Family Man/ Ran Gavrieli

“A Man returns to his wife at night and lies. Why would he lie to her? because his wife is not fond of the bitter juice dripping from the truth. He offers her only sweet refreshments.” {Meir Wieseltier}

Hot summer night. I am climbing heavily, but happily, into the car. Feeling the sand holding on to the moist of my flip-flops, sticking and accumulating on my feet. Every time, and yet I am surprised. As if I honestly believed that washing the sand off of my feet in the aggressive fountain flow would keep them steadily clean until I get into the car. As if I have never visited the beach before. As if I did not know the nature of sand.

 

It is after sunset. The night, as wieseltier wrote, comes down on us in kangaroo hops. Upon the parking lot exit of the well-kept North-Tel-Aviv beach, a line of humans for sale is already being assembled.

Women and men hiding their self-identity. Human-beings who are overpowered by trauma and exploitation, at least for the time being. Up until not long ago I used to pass by them with astonishment composed by revulsion and a certain alienation, passing through without really looking at them. Like the sand and the pitch on the back of your sandals, they were instantly washed away from my consciousness, any trace of their being an aesthetic deficiency in the landscape of my pleasant life while leaving the beach would evaporate before long. Today I look at them. Observing their anxiously darting eyes, terrified of the world. I wonder, how much damage, how many horrible types of suffering, turn a man’s gaze, a woman’s gaze, to one of constant panic and ceaseless suspicion. Eyes filled with terror and dread from the bottom of oblivion.   

 

I conduct myself as usual, supposedly. Setting down the dry towel on the driver’s seat to isolate it from the dampness of my clothes, shaking my flip-flops, rubbing my feet to one another in order to get rid of the stubborn sand before I climb fully into the car, checking the panoramic mirror for the pimple on the side of my forehead, most of it has whitened and hardened during my salty sweaty hours at the beach, starting the car and slowly crawling out of the parking lot. The order of my operations is same as always but my experience is different. All through my packing routine I act as if automatically and let my attention and gaze focus on the older thick woman standing under the parasol by the dune. It is hard for me to estimate the age from which I remember her here. Perhaps fifteen years, or twenty, and as nothing has changed, she is still there. The young women around her as if remained in the same age they were fifteen years ago too, this awfully young age. One of them appears familiar. Tall with an upturned nose, high chiseled cheek-bones and her back slightly hunched by her slouching shoulders. She is wearing a stiff wonder bra imitation, which hides her tiny breasts and gives the illusion that it is turgid and bountiful. A cheap thin garment over her bra, one that is considered feminine or seductive for some reason. Her extremely short skirt unveiling the bottom half of her buttocks and only her flat heal-less shoes severe the unified mien in a sagacious decision of pragmatism. Why does her face feel familiar…?  That’s it, I do not know her, but she hold a disturbing resemblance to the sister of one of my closest friends, Roi Shapira, leggy – lanky, tall and thin with noodle-looking limbs and a slightly hunched posture. A nice guy from up north. I dwell for another second on the lost girl’s gentle face, his face, his sister Hila’s face, as if to make sure that it is indeed a different girl, and when I am somewhat relieved I move on. Suddenly I revisit the memory of Eliyahu Shapira, their father, and the things he told me on a Saturday noon at a barbecue party long time ago, when Roi celebrated his twentieth birthday.

family man - beach scene
family man - prostitude scene
bbq red

 

