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Photo by Joshua Wander /Jerusalem Post
  Salmon Street, 1989

by David Holzel

Purim came. Knots of costumed children marched down narrow streets singing raucous songs. Everywhere I turned there were clowns and angels, gorillas, lions and aliens, Esthers, Madonnas and Michael Jacksons. The sun set but the spring night air remained warm. All Jerusalem poured into Ben-Yehuda Street, clapping, dancing and beating drums, the whole mass pouring down the slope to Jaffa Road. Everyone seemed to be laughing. The city had become a dream.

My friends were gathering at the Pink Floyd pub, so I joined them there to drink to the righteous Mordechai and to obliterate the memory of the wicked Haman. As I approached on Salmon Street, the blaring music met me. Inside a canopy of cigarette smoke hung below the vaulted ceiling. The mass of bodies disappeared into the hazy distance.

There was an empty seat at the table. Next to it, shrouded in smoke, was Rachel. I didn't know whether to be happy or annoyed to see her again. So I asked the waitress for a beer and accepted one of the shots of tequila that Rachel was ordering for everyone.

"I called you. You didn't call back," I said.

"I lost your number," she said, staring vaguely elsewhere. On the video screen above us, John Cougar Mellencamp was singing "Jack and Diane."

Rachel drained her shot before most at our table had a chance to raise their glass. She laughed wildly and talked non-stop. Unlike the riotous night that moved and heaved as if it were a living thing, Rachel's abandon seemed like artifice. This infuriated me. Clearly, her behavior toward me at the party the month before had been equally insincere.

The alcohol tempered my indignation. So, too, did Rachel's leg, rubbing against mine soon after the second round of shots. Someone began shooting photographs in rapid flashes. Rachel stuck her tongue in my ear at the moment the blaze erupted in our direction, blinding us.

The music grew louder, the air thicker. Rachel, her face so close to mine that I could feel her breath on my skin, now embodied the delirium of the festival. Her skirt, it swayed as the guitar played. Her mouth was watery and wet.

"You've captured me,'' I said, expecting a response flush with sexuality. Instead she replied with a perplexed "Really?''

As morning approached we took a taxi to my apartment, where she transformed into a lover who desired only me. What's happening to me?'' she whispered from the dark.

Copyright 2000 by David Holzel
  Shrouded in smoke was Rachel. I didn't know whether to be happy or annoyed.

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