Welcome to Tel Aviv Yourself: a series about my life in Tel Aviv. Every once in a while, I will be posting short stories about my life in the city I now call home. Now, this series is very raw and unedited. As this is my story, as I have full ownership of this blog as my creative space, you are going to get my version if you choose to continue reading. Thanks, and enjoy!
[/vc_column_text][us_message color=”yellow” icon=”fas|pencil-alt”]Author’s Note: Real names of the people in this story were changed to protect their privacy.[/us_message][vc_column_text]I was one of the cool kids who adamantly declared I am not getting married until I am 35. The phrase “everyone is getting married, having babies, buying homes and I’m like… next country, please!” was a mantra. Like many other young people, it sounded really cool to me.
It was true for a while but when I met the fiance, my world leapt another level I can never imagine was possible for a girl like me – a girl who has spent her formative years on the road and was okay with being by herself. Believe me, it never was a lonely ride for me.
On to my second month living in Israel, Charlotte, my British bestie in Hong Kong came to visit and told me about his newfound Israeli friends. I was never picky about people so when she invited me to hang out with them, I, without questions, said yes. My 2-month experience as a Tel Aviv expat (plus the collective of Israelis I met while traveling South America) was already good enough for me to say yes to hanging out with Israelis even if most of the world despises them.
Charlotte didn’t know much about Tel Aviv so I had to be the navigator (as she was to me when I moved to Hong Kong). As soon as we received the address, we came and found ourselves in this huge condo-type apartment with huge glass doors and state of the art equipment. Noon drinking is a thing in Tel Aviv. No matter how hungover I was, I was forced to chug because everyone was already in a euphoric rush I had to chase to be in the same level with.
Gal, the owner of the house whom I’ve mistaken to be American because of his accent was forming lines of crushed rock candies with a credit card. He then tightly rolled up a paper bill, looked up to see I was the person in front of him. I was hiddenly pouring soda water into a glass and putting small chunks of lemon in it. I really didn’t want to drink but I have to pretend I was holding a glass. Most of them were in trance – they won’t notice anyway.
“Do you want a hit?”
While writing this, I am actually not sure if he used “hit.” Despite my travel experiences in Colombia, Mexico and the whole of the drug cartel countries of the world, my ignorance on substance is surprising to many.
“I’m okay with alcohol. Thanks.” I downed the glass of Schweppes.
“Okay, I won’t force you but why? Everyone here is already having fun. You’ll be left out.”
“I’m a writer. Those things will harm my brain.” Clearly, this guy didn’t know me. Sober or not, I was never left out. People always find my natural high amusing.
I knew he’d ask what I do. Whenever I reject an invite, the mandatory “where are you from” and “what do you do” are next. Abiding to travel protocol, I told him about what I do and what lead me to Israel. He seemed disinterested so I excused myself to have a cigarette.
“You have a lovely home. Thanks for hosting us. May I be excused?”
He nodded and asked me to call the others to have a “hit.” As much as I wanted to obey, I wasn’t sure I was in a place to call these people because I don’t know them. Everyone was very welcoming when we arrived but I never got their names properly. What I observed to be true in Israel was that people have the same names. They’re probably a bunch of Gals, Guys, Matans, Yosis, Omris, Omers, Gils, and all those common Israeli names you can think of.
I slid the door open and saw Charlotte with Boaz (yes, same name as Fauda‘s Boaz but taller), a guy with Jewish-Yemenite roots whom I’ve already hung out with a few nights ago. I waved and lit a cigarette.
My hangover is becoming out of place. I wanted to leave but we already bought (expensive) tickets to the techno gig that we were about to go to in the afternoon. I was also obliged to show Charlotte my new city as she only had a few days before she continues her journey to Egypt. She and Boaz seemed to be getting cosy so as a supportive bestie, I had to stay and endure the pain.
Me and her, we are the same. Her quest for love, travel, success and free-spirit is one of the most inspiring similarities I related to ever since I met her in Hong Kong. We are definitely the same person so from reading her body language, I understood that Boaz is her thing.
