A Tale of Old Friends
The sun was shining brightly in Tel Aviv as I cursed numerous taxi drivers who were desperately trying to take my bag in broken Hebrew strewn with American swear words. But when I saw her get out of her car, her beauty was unmistakable: Her light chocolate skin gleaming, her hair stylishly cut and her smile from ear to ear. This was Inbar, and we embraced as old friends only can.
Inbar and I knew each other in Long Beach when she ran Gesher City, the young adults group through the Federation there. When we met, we were both married. Now we both were divorced and living on opposite ends of the world: Her in a town north of Tel Aviv, me in sunny bright Los Angeles. They were the respective corners in the universe we were from, but now we were back together in Israel.
As I loaded that heavy pink suitcase in the back, she remarked how good I looked (I had taken off quite a bit of weight since we last saw each other) and we began talking. I then noticed her outfit. It was a long-sleeved burgundy dress that went down to her ankles. This is not how she used to dress.
“Inbar, are you becoming religious?” I asked.
“I’m in transition,” she said in a sweetly shy manner. She was now keeping Shabbat and dressing in tznius (modesty). Clearly, we had some serious catching up to do.
As we wandered through the shuk and we continued our conversation, we sat at lunch and seemed to talk nonstop. And she looked at me with a question.
“How long has it been since we’ve seen each other?” she asked.
“When did you leave Long Beach?” I asked.
“About three years ago.”
“Yeah, probably around then.”
“And it’s like no time has passed.”
As our day continued and we didn’t seem to stop talking, I wondered about that. How could so much time drift between two people it can feel like nothing has changed?
The same question continued as we were joined by our friend Dana later in the day, drinking coffee and eating French pastries in a Tel Aviv café. Then the idea came up again a few days later as I visited my college best friend Lauren in the north. Dana probably brought it up best when we started talking about our friends and their different life stages, which were mostly engagements, marriages and babies. Dana, Inbar and I seemed to be rare exceptions: Inbar’s transition to religiousness, my divorce and Dana’s aaliyah, or move to Israel.
“I sometimes feel so out of the loop,” Dana said drinking her coffee under the tinted orange light of the heater. “My friends are getting engaged or married and producing babies,” she said. “And here I am… just not.”
“Yeah, I hear ya,” I said. “My friends are getting married while I’m single and still looking.”
“I didn’t really date while I was in school. Now I’ve got my doctorate and I’m trying to learn again.”
“You’re telling me! I didn’t date between 22 and 29. When I had my first official date after the divorce, I had to call someone because I had never really had anything like that. I didn’t even know how to go on a dinner date.”
Dana opened up a packet of cigarettes and lit one, blowing the smoke upwards making clouds in the light. “I don’t know. Life just moves on, and sometimes we don’t know how to keep up.”
As I drank my hot water with mint, I seriously thought about her words. I thought about two years ago when my life was in crisis mode, ten years ago when I almost died, fifteen years ago when I was last here and experienced the pain of true loss. So much had changed, and I was running to catch up. And some of my friends were left behind in that struggle to keep moving forward and accept my life as it came.
Two days after that coffee, I went to see Lauren in Ma’alot. She had changed a lot since we knew each other, her head covered now that she was more religious (although she said she was more modern orthodox than actually orthodox). As I made her laugh and we talked about our past and respective pasts that we missed, she looked at me and smiled.
“You know, I feel like you’re back,” she said, her face breaking out in that unmistakable grin as she was driving us around the mountains in her Mazda. “You were gone for so long when you were married, and now you’re here. And it’s amazing.”
Even though this isn’t the first time I heard these words (that would go to my best friend), I smiled back at her as only old friends can. We hadn’t really seen each other in six years, and here we were together again. And intrinsically, we were the same. She was still the girl whose bed I sat next to while she was recovering from having her tonsils removed, and I was the girl who made her laugh no matter the circumstances. Nothing could change that.
It didn’t matter what her head was covered with or how I no longer had a wedding ring on my finger. We knew each other, and there was no denying that those we love will find a way back to us one way or another. And when they return, all we have to do is just sit back and enjoy the sweetness.