The Man I Never Met Again - A Trilogy
Updated: Apr 26, 2019
I wrote the first 2 stories in this series of 3 about 10 years ago. I started the 3rd one and forgot all about it. When I came to put them here I found it was never finished, and first I panicked, but then I came into my senses and finished it...
Before you read the second story, "Potato in the Stream", watch this video:
This is the exact location and situation I wrote about. And oh - did I mentioned it's based on a true story???
Life Is Like…
“For me, life is like bikes in Tel-Aviv.” He lit another cigarette, right after putting out the previous one in the ashtray that lay on the table, exactly between us.
He took a dramatic pause – searching for a sign of curiosity on my part, and when he didn’t find any, he continued on his own: “Most of the time you ride it, enjoying the wind in your hair, saving gas and doing some exercise. And then, one day, you go out to the street, and you find out that someone stole it.” He tapped his cigarette.
“I always thought that life was like parking in Tel-Aviv.” I said “Most of the time you look and look, and you can’t find a space – and then once, at two o’clock in the morning, you come back home and you find a parking spot right next to the entrance to your building.”
He pondered my words while he put a twenty bill on the table. I did the same and we walked away from the table.
I looked at him while we paced. He was still quiet.
And then he opened his mouth: “You see – that is exactly the difference between us. I live life with joy, and sometimes something bad happens, and you deal with it. But you – you go through this life with discontentment, with pessimism, and when something good arrives, you’re sure this is the best you’ll ever get, that you cannot top that.”
“And that’s bad? I always thought it’s better to be pessimistic and surprised then optimistic and disappointed.” I declared.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of good or bad – I think it’s an issue of attitude.” He stated it as a fact, while finding out his cigarette box was empty.
I felt discouraged by the criticism and had to respond.
“And you – the optimist – I know you. You can’t really deal with something bad when it comes your way. You wither, can’t digest the fact that something like that could have happened to you. I’m, on the other hand, always prepared for the worst-case scenario. Always.” I said.
“And how does that work out for you? Are you happy?” he asked, but I thought I heard a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“The same way it’s not a question of good or bad, it’s not a question of happiness. It’s a way of life.” I argued.
He was quiet for a little while, and then he said: “I think that maybe life is much more complicated than our ability to narrow it down to one sentence. To one image.”
I thought the complete opposite.
We walked quietly side by side, until we reached the street corner, and then he just waved goodbye, and continued walking in the opposite direction.
I watched him as he stop to buy cigarettes and continue down the street until he disappeared.
It was the last time I saw him. I don’t miss him, but once in a while, when I see a bike tied to something on the street, I wonder when someone will steal it.
Potato in the Stream
We stood in the market. It was pouring rain. We were pressed together with a group of people who also sought refuge under the small roofs of the market’s stands.
The stand next to us was a fish stand, and from time to time I stared at them, and they stared back, giving me a pleading look. Whether they wanted me to free them or eat them – I will never know.
The path, created naturally between two rows of stands, was full of water, a stream flowing powerfully, not letting the people advance.
He looked at it with a hypnotic gaze and lit a cigarette. Immediately a large drop of water, which fell from the edge of the roof above us, put it out with the precise hit of a sniper.
“Mother fucker.” He said quietly to himself and threw the cigarette on the ground.
“Do you know what I would like to do?” he asked me.
“No.” I answered.
“I would like to take one of those fish, throw it into this river, and watch him swim to freedom.” he said, glaring at the fish stand, half joking, half serious.
I smiled, but I moved my head, so he wouldn’t see.
We stood quietly for a few more minutes, watching the rain, which was coming down heavily.
“I’m going to ask the salesman how much a fish costs,” he said suddenly.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I think I’m going to do it,” he said with determination.
“Are you crazy? I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to throw fish like that in the middle of the street.” I tried to sound convincing, but I think my panic that he might do it crept in.
“It’s only…” he started to say, but I gave him a harsh look, which made him lapse into silence.
His face was just oozing with disappointment. I decided to make it up to him.
I took a potato out of my groceries bag and threw it into the stream.
It rolled gently in the water, gaining speed, until it drifted away completely down the street.
His eyes were shining with excitement as he followed the potato with his gaze, until we couldn’t see it anymore.
The rain stopped, and in a few minutes, all the water was drained, and it was possible to walk again between the stands.
He took my hand and shook it.
“Thank you.” He whispered, and then he walked in the opposite direction. I continued walking in the market, up the street.
I never saw him again, but the next time I was in the market in the pouring rain, I bought a fish. Not a large one.
I didn’t have the guts to throw it into the stream, so I threw a potato again.
It’s All for the Best
“It’s all for the best” he said and took a sip from his drink.
Without thinking and without considering of my actions, I leaped towards him and smacked the glass that was merged with his lips. It flew to the floor and shuttered with a loud noise.
It was the middle of the day an we were sitting in a dark and mostly empty bar, so no one actually seen what I did.
He was shocked for a second, his hand was still shaped as if it was holding the glass. Then he came to his senses.
“Are you insane?” he asked, but in a quiet calm voice, almost rhetorical.
“Sorry” I didn’t know what came over me “But I just hate it when people say it”.
“What? ‘It’s all for the best’?” he wondered.
“Yes. Hate, Hate, Hate that.” I declared.
“Hate is a strong word.” He probably decided clichés are going to be his thing today.
The waitress approached us.
“What happened?” she asked him.
“I dropped it…” He covered me.
“No problem. Let me get you a new one.” She quickly collected all the pieces from the floor and wiped the rest of the liquid from the floor. He followed her with his eyes as she walked back to the bar. Then he turned to me.
“You see?” he was triumphed.
“What?” I shrugged.
“I almost finished the drink, and now I get a new one for free.” He smiled “It was all for the best.”
I wanted to slap his face so hard.
“It’s not all for the best! Shitty stuff happens – and they are just shitty!” I was very frustrated “and when people use that as a reaction for everything little thing that happen – it’s just a fucking lie”.
“I didn’t say you should use it for everything that happens, but this situation here” He marked the bar with his finger “This was for the best.”
“Wait.” I figured something “are you talking about the drink or the thing before?”
He started to answer but then stopped to think for a moment. After a considerable consideration time he answered: “Both”.
Now I got mad again.
“You think all that happened to me was for the best? Really?” I clenched my first.
“Sure. Why not.” He leaned towards me “It’s just a matter of time and perspective before you see it.”
“How do you figure?”
“Because of course now it seems hopeless, and dark, and horrible. But in a couple of years, when you look back at this time of your life it will seem insignificant.”
“This is… This is just…” I didn’t have any words to describe what I felt. I felt dismissed and ignored. My feelings meant nothing to him. I took a sip from my drink.
The waitress brought him his new drink. He joined me and sipped it in one big gulp. He stood up, took out his wallet and dropped a few bills on the table.
“I have to go. Stand up.” He gestured with his hand.
He gave me a hug. A long and warm embrace.
Then he released.
“I thought you needed one” he said, turned and walked out of the bar.
I watched him go outside, and through the big window I saw stand there and light a cigarette. He took a long puff and then continued walking.
I never saw him, but a few days later I sat in a coffee shop alone and thought about our little conversation. I stared at the almost finished cup of coffee in front of me, and then slowly, as I looked around me, I pushed it of the table.
When the waiter came to clean the mess, he didn’t offer a new cup. Just glared at me, angry look in his eyes.