Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 10, Part 2

I say to her in the dream, But mom, you have to fight it. We can do without the dinners and the doing up of the beds and we can shop for our own food. I tell her that she can’t quit like this because she’s young and the mathematical odds of surviving favor her very much. I remind her that Israel has the best doctors in the world and all the latest technologies and I also tell her about the four Nobel laureates that Israel has, just because it sounds impressive and maybe she will trust me because I know more than she does about some things. For the same reason, I remind her about Alexander Levitzki, who did not win the Nobel for his cancer research but discovered new chemicals that slow the progress of some cancers and make other cancers die. And I use all these impressive names and things I know about the Israeli medicine field to try and win the argument with her, so that she has no choice other than to fight.

But she says no. She says the decision has been made already. And at this point she is no longer crying and looking very serious at me. And I say, But mom, and she says, no. She will not argue it any longer. And she gets up from the toilet and walks out of the bathroom and I realize that I had the water running the entire time.

This is something I’ve seen Eos do when she washes her teeth. And also when she washes her dishes at the sink. The water just goes and goes and goes until she is finished. It’s a terrible waste!

In this dream with my mom, I was sad about the water, which also made me sad again that she couldn’t be with us in the Winnebago—that she couldn’t see the films I shot earlier in the day. And it was also a crazy dream because in the waking life, she never said anything to me that she was not going to fight the cancer. On the contrary! She was a real fighter and never was thinking twice about this, as far as I knew.

I called my father’s mobile phone in the Winnebago just to make sure I was right. He was on his way to pick up some men from Home Depots for help painting a house he was working on in the Conejo Valley. Conejo, I learned from Eos, means rabbit in Spanish, just so you know. Also, just so you know: there are many brown illegal alien men waiting outside the Home Depots here in Los Angeles. My father always goes there very early in the morning to pick them up and they help him paint for a very low amount of money.

I met a few of the workers who were standing in the parking area of Home Depots because sometimes we give them rides in the Winnebago to the job. One guy, Jorge, was very nice and gave me from his lunch bag some food I never ate before called pupusa that was interesting and had beans and meat and cheese and all kind of flavors I never had before. He also was interesting because he didn’t speak one word of English. My father had to use his hands to tell Jorge what he wanted and he had to write numbers on paper so they could agree on the work price. This was sad to me because if you’re sneaking in through the border from Mexico, which is what Eos said is happening, you should at least know some few basic words. I tried teaching Jorge how to say I am hungry, I am thirsty, Where is the bathroom? and How many hours will it take? but after two days, he could only say I am thirsty and because he was missing teeth in the front, so the word thirsty had a whistle accompanying it each time.

After the dream, when I really phoned my father to check if my mom ever said she didn’t want to fight the cancer, he was just pulling into the Home Depots parking area and did not have too much time to talk. But he said it was good to hear my voice and when I quickly asked him the question about mom, he said Anta tahlam!—so it basically means in Arabic “You’re dreaming!”—which was making me laugh because I hadn’t even told him about the dream.

He said the doctor’s always called her a real fighter, right from the time they diagnosed her and he reminded me how active she was even when she was so exhausted from the chemo—how she was still driving to Tel Aviv all us kids who were volunteering at the camps during the Lebanon War and how she was packing supplies for the soldiers and all kind of stuff like that.

And then I was going to tell my dad about the dream and question him about what he thought it meant, but he arrived to the Home Depots parking area and was already speaking to several Mexican day workers and had to close his phone.

So instead, I told the dream story to Eos when she woke up, while she was putting food in Otis’s bowl. To clarify: I mean the dream about my mother, not the one resulting in the soiled underwears. And she said she thought it meant that I was sorry for myself that I didn’t do more to help my mom fight the cancer, even though I probably did all I could do during the time.

She also said that she looked again at some few photos I’d left on her dining table of my village and my family. “I don’t think village is the right word, Fareed,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I said.

She said, “I mean you keep referring to this place you grew up as a village and that’s not exactly what we’d call it, judging from these photos. A village to us is like a place in the third world without electricity, or maybe without paved roads. It’s something out of the 19th century. You know what I’m saying?”

I didn’t know what she was saying, exactly, because in Hebrew, we call where I live a kfar, which best translates to village. “So what do you call it?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, now putting water in Otis’s other bowl, “you could call it a town, or maybe a township. Or a municipality or a borough, I don’t know exactly, but it certainly is no village, that’s all I’m saying. You’ve got pizza joints and art galleries and strip malls and video stores and it’s all very urban and cool looking, except maybe that there’s the occasional chicken running across the road. But hey, I’ve seen plenty of small towns in Vermont and places like that with chickens pecking their way around.”

And then she went back to talking about my mother because she was referring to a picture I took in my village, or town I guess I should start calling it, where we were putting a marker on the earth for the dead. In Arabic it’s called a maqbara'—something like a gravestone, I guess, only without the body because my mother wanted to go back to the ashes. Eos said it was a very beautiful memorial stone that we’d picked.

And I said I thought so too and that maybe someday she’d come to Israel and visit me and I could show her it in person, along with all kind of other things, like our video store and the pizza place, which is actually named Pizza Mania.

Eos came over to me and hugged me and I could smell the night’s sleep in her t-shirt and it smelled so good. She said she would make sure to come visit me one day, and at that point I had to excuse myself quickly to the bathroom because my heart started to beat hard when she did that and I was afraid from what might come out of my penis again. I stood there at the toilet waiting for the sperms to come out, but it was only pee this time and I was very relieved.

Check out previous chapters of Trivial Pursuits {?} right here.

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