Meet Me After Dark

Moshe crossed the road with a crossed heart, worrying his tzitzis, picturing his wife, Y’hudit, in Poland with their children, telling himself to go home. He saw a leer on the face of each British soldier, heard a whisper of “Lila Majnun” from every Arab, and felt the sun itself mocking him. His mind ran through permutations and etymologies, “Lila, the night — darkness — her name rhymes with D’lila, d’l means weak or poor, and I’m no Shimshon, that One of the Sun, but another poor Ach'av, and she is the night, and I must go to her as surely as the sun must set.”

“I am dark, but lovely / O daughters of Jerusalem / Like the tents of Kedar / Like the curtains of Solomon.”

He turned back once, circled the block twice, and prayed for strength three times before he opened the outer doors, walked past the courtyard’s dry fountain, and climbed the stairs to the apartment he had let to serve as their trysting place.

“Do not look upon me, because I am dark, / Because the sun has tanned me. / My mother’s sons were angry with me; / They made me the keeper of the vineyards / But my own vineyard I have not kept.”

Lila washed Moshe’s feet in a basin. They drank mint tea and fed one another figs, dates and honeyed walnut pastries. Kissing and stroking her, he peeled the pomegranate-layers of her jilbāb, laid her along the bed and explored her rose-scented body, so unlike Y’hudit’s pale, thick, matronly frame. Lila’s lithe brown thighs spread to reveal the pink fruit borne beneath her bramble, its juice sweeter than date syrup. His fingers grew sticky, his mind grew empty, his heart full of hot blood and longing.

“A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, / That lies all night between my breasts. / My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms / In the vineyards of En Gedi.”

She was his promised land, his Eretz Kanaan. He tilled and plowed her dark, fertile fields, and planted his seeds during an earthquake, the tremors from which shook the bed and the walls.

“The flowers appear on the earth; / The time of singing has come, / And the voice of the turtledove / Is heard in our land.”

After a short quiet interval, “You promised you’d be careful. If we make a baby before we marry, my father and my brothers will find out — they would kill me.”

“But, Lila, you know Israel can never withdraw from Palestine.”

This entry is part of my journal, published August 14, 2006, in New York.