“So, what say you about Roi’s new girlfriend?” he asked me in a loud patronizing voice of a captain, while muttering to his neighbor-friend who was busy with the drinks, “what a babe”. There was no one there but the three of us, in the Shapira family’s back yard. Roi and the small number of early arrivers were discussing military stuff around the kitchen table, deep inside the lavish residence.
They were all too far to listen to the content of our exchange, yet Eliyahu’s diction and tone style remained as usual, and Eliyahu Shapira’s usual demeanor is mainly composed by a display of his wealth, his knowledge and his unbearable arrogance.
“Which one?” I asked provokingly, “By ‘new girl’, you mean Yaeli?”
“How many broads does he have, Eliyahu’s boy, one for each day?”, said the alcohol importer in a raunchy smile and continued without waiting for a response, “It’s like that joke about the king who took seven women, so he has a different one for each day of the week and when he was asked what happens if one of them gets sick on the same day she is expected to be with him, he replied in a royal indifference: Sick, her loss!” the two stout back-haired men whose head hair thins while their nose and ears grow wildly laughed like a couple of fattened hyenas, exposing the back of their yellow-crowned mouths, white foam accumulating on the side of their lips and the fat cigars held between their fingers generating noisome pillars of smoke. As they finally calmed down, they raised their glasses of expensive whiskey, imported by the drink-company owned by the neighbor – “A close friend is better than a distant brother”, as Eliyahu says. They gulped while Eliyahu continues:
“He needs to have as much fun now as possible! In five, ten years, he will make the same mistake we made and that’s it, he’s done. You reckon what I’m telling you? That’s what I told Roi, in your age there is no such thing as cheating bullshit, girlfriend or no girlfriend. In your age it is Eat-Drink-Fuck as much as you can because we might die tomorrow, god forbid, or get married which is practically the same. Legit, my life ended when I got married.”
The importer pours some more drink while adding some of his own wisdom: “word! Believe me, if I was your age today, I would be getting down, so to speak, with any broad I possibly can and commit to no one. These days, a man doesn’t need to rush like we did. We were married before 25, Eliyahu plus one and me plus two at 27. What do you think, isn’t this a tragedy? Though truth be told, we married good women, so at least we earned that. They don’t make them like they used to, nowadays. These days it’s all about money. A wife these days is worse than old times’ mistress.”

I was astonished by his words. Just a fledgling nineteen and a half year old boy. A timid virgin, sergeant in the artillery corps. I tried covering my unease with audacity: “And how about today’s mistress?” 
“Um.. Who’s got time for that today. You are alive up until the age of thirty and after sixty. In our age, with all the competition in the market and all those clients who never pay you on time, and you own a business with employees in and out of the country and buildings and expenses and fat paychecks, there is barely time to breathe. During the early years, my father-rest-in-peace managed the business so I had a little spare time – today I have four kids, each one is an onus, a klineh kinder klineh tsures[1], and I carry the entire firm on my shoulders, even when I go abroad it’s almost always for business and I can hardly find a free evening to have some fun. When Roi takes over in a few years I’ll start enjoying life again like a real human, but still, how much can I take today? We ain’t spring chicken no more”.

They both became silent for a long moment, and I kept my mouth shut while looking for a clue in their eyes. A hint whether they are sharing a joke on my expense, or is it the drink and that euphoric Saturday noon time which made them pour out these truths that were not supposed to be divulged in my presence.
“Listen”, the importer lowered his voice as if he is telling a secret, “a man was not meant to be with only one woman, and a woman, after a few years and pregnancies and some elderly parents on her case, is not the same woman she was when you met her. Her passion dwindles, and you, you’re into it as always, cause you’re a man! But you’re not allowed to put too much pressure on her and if she doesn’t feel like it you’re not allowed to say nothing!”
What do you mean not allowed to say nothing? I asked naively. Eliyahu replied promptly.
“It means that if you tell her how badly you want it, and complain that she doesn’t satisfy you it would only make things worse. A women, for her sex is a luxury, everyhing else comes first: the kids, the house, her parents, her friends, if she works, or volunteers like my wife does, then her stuff is more important and since you run around all day in your business and she is in charge of the house and the children she will always say: “You are complaining that I’m tired?! Let’s switch, then! You will be at home and I get a job and work outside of the house.” And what, you think you want to be at home? You know what a terrible headache that is? You’re better off getting your headache at work.

