My daughter and I are in the car. She has asked me to tell her about what life was like before mommy. She wanted to know if I was a grown up for a long time before I got married and what I did for fun. So I told her a little bit about my old apartment and how my friends and I used to play together and shared a few innocuous stories. Later on that night when all was quiet and I was left alone with the dog and my thoughts I sat and remembered what had once been.
It is April 1995 and I have been back from Israel for a very short time. My intention is to finish out my contract, pack up my bags and move. I can’t stop thinking about Jerusalem. I can’t stop thinking about ancient streets interspersed among modern conveniences. I can’t stop thinking about sights, sounds and smells that are very different from home. And though I think of Los Angeles as home I see Jerusalem in similar terms.
I can’t walk the streets without running into people I know. Late at night I share a pitcher of beer with friends and we talk about the future. I am a Peace Corps baby. My parents met in South America. It wouldn’t be unheard of for me to pick up and move. I think about all that is involved and wonder if making Aliyah is the thing to do. I stare at soldiers and remember how when I was 16 they all looked so old and now at 25 they look so young. I picture myself in uniform. I am still young enough to serve and am willing to do it. It is a good thing.
The relationships you make in the army make a difference in your life. Shared experiences help to minimize some of the distinctions between being a native and an immigrant. I sit in a pub in Jerusalem with a group of Anglos. The South African guy and the girl from Scotland give me a hard time because I wear my baseball cap backwards. They try to tease me about my accent in Hebrew and I tell them that when they learn how to speak English they can talk. A vigorous debate erupts about what is going to happen.
Rabin and Arafat are still talking, maybe peace is possible. Or maybe not. Not far away are bullet holes left from a terrorist attack. We don’t know it, but Rabin will be assasinated, the second intifada will break out and for a while there will be a ton of terrorist attacks. But that is all in the future and the night is young. Someone asks me if I know their cousin in San Francisco. They don’t realize that San Francisco is 400 or so miles away from Los Angeles.
My apartment is dark. I don’t have cable or satellite television. There is no DVD player here. That is new technology and I can’t afford to think about spending $500 or more for a player. I have a VCR and lots of movies on tape. I live on the second floor in Apartment 19. It is a one bedroom that some people might consider a bit of a dump, but I like it. It is big and I can afford to live there on my own. The neighbors in 20 and 21 are a bit crazy but fun. The guys in 20 have three pitbulls that are exceptionally friendly. They bark like crazy whenever people walk the stairs and you can’t quite tell where they are. Lots of people think that they are in my place.
That uncertainty leads me to not always lock my door. I figure that anyone with common sense will avoid “breaking” into my place.
I am sitting on the couch listening to one of my Ray Charles CDs. I am drinking Scotch and trying to imagine what life will be like. It is hard to be home. It is hard to be in LA when I feel like I need to explore. It is hard to be in LA when I feel like I need to figure out what Jerusalem is. I can’t say for certain that it could be home without living there for an extended period. I get lost in thoughts of what could be and feel less connected at both home and work.
“Look daddy, that is where you used to live.”Â She is only partially right. We are passing by where I used to live but the building is gone. Torn down to make way for something else the ground is devoid of evidence that once I lived there.Â Can’t say that I am surprised by this. It is not an archeological dig and even if it was they wouldn’t find anything that identified me. When I moved out I took the few possessions that I owned with me.
I don’t tell her that I regret not having done it. Can’t tell her that. I celebrate being a father daily. My children bring me joy, but I am honest with myself.Â I have very few regrets in life but those that I do have are big. This is one. This is an itch that has never been scratched. Maybe one day I’ll do it. Maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity and we’ll see what happens. I don’t want to dream my life away. I want to live my dreams.
What is done is done and I can’t change that. I am good about being present in the moment, whatever moment that is. But sometimes I get lost wondering about the road not taken and what might have been.