The Out Kid
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Poetry of Healing and Abuse
Journal of a Narcissist
Malignant Self Love Narcissism Revisited
After the Rain How the West Lost the East
A World in Conflict and Transition
Sima was six years old when she died. Mother turned off the television and instructed me to go to my grandma's home at once. It was that time of day between retiring sunlight and emerging gloom. My grandmother was sobbing silently, seated gingerly on a shabby couch, her face buried in an oversized and crumpled handkerchief. My grandpa, muted, just hugged her close. It all reminded me of a Passover Eve, refreshments strewn on tables, hastily appended by my uncles and covered with flowery rags.
All lights were on, tarring the wiry tree in the garden with juddering shadows. I sat in the corner, thinking about Sima, wondering if her beauty survived her death. They said she had leukemia and vomited blood incessantly. She died, awash with it, her pallid face depressed against my grandpa's shoulder. I pondered if it was right to go on loving her. I thought about Uzi, her brother and my cousin.
After the funeral, Uzi was sent to a Kibbutz, never to return, leaving behind unfinished cowboy-and-Indian games on my grandmother's verandah. There were so many things I had to tell him but he was gone.
A few months later, my aunt invited me to join her to visit the Kibbutz. In her youth, she was a green-eyed, lithe beauty - cascading, raven hair and my mother's cheekbones, but gentler. She divorced still young and then Sima died on her and she found employment in Haifa, in a hospice for the terminally ill.
She was a recluse, living in a tiny, viewless flat which she compulsively scoured and polished. She spared her words and I was deterred by these and other eccentricities. But I wanted to see Uzi again and talk to him, as we used to. I imagined his full-cheeked laughter and the sparkle in his eyes, under his curls.
So, I said I'll come along and found myself, one summer morning, accompanying my aunt to the Kibbutz, a winding, dusty way. We switched countless buses and sipped orange juice through straws and my aunt tilted her wide-brimmed hat to expose a lock of graying hair. Her eyes were moist. She said: "I am going to see my Uzi now. It's been so long." The sun invaded her fedora, imprisoning her quavering lips behind a beaming grid.
I wanted to enquire why did she send Uzi to the Kibbutz to start with and tell her how I missed his smile, our games, the bucket loads of water he would pour on me after we bathed in the nearby sea. But I refrained because her eyes went metal when she mentioned him. She never even mentioned Sima.
So, there we were, standing at the gate, she and I and our gear, all packed in fading plastic bags at our feet, enshrouded by the black vapor of the shimmering asphalt and the roaring and receding bus. My aunt, contemplating the waning transport, grabbed my sweaty palm and lifted the rustling shopping bags. A whiskered driver of a tractor regarded us with curiosity, then guided us to our destination.
My aunt clenched a childish fist to tap the door, but left it hanging in mid-air awhile. Then, she let it drop, an alien appendage. She removed her hat, clinging to it awkwardly, straightened the wrinkles in her dress and gazed at her flat patent shoes uncomfortably. She knocked on the outer screen rigidly and the sounds reverberated in the house like distant thunder.
The door was opened so instantly that we recoiled. My aunt stared at the middle-aged woman and returned her barely audible "hello". It was as though her body shrunk. She undulated with her baggage eagerly. The older woman's lips were smiling at my aunt, but her eyes remained on guard.
She told me to look for Uzi in the animal corner, close to the mountain, among the cowsheds and cages. She needs to talk to my aunt in private, she ventured unnecessarily.
She softly shut the door behind me and I stood, dazed by the scorching sun. Barefoot and well-tanned kids, clad in shorts and T-shirts, surrounded and studied me and I reciprocated. I froze and they did not get closer. We formed two groups and measured one another.
A bird-like girl broke the spell: "Are you a new Out Kid?"
I didn't know what was an Out Kid. I told her that I was Uzi's cousin and that I am searching for him.
She gave a toothy smile, crossed the invisible barrier and held my trembling hand: "Let's go". She examined me, astounded, when I withdrew and violently extracted myself from her grasp.
We silently traversed some green-hedged paths. Brown signs with massive yellow lettering were everywhere. She navigated deftly among the gravel and the fences until we reached a bank of crates, laid on the sun-parched ground and hosting rabbits. Their wheezy, ribbed breathing nearly unstitched their fur.
Uzi was standing there, his back to us. He leaned his head on an extended arm, supported by the cage's frame, perusing a frightened rodent, whose nostrils twitched with desperation.
I called out: Uzi! He turned around listlessly and looked at me, as though unsure of my identity. My guide hopped from one dainty foot to another, her discomfiture increasing. Finally she departed and joined the growing bunch of children that monitored us from afar.
"It is a porcupine" - said Uzi, his eyes averted. "I tend to it and to the entire animal corner. We have sheep and horses, too" - he hugged the circumference with a bronzed gesticulation. "I climb the mountain daily with my father" - he added. I kept silent. His real father deserted him when he was toddler.
