2016. Israel. Bat-Yam
My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”
The movie Forest Gump 1994
I was having a dream.
Sitting on a cloud, I was talking to the one who had changed me once. His human appearance was blurred, his face was not visible.
— I’ve got a present for you, — he says in a low, gruff voice.
— What is it? — I peer into his blurred image with interest. He is no longer a boy, he grew up with me, but the man he became did not reveal himself to me.
— This is what you have been eager to have for so long, what you have been dreaming about — He puts sends his palm into the weightless translucent flesh of the cloud and, raising a piece of it, he stretches it to towards me.
— That’s all nonsense. — I shift my glance at a translucent, smoky lump, barely visible to the eye, fit in the open palms of the “invisible friend.”
— Let’s see what you will say in seven days.
— Seven days? I’m already getting interested. But, do you know what?
— In fact, people do not sit on the clouds, and it is unlikely that your gift will be real. — I stretch my arms to him, then he passes this cloudy lump to me, which, falling down, gets into my hands. It is heavy and weighty, despite its smoky transparency.
— Then, it turns out, that you don’t exist either, because you cannot sit on a cloud either.
“Nonsense, a new crazy joke from my “invisible friend” I thought, having woken up, and quickly got out of bed and was not being fussed about the Delphian dream, but I should have been. The hands of the clock, hanging on the white wall, froze, indicating the beginning of the tenth hour.
— Great, I’ve almost overslept, — I said out loud and went to the shower at a brisk walk.
This May evening was surprisingly cool for the Israeli climate. I did not want to bother my head about the choice of attire. After several sleepless nights fatigue prevented me from thinking rationally. From the back of the chair, standing alone in the corner of the bedroom, I took a short black dress that was on me yesterday, or maybe… well, not maybe, but also the day before yesterday. Having put it on, I felt the smell of male perfume and cigarette smoke absorbed into the fabric.
My mobile phone, which was next to the pillow, made its presence felt at a due time.
— Anna, I’m downstairs, come out, — the weary voice of the driver came.
— All right.
I threw the phone into a large bag filled with the things I needed for work, threw it on my shoulder, sighed and said to myself: I can handle it, fatigue is just a signal sent by my tired brain, and my body is stronger than I think.
It does not matter, whether this statement is true or not, the main thing is that it makes sense to exist, and if you believe in it, it will certainly be so. And I believed in it.
Having approached the car where the driver was waiting for me, I opened the door, threw the bag onto the back seat, then took the front seat and asked him:
— Where are we going?
— Not far from here, just 15 minutes, — he answered, moving the car from a standstill.
The driver’s name is Dani (by the way, he’s a rather attractive young guy). He was eager to get to the heights in the service in the Israel Defense Forces. At the moment, his meager salary was enough only for basic necessities, so he had to take a side job at night.
In Israel, the rhythm of life is crazy, especially in the center, where people have several jobs, forgetting about sleep and rest. They are constantly going somewhere, creating traffic jams, being in a hurry and nervous. Shabbat, according to the Jews faith, was supposed to slow down this endless madness, to give at least one day of peace and quiet during the week, but the power of money turned out to be stronger than faith, and most of those living here worked even on Sabbath.
I will say this: political affairs in the state of the country, is not my main concern. Moreover I don’t watch TV or read newspapers, but I would like to quickly note one important thing (I won’t go too deeply into it), shedding light on one of the prominent features of the Israeli state. Hostilities in the south of the country, momentarily subsiding so that everyone could see how good life can be in peace, but just for a moment. Perhaps this is why the Israelis are trying to live by the following principle: Rejoice every day and reconcile with the fact that the ancient problems will not disappear for many centuries to come. As for me, it is hard to get used to such circumstances. When rockets are soaring over your head, you become a believer, you turn to God himself, shuddered from the increasing howl of a siren. The siren sound is the most frightening sound I have ever heard, everything gets quiet after the howl, dead silence, there’s not a rustle to be heard, not a word, not a hint of movement. A few seconds, and then the whistle of approaching rockets is heard, after that goes the roar, some of them fall and explode, sometimes in the yard of the neighboring high-rise building, and some were shoot down by the opposing batteries of the Iron Dome system.
