Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel (short story)

This is a short story I wrote for World Nomads... the theme was 'A Place I'll Never Forget.' I chose to write about Tel Aviv, Israel. 

Zamir Shatz 'Habibti: Faces of Israel' @ Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Zamir Shatz 'Habibti: Faces of Israel' @ Tel Aviv Museum of Art

The Metaphysical Museum

She sat on his lap in front of me. Smiling. The ‘best friend’ of my holiday fling. Was she parading her territory? Was she under threat?

I didn’t need this. It was my second day and I was ready to go home.  

As humans, we’re wired to react. Tel Aviv, taught me to be present. 

I travelled across the globe under the delusion of lust. But reality is quick to squander island romances. As I distanced myself from the man I came to see, I sought refuge in this foreign city. I found myself at The Tel Aviv Museum of Art. I took no map, just followed the sunlit hallways. ‘Faces of Israel,’ a floor to ceiling oil painting. It was luring me into the West Wing. The multicultural collage had also cast a spell on the elderly man next to me. We had every reason to smile and walk on, but there’s an innate desire to connect when you’re travelling alone. 

I said hello and took his returning smile as an invitation. His name was Semen, pronounced Sheh-men. He had grey watery eyes, a blue shirt too big for his shoulders and a camera that dangled in front of his chest –a medallion of ageless wanderlust.

For the next 3 hours, we explored the museum together. Slowly walking, communicating via Google translate on iPhone, sharing stories of love and hopes for our family. Then occasionally comment on the art that we both didn’t understand. Whilst his speech stuttered and hands shook, I was grateful for every word he mustered. Three hours had passed and I suddenly lived through 3 generations of stories. He was tired yet fulfilled. A retired electrical engineer, war veteran and full-time carer for Saskia (his wife of 50 years had recently lost her hearing). 

Why was I lost in ecstasy? Was I consumed by art? Or was it novelty, that perhaps I looked like his carer, or worse, his young mail order bride! 

But it was perspective. Semen embodied the abundance of life. I was so consumed by the failure of my island romance I lost sight of where I was. I was in Tel Aviv for goodness sake...GO EAT, DRINK AND EXPLORE!!!

His only son called. It was time for Semen to meet his great-grandson. We stood in the foyer with cloudy eyes. A 26-year-old Filipino-Australian and 80-year-old Ukranian man. A picture of humanity. He kissed my cheek, knowing this goodbye was eternal. 

The next two weeks I had fallen back in love with this city. Unlimited hummus, hypnotising sunsets at Bograshov beach and the eclectic night life, these were some of the treasures Tel Aviv gifted me. My sabbatical was closing in on me. But I was finally ready to go home.

My Hero: Semen (pronounced Sheh-men).

My Hero: Semen (pronounced Sheh-men).