Who would of thought that the Katyusha1 would catch me outside? Six years I don’t go out. I walk without thinking, house-market-work-house-clinic-work-house-market-house-work. Comes the Katyusha and catches Simona off her path.
I put the food on the table for them, the Tuesday couscous with chicken with pumpkin with hummus beans with everything inside. I stand with the Katyushas falling on my head, and what does my head have in it? If they ate the couscous before when the first one fell or if they went down to the shelter on an empty stomach. I count them from here when they’re all there running to the shelter: Kobi, Chayim, Oshri, Etti, Dudi, Itzik. I tell my feet to go home. My feet don’t go. I’m on the swing of the playground, my feet push on the ground. I sit on the children’s swing, me, swinging, back and forth, forth and back—it’s dark as hell. The first one fell, took out all the electricity of the town. Only the lights of the moshav on the other hill are shining. All their houses and their chicken coops have light. Also the village on the other side, they have light. I sit on the swing: hey Simona mona from Dimoaona, hey Simona mona from Dimoaona. When the swing stops, I sing: Put your ha-and in my ha-and, I am yo-urs a-and You are mi-ne, and I start to cry.
When the second one fell, I screamed, I fell on the ground and I screamed. I screamed, my mouth open as wide as it could, and my scream, I didn’t hear it. It wasn’t my throat screaming. From my heart I was screaming. After the heart, from the belly. I finished screaming, I started to vomit. I lay down and vomited and vomited. I couldn’t see what I was vomiting, because of the dark. In the end I had nothing left to get out. Just water. After that, the water was finished. When I got up I felt like the iron that had sat there on me for six years went away.
Akh ya rab, how good! The iron that was sitting on my heart and making it into ice went away. How was I with my heart in the freezer for six years, how? I sit on the swing, I take the scarf off my head, wipe my mouth with the scarf. I throw the scarf far away. The side where the second katyusha fell, I think that was the side where the house is. I want to run and see if all of them are okay: Kobi, Chayim, Oshri, Etti, Dudi, Itzik. Simona’s feet push on the ground to swing her, Hey Simona mona from Dimona mona, my feet don’t listen to me, when I tell them to go home. I’m with my back to the buildings. On the road up there I hear shouts, people running, in a minute the car will come that sends people down into the shelters, ambulances will come, fire trucks. My feet stop the swing, start to walk to the other side away from where my building stands. I don’t know where they’re taking me. I walk down around the terraced houses to where Ricki’s house is. My feet don’t go into her shelter with me. They take me down the hill.
If only I could make twenty pieces out of myself. I would put each piece in a corner of the town, so that at least one would catch a katyusha, and I’d be finished at last.
I open my hands, look up at the sky, also open my mouth. I do like the little girl in Morocco who would go out to the yard and try to catch the rain so it would fall into her mouth, stick her tongue out all the way, make a saucer out of her tongue to catch a drop. The girl is glad the rain came, a gift from heaven, and I’m glad about the Katyusha that will come.
It got quiet. They stopped with the Katyushas. Here with us it’s quiet and there they’re working on my Katyusha. God, sitting in heaven, Who sees Simona who wants to come to Him, let Him help them send a Katyusha and do it right. God forbid it should leave me half alive, laying in a hospital. God forbid. Just not to be stuck in a wheelchair. Already now I’m half alive. Let them take out the other half and be done with it. God, give them the brains to do a good job. Ya rab! What a world. Even to die the way you want, you need luck.
What do I have to go into the shelter for? What do I have to get up for tomorrow morning? For the chores? Ay! Really sad. How could Simona leave her chores? What will Simona’s chores do if she flies up to the stars? Poor little Simona chores, they’ll sit shiva for her for sure.
