MAYA ARRIVED at Karla’s wedding at Shoresh alone, in her 2014 Peugeot 208, because she was unattached. Karla had worked under Maya at Cisco until being laid off half a year ago, and the Peugeot 208 was leased for Maya by the company.
Karla had looked up to Maya at Cisco and, while Maya had never felt close to her, Karla had invited Maya to her wedding and Maya felt duty-bound to go. Maya was fed up with herself about being alone for so long, and was determined that it would not last out the evening.Her plan was, after a couple of glasses of white wine, to survey the crowd and pick out the guy who would come home with her.
It might be for the night and it might be for longer. She was open to both. The plan left a hollow place in her stomach, but she had learned, from the army and from her job, that grit and good planning always pays off.
She had deposited her check and was just backing off from the bar with her first glass of wine when she felt a hand on her shoulder and a peck on her cheek. It was Yamit, from the old days – well, just five years ago, really – in Unit 8200.
Maya pecked back and the two intelligence officers (res.) quickly established that Maya was a work acquaintance of the bride’s and Yamit a second cousin of the groom’s (“but we’re like this,” she said, wrapping a fuck finger around an index). Yamit peered right and left and Maya corrected her.
“Oh, Maya. Why haven’t you been in touch? What’s the deal this last year? I thought maybe …”
It was Maya’s turn to take in Yamit’s eyes and see where their corners pointed, but a 16-year-old with a tiny plate of mini-burgers ran straight into her. The burgers went flying. Maya lost not a drop of wine. The boy mumbled an apology and headed back to the burger bar. She refocused on Yamit’s eyes and followed the gaze.
“Oh,” she said to herself. “Oh my God.”
Yamit blushed. “Isn’t life strange? He suddenly showed up at a desk at the firm and…” She looked at Maya nervously. “It’s been four months and I think he’s the one.”
She was about to take Maya by the arm but missed because Maya raised the arm to wave at a friend in the distance. “See you in a bit, I have to say hi to Ronit!” she called out over her shoulder as she flitted away from Yamit. Maya knew no Ronit she had to say hi to. She made her way over to where the pristine Karla was sitting with her tearyeyed Mom and two kid sisters, said what had to be said, and went hunting.
*Hemi had jet-black hair and smooth but moderate down of the same color on his chest. Maya knew about the hair on the chest of Yamit’s intended because she’d seen it at Kibbutz Kfar Giladi, way up north, about six years ago, when her 8200 team had spent a bonding weekend at the Kfar Giladi guest house. The army liked the guest house, so other units and teams were also staying there that weekend, from the signal corps and logistics and also from units as secret as 8200 or even more secret ones not to be named.
IT WAS August, so everyone was wearing as little as possible most of the time. Most of the units represented were ones in which both men and women served, and not only men and women but others who had not made up their minds. Of the three men on her team, two were not much to look at.
One, Mikhail, as tall and blue-eyed as his name indicated, was attached to rounded and wavy Yamit. He was the hegemonic type, so Yamit hadn’t been available much for conversation.
She did show up at the pool on Saturday afternoon, though, just after Maya had done some laps, wending her way around frolicking soldiers. Yamit took a seat next to her, put her arm around Maya and squeezed her shoulder, and said that Mikhail was snoring.
The kid with the jet-black hair was lying on a beach recliner on the other side of the pool, reading a book. Yamit followed Maya’s gaze.
“What’s his name?” Maya mumbled something.
“What?” “I don’t know,” Maya said, annoyed.
“Why not?” “Leave me alone.”
“I won’t. You’re lonely. Don’t make a principle out of it.”
“He’s short and swims bad.”
Yamit pivoted out of her recliner and went to make inquiries.
Maya tried to read but spent most of her time wondering what it might be like to spend a night in bed with Mikhail. She was annoyed at herself and told herself to stop. She had to stop fantasizing about her girlfriends’ boyfriends. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t getting her anywhere. She would certainly never dream of acting on such a desire. But, she wondered, academically really, what was it that made her long only for men who were attached to girls she knew, and why she lost interest in the very same guys once they were available. Could she blame it on her mother? It was tempting, but Yamit was back.
