Now Ivy was sipping from a container of Tropicana orange
juice she bought at the duty-free shop while we waited for our flight. Ivy
was sixteen. She was taller than me, with long, chestnut hair and a thin,
difficult facesmall-eyed and sharp. Her long body gave off
the odor of cigarettes and soap. My moods were as changeable
and labile as my mother's, they darkened or lightened. Ivy often prided herself on not being one of us at all and could easily
establish her emotional residence elsewhere.
Once my mother was safe again, with her first family, and if
I planned it right, I could find a way to leave. I would find the places my
father told me about in Paris. I could wire back to my sister and she could
come, too. I will enjoy that, I thought, pulling my sister out with me. Somehow, I thought I would stay in Israel for
only as long as it took me to find enough money to get to Paris, to what I
knew of the famous streets that could be described in the large, sensual
words Marcel Proust had brought my father and me when I was
still too young to understand what they meant. Lyrical overtures about the
loveless and abandoned. I had no knowledge of airfares, but I believed the
situation, all of us being in Israel, once the plane landed, could be undone
if I acted forcefully enough.
After my father's "accident," my mother could not recognize
herself in the picture of her life. If the white drifts on the ground were
tall and thick, she would let me stay home from school. She lay silent in the house in Katonah, ringing her hands under her bed
sheets, stunned and outraged as if it was just at that moment that she heard
the news of my father's death. And then she would look at me, look
appealingly to me. She grew more careless about herself as time
went on. Her body was usually without undergarments which
gave the sheets a hot, wettish odor. Her hair and face creams gave off a
strong, fruity smell and tempered the raw coarse aromas that got loose from
her flesh. And then her strength appeared more muscular in its war against grief and distress than I had ever seen
I wanted to be near it. Sometimes I stayed home from school
and she took me into bed with her. We watched television in her bed together:
"Our Miss Brooks" and "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," "Queen for A Day." We
watched a chimpanzee at Cape Canaveral complete his one day space flight
towards the moon. I believed I knew what we were doing together those long, housebound
mornings and afternoons. We were preparing for the possibility that there
would never be another man in our lives, that we better get used to it being just us.
"Look." My mother adjusted herself in her seat, reached into
the left pocket of her tent dress and whisked out an envelope my aunt had
sent her from One Metaduleh Street. She pulled out three recent photographs, fanning them out with her fingers like a trick
deck of cards and holding them in front of my eyes. There was Jerusalem,
"The Border Confused City," the 1963 Life magazine article called it. My
mother had left the article on my bedroom bureau in Katonah.
"In a Pentateuchal sense of the word," said the article I read that night two weeks ago, "Jerusalem is a geography
that is everywhere a matter of more or less chaos, looking still like a
place where the sea had not yet separated from the sky and
was not yet."
I had looked up "Pentateuchal" in the dictionary and had not even found a definition for that.
Now I stared at her photographs. The white Jerusalem houses
with their fences of barbed wire and warning signs in the fields; the
powerful, endlessly complex hills and recesses; the naked desert-like earth
and pearl-gray edifices whose boundaries were as open to
interpretation and vulnerable to disintegration as lines
drawn into the dust.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...