The chores I leave in the morning sit around in the house with their legs crossed, waiting for the minute I’ll come back from my work at the daycare. I just open the door of the house, and they all pounce on me right away, one and then quick another one—they think they’ve found a rag doll. All day long they sat in the house waiting for Simona to come to them, and after they got a good rest all day, what, won’t they have the strength to play with her? The ironing throws me to the sink, the sink, as soon as it’s empty, tosses me to the broom, and the broom to the bathroom to wash the little ones, and the bathroom to the stove to make something to eat at night, and from the stove back to the sink. And from the sink to take down the laundry and fold it, and from the laundry-folding to the needle and thread. The chores don’t stop for a minute, and they laugh at me, laugh and laugh until the very last one, that takes me in its arms and sees that there’s nothing more to throw. No more Simona. It sees that it can’t laugh anymore with the face I have, and it lets me drop into bed.
Quarter of four in the morning. That’s my time to get up.
If I’m up at a quarter of four—I manage.
If I get at ten after four, four-fifteen—the day’s shot.
Till five I can’t get up any speed. My arms are sticks, every minute they want to drop off my shoulders. My knees won’t hold me up. My back down low kills me with pain. A contest starts of who hurts more than who. My heels are like horse’s heels. They put iron on them. The veins near my left knee—fire.
When a husband dies, they should send the wife back to be a girl again, the way she was before she knew him. Let her start off again where he took her. You shouldn’t leave her walking in the middle of the desert with his children, when she’s already tired from all the births. When her whole body is full of bruises.
Four in the morning, that’s only the chores that don’t make noise. If the twins wake up, my morning’s gone. Even if their blanket fell on the floor, I don’t put it back on them, so they won’t wake up. I just go to the lines to hang laundry. In the winter the hanging is hell. In the summer it’s okay. My hands aren’t ice. Also, not the dark of winter. When I don’t manage at night, I hang it in the morning, drying the whole day that’s gone by on the lines. The washing machine already worked to take everything out of the clothes. Without that, you see it all on them, like the family’s Daily News: what everybody wore, what they ate, what they did, where they went, how they slept. I hang up the wash and I move the line on the pulleys. I pull, and the clothes move away from me. Let the sun come up thirsty, let it drink all the water.
Mas’ud went and my blood went with him. What a dumb girl I was. I thought that only my blood went down with him into the grave, I din’t think he left me anything of his when he went. I cried and din’t eat and almost fainted every day and I din’t think about that thing at all. Everybody already saw I’d been caught, but me. It din’t enter my mind. I would see myself in people’s eyes everywhere I went and I din’t understand what their eyes were saying to me. I would go out of the house and look hard at their eyes, another and another and another, in all the eyes the same thing was written: I swear, those people were nuts. In their eyes there was a pregnant woman. I din’t know how that could be. Until Ricki grabbed me, Ricki the cook in the daycare kitchen, on a lunch break, closed the door behind us, and talked to me, I din’t think about anything. I heard her and I wanted to kill myself from shame. I din’t know how I would get out of her kitchen, with everyone already talking about me for a month, that I got caught pregnant at the last minute. But Ricki, as bad as she can be to you, when you’re in trouble, Ricki’s the only one you want at your side. She said to me: “Simona, listen hard to me. You’re gonna sit with me until you head is standing straight on your neck. You’re not gonna think about tomorrow, and not about yesterday. You’re just gonna think about one thing, about how you walk out of here with your head high and your eyes wide open. Remember, you din’t do anything bad to anybody by getting pregnant.
“You just listen to Ricki’s words: what happened to you is a blessing. A kid that will go with his father’s name—that’s a blessing. Now it looks like trouble, but in half a year you’ll see what was cooking there inside you, and it will have a new face, and all the words that come out of their mouths, they’ll slip off you. Don’t let them get into your ears. I would put oil on you, believe me, so that nothing sticks to you. Sit down, sit down. What did you get up for? Don’t stand next to my pot. The soup gets all salty if you keep crying into it that way. Aiwa, that’s better. Half a sour smile is still something when you get it from Simona. Where are you going? No, baby, today you’re not cleaning.”
She put some tea with shiba in my hand and went out to them, picked up their cups of instant on a tray, and finished up their party: “Yalla girls, to work. No elves will come to clean for you now.”