Uzi grew quiet, too. He kicked a pile of dry manure and asked me if I want to see the cows and I said I did and off we went. It was like in the olden days, when he and Sima and myself strolled down the white-hot pavements. She had an auburn mane she locked into a ponytail, her mother's eyes, green tarns, a swan's own neck. She made us laugh at the unexpected femininity of her most childish enquiries.
Then and there, with Uzi by my side, it was as nothing happened, a midsummer's nightmare, when you wake, perspiring, but in a familiar bed.
We talked profusely and laughed and I inevitably dived into some straw-infested fertilizer and didn't mind at all because Uzi was with me to pour large bucketfuls of glacial water he carried from a nearby stream. I closed my eyes and pretended to be at sea, to have brought along the spraying waves and the caressing breeze, a gift to Uzi, and a reminder.
The native kids just followed us, their eyes azure, their skins a seamless copper. They tracked our movements with naked, strapping bodies and clean-smelling hair. They clung to us and giggled secretly and pointed at Uzi and whispered in each other's elfin ears, and then they chuckled.
Uzi said not a word. He passed a soothing hand on a horse's muzzle and a cow's leg and the pulsating furs of bunnies. He gently pulled their elongated ears and they scurried to and fro and made him laugh. He had a gurgling, erupting laughter, Uzi had.
We climbed a thorny, stone-filled road atop a hill, pausing to look at the vanishing Kibbutz at our feet. "There's my home" - Uzi singled out a cubicle. I wasn't sure which one he meant, but I did not insist. I only looked at the hazy greenery and at the gleaming swimming pool and said: "Let's go down, I am worn out."
The children awaited our descent and cried at Uzi, who ignored them. He only hastened his steps and so did I. They followed us. Surrounded, stranded on a tiny path, we stopped. They shoved Uzi and pulled.
"Who is he?" - they demanded - "Why did he come here? Where is he from?"
He frowned and said: "It's no one special. He just came with my mother from over there" - with a vague gesture to indicate the nowhere.
The girl fixed me with her gaze.
"It's nothing, it's no one! He is only here for a visit, I am telling you!" - Uzi pleaded.
"He must return where he came from" - said one of them, his eye a cold blue sparkle. His jaws rippled as he spoke, skin smooth and dry. My shirt was dabbed in sweat and hung, keeled over, from my thick, long trousers. "Let him go back" - echoed the girl - "We cannot have another one of you. Isn't it enough that you gorge on our food and have new parents?"
Uzi was soundless, his head lowered. I couldn't look into his eyes like we used to do when we were sad. Sima and I had this game of who would be the first to stare down the other with an invincible, metallic look. Deep inside, I thought, this must be how Uzi sees them - as enemies to be stared down and out and away.
One kid approached and tugged him at the shoulder and Uzi stooped. It was as if a valve was drawn, the air let out, to render a misshapen Uzi. Another child stepped forcefully on Uzi's earth-baked, sweat-furrowed toes. His breath mingled with his quarry's as he increased the pressure. Uzi's face contorted but he didn't budge.
Jaded and starved they left and we proceeded to Uzi's new abode, amidst the well-trimmed lawns and neck-high hedges. He knocked hesitantly and someone let us in. Uzi erupted in bitter sobbing, beating his sides with pale-clenched fists. He stood there, squealing and grunting, like the animals in his corner and the muffled sounds filled the house and washed over the bowl of fruits and the heavy, murky curtains, and the antique wooden furniture, rebounding, a thousand echoes.
My aunt called his name. His new parents entered the kitchenette and sealed the sliding door. I had nowhere else to be. "I brought you some food" - said the mother and he nodded bravely and brushed aside the tears that threatened to emerge. She opened the overflowing plastic bags with learned helplessness, displaying pastries she prepared at home.
But Uzi selected a mid-size orange and peeled it expertly, stuffing his mouth as he progressed. The orphaned pies adorned the table that stood between them. They both avoided looking at each other. Still with diverted eyes she extended an uncertain hand and touched his shoulder. He shrank under her stroke, so she withdrew and sat up, tense, straddling the edge of a recliner.
Thus, they circled one another wearyingly. A longcase clock ticked minutes and then hours before my aunt got up, mauling her wide-brimmed hat, and said: "I must be going now" and Uzi nodded, devouring yet another orange. He didn't even rise to bid farewell.
"I'll come to visit you" - she promised but her pledge sounded tinny and rehearsed. Uzi consumed the fruit and stared intently at the floor. His mother took my soiled palm in hers and exited the house. No one escorted us to the gate or to the grimy station. We stood there, in the sweltering sun, until we heard the bus, uproarious, like echoes of a far-off battle.