It was the second week of the trip that threw me for a loop. I signed up to do a three-day hike, and that’s where I met him: a young Israeli man, doing the post-army, pre-college travels in Central and South America. Yes, he’s younger than I – the cougar in me has arisen again.
From the very beginning, his kindness was evident. He showed his shiny sweet colors when he helped me pack my backpack in the mornings, or when he lingered behind on the trail, waiting nonchalantly and casually for me to catch up to the group (hey, it was hard!). Now if that wasn’t enough to seduce me on the mountain, there was his accent and broken English. He sounded like an old Yiddish character from an Isaac Bashevis Singer novel. He spoke like he was grabbing English words from the air and seeing if they could possibly tango together to make a sentence. So naturally, I fell for his Israeli charm and the friendship turned to romance. And oh how romantic it was! Kissing in a gorgeous lake surrounded by volcanoes and mountains, holding hands as we walked through unknown towns, drinking wine together as the sun set. Is this my life or this a cheesy Anne Hathaway movie? I even pinched myself a few times- yup, it was my life, my vacation. And then there were the cross-cultural conversations that we had, discussing the different and complex ways one can be Jewish in America and Israel. It was the most time I’ve spent in my adult life with someone who was raised in that land that we speak of at every Seder- you know, Jerusalem. I wanted to whisper in his ear, “next year, in your land.”
With all this unfettered affection ensuing, I began to wonder- how could it be so easy? How can I put my arm around this guy with no judgment, no care for who sees, and have only known him a few days… and then have to say goodbye to him in another few days? Is this the magic of traveling or is there something mystical in our meeting? And now that I’ve returned, this line of thinking makes my New York heart palpitate in fear and excitement- will I ever see him again? Yes, it’s true, our age differences put us at different phases of our lives, and then there’s the big issue of a whole lotta land and sea dividing us. But at the same time, connections like this are rare and hard to find. Shouldn’t we explore its future possibilities? I mean, it’s the least we could do right now, what with the Jewish New Year creeping up on us and reminding us that now is the time to seek out the unknown.
Ah yes, that sneaky Rosh Hashanah. In a little less than a month we will ring in a new year with the apples and the honey and the Shofar and the whole Megillah. So here is the image I will leave you with- on September 29th, as the honey-dipped apple makes it way to my mouth, I whisper to it, “next year, where? Or next year who?”