Everything worked out — it means that you can continue doing your routine, that is, until the next siren goes off, there is no one who can predict with any accuracy when it will happen, but it will, without a doubt.
— Am I working alone today? — I asked Dani.
— Yes, but do not worry, I’ve talked to them on the phone. Two quite steady guys. In any case, I will come up with you, I will give them the necessary instructions, -he encouraged me.
In a small room of a cheap hotel, with the windows draped with thick beige curtains and the bed occupying most of the space of the room, there was a pair of representatives of Jewish youth. The guys, a little over twenty, were similar to each other, thin, with barely noticeable light stubble on their cheekbones and the same hairstyles in the latest fashion, when the hair is cut short at the temples, and the remaining long strands are combed together at the back of the head. They were wearing similar T-shirts of the same brand, differing only in color: one in white, and the other in blue. On a low coffee table, pulled up to the bed, there was a plate, and a rolled-up bill and credit card on it, next to this flat plate there was a bottle of whiskey.
— Will you pour me a drink? — I addressed one of the guys, pointing by a look at the bottle after Dani had left the room.
— Of course, said the one in the white T-shirt, and reached for a stack of plastic cups.
We spoke Hebrew, “Anna the capable” mastered the language after several months of her stay in the country, not to say a word about the level of knowledge after less than six years.
— Are you just dancing? — asked the guy wearing a blue T-shirt. Smiling nicely, he patted the bed with his palm, just on the place next to him where I was supposed to sit.
I left my bag on the table and had a seat next to him, he handed me a one-dollar bill twisted into a tube. I shook my head slightly, showing my refusal, mentally grinning at the significance of the one-dollar bill. What is the general sense of sniffing, using a piece of paper that equals one dollar, it is the same as drinking champagne for a thousand Euro on the side of the road from disposable cups and chasing it down with a half sour pickle.
— Yes, only dancing, — I answered confidently and calmly.
— And for a special fee? — asked the same one, wearing a blue T-shirt, then he bent over the table and, putting one end of the rolled bill in his nostril, inhaled a line of powder that waited patiently for him on the plate.
— For a special fee, you can call a prostitute. — I considered sex for money to be too low, but dancing, even if half-naked, was quite acceptable in my opinion. And this work did not dill purely in dancing, but in the ability to create a certain mood for the client.
My companion rubbed his nose and then raised his head and asked:
— I see, my name is Idan, and yours?
— Karina. Having voiced my stage name, I took the iced whiskey from the guy wearing a white T-shirt, and took a small sip.
— You are good! — said Idan, grinning in a blissful smile, he did not ask any more questions. — It’s my brother’s birthday, dance for him.
— With pleasure, — I expressed my consent in a soft voice full of good nature.
When I was going to Israel, there wasn’t even a hint in my mind that I would strip for money. But now everything is so conventional, to nauseating extremes. Yes, I easily managed to turn my appearance into a source of income. It would seem that all you need is to take off your dress, smile believably, dance sexually, congratulate the birthday boy on the birthday, bring variety to a lonely man’s night, or leave the groom pleasant memories of a stag party. But everything is not so easy. One after another, sleepless nights spent under the influence of alcohol exhaust and undermine the psyche. And the clients are finishing it off. Not like these cute young boys. Today I was lucky. They are the kind of personalities that it’s a wonder the earth allows them to simply walk on him. And paradoxically, their life is full of luck, they are given many opportunities, and that is why the money flows like water into their hands. Devilish perverts and drug addicts, most of whom are also the main levers in the management of society.
