I talk to my friend Miryam and she says to me:
“If you walk along those endless corridors on the various floors of the Towers and you see those long rows of closed doors, do you ever wonder what goes on behind them?”
In truth, I really don’t! I am always in a hurry to go someplace or to come home from some place, and I really wonder why I never thought about what’s going on behind those doors. It could be for the following reason:
While growing up in my native city, the jewish quarter consisted of mostly very small buildings with very low windows.
Sometimes walking with my mother through this part of the city in the evening, I used to take a peek into the windows which were low enough and which displayed lighted living rooms mostly, where people were having dinner or just sitting and talking...
“You are not supposed to look, admonished my mother, people value their privacy, and it’s none of your business to see what goes on in there!”
“If this is so, I wise-cracked at the age of eight or nine, why don’t they draw the curtains?”
But still, this lesson about protecting other people’s privacy remained with me through life..
Nevertheless, next time I walked along one of the corridors in the Towers, passing the first door, I remembered that I knew the lady who lives there quite well.
About five years ago she asked me for the name of my hairdresser and when she was not happy with his work, she blamed me. She never said hello to me since then.
I looked at the next door, saw the name on it, and couldn’t remember if I knew the resident or not. All was quiet there. But finally two loud voices came out from the next door. They were singing. I listened and recognized the ouverture from the operetta “Die Fledermaus”. I listened more carefully and realized that while the lady of the house was singing in German, her caregiver, a filipino girl was singing in tagalog. I never knew that they translated Strauss into Tagalog. But I enjoyed listening to them.
Continuing on my way, I met the lady whom I call the cat angel. She moves furtively and stealthily and whispers to me:
“I am going down to feed the cats, and they don’t like it. The more I feed them, the more cats come to eat and the people in charge don’t want the cats here! Where did human kindness disappear to?”
She continues on her way and I continue on my trip of discovery. I hear voices coming out from the next door. One lady seems to have an argument with her son:
I hear the mother loud and clear: “Yes she says, you’ve told me again and again that you are pressed for time! But I am sure that you have plenty of time for HER! I am sure that it is actually she who makes sure that you won’t have time to visit me!”
“Mother that’s not true! Believe me, she likes you a lot and she even intends to visit you as soon as she gets the chance, maybe next week-…”
“Of course, of course, last time I saw her was for Rosh Hashanah!”
“You also must know that the ride from Tel-Aviv and back takes a lot of time with the traffic and so! And you and I talk on the phone every day, don’t we?”
“I don’t want the phone! I want to see your face! I have a right to look at my son’s face! So don’t tell me-…”
I move on. I am really embarrassed to listen at doors and therefore quite pleased that no sounds come out from the next two doors. Finally I stop at another door. Beethoven’s Third in full volume. I could spend some time listening, but I am on assignment.
Passing the next door a strong and pungent smell penetrates the corridor. It must be one of the filipino girls cooking a meal. My sense of smell goes into deep protest mode. This is terrible! But it is quite possible that whenever this cook passes one of the other doors beyond which someone prepares some gefilte fish, she feels the same way. It’s again just a matter of geography.
I walk along and suddenly a door opens. A lady who looks slightly confused, says:
“Can you help me? I moved in two days ago only, and I still can’t find my way. I went up with the elevator twice to the 12th floor, and all I want is to get to the lobby. I was just about to try again, but I’ll feel better if you go with me!”
I took her arm and walked with her to the elevators.