Bar-side Banter

"It was like, natural," she said. "Suddenly I understood that I don't like Arabs." What lovely eyes she has, I thought to myself.

"I don't know," she continued, shrugging her shoulders and trying to overcome the shudder that seized her when she said the word "Arabs". "I don't know what the solution with them will be, nor do I care if there's a transfer or if they are given a state of their own where they can rot. The main thing is that we won't have to deal with them any more."

What lovely eyes she has, I thought to myself, trying to decide in the dim light of the bar whether they were blue or green. I couldn't tell; sometimes they looked blue, but with a different tilt of the head, they looked green for some reason. But what difference did it make? The main thing was that she has beautiful eyes and straight brown hair that she pushed away from her face with long, thin fingers.

"Do you understand?" she asked, sipping her drink. (This was the first time I'd talked with a girl who was drinking a cocktail, and I considered it an impressive achievement. I bet it was because of my diet and my black shirt (black looks good on me).

"And it's not that you can say I grew up in a right-wing home. On the contrary," she said, while I camouflaged my attempt to peek at her backside by craning my neck, which had presumably become stiff from sitting bent over at the bar. She had a perfect posterior, that I could swear, with buttocks that were firm and solid when coming in contact with the stool."

"I actually grew up in a leftist home," she went on. "My parents were leftists. Members of the Labor Party. You know what I mean?"

"You don't say?" I said, finding myself surprised at the magnitude of the change she had undergone. With any drinker of beer or whiskey, I would immediately have declared that Labor was never a leftist party, but she - the imbiber of the margarita, or whatever you call the colored liquid in her decorated glass - was allowed to do whatever she wanted. As far as I was concerned, she could also claim that Meretz were leftists and I wouldn't express any opposition.

"I swear to you, my folks were leftists. Only in the last elections did they vote for Kadima. And that was only because of Livni. Otherwise only Labor. Dyed-in-the-wool leftists," she giggled, and I smiled back.

"And I remember as a girl in French Hill ...," she continued, and I, like some Arab, interrupted her automatically: "You know, that's a settlement."

"What settlement?" she asked.?

And I was so angry at myself. Not only did I not want to talk about politics on this magical evening - I mean, that was true, too - but mainly this was all a result of my inability to listen. I've reminded myself a million times to try to listen to people, mainly to girls, when they talk. But I can't. My wife is right when she claims that I consider myself the center of the universe and think the sun rises from my backside, and that I never, but never, attribute importance to what people around me are saying. Like an idiot I had to come out with some wisecrack that would probably destroy a pleasant conversation that was clearly progressing in a promising manner.

"Excuse me," I said, trying to assume the expression of a man listening all the way down to the roots of his hair. "Excuse me for interrupting you. Please continue.

"No," she said with a surprised look. "You said French Hill is a settlement?"

"Yes," I replied in an apologetic tone, "but that's really not important. You know, geography, who cares. What's important is what you feel. Please go on, it was fascinating.

"Walla, I didn't know," she persisted, and with a surprising sort of movement sat up straight on her stool, showing a perfect chest. "Are you sure it's a settlement?"

"More or less," I replied. "You know, Jerusalem is Jerusalem. But it's really not important, you were just saying that as a girl in French Hill ..." I urged her to continue talking about her childhood and to stay as far away as possible from the 1967 borders.

"Yes," she finally went on. "So, I remember as a child that I actually didn't hate Arabs. Really, it all seemed so natural. They worked in the neighborhood, their children sometimes played in the public park, and it was all right with me. That is, I didn't play with them, but that really didn't matter. But at some point, I simply understood that the Arabs aren't ... I don't know how to put it. It's like, Arabs, well, it isn't fitting, you know?"

"Definitely," I replied quickly, in total agreement. "I understand."

I knew right then that she liked me, and that if I invited her to the dance floor she would agree immediately. But because I wanted to be certain of the profound connection that had been forged between us, I wanted her to talk more - in other words, mainly, I wanted her to notice that I was ready to keep listening. I was afraid a direct suggestion was liable to put me in another, different light; that suddenly I would become transformed in her eyes from a pleasant conversationalist to some drooling Arab.

"But," I continued slowly, weighing my words, thinking, being considerate, "How did all this begin? I mean, this hatred that you suddenly discovered?"

"I really don't know," she said, touching my shoulder like someone who had experienced a revelation at that very moment. "It was like, natural. Suddenly I understood that I don't like Arabs: I don't like to see them in the street, I don't like the ones who work for my parents. I suddenly realized that they're not like us. For me they became, like, strange or different. And they really are different, and they just don?t belong ..."

I took a deep breath and took her hand to console her. "Everything will be all right," I told her, looking her straight in the eye. "I promise you that everything will be all right."

"I don't know," she said, in the tone of someone who seemed genuinely concerned about our future here. "Sometimes I lose hope that we'll have it good here some day."

"You'll see," I said to her, in a gentle and authoritative voice. "All you have to do is just believe, and some day it will be a paradise here."