I used to share a room with an Irish guy called Frank. He had been a yoga instructor in a former life and after work we would lay side by side on the cold floor tiles and meditate. He had a curly mop of red hair and a soporific voice; more often than not I’d fall asleep listening to him talking only to wake and find him standing over me smiling. He said it was a compliment, the fact that I fell asleep on that hard floor and I think that it made him feel as if he’d not lost his touch.
He was new age and vegetarian. I can’t pretend that I was wholly devoted to his clean living ethos but I was kind of dragged along with it and anyway it broke up the monotony of those long drawn out summer days. Back then I lived and worked in Israel, down in the the Jezreel Valley. It was tough and dry down there and the sun bore down relentlessly, shrivelling up everything in its path. Everything that is except the long green lines of banana trees that swung neatly across the valley floor.
Frank had a sister who had died and he liked to talk about her sometimes as we were weeding or laying on our backs watching the clouds flit across a clear blue sky. I never knew how she’d died and I never asked him, I figured he’d have told me if he wanted to. I learned a lot about his sister during that time, I knew the music she liked, how she wore her hair and even who she hung out with in the small nameless town where they were born. I’d never been to Ireland but I felt like I had by the end of that summer.
We had a small kitchen with a flat roof that we’d cover with bunches of grapes so we’d have our own supply of fresh sultanas. I’d make grape jam once every few weeks and we pretty much lived off that and bananas the whole time we were there.
In the evenings Frank would write his journal and I would read one of the novels I’d borrowed from the small library on the Moshav. I’d pretty much read all the books in English that they had. Frank wrote every evening with a sharp pencil under the dim light of the kerosene lamp. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a diary or a novel and he never let on. I pretended not to care but one time when he left it open on the table and went into town I’m ashamed to say that I read it. I still feel guilty about that.