Getting home from work at the end of the day, you can’t allow yourself to compromise your own health by fighting with the wife. Whatever she wants, you say Yes, Ma’am. You need to internalize the fact that there is no more thrill with her. That’s the deal. If once in a while, on a Saturday or Sunday night or something, she wants it – you give it to her! If she doesn’t, you look away”. The Importer kept nodding and contributed: “Exactly! You see, even the sex, it becomes predictable after a few years. No more surprises. You already know how the act is gonna look like, what the woman is willing to give, what she isn’t, and anything you crave: something new, something younger, a different color, a different style, skinnier, tighter, more lifted, you buy all that elsewhere”. Eliyahu interrupted the importer’s words: “A woman is for building a family and a home. Marriage is business for all intents and purposes, just like any other business. You commit to taking care of some things and giving up others so you have the peace of mind knowing that the person raising your kids is an exemplary woman and mother. Adventures – buy those elsewhere! You see, me, if I need to blow off some steam, or if I feel like I need some action I pull over for ten minutes on my way home, and pay for the action I want like fifty or a hundred bucks, and that’s it! When you grow up you’ll see that it also makes you a better husband. No stress, no resentment, she tells you ‘I have a headache’ you tell her ‘I hear you. I would probably have one too if I were you. Come here, lay down and rest and I’ll make you a cup of tea’. You see? This is how your house is calm and your wife thinks, even tells her girlfriends, what a considerate husband she has. What could be better than that?”     

 

I muted. Or perhaps stuttered, being inauthentically jocular, I cannot remember. What I do remember is that naive sensation of wonder, spurred by these two men whose ages equivalent to my father’s, and the piercing burn generated by the clear understanding that these men – they are the reality. They are the average normative man who is certain of his entitlement to get it right here right now and whenever he desires. They are that man applauded by his wife for every single tiny help he is willing to contribute.

The sexually ignorant man, fundamentally coarse, usually submissive at home, surreptitiously hoarding his violence, who’s late to come home even when work doesn’t create a real necessity to linger simply due to the cruel cynical calculation “not to let her get used to it”. The man who does that which is required of him out of accepting the verdict of this package deal. The obligatory minimum, nothing more. Dare she not widen her demands? She needs to let him be. Fuck her. Essentially, he would want to fuck her and not let her burden his day with her pestering. And needless to say, according to their unspoken contract, she must serve him a warm plate of something before she dissipates. And in the unfortunate case where she does not dissipate, which occurs too many times, the melody of her voice and content of her words are tantamount to the sound of the air conditioner – this unavoidable background noise one gradually ceases to hear. The secret is to simply be able to accurately quote the last sentence she said, in order to rebuff her claims of being ignored.

The hypocrisy and crudity these two exemplary family men have divulged to me had irked my spirit even as a youthful boy, without being able to neither detect nor identify it. Today it is apparent to me that I was inundated by the dread and wrath of speculating whether my old man is one of their own. Today I am highly acquainted with the family rituals they lead in their homes. Today I relive that interaction, their insufferable expressions, their vulgar laughter, and I am filled with ire.

[1] Small kids small trouble. A Yiddish proverb.

 

I take the highway. It is familiar and open and hardly requires any concentration. My car knows its twists and turns in and out and sometimes it seems as though I reached my destination without paying any attention and I wonder how the road has passed and ended while my brain was all wrapped up in other thoughts. This time they are thoughts of anger.

 

I am trying to visualize this fantasy as experienced by Eliyahu Shapira and the like. Their activation mechanism. The car shifting away from it’s course leading to the highway and turning towards the sandy hideout. He is anxious to get her in the car and scram. He has no wish to spend any spare minute in the public vehicles’ circle, but an old habit pushes him to bargain through the window. The prices are terribly low, especially for such a well to do man, but to him this is a deal for all intents and purposes, and a deal without negotiation is a kind of deprivation. She is insisting on the original price. The little bastard learned. ‘She’s trying to play me’, he thinks. He is impatient. He proclaims in his typical lordliness that her demands are too much, but if she turns out to be as good as the price, so be it, let her be happy.

