Monday, March 31, 2014

Strong as Death, VIII

             David was only fifty miles from the orange grove where he patrolled with a rifle by night, and by day sat at Arab cafes drinking coffee, playing dominos, and chatting freely, but he may as well have been on the far side of the moon. 
        In that orange grove, it hardly mattered what he did.  He was the Jew from Baghdad.  For the Palestinian Arabs, he was what he was, without a false self.  That he carried a gun at night did not bother them.  Most everyone in rural Palestine did. 
        He did not need to put on airs with them, to watch his dress or diction or even curb his habit of day dreaming.  Even the reports he had written about these people to the SHA’I were smothered in the  haze of oriental meandering.  What had happened to those reports?  Their details were placed on index cards and stored in a labeled file marked with  the name of each town or village: Jenin, Abu Dis, Tulkarem. 
        Had they performed any useful function?  He would never know, just as he did not know if his work in Damascus served the greater good, or was it just more missteps?

He walked to the American Consulate with his reports crammed into a false heel in his shoe, written in an equally cramped, tiny block script, to save space.  The empty shoe bottom seemed an apt metaphor: Shemesh felt as if the ground he walked on was riddled with holes.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Strong as Death VII

            There was a gentle knock at the door.  David’s rooms were just off the main market in Damascus, beneath a towering minaret.  The muezzin was calling the faithful to prayer, but through the thick stone walls of the house, the voice was muffled. 
         When David opened the door, the call was clear and resonant: God is Great.  There is no God but Allah.  A clarion of purpose, of directness, broadcast over the roofs, the call was quite unlike David Shemesh’s whispered communications in Damascus. 
          At the door was Miriam, standing at the threshold like a drooping,  exotic flower.  For this was her cover: she escorted high placed men in the Syrian government, or their guests, and reported what she could to David Shemesh once a week.  She always arrived early in the morning, after a night without sleep.  Her makeup was smeared, her hair, carefully coifed earlier in the evening, was now in disarray.  She reeked of cigarette smoke and liquor.   
            She entered and quietly escorted David into his bedroom, and after he closed the door, she recounted any information she had gathered from the last time they had met. 
            The Iraqi Chargé d'affaires was in Damascus, meeting with the Foreign Minister.  A Jordanian general was meeting with his Syrian counterpart. 
             In the months since arriving in Syria, David had been writing down such dry details, mainly who was coming and who was going and who was meeting with whom.  Miriam related these matters in an unemotional, distant tone.  She only once suggested the circumstances where these disclosures occurred, and David, careful to not reveal his discomfort, shifted in his seat. 
            Once a week, David wrote a report using a series of code names.  Miriam was Jezebel; a Kurd in the Syrian Army who passed  information about troop strength was known as Saladin; a Syrian Jewish doctor who treated high ranking officials in the government was Maimonides. 
            David found it odd to write such names on the page:  Jezebel relates that the Syrian Foreign Minister, Ayud bin Abdullah, has a secret meeting scheduled with the civilian head of the Transjordan army… Maimonides treated a member of the Iraqi diplomatic delegation last week
            Sitting alone in his room, writing the report out in English (for it was coded by a friendly American diplomat at the consulate and then broadcast to Tel Aviv) David felt like he was playing some childhood game, some pantomime of adulthood, like a dress rehearsal for real life. 
            But of course, this was all too real.  Beneath the lifeless prose of the comings and goings of Maimonides and Jezebel and Ahab, all reported to Samson (Gurevich’s code name) were real people in jeopardy.  Should Maimonides be caught, and should he, under the presumed torture he would endure, name Shemesh as his contact, would Shemesh have time to escape?  Would he know in time to flee? 
          And if he was captured would he, under a similar writ of brutality, name the real identity of Jezebel and Ahab and Jacob and Esau?  And the more successful Shemesh became, the wider his sphere of contacts, the more exposed he became.  It was the law of large numbers: eventually, someone would slip up, and the entire ring would snag and then collapse. 


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Strong as Death VI

             Back at home, David picked up the piece of paper which read Dear Father and finished the letter.  Like his life here in Palestine, it was a concoction of lies. 

          He had met a young woman from an old Sephardic family in Jerusalem: Ruth Barukh.  They were to be married the week after Yom Kippur, and as a present, her wealthy father was sending them abroad for an extended honeymoon. 

