he problem with Felix—”
Anna pushes the cellphone closer to her ear and stifles a sigh.
“Is that he’s postmodernist, a cynic, a Jew, and probably an atheist. And all that is compounded by the fact that he’s old and lonely.”
“Noach.” Her voice is sharp. “I called to ask if you can bring us back from the hospital. I did not call for an analysis of my brother’s faults. If you can’t, I’ll get a cab. I was just asking, that’s all.”
“A cab? From Shaare Zedek to Beit Shemesh? But that will cost 160, 180 shekels.”
“He’s not well,” she says, forcing a softness she doesn’t feel into her voice.
“I’ll come. Of course I’ll come. What, you think I would leave you there?”
“I’ll leave now.”
As soon as Felix is settled in the guest room of her small Beit Shemesh apartment, Noach clasps both hands behind his back, a sure sign that he is about to begin a rant. Usually, Anna would tolerate it. The general pattern of Noach’s visits fall into two categories: arrive, rant, eat, and leave; or arrive, fall asleep in the chair, eat, and leave. But then, some people’s children don’t visit at all, and he is her son, and at 78, either she is bitter or grateful, and heaven knows, there are enough bitter people in her family. She chooses gratitude. Tonight, though, his rant makes her weary.
Still, she answers his barrage of questions gently: No, I didn’t know that he would be discharged today… The social worker was in touch… I’m his next of kin, who else does he have in the world? The doctor appeared competent — an Arab, but kind and considerate… He’s got an appointment next week. Yes, we’ll have to think of a permanent solution…. A Filipino man might be a solution… But it’s two weeks to Pesach. He can stay with me until after Yom Tov.
And then, with more authority, “He’ll stay with me until after Yom Tov.”
She lifts her fingers to her temples and massages tiny circles. She looks up at her son, pacing the room. Noach is tall, broad-shouldered, and has an energy that takes up all the space in the little living room, leaving her feeling squashed and flattened.
He gives her a sideways look combined with a nod for emphasis, as if all she ever intended to do was to cause difficulties. It’s a look that makes her quail inside, though she’s used to it, though she’s stood her own before and will do it again.
(Excerpted from Calligraphy, Issue 757)