I told the army that my father was abusing my mother and that I had to stay home to protect her. This girl whose job it was to check out these kinds of things arrived at our apartment. It was a planned visit, so I had time to arrange for my father not to be home, just me and my mother. When the girl arrived my mother gave the performance of a lifetime. Her eyes were all red. She said, “Here, there, there are problems! I have to have him close to me!” She hugged me. “The situation,” she said, calming down, wiping her eyes, “is critical…” I looked away as my mother admitted to this stunned nineteen year old girl-in-green that she’d been to a psychiatrist; she said she had confided in the psychiatrist that she’d go _crazy_ if I wasn’t around, she was so afraid of her husband, my father, and if not of him then she was afraid of herself, she was scared of doing something to herself, she’s got suicidal tendencies! This poor young soldier didn’t know where to hide herself, and straight after that I got _Tash 4_, which basically means I didn’t have to serve more than a couple of hours a day, on some base nearby.
So my job in the army was to go around and pick things up for my commander, who was almost never around. He’d call me whenever he needed something picked up. On the morning of the funeral I was supposed to be picking up photos for my commander on Hacalanit 4 – in Tel Aviv. But really I was on the way to pick up Moshkin at the airport.
Moshkin is the craziest person I know.
But let me first tell you something about myself. I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to ever talk to someone who had his _bris_ at a late age, I had mine when I was five. It was an operation. There, in Ukraine, it was dangerous to do that, it wasn’t supported, no one did it. It wasn’t pleasant. I did it here in Israel. I remember I woke up, in pain, my penis full of bandages. Now you need to get these bandages off eventually. How do you do this? You dip it in hot water, so that it gets soft and comes off easy. You do this little by little. Every week I’d take off a little. One week it just got stuck, wouldn’t come off. My mother tried to get it off, she didn’t know what to do, wasn’t able to, so we went to the doctor. He sees that it’s all stuck together, he says, “Here, here, let me look at it,” takes the bandage, raises his arm and tears it – _shlack_ – tears it all off. You don’t understand how much that hurt. It was all red and it all hurt. That was the only way it could have come off.
I’m not sure why we moved from Ukraine to Israel. It had something to do with money. And my uncles lived in Ra’anana, so we said, “Let’s try _that_ place.”
I went to Meged for elementary school. On the first day of school some kid annoyed me, so I pushed him onto a nail. The nail was stuck to the wall. I saw it and I pushed him onto it. I’d hurt him and they sent him to the hospital. First day of first grade. I had to go with my mother to the hospital to ask him to forgive me. I didn’t know Hebrew well. The language barrier was part of the problem. You might say I used violence to overcome it, if you’d like.
They punished me a lot in school. I’d be late, they’d ask me why I was late, I’d say there was traffic. Now, we all walked to school. I’d hit a lot. There were a lot of problems. Besides the bottle story, of course. Passover break, tenth grade. An unforgettable story.
Tito and Goren were with me from the beginning, first grade, and we ended up going to every school together. We’ve stayed best friends since. Moshkin lived next door to Goren. I was over at Goren’s one day and Moshkin was just there. Right away he and I clicked. As different as we were, it wasn’t hard to see the similarities. He understood me well, and I understood him. Both of us knew how to fool people and we liked to do it. We’re both like that. When he did something I understood him right away, and same for him.
There was a time in high school, we’d look for tests in the garbage cans by the copier machines. We’d find those tests, too. We had a physics final one week, so we went looking for a copy of it in the garbage. We found it in a plastic garbage-can by the machine, just like we’d hoped. The test was torn to pieces, though. We spent five hours sticking all of those pieces together, until we got the whole thing right. Then we had to solve it.
We agreed that each of us would show the final to one other person, that’s it, we weren’t going to pass it around anymore than that – one person, do him a favor. Moshkin wanted to show it to Goren. I chose Danit. Danit agreed to help us answer the final. But she wanted to show it to Harel, too.
Moshkin, Goren and I knew nothing, because we’d been copying answers all year. So we went over to Danit’s house to copy her answers. Moshkin called to say he’d be a bit late. But as soon as we arrived Danit said she didn’t want anyone else to come over. She was a little nervous that so many of us were there. So we had to tell Moshkin not to come.
Goren and I sat in Danit’s room, rummaging around her stuff, waiting while she and Harel solved the test. Every time they’d solve a question, they’d call to us, and Goren and I would run downstairs, grab the answer, run back upstairs and copy it down. We had agreed with Moshkin that as soon as we had the test solved we’d bring it to him. But after about half an hour he called, and said no, he wanted either to come over to Danit’s house, where we were, or for us to come to where he was, and solve it all of us together, so that he would be able to copy it down along with us. He got angry all of a sudden, real angry, and said, “What, she’s a whore!” He cursed at Danit. But Danit didn’t budge. She didn’t feel comfortable with that, she said.
So after about two hours Moshkin calls again, now we’re copying down one of the questions, and he says, all excited, “Gushman – say, does it hurt her?” I say, “Who?” and he says, “Danit, does it hurt her?”
I say, “Whadaya mean? Why would it hurt her?”
He says, “No, no, because I’m throwing arrows into her now, I’m hurting her, I’m stabbing her. I made a voodoo doll of her,” he says, getting all excited, “and I’m throwing arrows into it!”
I told Danit about it later, once she and Harel had answered all the questions on the test, and she became scared, she died of fear. You don’t understand how scared she was.
Somehow right before the test I couldn’t find my sheet with the answers. I had to ask someone in class to copy down their answer for me on a sheet of paper and hand it to me when the teacher wasn’t looking. This was standard practice in class. So Tito handed me the answer to the first question. It was long, he didn’t have time to write down the answer to the second question as well. I asked Moshkin for the second question. A few minutes later Moshkin passes me a sheet and I copy down the second answer. As I’m finishing copying down Moshkin’s answer, it suddenly occurs to me that I’m copying the same answer twice. Both Moshkin and Tito gave me the answer to the first question. I yell “No!” without meaning to, and the teacher turns to me, and I become quiet. But I’m so mad at myself for not having figured this out sooner, that I can’t finish the test anymore. I get up and leave.
That same week I almost threw a bench at my history teacher. It was the week of all our finals. I got to class, it was a makeover history test, and I’d studied hard for it. I was late by about a minute, and I go looking for a chair to sit on. But the teacher says, “Don’t look for a chair, sit down. _Sit._” I sit but then I get up and say, “I’m just getting a pen from someone.”
She says, “No – you don’t have a pen, that’s _your_ problem. Sit. The test is starting.”
I say, “Varda, but I’m going to get a pen. I don’t have a pen. I have to have a pen.”
I was mad at her. When I get hot I change, I’m like a different person almost, like when I play soccer. And again I say, “I’m going to get a pen.”
She says, “No, _no!_ Either you start the test now or you leave.”
Trying to stay cool I say to her, “No problem. I’m leaving now, and you don’t want to be standing in front of the door blocking my way, ok?”
That’s how I said it. I try to go but Varda jumps and stands by the door like this, her hand resting against the post, blocking my way. She says, “What’s that? What did you say?”
I say to her, “Varda, Don’t annoy me.” I feel my cheeks burning and I say, “If you don’t get out of my way from this door I’m lifting that bench and throwing it at you. Right into your face I’ll send it.” She got scared, caught a _janana_, and left straightaway. They suspended me right away.
And there are a lot of stories, some I don’t want to tell, others I don’t even want to think about. Moshkin and I used to skip class together, come back home after having been at school for half an hour, and play Manager all day. When I think about it I get sad, because it’s bad that he flew away. It’s hard to keep in touch over email or on the phone.