          The letter was a beautiful falsification, and it brought tears to Semesh’s face.  He crafted it much as he did his early reports to the SHA’I, when he was engaged in night patrols in the citrus groves.  He sketched the large, prosperous family in bold strokes, capped by the warm, loving father, the very antithesis of his own.  He wrote of the great babble of the gregarious Barukh clan: of nights sitting on their sprawling lawn beneath the pregnant oriental moon: of music and laughter and the drinking of cooled red wine. 

           They allowed him to take Ruth on a trip to Ein Gedi with a chaperon, but the woman let them wander off, almost out of view.  David read to Ruth from the Song of Songs beside a verdant waterfall: love is strong as death… Many waters cannot quench love… Shemesh smiled though his tears. 

           This was the kind of “incidental” series of details which brought him the scorn of that SHA’I agent.  But David could not help himself.  He had come to Palestine to find such details and incorporate them into his very essence.  Like many Jews who came to the Mandate, he wished to form a new, vibrant identity away from the lands of exile. 

           Instead, he had become more completely a stranger to himself.  He was now a man who forged a new identity nearly every month.  And soon, he was about to fashion yet another self, and this one, more long lasting and even less authentic. 

           In some Arab capital he would need to dream the dreams of a different man in order to stay alive.  He would have to leave Palestine, where at least there was the hope of finding a Ruth Barukh and the warm pocket of her terrestrial existence; where in the very least, David Shemesh could pick oranges and at the end of the day, view the results of his labor, piled high and fragrant in a pine wood crate. 

          Shemesh cried because he did not know why he was leaving, just as much as he did not know fully why had come to the land of Israel.  Such motivations were hidden, dark, cloaked behind the veil of his lost past and now, with his bag packed, he would never have a chance to plumb them.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Strong as Death, V


A short time later he was approached by a stranger, a tanned, blond Ashkenazi man, who quickly revealed himself as a SHA’I agent.  He asked if David would be willing to write a report about his Arab friends once every two weeks or so. 
            So, the “Baghdadi” wrote his reports.  He had no experience in intelligence or surveillance.  He just wrote what he saw or heard, anything that seemed to have some importance.   
           A month later the SHA’I agent returned and scolded Semesh.  The report contained too much incidental information, gossip and hearsay.  There was little of any use.  But the office appreciated his command of the personalities involved.  Other agents could not properly transliterate an Arab name: Hassan, Hussein, Hassin… no one cared about the difference.  David’s reports contained the biographical precision the SHA’I required.   The agent then told David the one or two bits of information in the reports which were interesting, and suggested David follow them up.
            Shemesh did, and wrote his report accordingly.  After that, matters moved quickly.  Boris Gurveich, who headed the department, saw David Shemesh’s potential.  He instructed him to stay on at the kibbutz, but only as a front.  SHA’I would support his efforts directly.  He no longer picked oranges or organized night patrols in the groves.  
           Eventually, he was provided false identity papers.  He moved about Palestine, moving easily around the towns and villages, checking on the preparedness of the local militias for war with the Jews. 
            Shemesh’s assignments grew in complexity and duration.  He realized that SHA’I was grooming him for bigger things.  He began to meet with Gurveich personally, and the man became increasingly critical of David’s work.  Shemesh felt the hand of his father in the prodding’s of Gurveich.  The man told him what to do, what to say, how to think, and David addressed him with the same Levantine formality and docility he did with that distant man who sired him
            “Your hair is wrong.  That’s a Jewish haircut if I even saw one.  Stop going to that woman.  Go to my man near around the corner.
            “Are you crazy?  Listen to you!  You are slurring your r’s like you are on the banks of the Tigris.  If we sent you in as a Palestinian, and you talk like that, we might as well send a coffin with you!”
            It was after a few of these sessions with Gurevich that David realized he was to be sent abroad.  Gurevich was known for staging such shrill histrionics before he sent an agent into overseas peril.  And there was a reason for this: if he was sent to Beirut, Damascus, or Amman he would have to rely on himself alone and never let down the guard of his carefully crafted identity.  If something went wrong in Amman, he would be left to his fate.  If he slipped up in Damascus, the Haganah could not rescue him.  If he blew his cover in Beirut, he would have to face his death all alone.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Strong as Death IV


