Written a couple of years ago and loosely based on events that happened 10 years ago, this one always reminds me of days spent living by the sea in a hot country.
Of Hearts and Sea Glass
The last time he saw Monica was when her bus pulled away from the station in Eilat. He stood there watching the bus drive off towards the moshav in the desert, the same moshav they had both left 5 days before. The sun hurt his eyes, even through his sunglasses, but he forced himself to keep looking at the bus until it just turned into road and sand. She had left him.
Or had he left her? Maybe they had just left each other, an unspoken mutual agreement that it was time to go their separate ways, Monica back to her family on the moshav before flying back to California, and Jules off to travel around Egypt for a while, alone. He could still taste their last kiss on his lips, and he could still remember every moment of the last night they had spent together in the little room not far from the beach. There was no going back now, he had to move on and continue to look for the very same thing that had brought him to Israel the year before. If only he actually knew what exactly he was looking for he might be able to look in the right direction. Until then he was just going to have to keep going in different directions until he felt some kind of enlightenment. The desert, sex and drugs don’t always answer all questions, not for Jules anyway.
On their last night he asked her why she liked sleeping with him. Her body tensed and she turned her face towards the window, shrugged and said “I don’t know”. He tried to push her, get a real answer out of her, but she wouldn’t budge. He felt his eyes prickle, so he just pulled her close and breathed the soft clean smell of her hair. So many words that they just couldn’t say out loud to each other; she would never admit to him that she loved him, just as he would never admit that he loved her. He knew that everyone on the kibbutz considered them a couple, and that all the guys mainly disliked him because he came off as arrogant, but also because he was with Monica. Monica was good-looking, but once you got to know here she seemed to have a special power that drew you in and wouldn’t let you go. She was either oblivious to the power she had, or at least, scared of it and everything that it would bring. The walls that she built around herself every day were not indestructible, but they were strong. Jules tried, but he was also too tied up in his own problems that he didn’t have the strength to try hard enough.
They had walked along the beach in Eilat at night, and sat on the rocks after dinner, talking about their futures, alluding to meetings in England or France, saying that they would find a way to be together again after the summer. Different nationalities and visas and passports wouldn’t be a problem, they would get through any obstacles. The last time they made love they both had tears in their eyes and Jules held on to Monica’s waist and didn’t want to let go. When he woke up in the morning she was at the other side of the bed and he felt his stomach fall beneath him. He didn’t want her to be distant already, not while they still had a few hours together. She crept back into his arms and told him to hold her tight, one last time. She made him coffee and they swam in the Red Sea before making their way back to the bus station in silence. Her hand felt warm and calm in his, his little lifeline over the past eight months, the one who had always been there for him, despite the many times he had tried to hurt her.
He wouldn’t ever be able to forget the way she looked at him when she said goodbye. Her eyes had always said everything that her voice could never say, but he only believed it all the last time she looked in his eyes. He let her leave without telling her that he loved her. She was leaving anyway, what did it matter now?
Monica watched him as the bus pulled out of Eilat station and continued to watch as he got smaller and smaller and then disappeared into the little oasis in the desert. The tears still wouldn’t come, although she knew they were not far away, but maybe she could hold them in a few more hours, once she was back on the moshav and when everyone was asleep in bed. Maybe she would take the dogs down to the edge of the moshav and smoke a little, watching the stars, and pretend that he was still there with her, talking to her, telling her that everything was better when she was there.
The first time Monica met Jules she was sitting at the table in front of her room on the kibbutz, drinking a coffee right after work. She was wearing khakis, work boots and a white tank top, and felt sweaty and tired. Emma walked him over and introduced him as the new volunteer from Colombia and asked Monica to show him the ropes. He seemed so arrogant that Monica showed him where everything was and left him to his own devices. There were enough lovely, gorgeous Israeli men around; she didn’t need an arrogant, good looking Colombian man bothering her too. A week later they were sleeping together. Some said it was inevitable, but Monica just knew that they were too similar to stay apart too long. But too similar to stay together too long too.
Monica wouldn’t say the words “last time” out loud as they acted like a weight in her belly, pulling her down into sadness. A love story could not end like this, not with a parting of ways in the desert. There had to be some kind of conclusion, another meeting, another night together in another place, another country. There was no way that this could all end with one simple goodbye. Any other thought made her want to die. In fact, the idea of life without Jules by her side was worse than being dead. He had broken her heart many times over the eight months they had spent together, but he had always managed to mend it again. An apologetic grin and a handful of heart-shaped sea glass one day, a “sorry” followed by a hug another day. A knock on her door and a night full of make-up sex and long talks by the sea. She knew she was the only one who could really help him get through whatever was haunting him, just as he was the only one who could help her break down the barriers she was always putting up.
There would always be other women for him, and other men for her, but they never lasted longer than a few days. They would always meet back together in the middle, Monica and Jules, making each other breakfast and dinner, washing each other’s clothes and dancing together all night long, sharing the bottle of vodka that always found itself coming their way. He would stare into her eyes and she never knew if he really loved her, or just loved being loved by her. Sometimes the latter was just enough, but mostly she needed more than that. She knew he loved her, but she also knew he would never fully accept it, not until he had found the answers to all of his own questions. Maybe he would find them now he was alone, or maybe he would just find another way to escape them again.
The only regret Monica felt was that she never told him how much she loved him, because she knew he would not tell her what he felt until she admitted her own feelings for him. He had tried, during their last night together, but she had kept them bottled inside. It was too early and too late, he was leaving her anyway, so what did it really matter? Or was she leaving him? They were leaving each other, alone, in the desert, in a foreign land.
For years they would both wonder what they had left behind there, under the sun in Eilat, and for years they would try to reach out over the oceans to say something meaningful, to say what they had wanted to say during that last night together. Maybe one day they will find each other in the desert again, their hearts in one hand, and the shared sea glass in the other.