This group had a bunch of good-looking and heavily-bearded guys but I wasn’t in a mood to show superficial interest. One of them approached me and asked the same question like Gal did. I felt so uninterested that the convo with Gal was the exact same thing. Don’t we all do that when we’re traveling? Things are so repetitive. I wish the “where are you from” and “what do you do” will be upgraded, reworded or modernised. It’s the same thing everywhere. I feel like my life is based on a script.
His name is Doron (yes, again, Fauda). He kept on talking even if I said nothing. He was basically talking to himself and I felt he was offended by my masculine and snobbish actions.
“Yalla!!!” Boaz screamed. We were all set off to go to Bat Yam where the beach party was about to take place. He dictated which of us will take the taxi together. He emanated the organising power for the crew. If we want operation-get-wasted to be successful, none of the boys can drive. I was still focusing on curing my hangover (I remember being seriously hangry) as I was hopping in the taxi only to find out there was an unspoken pairing I wasn’t aware of. As a super tall British girl, Charlotte has always been entitled to shotgun. At the back was me, Boaz and uh… Doron.
That Sukkot party in Bat Yam
At the time I arrived in Israel 2 months prior, a series of Jewish events were to take place and Sukkot was one of them. Every year (September or October), the whole of Israel has a 30-day break from work to celebrate New Year (Rosh Hashanah), Day of the Atonement (Yom Kippur), Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), Eighth Day of Assembly (Shmini Atzeret), and the Day of Celebrating the Torah (Simchat Torah). These are religious events of the Hebrew Calendar but in Tel Aviv where most people are not Jewish Orthodox, we were curating a different story: rock ‘n roll.
When we arrived, Charlotte and I went straight to the hot dog stall. I had to eat if I am to participate in operation-get-wasted. The food wasn’t that pleasant, not to mention expensive but I have come to please myself when it comes to currencies from all over the world – I had to stop converting. I am earning in dollars so USD was my default setting so the more I think about it, the more my choice of living in Tel Aviv becomes questionable.
People wearing pyjamas, hipsters passing the spliff, some foreigners who looked lost – the beach was packed at 16:00 while the techno music was blaring. Thankfully, this music was bearable for me and I already had a hotdog sandwich so I was starting to get in the mood. This is, probably, one of the things that made me move to Tel Aviv. The music here is so diverse and the people are seemingly equipped with a bottomless glass of creative juice – something I can deeply relate to. We danced, bought drinks, took a lot of shots. All of us were dancing in groups but I never really had the energy to talk to the others. My social skills were very off that day. The entire time, while my hangover was converting to getting back to drunk, I was third-wheeling with Charlotte and Boaz.
Foreigners are greatly attractive in Israel so when a guy approached me (from outside the group), I was kind of in the mood to play catch. However, this was one I thought I’d win. The guy was overly touchy and persistent it annoyed me. Like I said, I was not in a dancing-with-you-and-flirting mode so I had to get out of playing with fire.
To make an exit, I had to grab the closest thing next to me, Doron, that was. Luckily, Israeli men know how to back off when a girl is already with someone. The persistent, topless, sweaty guy who touched me relentlessly backed off. There I was, dancing with Doron, the guy whom I ignored, snubbed and was rude to at Gal’s home. The guy whom I didn’t even care to ask about. The guy, who in the end, saved my life from Mr. Sweat.
As we danced, I was already a bit tipsy and I’m sure he was way more drunk than I was. On a very non-romantic way, we fell on the ground (back first) and I found myself being held up by the group. The rest of the night was blurred but what I remember thoroughly was leaving the place with Doron because I started not to feel well. I grabbed him and said, “let’s go. I want to go.”
He gently obliged even if Charlotte was shouting her lungs out “Where on hell’s earth are you taking my friend?!” She and I promised to take care of each other when we are out of our damn selves. She was way drunker than I was but I could feel she held on to that promise.
“Relax. Let them be. Doron is my friend. He’s a good guy.” Boaz shouted.
Without a word, I walked away while hearing Charlotte screaming in the background. “She’ll get over it,” I said.
The morning after
Charlotte was staying in my apartment but it’ll be safe to say that it was only her luggage storage. I knew she would sleep over at Boaz’s so I had a bit of time to work. My phone beeped: “Listening to the playlist you made for Amsterdam. How was your weekend?”