She climbs into the car. What does he see?    

 

The parts of her bare skin. Her youthful body. Her submissive obedience. His right to property over her body and existence. Needless to say, he cannot see her soul or heart. He pulls over where it is discreet enough and reaches for the hand-break. Right now, all she sees is the money. While standing outside she examined him with the instinct of a jungle animal. She used her gut to evaluate the level of peril as reflected in his stare. Searching for clues of fatal violence, in an attempt to make sure that if she does hop in his car, she will also get to leave safe and sound while keeping the money. A lot of girls checked out this way. She must take care of herself. You can never be a hundred percent sure and she has already experienced enough nice guys with high-tech cars who raped her and cut her in places she is lucky to be alive, but what can you do, this is the job and those are the risks. He does not seem perilous or psychotic. Her instincts are working well this time. He has no intention of robbing or abusing her. Just another horny man with an exhausted wife, a good client. He might even tip her some extra cash. Guys like him frequently come back to the same girl. Regular customers, so to speak. They pick her up and take her to a nice condo they secretly hold for such purposes, to hotels, they order her some room service after the fuck, food, alcohol… These potential images swiftly run in her head as if it was a conveyor belt. She decided to accede and now all she is focused on is getting rid of him as soon as possible and get back to the circle. To get it over with. She unbuckles his belt.    

 

He is free now. Free to treat her as he wishes and pleases, he is in control. In control due to his physical strength, due to his wealth, due to his absolute ownership over the car, it’s locking mechanism and anything taking place in that realm. He is not as gentle as she expected. He quells her with his strong grip and commands his orders. He knows exactly how he wants her to be. All of her tissues are his now. Especially the delicate ones.

His rough hands leaving hemorrhage marks on her unblemished skin. He grasps her ponytail tightly and pulls it up and down. All the restrained swears aimed at those tampering with his peace and quiet, are now thrown at her. She tries appeasing him, but he scolds her. Her breath is short. Her satiated mouth and painfully pressed throat long for some air. Her nose grunts as if begging for oxygen. He does not spare her. He maintains his demands. “Just a bit more, more! Let a man cum properly!!” He relocates his aggressive grip from her neck to her softer parts. Fat fingers covered in tobacco stench brutally invade her. She does not dwell on any sensation. Not her now-easier breathing, not her injured anus, not her painfully torn hair, not her battered flesh. She doesn’t have the slightest distinction between different scents or tastes. She cannot allow herself to feel the stench coming out of his loins and anus’ sweat and feces, his pubic hairs in her mouth, his sour taste, his heavy physique, the curses coming out of his mouth, the pain of his blows, his ugliness, the yellow color of his teeth biting her, the absolute effacement of her identity, of her passions, her personal will, her becoming an apparatus. An apparatus for carrying breasts and a pussy and a mouth allowing anyone with the cash to do as he wishes. Of becoming the scapegoat for all of humanity, women as well as men: the one responsible for the ills of the world. Absent from being entitled to compassion or listening or help, abandoned and exposed to that is evil of the universe. Once she lets herself feel all this sorrow, she could no longer survive. Dissociation is an existential necessity for her. His pelves moves and twists sharply, indicating that the end is near. He is about to cum. She is long gone. She is no longer inside her body.

 

It did take just a bit more time, he will tell her and himself with an ersatz smile, shoving an extra 20 in her bra right before she gets off the car. She thanks him. He is a decent guy, a well-bred person.. Already placed her back where he picked her up from and moved on. The whole thing took less than twenty minutes and everything is back to normal, forgotten. 

