I don’t think I’m meant to have seen the picture, so I’m not showing it to you. It’s one that’s been taken, in various decades and locations, a few thousand times anyway: a buzz-cut, broadly grinning twentysomething male, muscles defined but not dense over a bony frame, clad in shorts and a muscle tank, cradling a piece of badass-looking ordnance on his lap. In this edition, a large Israeli flag hangs behind him, covering most of a bland institutional wall. His outsize sunglasses make him look vaguely arthropod. An unrecognizable tattoo wraps around his right shoulder.
I think the tattoo is a mermaid. At least, that is what it was a little under two years ago when I gave him my old car; I had the sense that some revisions or additions were afoot. The car went with him to Atlantic City for a year, then came back here to be sold to the friend who crashed him when he was in town, the cash helping fund his pilgrimage to a kibbutz where, he said, he looked forward to having someone “seriously kick his ass.”
They kicked his ass right off the kibbutz. So far, we don’t know why. At last report, he was in a youth hostel in Tel Aviv, where for the last week this has been the stargazing:
“We have not gotten bombed in the last 48 hours,” ran his most recent text message.
“Knowing you that could mean several things. Clarify?” replied my Engineer, whose gallows humor bows to no man’s.
We don’t know if he’s gone all Zionist on us — dear Goddess, I hate this, but that photograph makes me think of the Warsaw ghetto and David and Judas Maccabee — or if he just wanted to take a snarky photo or what, but I carried him out of his eighth grade graduation, and no matter how big a fuck-up someone is, nothing erases the hope you feel for him at that moment.
I think it goes on the Stupid Heap with the hope that people could stop trying to kill each other long enough to live together on the planet.
Why should not old men be mad?