This is the part where I didn’t tell you I was already getting cosy with Gil, a younger guy who I met while traveling Peru. He’s about 3 years younger and I wouldn’t say we were a thing. To move in Tel Aviv and be in the company of someone familiar made me less scared to justify my impulsive actions of I-woke-up-and-I-want-to-live-here kind of thing. I found that comfort in Gil. He was one of my first real friends in Israel.
We were very close. I only agreed to go with Charlotte to the Sukkot Party because Gil was going for a weekend in Amsterdam with his childhood besties. Our arrangement was a bit unclear so I was technically not cheating on him. We were just friends. Close friends for that matter.
“It was great! I was at a party with Charlotte. Talk to you when you get back?”
The moment I hit send, Charlotte banged on the door: “What the bloody hell happened to you and Doron?! Does Gil know?!”
“Good morning to you, too,” I responded and hugged her.
Being Charlotte, she started asking questions after questions after questions. I answered them one by one. I told her Gil doesn’t know and I don’t plan to say anything. On top of that, I have zero interest with Doron. She still bombarded me with questions. When I didn’t have the energy for it, the best way I did was to turn it around.
“Enough about me. How was the night with Boaz?”
I have to be honest. I know more about Boaz in and out. I’ve only hung out with him thrice and I feel like I’ve memorised every bit of his being. I’m even updated on what’s happening to his cute white dog called Sushi. I haven’t stepped into his apartment but as a writer herself, Charlotte is very good with words. The way she describes Boaz’s life is like a full-screen HD display (with Dolby digital surround) to me. Everything is so vivid.
There was never room for judgment in Charlotte and me’s world. I’ve only known her for a year but I am so much closer to her than the friends I grew up with. Her energy and enthusiasm illuminate all sugar, spice and everything nice, topped with the Dalai Lama’s positivity, sprinkled with Lindsay Lohan’s DUI.
A Jewish-Yemenite is more than Batman and Wonder Woman’s genes combined. They are tall, dark and maximum handsome. I didn’t doubt Charlotte’s attraction to Boaz. With her height and his, they definitely looked good together but knowing Charlotte, it came to mind that once she’s in Egypt, she’ll definitely move on. In the same manner, Boaz will not cling to her. I didn’t know him that well but for me, he was one of the few Israelis I know who live one day at a time. If it works, it works. If not, then bye. In a non-superficial way, I am very sure he’s aware he’s attractive.
“Come on, let’s have food and coffee! I’m famished.”
“I can’t go out. You go ahead. I need to work.”
“Tell you what. Let’s have a work date in a cafe!”
Aside from we get along very well, Charlotte and I do the same job so it’s always a pleasure to sit down and get things down with her. We grabbed our things and made our way to one of our favourite cafes in Dizengoff.
As I lock my apartment door, my phone beeped again: “We’re going to have brunch at a friend’s house. Do you want to join us?”
Doron’s uninvited appearance
Pigging out in Tel Aviv is super guilt-free. Aside from its Kosher culture, Tel Aviv has the highest vegan per capita population in the world. This cafe was one of our lairs: good food and fast feed Internet – we were sold. Charlotte and I had to wait a bit because the cafe was full. We sat on the bench outside together with a bunch of people who were also waiting to be seated.
“I invited Boaz if you don’t mind.”
She’s not asking. She’s informing me she already did even if we’re still on the waiting list. I’m getting used to the third-wheeling. This is the fourth time this week. I didn’t say that out loud but I looked at her like that. Happy best friend, happy life. And Boaz isn’t that bad. He’s also grown on me.
Charlotte showed me pictures of food from Boaz’s brunch. She was so amazed will all the Israeli food and how this group doesn’t separate. I, on the other hand, was pretending I didn’t know a brunch party was taking place.
I never told Charlotte this: Doron is such a nice guy. “But aren’t they all” was my state of mind. I was in a place in my life where I was starting to have a feel if Tel Aviv was for me. Sure, being in a city I don’t have prior knowledge of was old news to me. There was something about Tel Aviv that made me step in the grey area. I was just 70% sure. That assurance is coming from being around Gil all the time, someone whom I’ve known even before I moved. To swipe right to Doron signified I’d have to start over again. It was easier for me to stay comfortable with Gil and ignore Doron. Going with him after the Sukkot party was something I never thought I’d like. It was an accident. I broke the bro code with Charlotte because I made it appear I wasn’t interested and that I had a dull night with Doron. Truth is, I was very confused. I’ve never been that confused in my life.