          When David Shemesh arrived in Palestine, he thought he would land an office job as a clerk or translator with a Bank, the Jewish Agency, or perhaps even the British Administration. 
       But he quickly discovered that nearly every job worth having in Palestine was gotten through influence, and David could turn to no one for that.  Besides, he was an “Oriental” Jew, and the best jobs went to the Ashkenazim. 
       So Shemesh heard of a kibbutz north of Tel Aviv that needed Jews to work the orange groves.  He picked oranges for a year and lived in a low slung, poorly ventilated cinder block hut which housed the kibbutz single men.  Shemesh received an excellent religious education as a boy, so he could read and write Hebrew well when he arrived in Palestine.  It only took him a month or so to adjust to the colloquial Hebrew of the Yishuv.  He found himself quite suddenly in the land of his ancestors speaking their recently revived tongue.  
        David became a zealot for the language, and in the spirit of that time shed his Arabic last name and adopted a Hebrew one: shemesh, or sun.  It was an appropriate name for he toiled all day, every day but Saturday under the unremitting Palestinian sun.  He began to sleep with a small, red haired kibbutz girl born from Poland who maintained the irrigation pipes.  Then he realized that she was sleeping with four other men on the kibbutz, in the spirit of free love, so he stopped visiting her.  The free love ideology of the kibbutz appalled him.

            About a month after he arrived Arabs riotied in Jaffa, and some of the disturbances spilled over to Tel Aviv, and then north to the kibbutz.  One morning the kibbutzim awoke to find several of their orange trees mangled or uprooted, and irrigation pipes split with hatchets.  So the kibbutzim decided to mount night patrols.  They gathered some old rifles and the men and women took turns going out on the chilly nights and guarding the trees.
            David, with his knowledge of Arabic, proved invaluable on these forays.  When marauding Arabs heard his clear, crisp voice castigating them for trespassing in their own language, there was less need to fire weapons.  Soon, David had contacts with the local Arabs.  He knew these people well:  he had been surrounded by Arabs his entire life, many of them peasants.  He spent summers on his father’s lands near Basra, and often went out on their skiffs in the reeds to fish.  He knew how to speak to the Arab mentality, to respect their ways without condescension, to enter their lives fully yet maintain his otherness, so as not to trespass upon their rigidly circumscribed world.  He was invited to Arab homes for meals, was a prize guest at weddings and funerals.  Among these Arabs he was called the Baghdadi (which would be his code name in the SHA’I files) or simply Dawood.   


Friday, March 21, 2014

Strong as Death, III

           Dear Father, David wrote, and that was as far as he got.  He wondered how he should tell his father what he was doing and that he was leaving Palestine.  He wondered how he would tell him without coming right out and telling him, as he was forbidden to do.  The problem was so perplexing that Shemesh put down the pen.  What was he doing writing his father, anyway?  He was the youngest son of Ezra ibn Sholmo, a prominent Iraqi Jew, who had buried three young wives and sired nine children, seven of them boys.   
          David was the youngest son, and his mother had died when he was an infant.  His father, a great communal leader, a man of business, a prosperous land holder and confidant of the Iraqi king, was a distant, frightening figure.  David came to Palestine at eighteen more out of domestic fear than genuine Zionist convictions. 
           What was there for him in Iraq?  His father had laid out the course of his life, and David was not only not allowed to question this path; he was not even permitted to ponder it.  Ezra brokered no discussion; he entertained no compromise.  
            He ruled his family like a Levantine despot.  When he heard David was going to Palestine, he flew into a rage.  The Zionist project will destroy us, he screamed.  A Jewish state in Palestine will make Arabs hate us, he pounded his desk with his meaty fist.  They will see all Iraqi Jews as traitors and fifth columnists.  We will have to go to the Jewish state with only the shirts on our backs, whether we want to our not.  David was so afraid he could barely speak, but he told his father that his arrangements were already made.  He was leaving tomorrow.  It was the boldest moment in his life.
            “If you go to Palestine, you’ll be dead to me,” were Ezra’s last words to his son. He pronounced these with the same damaged rage he would employ if David announced he was to marry a gentile. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Strong as Death, II