A politician who is expected to bring about some changes (the one so zealously proclaiming clever slogans), a writer whose stupefied inspiration leads to new deep thoughts, a popular singer calling to actions in his songs lyrics, the judge decides who must be isolated, and who must be granted freedom, all of them keep their secrets and secretly lend themselves to vices. For themselves, they think (entrusting me their secrets) that one should not be shy with girls like me. With us chippies, the “representatives of the elite” become who they really are, because we do not limit their behavior, it is limited only by the size of the tip. And such customers have plenty of cash.
When I was only starting my career in this, as it turned out, so necessary service sector, I didn’t assume that I would face similar circumstances. And after a few years, I learned not to pay much attention to them. I thought only about money, “fast money”. My “invisible friend” didn’t particularly like this variant of earning money, but still he supported me, that’s why he is a friend.
He knew all that was required, about each interlocutor — their thoughts, background, weaknesses, had subtle knowledge of their inner world. Should my attractive appearance, genius to acting be added here — and we have everything that is needed in order to win the interest of the right person and get what you want. That was the success of conquering their hearts. The ability to speak properly, to see the interlocutor’s through, pulling the strings of his soul. With ease, he became a slave puppet in the skilful hands of a puppeteer. It’s a good job, where I could use my friend’s and my own talents with good benefit.
The clients were satisfied and I played my part, acting the joy of the time spent with them. When I was leaving, I thanked them for the tip and returned to the car to the driver.
— Are we going anywhere else? — I took an interest having lit a cigarette. The familiar taste of tobacco smoke filled my lungs.
— Yes, there is an order in Herzelia.
Blowing smoke through the half-open window, I immediately caught the association caused by just one mention of this city. Money.
Dani typed the address on the navigator screen and started off, driving the car towards Herzelia.
Well, six years spent in the Holy Land, destroyed my teenage dreams completely. They scattered like annoying frogs together with grasshoppers in my imagination, which nagged me with their songs during Siberian summer nights, torn to pieces with the birdshot of a double-barreled shotgun. Their pitiful remains drowned in the river and never surfaced. Shot after shot, one by one, and after six years there was no one left. Silence… You get used to this silent period and already forget about the fact that they even once existed.
Three years ago I met a good and really honest guy (and the honesty of people was tested with the abilities of my “invisible friend”) called Alexey, aka Alex. Accidental acquaintance in a shopping center cafe. At first, he seemed to be suitable for the role of a person who you can live quite a wonderful life with. A handsome, attractive, caring, understanding and self-confident intelligent programmer. But a few months was enough to realize my mistakes. Not in the It’s not that he was not at all so caring and good. There was something different. It began to seem to me that I did not live my own life and that what was happening around did not correspond to the reality in which I should be. Although my “invisible friend” claimed that my choice was right, for the first time doubts about the correctness of his words visited me.
Alex and I had lived together for almost a year. But it often seemed to me that there should have been another guy in his place. The one that seemed to be close by was so close, I could just extend my arm, but at the same time he was so far away. So far that it does not make sense to measure the distance in kilometers. I did not see him, but this circumstance did not mean that he actually did not exist.
Alex happened to notice my conversations “with myself” (in the bathroom or in the kitchen, for example, when I forgot about his presence in the apartment), I think it is clear that in fact the conversations were held not with myself, but with my “invisible friend”. Or the way I look thoughtfully for a long time through the objects around me, and in most cases I prefer time spent alone. In fact, of course, not alone.
Alex responded to my words about the splitting up, in my understanding, not in the way that a sane person would do. He took me to a psychotherapist. The doctor explained that the “invisible friend” is a product of my own brain, none other than a character created by my sick imagination. Like, I had been lonely, so I made it up.
I was sitting opposite to the doctor who was in his fifties and it did not came up in mind in any way why I had to tell him everything. My “invisible friend” insisted on doing that, but did not explain the reason for it.
“Just do as I say. It is necessary “- It was his only argument.