“Trisha?” The receptionist called. “Your table is ready.”
We got up and took our seats. Without talking, Charlotte and I ordered the exact same meal – Irish breakfast without the whiskey. Two double espressos were in order, too. We opened our laptops and started drifting into our own worlds, our own blogs. I heavily participated in the Jewish holidays that month and I needed to get some work done. My goal was to answer all 300+ important emails in my inbox. I stayed glued to my screen until the food came.
Our meals were finished as soon as our plates were empty. I told Charlotte I’m going to have a cigarette at the back. Without looking at me, still focused on her computer screen, she nodded.
After 2 drags, she came after me: “They’re here.”
“What the f*ck do you mean they?”
“Them. Boaz, Doron and another dude. Sorry! I didn’t know Doron will have company.”
Shoot me. I am avoiding this guy because I ran off after a beautiful night with him so I am pretty sure he’ll ask for an explanation. To be honest, he only let me go because I told him about Gil. But he didn’t buy it. It’s that obvious that Gil and I were also two confused kids about our set up. About how and what we wanted to be but you know, we’re both comfortable.
I went back inside to fix my things and join them in another table. Charlotte already packed her bags and started the coziness with Boaz. I was still getting used to leaving my things unattended. Where I am from, if you leave your laptop, wallet, and phone laying like that on the table, you will lose it in 2 seconds. In Israel, nobody will steal your stuff, especially inside a cafe. Not that its equipped with CCTV cameras but it’s just not their thing.
“Bitch didn’t even wait for me.” I whispered to myself.
I walked out and saw Boaz, Charlotte, Doron and another guy already ordering beers.
“Hey, Trisha! This is my cousin Yuval.” Boaz said with his opera-like voice.
“Pleased to meet you, Yuval. My name is Trisha.” I shook his hand and gave him a hug. After traveling South America, it has been customary for me to hug people I just met. A lot of people find it weird (especially back home) but in Tel Aviv, they’re the same. They’re all very warm and friendly.
I hugged Boaz just the same but when it’s time to greet Doron, I backed off and just said hi. I hopped over a skateboard and sat next to Yuval (Doron on my right) and also ordered some beers. Being Boaz’s cousin, Yuval is equally good-looking but with a more quiet facade. When in awkward situations, I try to make people comfortable by asking about them. All of them already know Charlotte and I are world tavelers so I avoided to make it about us. With what we do, we were always in the limelight and the centre of attention but I don’t want to take out my script and say the same things all over again.
Still, with the conversation with Yuval, it started with “where are you from” and “what do you do.” I guess it’s a never-ending chain. Yuval told me he’s married and that he and his wife have been to the Philippines. He was in more places in the Philippines that I’ve been to. For every city he mentioned, he was waiting for my “ahhh, yeah” reply but that truth is, I’ve never been to any of the places he brought about. I spent the past 10 years of my life outside the Philippines and it’s such a shame I can only say something when he mentioned Boracay.
On my peripheral, Doron’s stares were making me uncomfortable, but in a good way. I guess I just didn’t want the others to notice that he’s staring at me even if I wasn’t the one talking. Boaz and Charlotte, on the other hand, were having their own world across us. I’m sure they didn’t mind nor did they care. Or maybe, just maybe, I was the only one making a big deal about it? I was the only one noticing?
The beers came and I excused myself to have a cigarette. The first sip of the beer is always a good combo with a stick. Doron followed me.
“May I join you?”
What am I to do when he’s already sitting beside me?
“Sure,” I responded.
Charlotte was looking at me from a far – observant of what will take place between me and Doron.
“Do you want to have dinner tonight?”
Cute. Persistent. But I didn’t want to say yes to the invitation. This dude is strange. I told him I have a boyfriend and he’s still pushing? Well, Gil wasn’t really my boyfriend but still, he was something. His face was so close to me I blew a smoke to his face.
“I told you I have a boyfriend.”
