It's the first day back at school and Sayed Kashua is in tears
He has a daughter in Junior High, but he's still behaving like an irresponsible adolescent.
I cried again on the first day of school. Now we have to divide the work. My wife took the older boy to the primary school and I accompanied our firstborn, our daughter, to her new junior high. “I have a daughter in junior high” − the thought struck me like lightning in the traffic jam that announced life was returning to normal. Look at me: I have a daughter in junior high; I’m still behaving like an irresponsible adolescent, and it’s still not clear when my life will get on track. Oh, God, I suddenly remembered the atrocious things I did last Thursday night and the guilt feelings that battered me again, after a period when I deluded myself that I was starting to behave like a normative individual.
I have to stop before my daughter starts going to the city center by herself. How embarrassing it would be if she saw me throwing up by the curb and being dragged to my feet by two Jewish girls. Did I sing with them in the square? Who can remember?
That night I woke my wife and, in tears, confessed. “I’m sorry,” I whined, and she tried to shush me so the baby wouldn’t wake up. “I think I kissed someone, I think I also kissed someone after that.”
“Let me sleep,” she said, as usual. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“No,” I insisted, as only a drunk can. “Now. We talk now,” I shouted in a whisper and ran to throw up.
“You are an idiot,” she said, dragging me off the bathroom floor. “I’ve known that from the first day, but I still love you and I feel good here. But...”
“I don’t know what I’ll do if you keep it up.”
“No,” I started to cry again, “please no, I swear, it’s the last time. You know it will kill me if you do that to me.”
“Then you have to go into therapy,” she said in her social worker’s tone of voice. “You need psychodynamic therapy.”
“But Eva Illouz says it doesn’t work,” I belched, and felt a burning sensation sweep across my chest.
“That’s what you understood from Eva Illouz?” she said mockingly and returned me to an earlier stage of the evening, when I was sitting at a bar in a relatively stable state, next to a close friend with about the same education as mine. We talked about Eva Illouz as we had both understood her. Our conclusion was that the system doesn’t work, that she is bad-mouthing the romantics, that we are living a lie and that it’s time for someone to shout it out.
“Look at the gays and lesbians,” my friend said. “They looked after themselves, they struggled, they fought, they changed people’s attitudes and achieved excellent results. I don’t say they got everything, but still.”
“True,” I said, agreeing with every word. “The Palestinians, too. You’ll see. In the end it will be successful, the struggle, you’ll see.”
“I’m not sure,” he said. “You people don’t have style. But forget the Palestinians now. What about us? Who will fight for us?”
“Who is us?” I asked in all seriousness. “Sorry, I don’t follow you.”
“Us,” he said, starting to get irritated. “Me and you and the other guy, people with families but with feelings, people with unbounded desire.”
“One day there will be clear boundaries here,” I told him, “even though in the big picture, in terms of the concept, I am for blurring the boundaries.”
“Exactly,” he said, “we have to blur the boundaries. We have to fight against the boundaries, because they are inhuman and restricting and suffocating.”
“The government has to intervene,” I asserted.
“The government, the clerics, the Church, the police, everyone,” he declared, pounding the bar with his fist. “Things can’t go on like this, it’s deception per se. Married life is the biggest deception of the human race.”
“That’s true, too,” I replied, “even though it has nothing to do with the territories.”
“What do you mean, ‘nothing to do’?” He was in a rage. “I tell you, it’s the human condition. We are being deceived here the way you are being deceived in the territories, the way there is deception everywhere. I am talking here about true freedom, basic freedom, the freedom to feel, to love without fences and walls.”
“Have you read Eva Illouz?”
“Obviously. She hit me right here,” he said, pointing to his heart. “I loved her at first sight.”
“I adore her,” I said. “Do you think she’s left wing?”
“Someone who talks like that about love is far above being left or right.”
“She talked about love?” I asked, trying to remember what I read.
“Are you with it or what?” he lashed out. “It’s perfectly clear: capitalism brought psychology and together they hatched a plot against true feeling. They marketed love like it was Coca-Cola.”
I ordered a Coke and another arak and thought about what my pal had said. “She’s amazing, that Illouz,” I said, nodding my head in admiration.
“I tell you,” he said, leaning his head on the bar, “she is the only one who will save our ass. She has to be prime minister.”
“Are you sure she said it’s permitted to love freely?”
“Freely,” he said confidently. He opened his arms as homage to freedom. “With your whole heart.”
“Then she gets my vote.”
Afterward I sallied forth against capitalism, society and the psychologists across the city, armed with love and a credit card, until I collapsed.
“All right,” I said submissively. “I will go into therapy.”
“Great,” she said. “And if you do that one more time, I will kill you. Got it?”
“But it’s not my fault. Illouz says it’s society’s fault!”
“Fine,” she said, “then I will kill you because of society.”
“Daddy,” my daughter’s voice rang out, returning me to the first day of school. “What?” I replied and looked in the mirror.
“Are you crying?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “It’s just from emotion. The social structure took me back to childhood.”