear the news and I can’t function, I get so thin because I won’t eat, you wouldn’t believe it. I mean, I look good, but I feel like shit, you know? I just stay in my house and turn off all the lights and I don’t watch TV and I just check the windows. Over and over and no one can get near me. The only thing that helps is smoking, you know.”

“That sounds so awful and I’m so sorry.”

“Fucking mess,” he says in English. “You know when I was a kid before Gaza became what it is, my dad used to take me there for shopping and for hummus and we would go to the beach. He would carry me on his shoulders, and then he would put me down and sometimes I played with the Arab kids while he smoked cigarettes.”

“It was different, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, it was. Fucking mess now,” he says again in English. “And then when I was a soldier, I was a commando on the beach and we had to shoot and I remembered that I used to be there playing, and maybe I shot one of the kids I played with .”

He lights a cigarette.

“Fucking mess. Now, I smoke weed and I put on tefillin and I pray just to get by.

I can’t listen to the news. It’s too much.”

“I understand.”

“But this is my country and I need to know what’s happening to my country.

He fiddles with the dial and switches to the radio.

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.
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