Tel Aviv I
I flew on a Sunday morning. An early taxi out of Paris, shuttling me through the cold, punctuated by the finality of the closing car door. I patting my pockets, running through lists in my head of things I might have forgotten and light switches I couldn’t remember turning off. A taxi to the airport is a luxurious thing, especially alone. You move encapsulated, and the world outside flashes past like a movie set. Unreal and seperate from you, because it’s there and you’re moving. You’re going. Looking through the glass, life in a terrarium. You are already nowhere and everywhere.
I checked my passport, my papers, the papers about my papers, my wallet. I had 48 hours to make the decision to get on that plane, and was dizzy with the rush for a vaccine, PCR and all the other paraphernalia our life consists of. But as I sat there a clear and peaceful feeling settled upon me as the radio rattled and the street lights strobed through the window. The escape. Forward. The quiet. Forward.
On that last flight out of Paris before all flights to Israel were blocked, I had an empty seat next to me. Grateful for that good omen, I kept the window shade open for the first time in 20 years and watched the undulations of the earth swim by like the nubbed skin of a leviathan passing beneath us. A plane, even a loud plane, even a plane full of the disappointing stickiness of sweating humanity, is a peaceful place. You are between, neither here and not quite there. Out of control, merely a passenger. As close to dependent as a baby in the womb, but hardly as comfortable. I ate the mystery omelette. I wrote a poem.
There were people waiting for me at the end of the disembarkation tunnel, a kind courtesy from my employers offering a swift path through the immigration maze. Serious Men in suits had a small card bearing my name, neatly written and spelled correctly. They gathered me up and flanked me as we stood on an escalator. Serious Men were not so serious, but throughout the small talk I pretended I was a dignitary, a super-spy, a scientist with the knowledge to save the world, a very important person with very important things to do. We took the short cuts, lifting ropes and walking through priority queues. I looked at people and things. One Serious Man divulged his mother was from Belgium. We spoke about chocolate. Before I could gather my bearings we entered a huge hall filled with plastic-wrapped nurses inserting swabs into people, into tubes, into labelled crates. Efficient. Kindly serious. Our secretions are an international currency.
Another taxi. The driver had a charred voice, gravelled, foreign and familiar. I know that accent. Parts of me began to uncurl from a long sleep, stretching into the spaces created by the unknown. Rugged from the sun his hands kept the car between the lines as Tel Aviv approached us. He smiled and spoke of food and reality TV, solemnly reciting a must eat list. One of many. I watched people driving their cars, and looked at the street signs, the sky, the colours. Skyscrapers in various stages of construction flashed past on the window screen playing ‘Outside’, with their steel blue mirrored facades and creative shapes. We turned right, the road curved to the left and inclined. I arrived.