Serial Killer

If the deceased in this case had been a husband, even if he died at a ripe old age, I'd be considered a Black Widow. But I've never lost a husband. It's computers that come to an untimely end around me.

Once, when I lived in a rented studio apartment in Jerusalem, I developed a reputation as a killer of houseplants. My neighbor, who owned a one-bedroom apartment (complete with solar water heater) in the same building, entrusted me, on one of her frequent trips abroad, with the task of watering her plants. She had plants in every nook and cranny, and I watered them faithfully. Each time I would reward myself with another spoonful of the ginger preserves from the jar in the 'fridge - a treat that you couldn't get in Israel at the time. Or, for variation, I would even out the marvelous block of nougat just a tad.

So I was flabbergasted when my neighbor returned and informed me that I'd killed one of her plants. Apparently, I'd overlooked the one that was hanging from the ceiling in a macrame holder. The neighbor stopped speaking to me from then on, though I imagine it was really because of the nougat, which had maintained its original shape, but by the time she returned could only be picked up with a tweezers.

A few years later, I learned that my killer instincts extended to garden plants as well. All of this was due, of course, to the best of intentions, in the form of irregular outbursts of love expressed in over-watering, followed by a period of starvation, then more over-watering, and so on. But that didn't make me give up. I love flowers, even if I can't identify any of them by name, and I keep on buying myself new plants.

"Never mind," I tell the people in the flower store or the nursery, when they try to tell me that the plant I'm eyeing this time should last for many years. "With me, all plants last about a week at most." Sometimes, when I'm heading home with a new plant, I feel a twinge of remorse, knowing that I've doomed it to extinction.

In the past year I've begun to suspect that it's not only plants that I kill, but inanimate objects, too. Laptops, to be more precise, and all out of love, of course. Two weeks ago, I killed my third computer in the span of a year. If the deceased in this case had been a husband, even if he had died at a ripe old age, I'd be considered a Black Widow, and the rabbinate would refuse to let me marry again. But I've never lost a husband - or lacked for one. It's only computers that come to an untimely end around me.

Orit says that maybe, like her, I'm just not worthy of a laptop computer. Maybe, also like her, I'm not responsible enough. "Because," she says, "if you eat and drink next to a regular computer, and I'm constantly eating and drinking at the computer, and something spills on the keyboard, it's still only a keyboard. But if it's a laptop, then there goes the whole thing."

Maybe I've just become too cavalier. In the beginning, I used to clean my laptops with a special brush. I'd try not to breathe too hard around them or to make any sudden noises. Then I discovered that you could cough, chew gum, smoke and even drop a little ash on the keyboard. I've had laptops for many years. Apart from one which was hurled to the floor - and not by me - I'd never wrecked one of my computers. They were always stolen from me before that could happen. But one drop of coffee on the keyboard was enough to sound the death knell for my last computer.

Every time I part with a computer, or a man for that matter, I tell myself that it won't happen again. I won't ever suffer like this again, for the simple reason that I'll never fall in love again. There is no chance that I'll ever again place my complete trust in a computer (or in a man). We've seen where this dependency has led me. One drop of coffee and the entire relationship that preceded it is forever wiped out.

Every time I say good-bye to a computer, I buy one that I like less than its predecessor, so I won't get addicted again, so the farewell pangs will be easier to handle. This time, I tell myself, it will be like an arranged marriage. No need to look for love here, absolutely no need to rely on passion. The only things to do is to make a cold calculation of the family background, functions, quality of service and convenience. Minimum investment and maximum output. But afterward I get confused. Instead of thinking about what's lacking, I start liking what there is, coming to terms with the weaknesses, adjusting, and eventually, just when I'm confused enough to call my dependency and habit "love" - another laptop gives up the ghost.

My mother would have said that if you're going to get your heart broken, it might as well be over Gary Cooper. Maybe this time I'll go out and buy myself the Gary Cooper of computers, so I'll have something I can properly grieve over. Laptops aren't the only things I've been losing over the past year. Cell phones have been suffering the same fate. These little devices also have that tendency to fall or to absorb too many liquids. And DVD players, I've found, are not fond of candle wax, while my old VCR for some reason hated tapes that were inserted too forcefully (and backward).

No, I'm not the least bit techno-phobic. I haven't the slightest feeling that all electronic devices are in cahoots against me. It's them, apparently: They're the ones who think that I hate them. They must be Neri-phobic.