The Bicycle

Shabbat morning, a nice day, an opportunity to take the hike I've been postponing for years.

Shabbat morning, a nice day, an opportunity to take the hike I've been postponing for years. This hike, the walking, even if it's not fast, don't even mention running, is what will repair all my body systems. It will regulate my breathing, refresh my bones and breathe new life into muscles that would not pass the test of any standards institute.

My body has long since turned into a neighborhood trash bin. During the past two years the situation has begun to worry me. I don't know, maybe it's my age, and maybe it's because I find myself often visiting my parents in hospitals - and this though my father is considered an athlete and my mother swims several times a week. I have recently begun to see my back, my muscles, my lungs, and of course, certainly my liver as apparently essential things. For the time being, I can't and don't want to stop drinking and smoking, because I tell myself it's a shame to work hard now, to suffer, to torture myself, to go into withdrawal and then in another year, or a month or two weeks or so a war will break out and I'll find myself without sedatives.

I wore shorts. I discovered that the closest thing I have to sports shoes are Crocs, and I stood for a long time in front of the shelf and wondered whether to take the pack of cigarettes, until in the end I decided to do so. I can get drunk just from the clear mountain air. I parted from my family as though I was about to embark on a pilgrimage by camel all the way through the desert to Mecca, and I was on my way.

I walked very slowly. After 10 minutes I already regretted the whole idea. Not because I was tired, not at all, more because of the thought: What am I really doing? Is this what will save me from cardiac arrest? A relaxed walk on a pleasant Shabbat morning?

But I have to start somewhere, and signing up for a health club is the most terrible mistake I could make, I know I'll never go there. Moreover, all those in the know say that you give up after the first month, and they all recommend: "Start by walking in the neighborhood, then you'll see if you're serious."

I'm not serious, never have been, but I won't give up now. At least when I walk under the heading: "Save your heart from an approaching heart attack," I have a good enough reason not to be at home and to enjoy freedom and quiet from the children for an hour. All right, maybe half an hour.

Believe it or not, slowly but surely I discovered the wonders of walking. In fact, I completely forgot that I was on a journey, and I sank into pleasant hallucinations and thoughts that at that moment seemed brilliant to me. Wonderful ideas that I felt were coming from my heart, and would probably not have been able to ascend to my brain without sufficient healthful oxygen. I sank into a magical world, I saw feelings, and while I was walking I already managed to translate them into words.

And when I looked at the watch I've never worn I discovered that an hour had passed since I left the house. I took a moment to look around and found myself on the Bethlehem Road, on the more southerly part of the street, Baka, lovely houses - even their dark history did not disturb the serenity. Passersby and just plain religious people wearing gleaming white Shabbat clothes were walking around, mothers and happy children. Only when I stopped dreaming did I realize how tired I was, and I could feel my heart coughing. I was hot and perspiring in a way that you never perspire in Jerusalem.

A wooden bench on a shady street was the suitable solution for the turmoil of my body. A pleasant breeze cooled the perspiration and caressed my skin. Very tired, I tried to regulate my breathing and realized that I would need an hour of rest before I could retrace my steps. I was almost envious of a smiling boy who approached the bench on his new bicycle, although I'm not sure that riding in Jerusalem would be easier than walking. The boy looked at the road and stopped suddenly. At first he tried to smile, and only then did I notice that a policeman was getting out of a van and approaching the bicycle.

"Whose bicycle is that?" asked the policeman in Hebrew. The boy, who had a frightened look mixed with his smile, didn't know what to answer. "Bicyclet?" said the policeman, trying out his Arabic, "whose?"

"Mine," answered the boy in Arabic, "my bicyclet." The policeman waved the boy away, grabbed the bicycle and started to examine it from all sides. "Where did you take the bicycle from?"

"The bicycle is mine," replied the boy in Arabic.

"Why are you lying?"

I almost got up from the bench; my heart was beating harder than during the walk. For a moment I remembered that I had gone out without an ID card, without anything, only with walking clothes, and I sat back down.

"Where are you from?" asked the policeman, and then again in Arabic. "What are you doing here?"

The boy was silent and looked around. Other children from Baka stood and watched the show, like me. Some came closer, one boy smiled and licked an ice cream while the policeman checked the number on the bicycle. "Where did you take the bicycle from?" said the policeman, repeating his question. The boy answered in Arabic, which only I understood completely: "My father bought it for me. I had a birthday."

"Abui, abui?" replied the policeman, and some of the children found that funny. "If you want to call him, I know his number," tried the boy, and the policeman didn't understand. "Does anyone here know Arabic?" asked the policeman, looking in my direction. "No," I shook my head, got up from the bench and ran as I've never run before, all the way home.