Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 14, Part 1

The next two weeks were much like that first one in many ways. Otis was waking me up every night walking on my hair. But despite these nightly interruptions, I still enjoyed from Otis very much, especially the video version of him that Eos had started editing with her voice dubbed in where he was meant to be speaking. It was exciting knowing that we had made something unique and entertaining and funny and that the world didn’t know about it yet but soon they would. It felt like knowing a top secret, sort of.

The editing happened mostly at nights and so during the mornings, Eos and I made films in different parts of the city. We went to the beach some few times, which is similar to the beaches in Tel Aviv—lots of trash laying around by people who can’t be bothered to clean up after they’ve been there. And lots of people subjecting themselves to the harmful rays of the sun—on purpose! Perhaps they never lost anyone to cancer before. Or perhaps it was some version of suicide. Whatever the reason, I can never understand the joy that comes by being on a beach for the purpose of sun. For playing volleyball or swimming or picnicking or especially matkot, of course, but not for the sun. If you’ve never played matkot, which is basically something like paddleball, or even tennis without the net, I can’t recommend it enough. The word comes from the Arabic madka, which means to knock, because the rubber ball makes a knocking sound on the wooden racquet when it’s hit. In my family, I was the matkot champion who easily beat my brothers and even my father, who used to be the champion until my arrival to the sport. I’ll tell you the secret to becoming a great matkot player: learn how to put the spin on the ball. It’s like in Ping-Pong where you have to use your wrist side-to-side or up-and-down at the very moment the paddle strikes the ball. This gives the ball some movement in the air and makes it harder for your opponent to knock it back to you.

Eos and I saw two guys playing matkot on the beach in Venice and wouldn’t you know it, when we approached them under the excuse of asking to film them, I discovered in a matter of some few seconds that they were Israelis. It turned out that they didn’t want to be on Ask Otis, but still it was great showing off my Hebrew in front of Eos. She looked impressed. And even though the Israelis didn’t have anything interesting to say at all, as far as Eos knew, we were talking about, say, the difference between Terrestrial Dynamical Time and Barycentric Dynamical Time. Of course, in all actual reality, they were basically asking me if Eos was single and if she had some friend for the other guy. I had to lie at that one and say she wasn’t single and she had no friends because she worked all the time, which in some ways was true—at least the second part.

Other than a photograph of her standing with some few other girls in Hawaii, which she kept on the refrigerator at Park La Brea under a letter H magnet right next to the Arnold Newman photo of midget Stravinsky, there wasn’t much evidence of Eos having friends. I’d asked her about the photograph one night and she said they were her girlfriends from film school, but in all the time we were together, I only heard her speaking to one of them on the phone a couple times. Never was she going out to the bars or to shop or malls or anything like this. We worked on the video all the time and that, along with locating the guy from the party, was all that occupied her time.

For me, a lot of my time was spent wishing I were this elusive mystery guy or trying to get the chutzpah—that’s something like Israeli guts, you could say—to ask her more questions about him; like why was she really interested in finding him and what was so special about him other than he had an uncle with the name Saul? But bringing up the subject was something I didn’t ever dared dream of doing. Breaking Alcatraz would have been a piece of cake next to bringing up this subject. It was like my real mission impossible, you could say. Which is probably why when I finally did ask her, it was in a state of something like a drug trip.

If I can remember myself right, here’s how it all happened:

We had finished some edits on the first episode at her computer, which she keeps in a corner of the parquet-floor dining room downstairs in her apartment. My job during edit sessions was pretty minor because it’s not so much a two-person operation. She sits with a software program called Final Cut Pro and goes through all the films we have and picks out the answers from the people she likes best. While she’s doing this, you can generally find me sitting on the sofa reading The Master and Margarita, which I enjoyed from very much, but also found some inaccuracies. For instance, in the Master’s novel about Pontius Pilate, so basically Bulgakov has the Master write the story of Jesus marching with the cross out of Jerusalem to the hill where he was to be crucified. And in those pages, the Master refers to the Hebron Gate in Jerusalem. But this entrance to the city, which is called Bab el-Halil originally in Arabic and means something like The Beloved, you could say, was built only in 1538 by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. So it’s impossible for Jesus to have walked through this gate from the Old City because it never existed in his times. But there’s a lot of playing with time in the novel and the novel inside the novel, so it was making me curious to know if Bulgakov knew this fact, if he’d ever really been to Jerusalem, or if it was just some funny mistake he had no idea of.

Anyway, I was still really liking the novel and read it all the time there on her sofa because I didn’t have much work, except to check out what she was doing from time to time when she’d ask, Fareed, what about this person instead of this person? or Fareed, what if he comes first and then her? and all kind of questions like that. The funny part is, no matter what I said, she always kept it exactly like she had it, or she’d change it, but not because of my answer. Many times I’d say, “I like A, not B,” but she’d change it to B. So asking me my opinion was sort of like asking Otis for his opinion when he’s in his poop box doing his cat business.

Anyway, that day, her eyes were starting to hurt her from staring at the computer screen so many hours from one to the next and so she suggested we go to one of the children’s playgrounds that was near her apartment. It was already becoming dark outside and so no real children would be using it.

I folded down the page I was reading in The Master and Margarita, and we walked over there with a ball to kick back and forth as she told me a funny story about how she erased, by accident, a big film project she was working on in college.

“I thought it was an older version of the file,” she explained to me. “I thought I was just cleaning up the disk drive, trashing all the old versions that were slowing the thing down. You know what I mean?”

I did know what she meant because I was the person who liked to keep the hard drive as clean as possible, too, and ran my disk defrag probably more often than I needed to.

“But then I realized I’d trashed the most current version of the film and I was, like, nooooooooooooooooooooo! Weeks worth of work, gone… and I had to start all over.”

I didn’t want to laugh because it sounded like such a tragedy, but the way Eos talked sometimes, her unique mannerisms, were just making me laugh so much. I enjoyed from the way she told her stories because they always made me feel like I was there with her, or like she wanted me to be there with her, and my whole body would be full up with warmth and a good feeling that maybe is what people call love, though it was different from the way I loved my father, and am still loving the memories I have of the good times with my mother.

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

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