          The little things we don’t account for fuck us up, David Shemesh repeated this formula once he was out on the street.  All around him, employees of the Palestinian National Bank were streaming back to work after their mid-morning break. 
          Shemesh lit a cigarette and his eyes followed a few of the secretaries as they mounted the steep steps to the bank lobby.   Despite his looks, most failed to hold his gaze for long; they thought him an Arab.  Here, in British Mandate Palestine, most everyone thought him an Arab until he opened his mouth and fluent Hebrew issued from his lips.  When he spoke Arabic, of course, everyone thought he was an Arab; he found he was whatever the people around him wanted him to be, and the feeling came with its own particular exigencies.
            He stepped out from the shadow of the bank and into the sun.  The heat pressed him like a heavy hand.  He squinted up at Boris Gurevich’s office window.  The square shade betrayed no hint of the harrowing decisions made behind its millimeter thick swatch of dirty cotton. 
            Gurevich’s bank office was a front for the SHA’I, the National Information Service, the Haganah’s intelligence arm.  Behind that window young men and women were sent down to the Arab quarter of Jaffa, a stone’s throw from this corner in Tel Aviv, or inland to East Jerusalem, or across the Jordan River to Amman, or beyond the desert to Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, to gather information about the Arab armies who might one day strike against a Jewish state in Palestine. 
            So the Yishuv, the Jewish Community in Palestine, sent Jews from Arab countries to write reports in “invisible” ink, to take photographs with cameras hidden in cigarette lighters of tank formations, military barracks, airports.  They were sent abroad to places where the Jewish Agency, upon their capture, would certainly be unable to help them.  The specter of torture, show trials, and public execution followed these men and women.
         Shemesh crossed the street.  He sat at a café and fanned himself with his hat.  He ordered a coffee and for a moment he stared ahead at the busy Tel Aviv street; two British soliders in kilts passed by; then an Arab qadi; after him a girl, probably a Jew; for her Shemesh focused his eyes, and as she walked away, he followed the suggestive line in her stockings which raced from her heeled shoes to the hem of her thigh high skirt. 
          Shemesh allowed himself this reverie.  He imagined a rendezvous with just such a small, pert, dark haired girl.  He envisioned much giggling at his suggestions, and some good natured teasing as they parried for position, and finally, as garments were progressively removed, the note of seriousness would fully sound, in both his and her tone, for sex has its own uncompromising discipline.
            But Shemesh shook his head.  He had not time for such thinking.  Not with what faced him.  The promise of pleasure with flesh had passed him at the age of twenty-five.  Weighty matters rendered him ascetic.  He needed to concentrate on everything, even here in the safety of Tel Aviv. 
          “But I should write my father before I leave,” he suddenly said aloud, the thought an unwanted intrusion.  He called over the waiter and asked for a paper and pen.  The man frowned at the request, but he returned in a moment with a pen and a faded piece of yellow paper which bore the café’s logo, the Lion of Judah. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Strong as Death


             “Your shoes are all wrong.”
            “Excuse me?” David Shemesh asked as the man surveyed the long length of his body before his eyes rested on his non-descript brown dress shoes.
            “Your shoes are wrong,” repeated Boris Gurevich, who after independence would change his last name to Gurviel.  “They’ll know you are from Palestine.  An Arab shoeshine boy has nothing to do all day but think about shoes.  They can’t read; they don’t go to the cinema.  That is what they do all day: pray, shine shoes and make little Muslims.”
            David Shemesh stood in front of Boris Gurevich, the official was somewhat concealed behind his desk by a hedge of stuffed file folders.  A column of white hair stood atop his head, like some primeval glacial poised to fall. 
            Behind him, the window shade was tightly closed.  But even so, the Jerusalem sun infiltrated the room through minute pin pricks in the cotton fabric illuminating a galaxy of floating dust.  A tram rattled below in the street.  In the far distance a siren from a British patrol wailed.  In the face of Gurevich’s disapproval, Shemesh felt he was standing in front of his father.
            “I know you are from Iraq. I’ve read your file carefully.  Otherwise, we would not be asking you to do this.  Fluent in Arabic,  you went to a Muslim secondary school…”
            “A secular Arabic school,” Shemesh interrupted, but Gurevich continued, the point moot.
            “You can pass as a Muslim in a crowd or at a dinner table; this is not in doubt,” he said gravely as he looked at Shemesh through narrow eyes.  “But I have found, in this business, that it isn’t the big things that snag you.  No, it is the little things that fuck you up: the shoes made in Palestine; the Hebrew word which slips out in the wrong crowd.  The bit of knowledge that you shouldn’t have about a street corner in Tel Aviv, or a garden in Jerusalem, which you reveal, and  snags you.  The little things we don’t account for fuck us up.”      


