Coins slip from my fingers as she walks away, and for the hundredth time I watch myself watch her with a helpless, stunned expression. She gets on the train arriving with horrible precision timing, and I watch her sliding rightwise down the track. By painful coincidence she looks out the window right at me as the train gathers speed. Her mouth opens just a little, but if she says anything the plastic windows and the roar of the train prevent me and myself from hearing it.

Why a subway station, Sarit? Of all the places in the world, why would you leave me in a subway station? Wasn't there any other time and place that you could have done this to me?

But time doesn't matter anymore. All times are the same, and this time is more the same than any other. This is the time when it all happens.

Coins sparkle at me as they tumble to the bubble-gum-spotted station floor. New York has the grimiest subway stations I've ever seen. But we knew that before we ever came here. It was part of the legend, the mythology of America. One of the reasons we came to New York, believe it or not. Everyone knew those dark, dingy subway stations. They were in all the movies, ancient and dark and deadly, harbouring secrets and violence. And ghosts.

I watch myself holding out my hands to stop her, my bright future leaving me behind, the coins forgotten in my need to hold on to her. I watch me falling heavily onto a bench, unaware of the people looking at me as if I was a lunatic. My head is in my hands. I am pulling at my hair as if I want to tear it out by the roots. I am moaning. I think of the past, of weekends spent languishing in the sun by the Mediterranean, courting and coming and catching little crabs, hidden away from strangers in our own tiny world. Of long nights awake in bed, talking about the future, about our plans altogether ignorant of the world outside our little hollow in the mountains. Of letters long and drenched in loving prose, words that could only be written by children who have never known any other lovers’ hands. Of long weeks in uniform, agonizing over each other’s absence, staring at pictures on barracks walls. All for nothing.

I scream at myself to stop thinking of these things, to stand up and walk to the exit, to get on with the newness of life without her. There are a million single women in this city you came so far to see, I tell myself. There is a legion of drugs to make you forget her, a multitude of things you’ve never done. This is a new future. You’ve lived twenty-three years, you could live another three score full of experiences to replace that dream. Walk away, you hopeless romantic little twit.

But it’s done. Only a handful of crazy people hear my screaming, and nobody listens to them. Least of all my other self, my eternally younger self sitting on the bench while coins gleam on the floor and, one by one, are scuffed away by commuters and picked up by gleeful children.

I get up, walking like a broken clockwork toy towards the northern end of the station, while I scream at myself to stop and reconsider, damnit. I tell myself that this is exactly why she left, because you were too much hers, too incomplete, too pitiful, because you wouldn’t let her live at all, and now you’re going to compound that mistake a hundredfold.

But I’m not listening. I reach the end of the platform. I wait for the rush of a train. I jump. In that short moment, I fly back into myself, and we are united for the brief impact and aftermath. Our body flies almost across the tracks, then down, already broken in every place a human can be broken. But I’m not there anymore.

I fly back through my life on yet another flight of ecstasy, through romance, through proud induction and skinny-dipping in the kibbutz pool at night, and campfires, and Bar-Mitzvah, and new toys on birthdays, summer vacations, mother’s hugs, teddy bears and birth. And I see all these moments with the single-minded clarity of true happiness, but only as fleeting glimpses, precious memories that I can never enjoy for long before returning to the awful moment when she leaves and I make my decision. Again and again

and again

and again

I go back to that scene, and I clutch at my idiot’s dream of the future escaping on a subway train, while my moments of real joy slip away


coins from my fingers.