My stomach and mouth caught on quickly, the first squeezing tight, the second stopping all production of saliva. When he reached over again, brushing my chest, my brain lit up flourescent like the frozen foods section of IGA.
He was in his mid-forties, probably, and by his accent, of North African descent. Moroccan? "Oh, I live in the other direction," I tried to say as casually as possible. "This way is good, too." he said, and winked like we had a secret.
I pretend that I don't catch his meaning. He keeps turning his head to look at me, like a twitch.- "Where are you from? Your accent is American? French?" "I am Canadian." "Do you live here with family?" (reaches over, again).
"No, my family lives in Canada. I moved here to study." And then I remember something from a crime show or a movie, where they say that you have to humanize yourself to predators.
"It is hard to be without my family. My mother, my father, my brothers and sisters [who am i gonna make up now, the family gerbil?]. They worry about me. All alone in Israel. My mother says to be careful. Especially of men. She worries about me because I am the baby. The youngest daughter and sister.
"But I tell her not to worry. I say Israeli men are not dangerous. That they are heroic and gentle. That if anything happened to me here, they would protect me, if anything."
It was panicky overkill, but it seemed to work. I noticed peripherally that his body language had changed. He looked straight ahead and said: "God forbid I would never lay a finger on you" (has veh halila lo hayiti nogeya bach for the heebs in the house).
And then he turned around and drove me home. Just like that. There was something about his manner as he dropped me off that stuck with me. He seemed proud of himself. Like he'd saved me from something.
I'll bet that you were worried about me in this story. Kiff was, but he wants a different ending, one that ends with me, not the taxi driver. I was OK. To tell you the truth, I don't remember what happened next. Did I cry? Probably. Did I call someone? I'm sure I did.
Several weeks later, everything changed. Or, to give myself credit, I changed everything and booked for a ticket home after three and a half years away. And I tried not to feel like I was giving up.
Here is where I try to draw all my symbols together, although it may come out a bit cryptic/contrived: You make choices for conviction or adventure. And sometimes you take big risks only to end up floating, bloated, and in a dull and flat place.
But still hold dear the image of the life you thought would come out of those choices - the perfect circle of friends, the meaningful job, the precise movements and day-to-day decisions made with dignity and self-posession.
And maybe if you wait long enough this life will appear, but it is kind of like a landscape you've stared at so long, you have it memorized. You know the view is so good. But you can't see it right now. Because (and here is my last cliche of the story) it is night time.