I was telling the doctor about the events related to my friend. My friend was telling me about the doctor. The doctor was listening to me and making comments asking about my friend. My friend laughed at the doctor, the doctor mentally laughed at me, having already decided on the diagnosis at the back of his mind. I laughed at the doctor and at how quickly came to a medical conclusion, which, of course, was wrong.
Of course, I felt a keen desire to pin on the doctor, knowing his hidden thoughts and desires, but did not do it on the request of my “invisible friend”. I was aware that every day, going to work, the doctor passed by his neighbor’s door with the memory of the hours spent in Nina’s bed and waiting for the next suitable occasion to repeat everything. Or about a bank account secretly opened abroad. He transfers money to the account for a trip to Ukraine under the excuse of a seminar. And the search for young and beautiful, flesh peddlers who, for his money, would agree to fulfill all his whims, was the real motive of the fictional business trip.
Well, actually, he is a good doctor, in terms of attitude to his professional activities. He has helped lots of mentally ill people for many years of his practice. Although I actually was not a mental patient.
The doctor prescribed antidepressants and tranquilizers (the latter, according to him, were supposed to block hearing voices), at first I was not even going to take them. But Alex thoughtfully insisted on treatment. And my “invisible friend” strangely supported him.
I could not realize the moment when the world lost its colors, and the days got filled with the routine of life slowly dragging on one by one. My “invisible friend” was not present in them and sometimes it seemed that he had never existed at all.
Dani and I went up to the twenty-seventh and last floor of a recently built hotel in Herzliya. The door to the room was opened by a man of about forty, of medium height and build. Immediately my attention was attracted by his dilated pupils, his eyes quickly flapping with eyelashes, and the way he was gurning gnashing his teeth when they got onto each other. All of these suggested a large amount of cocaine taken by him. Under the influence of the drug, clients often lose track of time and money, and this was good for me tonight, as at many previous nights.
The driver came in with me, received the hourly payment from the client in cash and several hundred shekels extra for him personally and left, leaving us alone with the customer. The hotel room was spacious, with a great design, two separate bedrooms, a balcony and a large kitchen area. Through the huge, polished hall windows, the view of the city was fascinating with thousands of lights.
The client sat on the sofa, opened the drawer of the table and took out a fat wad of money. He laid it on the tabletop, as if it were in the order of things, and glanced at me, trying to concentrate his gaze, intoxicated with drugs, for a second.
Having learned to hide real emotions long ago, “Anna the charming” went to the bathroom with a calm look in order to change clothes, well, or to be more precise, to get undressed.
“Have you figured out how to lure all the money out of him?” A familiar voice spoke in the spacious bathroom — low and gruff voice, but despite this, it was so warm and soft, which sometimes whispered all sorts of nonsense to me before going to bed. It was he — my “invisible friend.”
And how did he come back? Well, everything’s easy, I wanted him to come back, I was missing him madly, he was an integral part of my life, therefore, even in a semi-conscious state, I couldn‘t imagine life without him. Being under the influence of psychotropic drugs, I understood really little, but the only thing that brought me back to life was echoes of joyful moments associated with my “invisible friend.” Memories made their way through the brain, clouded by medication, getting brighter until I was completely seized by them.
After quitting the pills, the familiar world began to acquire its former meaning. Day after day, it was manifesting itself with new power, in the long-forgotten voices of birds, the noise of sea waves, the wind blowing that made my hair sway and tickle my shoulders, in the beauty of the shining stars, in the freshness of the morning air, as if penetrating into every cell of my body. Feelings and emotions were returning. The delight of freshly baked buns, the pleasant weight of a stuffed stomach after eating a large piece of the most delicious chocolate cake. I got to love chocolate cake again, hot, with the bitter taste and aroma of coffee beans. It all fit together with small grooves back into a three-dimensional picture of the understanding of a real person living a full life. Everything fell right into place. And then I wanted to run away, no matter where, just to get away from the feeling of being lost, and with full confidence that I would not stay in a hopeless situation with my “invisible friend”, I did it immediately.