“His name’s Hemi,” Yamit said, “but forget it.”
Now that the boy had a name, Maya realized with some surprise that he had indeed been on her mind since she saw him for the first time kicking a ball around on the lawn outside reception. And there was something pleasurable in this realization, not pleasurable in the sense of thinking about him the way she had thought about Mikhail, but pleasurable because he wasn’t attached to one of her friends and she’d been thinking about him anyway. Did this mean something? Was it significant? Important? “Forget it?” she asked Yamit doubtfully.
“I checked with some of the girls from his unit. They say he’s probably gay.”
Maya picked up the nearest section of Yedioth Ahronoth, placed it in front of her face, and stole a glance.
“I don’t believe it.”
“Anyway, he’s never shown any interest in any of them. And a couple have tried.”
Maya liked that. It bespoke good taste.
“And close up he doesn’t look so great.”
She sighed. “Sorry if I’m annoying. I just want you to be happy” Maya made a decision, there by the pool.
There was something between her and Hemi. She felt it. It was something silent but certain, invisible but palpable. It would bring them together again, some time, some place, a month from now, a year from now, more. But when it happened, they would both know that their time had come.
A moment later, she told herself how silly that was.
*When the guests began to migrate slowly toward the wedding canopy, after the deejay announced that the ceremony was about to begin, Maya positioned herself just to the left of the aisle, right behind the last of the ten small rows of chairs that had been put out for the elderly and overweight. She was still alone. Grit and good planning had not been enough. She gazed straight ahead, at where the bride would soon stand.
She felt a flutter of fabric to her left. It was Yamit, hand in hand with Hemi, who she placed between them. Yamit peered around him and smiled. Maya thought it was a malevolent smile, although she realized she’d had four glasses of white wine and had other reasons, too.
“I want you to meet Hemi,” Yamit said.
“Ahlan,” Hemi said. His smile was wide and warm. He put his arm around Yamit’s waist.
Maya smiled, looked down at her shoes, and looked up again. “I remember,” she said.
Hemi glanced at Yamit and then back at her.
“Remember?” he asked. Yamit was about to say something but the music started up and the siblings of the bride and groom walked down the aisle and positioned themselves on the platform, under the canopy. The guests clapped and chattered and cheered as wee cousins in white dresses scattered rose petals and preadolescent cousins tooted on kazoos.
The groom strode down the aisle between his mother and father and then turned to welcome Karla, flanked by her parents.
The clean-shaven rabbi blew into the microphone and began the ceremony.
At just this point, Maya reached over and took Hemi’s hand in hers. She did not look at him, no, she kept her eyes on Karla and her rather baby-faced man. The hand she had placed hers in felt warm. It felt, in fact, like the place where her hand should have been for years now. She waited to see what would happen, whether the sense of destiny that had welled up within her by the pool in Kfar Giladi so long ago had been an intimation of some timeless truth or a mere illusion.
The hand did not move and, unable to hold her head forward, she turned to look. Only to see Hemi’s face turned toward Yamit’s, who had one eye on her and who was in the process of nodding to Hemi. And then he brought his left hand over and ever so gently disengaged his right hand from Maya.
A few minutes later, as she wiped her eyes with a cloth napkin, Yamit moved Hemi aside and put her arm around Maya’s shoulders.
“Do you always cry at weddings?” she asked. Maya shrugged and nodded.
*At the feast she was seated with present and former Cisco employees, not with Yamit, of course. She ate her first course of spicy fish and her second of pistachio-stuffed chicken breast and talked shop and office gossip. She had no more wine because she would be driving home.
In the parking lot, by her Peugeot, she caught sight, for a moment, of Hemi catching sight of her. His car was two rows away from her and Yamit must have already gotten in. He raised his arm, hesitantly, it seemed, and waved.
The breeze coming down the mountain ruffled his hair. Maya waved back, got in her car, and drove home alone. Haim Watzman is the author of ‘Company C: An American’s Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel’ and ‘A Crack in the Earth: A Journey Up Israel’s Rift Valley.’ His website is southjerusalem.com