Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Lapses of memory

I forget things.
Either because my subconscious wants me to forget or because of advanced age.

My older sister was bitten by a dog when I was about five years old. I was there, but I cannot remember anything about the event.
That is an example of my subconscious erasing a traumatic memory.
The list of things I forget because of old age is getting longer and longer. That is why I am writing down what I can still remember.

Then there are situations that I can only partially remember because of both subconscious and old age memory lapses.
This story is about one of those situations. It is also a snapshot from the bygone era of the kibbutz.

The year is 1966. I was doing my time in the paratroopers. Every six weeks I had leave.
We received so little leave because there always had to be a minimum of paratrooper battalions on alert during the Shabbat.

My base was up north and my home, a kibbutz, was down south in the Negev.
I had no money, so I hitchhiked. This was not difficult but it took a lot of time. I usually arrived at my kibbutz late afternoon on a Friday and left late afternoon on Saturday.

I did not have a room. It was a waste giving me a room if I only turned up for one night every six weeks. I used to kip in an empty room.
If I could not find one, I put up a stretcher bed at a friend’s place.
There was nothing to do on a kibbutz unless there was a festival. There was no television or anything like that. All I mostly did was lounge about.

On one of my leaves I met a young Belgian Jewish girl, Ariella.
I cannot exactly remember why she was there. It may have been a trial period for her to see if she wanted to stay. She may have been a member of a younger youth group that was coming sometime in the future and she was now just visiting.

I ended up at her hut.
She had to start work early in the morning. When someone came to wake her, I hid behind a bookcase.
I got up a bit before lunchtime, took a shower and started walking down to the communal dining room. I was going to have lunch with my best friend, Zvi, who would then be finishing work.

The first people I saw on my walk were two women of my age. One was a schoolteacher for young children and the other was a member of my group. They were always together.
They smiled at me, said hello and started giggling. That did not bother me as they were the giggling types.

I passed other people who greeted me with broad smiles. This kind of effusive welcome was a bit unusual.
Then I saw Noach and Piel from a distance. Noach was one of the Romanian Holocaust survivors who had founded the kibbutz. Piel, which is Hebrew for elephant, was his Israeli sidekick. They worked in the garage.
On a kibbutz the garage is the man cave. It is where the men go to gossip.

I had got to know them well when I was serving on a nearby border post, Kerem Shalom. As there was not much to do on the post I could sometimes come and work on my kibbutz. My visits were too irregular for work with the sheep (I was a shepherd), so I started work in the garage.
I did not have to do much. They had a big armchair where I used to take a nap.
All they wanted from me was gossip.
My border post was mixed, men and women. They wanted to be kept up to date on all the lurid details of what was happening there; who was doing what with whom.

When they waved to me on my walk to the communal dining room, I waved back.
Then they gave me the thumbs up sign. Now I knew something was going on.
For the rest of the walk I kept my head down and stared at the ground.

At the back of the building with the dining room there was a soda tap. I went there first to drink some soda.
I felt a thump on my back. It was Zvi.
He congratulated me on my new relationship. It was all over the kibbutz. Ariella was wallowing in the attention she was getting.
Like I said, nothing much happens on a kibbutz and this sort of thing was news.

I explained to him that it was only a one-night stand and I had no intention of starting a relationship with the girl. I would tell her that.
And that is where my memory fails me. I suppose I must have spoken to her about it. However, I cannot remember anything about the conversation.
Anyway, I do remember that I left that afternoon to go back to my base.

When I came home on my next leave she was not there. Nobody mentioned her name and I never saw her again.
I presume she got over me. The others did.

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