Flipside: Confidence-building measures

0102-flip (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Tel Aviv, they agree, would be the perfect place to meet. Neither likes the idea of getting together at Orit's house in Kfar Saba, or at Ella's in Petah Tikva. Particularly not under the current circumstances. That Orit's live-in boyfriend (whom she used to refer to as her "partner," but switched to "significant other" when the former was appropriated by the gay community) is working at home this week - and that Ella's kids and their cohorts have taken over her kitchen for school and scouts projects - makes anything other than small-talk impossible. And common chit-chat can be conducted over the phone. As it has been done daily by the two close chums for years. Neither actually comes out and admits the reason she needs some "private time" with her confidant. Which leaves each the option of changing her mind about getting certain things off her chest. And about laying them on the table for examination. But first, the right "table" has to be decided upon. This is more complicated than one might think, as neither Orit nor Ella is familiar enough with the "city that never sleeps" to know which cafes still permit smoking on the premises, or which streets are one-way and in which direction. The beach, which always ends up being their choice for the above considerations, is out of the question, of course, what with the cold front's unusual severity. What neither spells out in so many words - but which each sees with utter clarity - is that even if they have to sit in one or the other's car with the engine turned off and drink take-away cappuccino in paper cups, the outing is worth the effort. This is in spite of weather and traffic conditions - nuisances of little concern when weighed against the inability to indulge in the exchange of intimate information. Especially the kind involving details never shared with anyone other than, well, one another. It is in this spirit that Orit and Ella set out for their coveted rendezvous, neither revealing its purpose up front, yet each aware deep-down of its urgency. And it is this state of consciousness that enables each to weep as she drives, lip-synching to songs that strum on those strings of her soul that are directly tied to her tear ducts - with the windshield-wipers serving as a metronome. THEY ARRIVE at the predetermined intersection at the designated hour. Each blows her nose with a tissue from her glove compartment; each looks in her rear-view mirror, then reapplies her makeup - a last-ditch attempt at upholding the mutual charade that each has no real intention of perpetuating for more than the few minutes it will take to order a double espresso. Each clears her throat before touching base by phone to discuss parking strategies. Orit characteristically takes a crack - and succeeds - at landing a curbside spot in front of the restaurant they have been told has managed to remain under the radar of the cigarette squads. Ella safely settles on a lot a few blocks away. "You look incredible," Orit coos, standing up to kiss her friend's cheek, rosy from the chill - and from Ella's having run here from the garage. "Uch, I'm a total mess," Ella groans, waving dismissively as she takes a seat. "You, on the other hand, look like a million dollars." "Yeah, right," Orit laughs with self-deprecation. "And sinking at the same rate." Ella suddenly turns serious. "At least you've got money to worry about," she says, welling up in spite of herself. "And a man." "Money that's not mine," Orit whimpers. "And a man who's lost all interest in having fun. At least you've got children... and a career." "Children who think I'm a terrible mother," Ella sniffles. "And a career that's taking me and them straight to the poorhouse." "I hate my life," they announce simultaneously, each bowing her head and starting to sob. "You're kidding," they say in unison, looking up at the same moment, with identical amazement, if not relief. "Honestly, you don't know how lucky you are," Orit declares emphatically, more with empathy than envy. "Look who's talking," Ella replies softly, more with sympathy than sarcasm. "How do you mean?" Orit asks, half defensively, half fishing for a compliment. "Come on," Ella answers. "You've got the Midas touch, even when it comes to parking your car." "That's a trait with teeth," Orit sighs, exhaling jets of Marlboro Light through her nostrils. "It always comes back to bite you in the butt." Still, she is secretly pleased to be reminded of this gift she's always had and therefore tends to take for granted. "What you've got is far more valuable in the long run," she adds. "Which is what?" Ella challenges, desperate for a straw to grasp. "You persevere," Orit asserts. "You take your family and professional commitments seriously; perform your duties, no matter how hard they are or how weary you grow. Most important, whatever you have, you earned by the sweat of your own brow." "It's a thankless pursuit," Ella shrugs, tapping her ashes absent-mindedly. "All it leads to is loneliness, an overdraft and fear of parking tickets." Still, she is secretly pleased to be reminded of this gift she's always had and therefore tends to take for granted. "Oh, look at the time!" Orit gasps. "We've got the Philharmonic this evening, and I haven't even figured out what I'm wearing." "Wow, is it that late already?" Ella echoes. "I've got to get dinner on the table, and I haven't even figured out what I'm making." TEL AVIV, they agree, is the perfect place to meet. Why, they wonder, don't they do this more often? "I feel so much better," Orit remarks, bidding her buddy farewell as she hops into her Honda. "Me, too," Ella says, waving as she walks. "Talk to you tomorrow," each signals to the other, neither able, at this moment, to recall what her earlier fuss was all about. [email protected]