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

RE-encountering the White Whale


Melville’s Moby Dick has become such a marker of American literary identity that the whale Moby Dick, and his pursuing captain, Ahab, have moved beyond the pages of the novel into the world-at-large.  Even if someone has not read the book, they usually know that it has something to do with the singularity of an insane quest, insatiable revenge, and the purported dominance of man over nature.

Of course, the novel is that, and much more.  It is also a deep investigation into the spiritual life and its limitations, of language and its limitations, and of man and his limitation against nature.

And although only a fraction of the novel takes place in America, it is a deeply American novel.  Long before we were a world power, Melville shows, in his American Nantucket whalers, the world embracing spirit that would grip most of twentieth century America.

Although Moby Dick is a challenging read for most 21st century readers, the language Melville captured has a particular rhapsody all its own.  It is more akin to poetry than prose.  The reader can simply be lifted by the language and let go his or her own resistance to the novel evaporate.


Monday, March 10, 2014

The Span of a City

Tel Aviv: The First Century, Visions, Designs and Actualities is a series of essays on Tel Aviv compiled by Moaz Azaryahu and S. Ilan Troen. 
This book covers the whole span of the city.  From its literature, self-perception, its place in the Zionist narrative, its architecture, crime, municipal planning, visions of the past, present and future.  This book chronicles the first “Hebrew” city from a variety of viewpoints, giving the reader a broad spectrum of investigation.
In the process, the reader gains a deep understanding of the Zionist enterprise both past and present.  The strange paradox that is Tel Aviv becomes a stand in for the entire venture of a rootless people finding a home and finding a meaning behind the concept of home.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Short a Lease, End

July at 42

            A russet sky turned, by inscrutable degrees, a dark, blood red.  And then, just as suddenly, plunged into a deep purple which bled into black.
            He was walking along the beach.  The cold, nipping wind, nearly autumnal in its bite, lapping as his hair, buffeting his beard.  He picked up a long piece of driftwood and trailed it behind him in the moist, level sand, in the littoral zone where the water had receded and the sand remained flat and yielding.
            When Servi reached the figure of the woman he did not have to say a word to her.  From her fixed, steady body, wrapped in a black cape, he knew it was Joy, come to bid farewell to the stars, which had suddenly sprung from the sky with like a multitude of dangling orbs, flitting and bobbing like fireflies.
            Her hand reached out to grasp his.  He took it and she reeled him in, a bobber at the end of the line which curled back over twenty five years to the points when their mutual selves touched.  Joy stood beside Servi.  Her gray hair fell down passed her legs, and she leaned her head to rest on his shoulder.
            And there was a sense of rest.  And the sea continually churned.  And they turned around silently and walked slowly up toward the house.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Short a Lease, VIII

              The next day Servi rapped on the door of Joy’s bungalow.  No one was home.  As he walked down the path, his flip flops slapped against the stone like the swinging of two pendulum,  Servi realized that a neighbor was staring at him through a hedge.
            “Excuse me,” Servi approached her covered head.  “Do you know if Joy Shein is home?
            “I don’t know a Joy Shein,” the lady snapped.  “I know a Joy Reznik.”
            “OK,” Servi tottered, his head splitting open, hung over.  “Do you know if Mrs. Reznik is home?”
            “No, she’s gone,” the woman answered, taking a step back from Servi.  “She left early this morning with her kids.”
            “May I ask where she went?”
            “How should I know?  That woman comes and goes.  I feel sorry for the kids, is all,” and the woman disappeared through the hedge, like some forest messenger who had discharged her errand.
            Servi called Joy but the phone rang without end.  He wrote a letter and did not get a response.  Then his divorce consumed the remaining portion of his life, and he let Joy Shein fall into the abyss of silence she wished to inhabit.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Short a Lease, VII


