"You know," my wife said on the morning of her birthday, another morning after a night in which we slept just like the baby - about two hours - "a year ago, when I was still getting out of the house, I had coffee at your brother's and it was really excellent. They have this amazing coffee machine. What I wouldn't give for a good cup of coffee right now."
"I didn't know they had a machine," I said truthfully - refraining from wishing her Happy Birthday so she'd think that I'd forgotten it, as usual - as I tried to get the kids moving to the bathroom, to brush their teeth. I insisted that "with all due respect to those fancy coffee machines, there's nothing like a simple cup of coffee, especially when all the grit gets caught in your teeth."
On the way to school, I told the kids that afterward we'd go to buy a cake and balloons and give Mom a birthday surprise, "because she's sure we forgot about it."
The first phone call I made that morning was to my brother with the coffee machine. "What is it? Is there some bad news?" he asked when he heard my voice, and I was pleased to discover that I'm not the only pathetic worrywart in the family. Maybe I ought to call my brothers a little more often. "Everything's fine," I reassured him, although his fears only subsided when I told him that it was my wife's birthday and I wanted to buy her a coffee machine like the one he had at home, and asked him what it was called and where they got it.
"Ahh," he sighed with relief, and said he had no idea what machine they had, but he would ask his wife right away and text me the information. "And listen for a second," he said, turning serious again, "I wanted to talk to you about a sensitive matter." He took a breath. "You know that my wife and I are flying to Thailand this weekend and leaving the kids with Mom and Dad, right?"
"Yes, you told me. Sounds great, should be..."
"So we were thinking," he cut me off, "that if anything happens, God forbid, you know - with the international flight, the internal flights, a tsunami..."
"Come on!" I tried to sound like the responsible adult, although, to my mind, with a trip to Thailand the chances are really 50-50 that you're not coming back. "Don't talk nonsense. Everything will be fine. What's got into you?"
"I hope so," he sighed. "Anyway, we were thinking that we would like - I mean, if it's okay with you - for you and your wife to raise our children after we're gone."
"Whoa," I stopped him, "don't talk like that." In my head I was already planning where I would put the two of them and which day care to send the little boy to. "Your children are precious to me," I told my brother. "You have nothing to worry about. You can crash ..." I blurted. "Anyhow, it will be fine, flying is the safest thing in the world."
Five minutes later I received a text message from my brother with the name of the machine - Nespresso. "Hey," said the redheaded director, with whom I'd shared my plan as I practiced trying to pronounce the coffee machine's name, "they just opened a shop in the Mamilla Mall."
I hate the Mamilla Mall. I never go there, and walking through it toward the Old City has always rubbed me the wrong way. You have all these fancy-shmancy stores ruining the view of the Old City walls. When it comes to building preservation, Jerusalem must be one of the lamest cities in the world. Here they're always searching for things under the earth and meanwhile, what's above it is often trampled and hidden for the sake of more and more apartment buildings and stores. But I had no choice. For the sake of my wife's birthday, I had to sacrifice a few values and go to the Mamilla Mall.
"Wow, it's so pretty," was the first thought that came to my head as I strolled through the shopping arcade, though I tried to forcibly suppress it. An elegant hotel, chic cafes and designer boutiques alongside shops that sell only high-end brands. I tried to stride along confidently, to project the air that I totally belonged here in these swanky surroundings. I kind of regretted not shaving that morning. Had I known I'd be walking here in the afternoon, I also would have chosen to wear something other than the Superman T-shirt and corduroy jacket I'd inherited from my younger brother. Poor guy with that flight he has to take, I'll do my best to ensure that his kids don't suffer from losing him, and no - I suppressed the nasty thought - I won't wait to see if they come back before I buy the coffee machine. They'll return safely and continue using their coffee machine. Of course they will.
The store suited its location perfectly. Sales attendants in black suits stood behind counters, and when I entered, a saleswoman in a tailored suit came up to me and smiled pleasantly. "Hello, how can I help you, sir?"
All it takes is a smile and the magic word "sir" to make me spend twice as much as I planned. Customers like me are exactly the reason why store managers make their employees smile and use the word "sir."
"I'm looking for a coffee machine," I said, embarrassed to imply that I didn't already own one. "A good one," I added. The smiling young woman showed me the different machines, and I already had my eye on one of the most expensive ones. How could I compromise on anything less, after all? I couldn't have people saying, "What, no automatic milk frother?"
"The really important thing is our coffee," said the saleswoman. "Are you familiar with our coffee?"
"Of course," I lied. I was sitting there leafing through the explanatory brochure, trying to pick my preferred type of coffee out of 16 different types that all meant nothing to me. There was something called Arabica beans that I tried to stay away from, lest the saleswoman get the wrong idea and take me for a cardamom addict. But I soon saw that Arabica beans were listed in nearly every type of coffee there, so I figured that must be a good thing, actually. There was one coffee that was described as intense, with many contradictory qualities. I was a bit wary of trying a coffee with identity issues, so I decided to go for a less intense kind. Capriccio sounded good - with its balanced and harmonic bouquet, a slight tinge of tartness and distinct character.
After some more smiles, I bought the most expensive home machine in the shop and selected a few varieties of coffee that sounded the least combative to me. "You have good taste," said the saleswoman, and I smiled, not having the vaguest idea of what my taste is.
Wearing the smile of a new member of the fancy coffee drinkers' club, I picked up the kids. We went to buy a good cake, but we couldn't find candles or balloons. "Surprise!" the kids shouted when we entered the house, and my wife hugged and kissed them. "Ta-da!" I said, pulling the coffee machine out of the box. "Just what you wanted!"
The kids set the table for our modest party and cut the cake while I looked over the instruction manual for the machine. "It's all ready!" I announced when I plugged the thing in. And right at that moment my wife started to cry.
"What is it? What's wrong?" I asked. "We're out of milk," she said, unable to stop the tears. "We're out of milk."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now