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As is always the case when Dina and Dalia meet, the conversation inevitably turns to men. More specifically, to the question - chewed, swallowed and repeatedly regurgitated - of whether a certain guy they know is gay.
It is not girlish gossip at the core of their compulsion. Nor, as they remind one another at the outset of each session, is "homophobia" even remotely relevant to their ruminations.
No, the motivating force behind their musing is their mutual preoccupation with a particular project: getting Dalia married before her biological clock reaches zero hour.
Dalia's predicament stems from her having managed to mature past the period of fantasy and impulse - that era beginning in adolescence and ending somewhere around the age of 30 - without hooking, or being hooked by, a husband. This led to reason replacing romance. And caution curtailing bad choices.
Her conscious decision to overcome this mind-body problem through compromise is what Dina calls commendable. But this is not Dina's only contribution to the undertaking. What she mainly brings to the table, both literally and figuratively, is the illusory aura of wisdom (otherwise known as hindsight) acquired through having "been there, done that." Which means she is actually as clueless as her younger counterpart when it comes to coupledom, but at least has a few children to show for her mileage in a malfunctioning marriage.
Mr. Right, she insists without being really sure of herself, is a figment of the imagination. As such, he can be conjured up at will just as easily at 40 as at 20. The alternatives, the two cohorts conclude, are Mr. Maybe (passable; personable; no passion there), Mr. Wrong (married; not Jewish; a drug addict) or Mr. Sperm Bank (the last, but not necessarily the least, resort, considering all the above).
So much for clear-cut categories. But then there's Barak.
Barak, by all accounts, is Dalia's Mr. Perfect. Her best friend. Professionally and politically her peer. Just Jewy enough. Flawless by friend-and-family standards. Handsome as hell. The one she spent the better part of a decade defining as The One. The one she'd be in the midst of happily-ever-aftering with at this very moment if it weren't for that slight stumbling block. Sex.
Something Barak has said several times over the course of their connection is "simply out of the question." Something, he still stresses, that would "spoil the special bond they share."
That Dalia's intentions have never been to ruin their relationship - but rather to realize its potential by delivering it from Platonitude - seems to be lost on this person who in every other way is as sharp as a razor.
That her response to his relentless rejection of her advances is to ask, "What's wrong with me?" always elicits a violent reaction from Dina. "What's wrong with you?" she reprimands at every opportunity. "What's wrong with him is the question!"
The answer, according to members of the male persuasion consulted, is that Barak must prefer men.
"No heterosexual male turns down the proposition of a willing woman," claimed an acquaintance Dalia considers crass and chauvinistic.
"That's ridiculous," she shuddered, partly from disgust, partly from the distasteful possibility that what he said rang true. "Not if he's not attracted to her."
"Well, then, he wouldn't be hanging around with her at all hours of the day and night," he shrugged, as if to say that she can think what she likes if it makes her feel better.
Both to Dalia's dismay and to her delight, Dina agrees with the assessment - the dismay deriving from dashed hopes; the delight from the deeper relief that Barak's lack of desire for her is due not to flaws in her femininity, but to the direction of his libido.
Yet she is neither consoled nor completely convinced. Even when Dina delicately reminds her that Barak has been living with the same roommate since college.
"They're buddies, big deal," Dalia sometimes says defensively, though whom she is defending is never quite clear. What is clear is that she feels betrayed: If Barak is gay, he has been lying to her. If he's not, he's been inconsiderate at best, cruel at worst. Keeping her on some back burner for companionship until someone better comes along... for love.
THE FOCUS of today's discussion is Dalia's desperate longing for a baby.
"If Barak is gay," she posits, "Why wouldn't he agree to a procreation contract?" she asks Dina.
"Perhaps he doesn't want kids," Dina offers.
"But he always says he does," Dalia argues.
"He also says he's looking for a wife," Dina points out. "Which appears to be iffy."
Dalia ponders this for a while. "Why wouldn't he just come clean, then?" she challenges. "Everybody parades around yelling 'Gay Pride' these days. What's he got to be ashamed of?"
"Maybe he's gay and doesn't know it yet," she says.
"He's too old not to know he's gay," Dalia says, shaking her head.
"We don't know for certain that he is," Dina says.
"He's holding me hostage," Dalia says, first bitterly, then with a kind of startled sadness.
She and Dina exchange guilty glances.
"I can't stop thinking about that kidnapped soldier and the teenager," she says softly.
"Me neither," Dina says, clearing her throat to clear her mind of her own soldier stationed in the south, and his teenage brother.
"Remind me why I wanted to bring a child into this world," Dalia says.
"I can't," Dina says.
AS IS always the case when Dina and Dalia meet, the conversation inevitably turns to politics. More specifically, to the question - chewed, swallowed and regurgitated - of whether a certain state they live in is going to survive.