Now that he’s finished, relaxed and turning toward the highway, he is doing multiplications in his head, as finance-lovers tend to do. A hundred less in his wallet, oh well… Three of those in an hour, he calculates, and she has a tax-free salary that each one of his workers, truck drivers and forklift drivers and storekeepers would kill to earn in a long nine hour workday. Good for her! Is what he will tell himself driving back to the highway. Not very pleasing – but not bad, 100 cash in fifteen minutes…

If that is the case in a 7-8 hour nightshift, he continues to ponder his business plan, then it’s two-thousand, maybe twenty-five hundred a night! An estimate of at least fifty thousand monthly!! A condo with three or four of these… How high can the expenses be? He contemplates, and a condo is 24/7 in shifts… No income declarations, no VAT, no tax… Now this is the way to make a business. It’s a shame they are all crooks and gangsters, he thinks. Shouldn’t mess with criminals… Next he starts ruminating about his home. His children. The big one is in the fields again, the middle one needs money for braces now, his wife escorted her to the dentist today, and he will give her a call. He’ll say he just finished the meeting and is now on his way. He will ask how they’ve been and what did the doctor say and whether the big one called from the army today. He will wish the little one good night on the phone. He should definitely take him out for some father-son time on Saturday; he barely gets to see him grow up with this business sucking the life out of him. The girl whose body he used for unloading his aggressions just twenty minutes earlier will no longer exist in his thoughts. Over and done with. What’s there to think about? Jenny.. Lucy.. Whatever she called herself.

How could he let himself think of her? Of her immense distress, of her sad childhood story or her adult life course which led her to these abandoned dunes… How would he admit to himself that he was malevolent, that she does not find him attractive, that she finds him repulsive just as any other client and all her smiles and flirtations are artificial, as if she was an actress. That someone in the past had already abused her so that she knows the feeling of being the property of another, having her skills and personality utterly worthless, but dust and ashes, nameless, or has a name which is not even her own… What led her soul to that place which is willing to put her body and spirit to death every single day?

How many sleeping pills will it take for him to go to sleep at night once he admits to himself of using her weakness? Of using her distress simply by being a John who does not see her as a person worth of compassion, but an object, of using her impuissance against his physical domination to force things that have not been agreed upon, that even the things that were declared ahead are appalling and horrible, that he would never sell his own body to thirty men just like him each night if he was her, not for all the money in the world. That if it was his wife, or his own daughter he would die instantly just by the thought of how a man such as himself is violating her body and thrashing her as if she was a slave, or had it been his own son standing among those boys… My goodness, how can one even imagine such a thing, it is unfathomable. It is no coincidence that he missed the remarkable resemblance this girl carries to his seventeen year-old daughter.

family man - driving scene
family man
family man - home scene
family man- ending

 

Elyahu Shapira is back home after a long day of hard work. He owns a business, not working in manual labor, heaven forfend, and still, he experiences a lot of stress and exhaustion running his business. His seventeen year old daughter greets him with a casual Hi as he walks in. She is talking on the phone, or texting, is expecting company or about to head out… He can’t say. He needs to ask for a kiss to daddy using emotional blackmail. The big one called, she reports, says he is supposed to come home for the weekend but that they just raised the alert-level of their zone so they might get rousted and that he will only know for certain by Friday morning. Anyhow, she is asking of him to reserve a table at the big one’s favorite steakhouse for Saturday noon, worst case they cancel. Elyahu nods obediently. She reports that the dentist has given a few bids but asks to wait ten minutes with the details so she can finish watching her TV show. Eliyahu says he will hop in the shower in the meantime, she replies that it’s fine and that there is a plate waiting for him in the microwave if he wants to set it for two minutes. Eliyahu is in a hurry to take a shower. “I’m going in to wash this day off of me. Let me tell ya, in this country, any person over forty who doesn’t end his day with a heart-attack – is considered a miracle! What a day…” He says while rushing to the bathroom. Passing by her, he does not put a loving hand on her shoulder nor kisses her forehead softly, lest her nose detects fragrant traces of a hundred-bucks-thrill. His wife, may she live long, will keep staring at the screen silently till she falls asleep.