Of course, I nursed a grievance against him. After all, it was he who pushed me to taking pills, thereby breaking our connection. He made me live the wrong life, not the life I wanted. He refused from our friendship. And did not even explain the real motives of his act.
— Could you float a couple of ideas? Do you know how to get the whole wad, to the last shekel? — I put the bag on the sink and took off my dress.
“You know it yourself.”
— I will not have sex with him. This is one of the principles, there is a line which I won’t ever cross, the first time will be followed by the second, after the second the third — and that’s it, you can label me as a prostitute. — Hanging a dress on the door of the shower cabin, I pulled the open toe heels on a high transparent platform out of the bag and changed my shoes.
“Actually, I did not even hint at this. Do what you are good at. In any case, I will notice something, he is a strange and closed type, and moreover he smells excellent powder that thoroughly turns the brain off, there might remain only disco lights in his head. Distract him so that he would not touch cocaine for at least half an hour.”
— I have no strength for all these games today. I can’t get into the characters. I can’t pretend being a “naive idiot” who fell in love with him at first sight, and admires his invented virtues. The main thing will always be what is between his legs. Or to pretend to be a poor orphan with a one-year-old baby. Well, or what else do we have in stock?
“Listen, you don’t have to do it anymore. What is the problem to quit everything? We were going to move to Thailand or the Maldives, to buy a house by the sea, to live an unhurried pace and not to steam my beam. I would teach you how to play poker. We would certainly not be low in pocket. What are you waiting for?”
— I don’t fully understand it myself. — I said with sadness, looking at the mirror reflection of my slim naked body. I worked thoroughly at its curves. Jogging along the coast, if not after waking up, then before going to bed, when it was the weekend, had already become a habit. I straightened my hair, spreading out long blond wavy strands, my eyes were tired, but still radiated cold arrogance. And in general, by the age of twenty-four, my face got a clearer shape. As if a sculptor has sharpened its lines, creating proportional angles, sharpening my cheekbones and chin. My expressive eyes, emphasized by a dark pencil, in the eyeliner under the lower eyelids looked so bright green and shiny that customers kept asking if they were not the lenses.
— And what should I do with all this? — I slightly smiled at my reflection, a corner of my lip rose, a dimple appeared on my cheek, and, not waiting for the answer, I added affirmatively: — We’ll continue making money.
Wearing expensive black lace lingerie, kept for special occasions, I went out to the client in the hall, he was waiting for me, sitting on a white leather sofa and had already managed to take off his T-shirt, exposing his chest, which was overgrown with dark curls. The desired wad of money (just a trophy, no strings attached) was still on the table. “Anna the charming” came up to the “cash holder” and, smiling seductively, began to move in the dance, trying to bewitch him with her touches. She was dancing, gradually making her dance more and more immodest.
The client, in turn, was periodically pulling out a bill for a bill from the wad, and stuffed them under the openwork fabric of my panties, sometimes throwing notes into the air. They were falling on me, gently sliding over my body and barely audible fell to the floor. At the moment, when customers give good tips, you begin to experience temporary joy and love your work, forgetting about fatigue. At the same time, it seems that the hour allotted for us expires very quickly, although everything goes at a single flat pace, and on a habit that has been worked out to automatism.
Money works wonders in a mystical way, with each of us.
The driver’s words, that there were no more orders, and we were returning, pleased me, giving a feeling of relief. I relaxed, falling into the soft seat of the car, covered my unbearably heavy eyelids for several seconds, imagined me falling into a comfortable bed and getting to sleep. After all, over this night I managed to earn a lot of shekels (the only thing which Anna still took interest in — those pieces of paper soaked in indelible ink), and all things considered, the night, did not go in vain.
“Have you still reached out to his baked mind?” I began a mental dialogue with my “invisible friend.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t inspire anything to him. He had a knack for it, but used it in very rare cases and with caution. Most often he enabled me to manipulate people having resorted to his prompts. This night I didn’t have a desire to bother with all these manipulations, but nevertheless, the client had easily given me the wad of cash. Therefore, I assumed that my friend contributed to what had happened. — He just loved your sexually explicit dances and palmsing. And then he thought about ordering two more Ethiopian prostitutes. Wound up.”
