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"She's probably married," Doron says, downing the last drop of espresso while counting his change.
"You said she doesn't wear a wedding ring," Eyal says, reaching into his pocket for the tip.
"That doesn't mean anything," Doron says, putting on his jacket and picking up his briefcase from under the table. "Lots of married women don't wear rings."
"Well, you'll never know unless you ask," Eyal says, following his friend to the parking lot.
"I can't just go up to her and ask her if she's married," Doron insists, yet again.
"So ask her if she's single," Eyal suggests, shaking his head at a young man trying to hand him a Labor Party leaflet and bumper sticker.
"Oh, come on," Doron protests, also waving away the campaigner. "I can't do that!"
"Why the hell not?" Eyal asks with exasperation, looking for his car keys. "What's the worst that can happen?"
"She'll think I'm hitting on her," Doron says with indignation, pausing at his friend's car before walking around to his own.
"That's the whole point," Eyal sighs, sick of being left no choice but to repeat himself - particularly when he really wants to get back to work. "You are hitting on her."
"But she's not supposed to know that," Doron argues, hesitant to end the conversation - his only link to the woman he has been admiring since he first noticed her when they collided while buying sandwiches at a kiosk near his office. And near hers, apparently - something he inferred from the fact that she frequents the place almost daily at around noon. He looks at his watch. If he hurries, he can still make it there on time to run into her. Though what he will do in the event is not clear. Least of all to himself.
"She's not that kind of woman," Doron adds, feebly.
"Oh, really?" Eyal asks, impatiently. "What kind of woman is she - dead?"
"She's classy and elegant," Doron retorts. "And sort of snooty."
Eyal smirks as he imparts a final piece of advice through his car window.
"Just do it, you schmuck," he says, driving away.
Doron takes off in the opposite direction, literally and figuratively. It's easy for Eyal to dismiss his concerns, he thinks. Eyal hasn't been "out there" in 30 years, give or take the occasional extramarital one-night stand. What could he possibly understand about how it feels to have to start over again? How could he fathom the humiliation of being a grown man who may as well be in high school? Where does he come off imagining that he'd behave any differently under similar circumstances? Why would he assume that being rejected is any less mortifying when you're balding?
Deep down, Doron actually knows the answer. It is that Eyal never feared girls - not in high school, not in the army, not in university. Which is why he always had his pick. Probably why he still would. This used to drive Doron - who was by all accounts better-looking than Eyal - crazy. But then, women were always as incomprehensible to him as they were enraging. Particularly his wife - who was, by all accounts, "lucky to have landed him," yet who left him for a guy so unattractive and mediocre that Doron is still recuperating from the shock. And the sting.
It's not even as if the guy were rich or anything - which, to Doron would at least have made some kind of sense. Eyal's explanation - during the immediate aftermath of the break-up and subsequent picking-up-the-pieces period - had seemed way too simplistic for Doron to accept: that the "other man" saw what he wanted and went after it. A trait Eyal asserted was "irresistible to all women."
STOPPING AT a red light, Doron rolls up his window to avoid the outstretched hand of a beggar whose approach he sees in his side mirror. To shield himself from guilt and ill ease, he turns his gaze to a makeshift sign on the side of the road - bemoaning the plight of women denied Jewish divorces.
"That's what I'm like," he thinks, shuddering at the sudden identification he feels with the pauper trying to get his attention. "A supplicant. Pleading for any morsel of good will."
The clock on the dashboard tells him he'd better step on it if he intends to get a glimpse of the object of his longing. And he'd better go straight there, instead of leaving his car at the office and arriving on foot.
Maybe Eyal is right, he tells himself. Maybe she's not married, after all. Not that he could ask her directly. Not a woman like that. And if he blew his chances on the first try, he'd never muster up the nerve for a second attempt.
No, he thinks. What he needs is a plausible excuse to talk to her. To test the water. Ease into it gradually. Establish initial contact. Which would enable him to greet her casually with a "Hi, how're you doing?" the following day. Or something along those lines.
"Hi, how're you doing?" a deep voice calls out as Doron pulls up to the curb in front of the kiosk and adjacent autoshop. Doron looks up, startled, as though somebody had just read his mind. But the call, he realizes, is not meant for him. Rather, it is aimed at her - the lady Doron has been fixated on from afar for weeks.
Quickly, Doron turns off the ignition and eavesdrops on the banter between "his" woman and a coarse-looking man with grease on his jeans.
"Do I know you?" she asks.
"Do you want to know me?" he asks in return, smiling unapologetically.
The woman starts to walk away.
"Are you married?" the man asks loudly.
"What do you care?" the woman responds, slowing her pace and turning her head around slightly.
"A beautiful woman like you deserves to be treated like a queen," he says, catching up to her and handing her his card.
The woman laughs appreciatively. Doron feels like crying.
"Call me," the man says, grinning with the excitement of uncertainty.
Watching the man strut back to his shop, Doron reads the inscription on the back of his Nike tee-shirt: "Just do it."
"Schmuck," Doron says, more to himself than to the competition.