           Servi wandered about the back of Joy’s bungalow where the sand sloped gently to the sea.  A small light burned in her living room window, but it was not enough to illuminate the beach.  So Servi stumbled on something in the sand.
            “Is that you Servi?”  said Joy.  Servi answered yes and sat  next to her.  Gone where the orthodox garments.  He loose, brown hair blew in the stiff, ocean breeze and she was draped in a rough, wool blanket.  She offered Servi a corner and he slid in, feeling her warmth.  Her regular rate of breath.
            “You still smell like beer,” Joy said softly.  Servi could not see her well, but he could feel her eyes probing him in the dark.  “Are you always drunk?”
            “When I’m not working.”
            “And what do you do?”  Servi answered her.  Joy was silent.
            “You think I’m falling below the mark of my potential,” Servi intoned with mock gravity.  Joy, on hearing this, heaved a heavy sigh.
            “Trust me, Joy, I didn’t fall below the mark, the mark fell below me…  or at best, we met each other as we passed, it up and me down…”  Joy laughed and reached out beneath the blanket and squeezed his hand.  For a moment, he remembered their subtle youth, when a touch on the hand or the arm could tingled every nerve in his body.  Now he lived under the tyranny of the shattering male orgasm.  The touch of a hand or arm felt blunted upon his skin.
            “I shouldn’t judge,” Joy said, breathing deeply.  “My life has fallen below the mark, many marks.  However you want to see it…”
            “What happened to your marriage?”
            “My husband was secular when we married, but then he began to get more and more Jewish.  He fell in with a Chasidic group, so I followed along.  But then things got strange.  We had the kids, and he wanted to make aliyah to Israel and take a second wife.  This group does this, secretly.  I refused.  He tried to force me to go… so I came here, the only place that's mine, my parent’s bungalow.  Rather than fight me we agreed on a divorce.  He didn’t want a scandal.   He has a business and a lot of money.  Let him go to Israel and have a harem, for all I care."
            “I’m sorry that happened,” Servi answered, squeezing her hand.
            “It was God,” Joy continued, taking her other hand and wrapping it around the one in Servi’s.  “All those times in my twenties when I had many men at once… two, sometimes three at a time… sometimes in the same day.  Then I get a husband who wants to wives and I think it is an injustice.”
            “The situations are a little different, aren’t they?”
            “No.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  It was sperm competition.”
            “Pardon me?”
            “Sperm competition.  Barry, my ex, works for a genetics company.  There was always this evolutionary biology literature around the house.  Woman want the ejaculate of more than one man because the sperm fight it out to fertilize the egg.  Survival of the fittest stuff.  Some sperm act as hit men, stopping alien sperm in their tracks.  In studies men are more turned on by viewing porn with two men and one woman than any other combination… the possibility of sperm competition raises the sperm count in men, makes it more hot.  I don’t know.  You had sex with me back then, was it hotter than with women who weren’t sleeping around?”
            “I just thought it was because you were hotter than most women I knew”
            “That’s sweet, Servi.  But when you heard I was sleeping with other men, you did the things the study said you’d do.  You were more aggressive.  You were fast.  The penis is designed, in part, as a scoop to take out sperm of other men.  You did all those things.  It was great.”
            “Well, if I would have had a choice, I wouldn’t have shared you with anyone.  But I didn’t have a choice.”
            “I’m sorry.  I was unfair to you.  To everyone.  If it makes you feel better, I am paying the price now.”
            “That’s a load of crap, Joy,” Servi laid her hand gently on the sand and pulled him toward her, hugging.  “You were young.  You did what you wanted to do… if I could have, I would have done the same thing.”
            “But not to me…” Joy asked, her voice quivering.  “If we were together, you wouldn’t need another woman?”
            “No.  You’d be everything to me.”
            “We should have stayed together,” Joy mused.
            “Joy, were we ever together to stay together?”
            “Don’t make fun of me, Aaron.  I always had strong feelings for you… even when we were kids, even when I was engaged, that was why I called you back then… because… I..."
            “You what?”
            “I loved you,” Joy said, and then, after a moment’s reflection. “I love you… now.”
            “You shouldn’t say things like that unless you mean them.  The heart of a drunk seems buoyant but it is as fragile as china.”
            “I’m fragile too.  I feel like I haven’t learned a thing about life.  I’m all broken up…” And they kissed, and Servi and Joy pressed against each other, and searched for indicators of a past which was, if not ill spent, than was so abused it had only left a bare impression of its original innocence.  They pulled at each other’s clothes.  They adjusted the wool blanket.  When it was over, Servi lay there, aware of how cold it was, but doing nothing to remedy it.  His face was planted in the moist sand.
            “I haven’t made love in a year,” Joy said, pointing away from Servi,  into the wind.
            “I haven’t made love in a year, can you believe it?” she answered louder.  “When did you have sex last?”
            “This morning,” Servi answered, turning his head toward her.  “Does that surprise you?”
            “No,” Joy answered quickly, firmly.  “It is all fair.”