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"It's no big deal," I told myself as I consciously tried to refrain from hyperventilating. "Really, it's nothing, it's all in your head, just calm down." It was pouring buckets that morning. It was the rainiest morning in Jerusalem since the start of the winter. I'd left the house early, around 6:30, to go to work, knowing that in such a rainstorm there was no way I'd make it to Neve Ilan in one piece.

"It's okay," I told myself, taking a deep breath. "I'll just wait. Pretty soon the guy from the tire shop will get here from Kiryat Yovel and everything will be fine. Really, it's okay." I'll wait, I thought. What else can I do? I can't drive like this, I can't even try.

"He opens at seven," the Ethiopian gas station attendant wearing a blue parka with the Paz symbol on it had told me. Just another half hour. No problem. I'll just sit in the car and listen to the radio for a little while.

It's actually kind of nice like this, I tried convincing myself as the rain got stronger and started drumming loudly on the roof of the car. Army Radio reported on an Ethiopian airliner that crashed in the Mediterranean and then they played an old song about disenfranchised youth. "Oh, Amsterdam," I found myself happily singing along with the radio, and I recalled how, when I was in middle school and Mikiagi got famous, I was disdainful and not interested in listening to a word. Nice song, I thought to myself, "Come to me, Come home" - quite touching, really.

In general, when it comes to music, lately I've been finding myself cheerily bopping along to the songs of ABBA that I despised back then, or singing along at the top of my lungs with the awful Mashina. "That's okay," I tell myself. "It doesn't lower my quality threshold. These songs are nostalgia." And what wouldn't I do for a little nostalgia.

I was already tempted to just ditch work for the day and go home - home to my parents' house, to my mother, to my childhood room. I wanted my mother to tuck me in as she'd never actually done, to gently stroke my head and tell me everything will be okay, Mommy's here for you.

Things have been going wrong for me a bit too much lately. I need to go back to the starting point, to the mother ship, and set out all over again from there little by little to try to put things right.

What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here. Hey, everything's fine, I reminded myself again. There's no chance that this was a deliberate plot against me personally. It's just another random thing. One more thing on top of all the other things, but it's still just a random thing. All is well, everything's under control, it's all in my head. Calm down. You're swamped with work as it is and you don't have time now for groundless paranoia that will wreck your whole day. Other cars on the street must have had their windshield wipers stolen, too. But I know that's not the case, for when I saw that all three of mine were missing, including the one from the rear window, I right away checked all the other cars parked on the street, praying to find another one that was missing its wipers: Please, God, let there be just one, just one other car - and it needn't be missing all three wipers, just one would be enough to make me feel better, to know that I'm not special and that I'm like everyone else. But no other car was missing its windshield wipers. And I checked carefully, from close-up.

But no, it must be just coincidence - like the antenna that was removed from the car a week ago. I know there's no cause for concern, I know I'm just feeling threatened because of where I'm at. Why should anyone give two hoots about me? Who really cares? It must have been a bunch of bored kids that took the wipers, happens all the time. So why am I getting so stressed out over this, for god's sake? Don't I have enough real problems to worry about?

Just concentrate on the radio, I told myself. Just listen to the radio. But why the hell hasn't that son-of-a-bitch with the windshield wipers shown up yet? It's after seven already. "Maybe it's because of the rain," said the Ethiopian, who was bouncing in place to keep warm. All right then, I'll have a cigarette. It usually takes me five minutes to smoke one. So I'll smoke a cigarette and then he'll show up, put the windshield wipers on, and I'll be on my way to work and everything will be just fine.

The cigarette is done inside of three minutes, and I even puffed it all the way down to the filter just to gain a little time. By 7:30 I'd smoked another three and the tire-shop guy, who was sure to have windshield wipers according to the Ethiopian, hadn't opened up yet. Maybe I should just get going? But it's pouring really hard, it's impossible. Maybe if the rain would taper off, but even then it would be dangerous. I've never driven without windshield wipers. Maybe it is possible - I'm not sure. But I can't sit here waiting all day like an idiot. And what if the guy never shows up?

The Ethiopian gas attendant shrugged as if to say, "I don't know what happened to him today." I decided I would wait to see which came first - the tire-shop guy or a break in the rain.

"I'm still waiting at the station," I told my wife when she called to see what was new. "How are the kids?"

"Fine," she said. "I just dropped them off at school. Hey, should I just go look for some windshield wipers and then I'll bring them to you?"

"No, it's okay," I said. I didn't want to delay her on her way to work. She's already getting yelled at there enough as it is for being late so often. "He's supposed to open at eight. Just five more minutes. It's okay."

"You sure?"

"Absolutely."

"You know," she said. "This whole thing is starting to bother me."

"What's the matter with you?" I scolded. "What are you talking about?"

"I don't know," she said. "I'm just saying."

"Are you crazy?" I asked, and then I saw a car with a tire-shaped logo on it enter the station. "It's just kids. You know how many cars they've stripped all the wipers from?"

"Really?" she asked, sounding relieved.

"I myself saw three, even in all this rain."