Thursday, January 11, 2018

No Home Depot Here

He’s standing over the kitchen island of my little rental, drawing horizontal and vertical shapes, naming them, and asking me what I want the porch of my new home to look like, this or that? His picture is a disparagement of ladders. The words he’s using, all of them English, mean nothing to me. There’s a communication gap here. I finally get it. My carpenter is from L.A. I will understand nothing he says.  

We go out to the courtyard where I point to the lattice work of a neighbor’s pergola and demand louvered instead. The porch guy pulls his reflector shades up onto his yarmulke, repeats my request, and asks if he got it right. I nod. “You can’t get louvered in Israel.” He looks at me like I’m breakable, and breaks it to me carefully, “There is no Home Depot here.” He waits to see how I take the news, writes LATTICE in large letters on his notepad, and packs off.

I return to the kitchen, gather my purse, water bottle, and books, and blunder out to catch my bus.

The road up from my village is being enlarged. Our bus gets stuck behind a highway construction backhoe. A semi-circle of kids and their fathers stand riveted, watching the backhoe operator lift stones from here and dump them there. I don’t know how it starts, but someone’s opened a super-size bag of cookies and is handing them around to fellow spectators. A parent shouts at the backhoe, shouting goes around, and now the operator applies his brake, jumps down, wipes his hands on his pants, and accepts a cookie from the father with the goods. More fathers step forward, the operator makes wide gestures over the landscape; the men look thoughtful, like they’re pondering a very difficult piece of Talmud. Eventually, our bus continues.

By the time we reach the City, a baby girl’s screaming soprano up front competes with raging tenors in the rear. We stop at an urban traffic light, where an arrow points to “Dead Sea.” I think of a sign tacked to a skyscraper in London pointing south-west, reading, “Staten Island.” Is it really possible to get to the Dead Sea from this intersection?

At the second bus stop in the City, a female soldier, wearing bookworm glasses and looking like she’s on her way to class, steps down. I wait while she helps the mother with the wailing daughter. When my foot hits land, I’m in Jerusalem.

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