What could be said to that? Sometimes it can be so simple. I refrained from commenting, ending our conversation, looked at the handsome Dani, tired and frowning, he was trying to concentrate on the night road. Respectable and responsible Dani, was sweating his guts out for the sake of his dream, there he has his own family, which he provides adequately. Moreover, this guy will make a caring father and a faithful husband.
He will continue military service and in four years, having received the rank of a senior sergeant, will die from the terrorist bullet, on the border with the Gaza Strip. Of course, I did not know about this at that time. And now, after several years, I consider that the well-known statement — the best are taken first — is true, and there is nothing more than the tricks of the “representatives of another world”. (Long ago we found a common language with the one, of the kind, who was assigned to the role of my mentor, I’ll tell you about others, but first things first).
Once in my empty rented apartment, I threw the bag on the floor in the hallway, took off my dress and threw it over the bag. I took a bottle of whiskey from the refrigerator, filled a shot glass up to the brim, drank and then swallowed a sleeping pill.
Standing under the shower, in a hurry, rubbing my body with a soapy washcloth, strongly pressing it to the skin, I was imagining that I was washing away all the traces from unknown hands, of those strangers who touched me today. I was imagining that the beloved warm big palms were sliding over my clean bare skin… and some time later, when I was in bed, waiting for the effect of the sleeping pill I had taken, once again a cold feeling of anguish swept over me, striking a person who is falling asleep and waking up many times alone. There has always been somebody to fill up the leisure, but making away with loneliness is completely different.
“Everything will be fine,” whispered the quiet voice of my “invisible friend.”
The effect of the pill taken a few minutes ago was not long in coming, my body relaxed, and my thoughts began to fade. I suddenly fell into a common dream (I rarely had them under the pills), saw my mother holding a cup filled with berries on her lap, she was saying how she missed me, with the sad expression fixed on her face, and stroked the sharp knuckles of my fingers with her free hand. Her eyes were so sad that it seemed that tears would flow from them, and then she dissolved, together with the dream that was going away.
My bedroom was filled with darkness; I always deliberately closed the blinds tightly so that the morning light would not wake me up with bright rays of the rising sun. Being only half-awake, I did not realize at once the sensation of the palm, which was still holding my hand. Reflexively I pulled it over, but in response I felt a strong pressure on my hand. And next to me someone was laying — kind of a man, my whole body could sense his presence.
I was paralyzed with horror, holding down my movements. Again I fell into a dream where I clearly understood that everything happening was just a dream, and in order to wake up, you must open your eyes, but my attempts did not bring the proper result. I heard the stranger, breathing intermittently very close in pitch darkness. He squeezed my hand hard, making it impossible to take it back. Fear was replaced by heartache, overflown with despair. This pain was tearing me from the inside, it was impossible to escape from it and it was impossible to stop it. I understood that it was his pain, of that somebody who was present, existing in another world.
Time after time I tried to wake up, but he did not let me go, trying to show me something in a kind of dream. Obviously, I did not understand anything, I was only scared to death. I screamed in a desperate attempt, and it helped me to wake up. I returned to reality.
The shock of the dream vision that I’ve seen made me restless for a long time. Even when I was sitting at the kitchen table and smoking the second cigarette in a row, my fingers holding it were trembling convulsively.
— My friend, do you know who it was? — I said out loud and sighed heavily, still shaking at times.
“Nobody, just a nightmare, never mind,” replied my “invisible friend.” Not all that much, he reassured me.
Noon, I managed to sleep for four hours. But the thought of returning to bed caused a frightening feeling of anxiety. I cautiously went into the bedroom, opened the blinds, found in the closet the things I needed to relax on the beach and went to the sea.