Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Cycle Man

The computer store is my last stop in the mall. Two guys work here, one in a yarmulke and one not. When I enter, they’re poring over a magazine, heads together, and murmuring. I’d be worried about their reading material except they don’t startle, or even note that I’m right in front of them, tapping my nail on the glass display. When I ask for printer ink one smacks his lips, dog ears a page, and reluctantly pulls himself away. I glance at the cover: there, glossy and fungible, a four color spread of motherboards, chargers, routers, and drives. I sit down and wait. 

A bear of a man fills the doorway and enters. Tattoos slither from the slab of one shoulder down a fat arm and drop anchor at his wrist. A red motorcycle helmet dangles from his hand. I’m calculating how deep the pepper spray is buried in my purse when Cycleman pauses, touches his fingers to the door’s mezuzah, and kisses them. The clerks go wild, “Yossi! You’re back!”  My ink is thrown aside. The three shake hands, elbows, and engage in a kind of arm wrestle that to men in Israel must translate as, “Has it been that long? I’m very glad to see you. How are the kids?” Cycleman, in the softest of baritones replies, “Thank G-d.”

I plunk down my credit card. The salesman bags my ink and rings me up, all the time drilling Yossi with questions rat-tat-tat-tat, when from the mall a woman wails, “Mommy, no!” Yossi bounds out, the two sales guys follow.  A tiny Filipina caregiver is struggling to keep an old woman from slipping out of her wheel chair. The woman’s head is bare scalp and white straw; her tongue is lolling to a side. Her eyes are opening and closing in waves, like she’s drowning. 

In the same quiet voice, Yossi says something to the clerks, who pull out their phones. With three fingers of his imprinted arm Yossi palpates the side of the old woman’s neck, turns his watch hand palm up, and counts.  On his inner arm now exposed, in monochrome the color of dusk, a small tattoo of the galaxy spins toward his pulse.

A team from Magen David Adom arrives in a flash. One of the EMTs claps Cycleman on the shoulder, “Yossi. You’re back.”

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