And I still din’t know that there were two sons starting off inside me. One went, and those two came.
Seven months after he went, they came. Two with smack-dab the same face, their father’s face.
They din’t take anything from me.
I put three pots on the gas. No day goes by when I don’t leave them three pots for lunch. Yesterday I made them rice and beans and fish balls in sauce. Today they have couscous. For tomorrow I put white beans in water to make them the soup they love. I also thought of making potatoes for them and fried fish. People think that Mas’ud is dead, and I’m alive. That’s wrong! A hundred percent wrong! Mas’ud is alive, and I’m dead. Me, as soon as he fell, I was finished. Everything is over for me. His name was in their mouths, the Falafel King, and I was his queen. And what now? Him—they’re still talking about him, and he stayed a king. No one came to take his place. And me? Where am I and where are the days when you would see the picture of a queen on me?
As soon as your husband dies, they come to check on how much you love him. When he’s alive, who cares? When the guy is alive, you can drive him crazy, you can talk about him with whoever you want, badmouth him. No one twists their nose about that. But as soon as your man dies, they come to check every five minutes if you’re giving him respect. Instead of one guy, one you were living with alone, the minute you get up in the morning after the shiva, you find yourself with a thousand people sitting in his chair. And what’s their job? Just to check and see if you’re treating him right. They’re not lazy about it. They work hard on you. They don’t let you alone for a minute. They count your tears and make their ears big, and their eyes, and their noses, just to hear that you’re not laughing, God forbid. To see that you din’t start putting on eau-de-cologne or makeup. They want you that you’ll die together with him. He’s dead for them, under the ground, and you—you should be dead and spin around for them on top of the ground.
If a man looks at you too much, if his eyes are on you for two seconds, in a minute they’ll kill him, so he won’t touch your honor.
When they see you that you’re finished they get a heavy heart, their heart turns black. What do they do so they can get a light heart back again? They pour their mercy out on your head. A pail of water after mopping, black water, that’s their mercy. They poured their mercy onto you, and now their heart stands there clean. What kind of clean? Their heart turned shiny just because they think they’re so good. And you, what’s with you? You stand there, soaked to the skin, and dirty too from their black water.
When you run away from the water of people’s mercy, God forbid that you should fall into the sugar of the widows.
From my first day as a widow, I would say to myself: Simona, don’t put a single foot of yours in the widows’ place, because if you get stuck there, you have no way of getting out, and they pull you away from people. The widows in town have a holiday when they get a new one. Your luck and their luck, they have the same color and the same shape. They only want one thing from you: that you should come to them and be together with them. That you should sit with them, and they’ll teach you their rules, the widows’ rules.
For six years I’ve been looking at my feet just because of that. I look real good before I put my foot down, each time, just so I wouldn’t get up one day and find out that I’ve stepped into the widows’ shit.
I don’t have the strength to keep my arms stretched out for the Katyusha. I had just one thing in life that I kept my arms open for without stopping. That thing went, and I closed my arms.
Where does Mrs. Simona go at night? Where are her feet taking her? To the soccer field at the end of town. On that side none has fallen yet. Inshalla, let it come here today. Mrs. Simona throws her pocketbook off her shoulder, stands on the grass of the soccer field. The grass is dry. They don’t have any water in this country. They’re always crying that they don’t have water. But for the grass of the soccer field, they find water. Simona’s good luck that today they din’t use the sprinklers. Simona stands on the grass, and craziness goes into her head. It opens her mouth, so that she’ll sing: Why is this night different from all other nights? Because on all other nights Simona does chores and more chores. Tonight, tonight, a Katyusha will come and take Simona, who’s waiting for it. Simona calls out to the angel of death, so that he’ll come and take her, and the angel of death doesn’t come. Who came? Madness came!
The poor kids. At least if I go, they’ll get a little honor from me. They’ll give them money because I died from a Katyusha. Whoever manages to die from Arabs in this country, they honor him like a king. But if somebody goes crazy—his whole family’s down the drain.