We met at a bar in Tel Aviv. I was covering an event for work and he was a volunteer for the organization I was profiling.
According to my version, I was standing on the sidelines, mustering up my courage to approach strangers, when he approached me. Relieved that the “quotes” were coming to me and that I didn’t have to ask for them, I proceeded to pull out my notebook and pepper him with questions. All in the name of work, of course.
Then why, when I found out he was eight years younger, did I lie about my age? Could it be that deep down I really did want him (his version) and instinctively felt I wouldn’t have a chance if he knew my real age?
No matter. In the end he called, and even after I revealed my real age — and taught him the expression, “cognitive dissonance” — he wanted to go out. Even better, he called all the time just to check in and he made it clear that he was a serious guy, someone looking for a real relationship and not just a good time.
So what was the problem?
Was it just the age difference? Or the fact that’s he’s Israeli and I’m American?
Or was it something bigger, a feeling I could never shake that we were coming from different worlds? In everything. Our sensibilities. Our points of reference. Our way of perceiving things. Our interests. He was a serious athlete, for one.
And I’m the person who once lived across from Wrigley Field and had no idea what it was. “What is that giant globe and do the neighbors know it’s here?” was how I put it.
Which is another way of saying, I’m a sucker for hockey!
So what? You’re thinking. Why do I need to meet someone with my exact same interests?
How about someone kind? Someone who is ready for a relationship? Someone who seems rather smitten with me?
That’s exactly what I was thinking. And so I stuck it out.
But conversation was forced, at least on his side.
“So what do you want to share with me?” I asked. We were having dinner at my place and my blabbering was met with a resounding silence.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You have to ask me questions.”
But I had given Lois Lane the day off.
“But that’s not having a conversation,” I said, suddenly exhausted.
I told myself to let it go. Maybe he’s shy. Maybe it takes him a while to warm up, even though one would think by now he would be feeling more comfortable with me.
We retired to the couch with our wine. This was when he surprised me with an intricate and rather heartwarming story. Things are picking up, I thought.
But then, he surprised me again.
“I should probably get going,” he said.
He had come all the way from Tel Aviv and I had made us a lovely dinner. Why was he running away so quickly?
“Don’t you want to give me a kiss?” I asked (sweetly, I thought) in my very American-accented Hebrew.
This was when he surprised me for the third time.
“No, absolutely not,” he said rather defiantly. “Why would you think I would want to kiss you?”
I was floored. Could it be that this whole time I had gotten it wrong and he only liked me as a friend? Or maybe he had changed his mind.
In any case, I was not going to force the guy to kiss me.
“OK,” I said, shrugging.
“Are you kidding?” he countered. “I’ve been wanting to kiss you all night! I haven’t been able to think of anything else. I even told myself on the way over that I had to take things to the next level.”
And so, dear reader, we did kiss. It was a nice kiss, too.
But when he later disentangled himself to get back to Tel Aviv, I had this sinking feeling. I still could not see how we could ever make it work. Can you build a relationship on tenderness and mutual affection alone?
I brought this up to him the next day, and this time, he was the one who seemed surprised.
He thought everything was going well, but if the feeling wasn’t mutual, he didn’t want to keep trying.
“I’m tired of chasing,” he said, and I agreed. He shouldn’t have to chase anyone.
“I want to be with someone who wants to be with me,” he said.
Which also made sense.
He wished me luck. He was sweet and kind, even at the end.
“Now you have something to write about in your blog,” he said in closing.
After we hung up I felt very sad.
Had I just made a huge mistake?
Abigail Pickus is a writer living in Israel. Her “Matchup” column appears the first week of the month. Follow her blog “Abigail in Love (Maybe)” on The Jewish Week’s website, www.thejewishweek.com.
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