“Then why isn’t he here with you?”
*Gulp* “He’s busy.”
“How is he busy? It’s the holidays. No one goes to school or work. I mean not really.”
“He’s doing something really important so he can’t be with me right now.”
He sat closer and said, “okay, fine. Can I at least walk you home?”
I didn’t say anything. I wish I could’ve said no but I didn’t say anything. We stood up, grabbed our stuff and bid everyone goodbye. The skateboard on my right was Doron’s. I was well aware he’s a surfer but I didn’t know he skates on a daily basis.
As we bid everyone goodbye, Charlotte was grinning at me. I’m sure she was also confused because I already declared my disinterest for Doron. But as our rules state, “we’ll talk about it later.” That was the look she gave me as we walked away from the cafe looking like I just exited the Principal’s Office.
We continued to walk to Arlozorov corner Dizengoff where my apartment was close to. I was looking at the floor when he offered to bring my heavy bag. I declined. I didn’t want him to think he had that power over me. He kept staring at me in a charming way. As soon as I told him to stop, a tourist came to us and asked us if the time changes today (daylight savings). Doron looked confused and I said, “yes, at 23:00 tonight, the time will change.”
“Wow, you’re a real Tel Avivian. I didn’t know about that,” he said.
I nodded. I can’t have Doron’s energy around me. He was holding my hand, brushing my hair with his fingers. I would not stop him for 2 seconds but I came to my senses when I realised we were walking near Gil’s residence. His friends might see me with Doron and I don’t want to explain. We passed by a liquor store and asked if I wanted a beer.
Certainly. A beer is what would make me calm right now. He walked into the store and left me outside. As much as possible, I am trying to not be around him because of the energy he’s giving me and also the situation with Gil’s vicinity. He came with a 6-pack Corona, one of my favourite beers when I was still vagabonding in Mexico. We continued our walk in silence and I was taking the plunge with my beer. When we reached my gate, he invited himself in. Again, I said nothing. I didn’t stop him.
“Let’s just finish the beers. And talk, okay? I am harmless.”
I know he’s not even an inch of harmful. In fact, I feel very safe with him. Even if I was very confused on how to handle the situation, I took my keys out, opened the door and let him in. He was still giving me those stares and I couldn’t focus.
“Feel at home.” I said.
I took my speakers and put my music on. He comfortably sat on my sofa and started thumping his feet as if he knew the first song I played. My apartment is expensive but it’s not that big. It’s literally a studio but my bed is big. Charlotte and I can easily fit. He was still staring at me as I sat across him, on my bed. I opened another beer. He did, too.
I begged Charlotte to come back soon as I couldn’t take Doron’s stares anymore. He was looking at me like I was food and a painting at the Louvre at the same time. Another thing that worries me is that Gil might show up any moment. He was scheduled to fly back that same day from Amsterdam. I could easily pretend Doron is a friend but with the tension we both have, I’m sure Gil won’t buy it.
“You should go. My boyfriend might come.” Might. My boyfriend. Those are the words of a very unsure, confused and pretentious girl who is clearly attracted to the person in front of her.
“Let’s have dinner?”
“No. I can’t.”
“I don’t know. I just can’t.”
I texted Charlotte again: “get your ass back to my apartment.” She didn’t answer. I was actually expecting that since she was with Boaz but still, it gave me a sense of reassurance. Something to be busy about that play the staring game with Doron.
He came closer, held my cheeks and kissed me. Again and again, I didn’t say no. After 10 seconds, the thought of Gil showing up all of a sudden struck me.
“You have to go. My boyfriend is coming.” This time, I had to sound sure that Gil is my boyfriend and that he’s really coming. I pulled him to stand up and pushed him out of the door.
“Okay, okay, I’m going. But I’m still taking you out to dinner.”
He left. I locked the door and could hear his skateboard roaring with the road. I shut the lights and lay down my bed feeling like a teenager. What the fuck. You’re 28 and couldn’t talk to a guy you like? Put your shit together, Velarmino! What do you want?
Yeah, sure. But he could be, again, just one of those nice guys. Aren’t they all at first?[/vc_column_text][us_separator type=”default”][vc_column_text]
TO BE CONTINUED…