5pm, lev ha'ir,
The sun’s still up. Baking me to a crisp, here, where the desert-ish landscape meets the shore.
I’m biking back home.
I’ve come from a German friend’s editing office in the southern, sketchy part of Tel Aviv where the streets may as well have no name, and the swaying junkies roam free, grazing fake heroin.
I’m sweating, almost home now, right at City Hall,
up Ibn Gevirol,
left on Frishman
off the bike right at the corner of Frishman and Lachish, all while Mark Manson’s “Everything Is Fucked – a book about hope” is fed into my ears through my now-cordless earphones.
I unlock and open the Pladelet door. In an idiotic, high pitched voice, I call out for the four legged, furry, female friend that has been living with me since I returned to Tel Aviv in April from a locked-up Manhattan…
My Australian Sheppard, border Collie, Knaanic mix
… at least that’s what they told us she was.
It just happened. Boyfriend had been pushing for a dog. As I wasn’t in the country and him a waiter/soon-to-be-actor, I could easily refuse. But now…
She’s a stunner in white and grey. Husky tailed, eye liner eyes. On the adopting app she would have had a long line of suitors. I thought there was no chance in hell we’d get her. Shows what I know.
We go down,
one flight of stairs,
for some reason it’s always so dark. Darker than the stairway on the above floors, and darker looking when viewed from outside.
Through the glass door with the faulty lock, and she’s off.
She’s not hearing me. About to burst. She takes the path out to our little street, runs to the place she always chooses, not going to pee on her own pathway – this bitch has got class.
I reach her and hook the leash on.
Sweating again. 76% humidity. There’s no point in showering, you take it like a man. Some sweat more than others – Tunisian, Syrian, Persian ancestry lends me no favours, and I sweat like the kosher hog that I am as we stroll our usual routine.
Still a pup, she’s always eating off the ground. The heat mesmerizes the Ficus trees that spread all over Tel Aviv. In the 1920’s they were hoisted here from South Asia. These evergreens have done a lot of good, but in the 80’s immigrant wasps began to fertilize the green giants, and now, four times a year they give off these shitty fucking berries… all over the damn pavement. It sticks to the soles of your feet, paints the sidewalk a reddish black with splashes of yellow. Dogs go gaga over them. I tug at her every four or five steps.
The one thing I’ve learned from getting a dog is this: I must have been an asshole my three years in this apartment building before she came along. I am now acquainted with around a dozen new neighbours I never knew through my newfound canine interactions.
It’s a community.
A conversation starter.
A chick magnet….
Above all, it’s really showed me what a dick I was.
And now, maybe, moving away from being.
All that keeping to myself, meeting only people I know.
What a dick.
I see Hadar, this beautiful, heroin-chic blonde with her oversized, brown and white Australian Sheppard mixed with something-or-other…
…answers to Logan.
Shoot the shit. Few exchanges – I swear I never even saw this woman before and this is not a dog to easily miss.
You say your goodbyes and keep on walking.
Maybe another dog-owner asks you for a bag and you graciously give them one. Boom – a friend for life.
The heat is on, drip drip from every and all. Forget it – just swim on through.
Maybe you need a bag now cause you’ve just given yours away. Yet another friend. You're becoming the Jordan of friend-making, and it’s all thanks to this wondrous creature. Just when all seemed lost in the world. When everything was fucked.
I now see people with dogs. Tons of them. If this is what it's like with a dog – what’s it going to be like when I have a child?
Feh. That’s a problem for future Jeff.
We finish off. Once around the block for good measure.
We got a number one, but no number two. No worries. Back up the path, open the glass door, up the ever-darker staircase and into my house, green sofa, purple carpet and classic Israeli beige tiles. I hate these tiles. 40cm by 40cm blocks of beige inlaid with hundreds of ugly little rocks cut flat and polished off. Violà! Ugly block tiles in every Israeli household built between 1970 and 98, on which Tokyo loves to cool herself.
And perhaps use them as camouflage.
AC on. Table fan on as I step into the shower for the third time today.
It’s still too hot.
IFTACH JEPHTHAH OPHIR is a leading Israeli actor, writer and director. He works for Israel’s Rep Theatres, which include The Cameri Theatre, Habima, Haifa and Herzelia Ensemble as well as independent theatres Tmuna and Tzavta. Internationally he has appeared on stages in Edinburgh, Stockholm, Shanghai, New York, Bucharest, Tbilisi and Amsterdam. He is on the Israeli Actors Committee and writes for both stage and screen. He lives in Tel Aviv.
(Image credit: Tokyo by Iftach Ophir, 2020)