map Dinner Party in Four Parts

by Maya Klein

Published in Issue No. 255 ~ August, 2018


I’m seated with the men. One of them is about a year into his divorce, which is not yet final, and the quick ascent—the two-month frenzy in which he was all over the place, dropped a size and felt like this is finally living, this is life—has been replaced by antidepressant bloat. And before he opens his mouth I can taste it, as if I have shrunk to the size of a tooth and entered the space behind his lips which now kiss his girls with a sense of wonder and the tangible fear of irreparable harm, he no longer stays out on the nights he has them, he stays in on other nights too, has stopped smoking weed because of the meds, and his parents, who look like boxes, are in the picture. I am in his mouth, I cling to his tongue when the wave of red wine threatens to wash us over us both, me on the inside, him on the out.


2: Social Animal

I’m on the balcony with the men. I am perched in the dark corner and the wind whips through my thin pants. We’re all a little drunk. I stay silent, trying it on for size, like a new item of clothing. There will never be a solution; that’s what you’ve been conditioned to think; one-state; that’s the end, you realize that’s the end; we all need to get used to the idea of living here together, that’s why I send my kids to a mixed-school, they got invited to President Rivlin’s, didn’t you see the video? I sent it on whatsapp, my little girl is singing a song in Arabic, she’s fluent and can you believe my mother-in law? She tells me she’s ashamed, she’ll never share that with her friends, rak bibi, she says, in my house, in my house! The good looking man with the face like a plowed field asks: who disgusts you more, settlers or haredis? And the most of the men say settlers but the good looking man has met amazing settlers during his military service, amazing, he says and besides isn’t there something attractive about their women? You mean settler women?

I am trying to make myself invisible now and I think I succeed, a bird in the dark.
The rest of the men press him for details because no one cares about his politics or his bilingual kids or what he thinks of his mother-in-law and because more than anything we want to hear what a good-looking man finds attractive.

Come on, you mean a religious woman? Not religious religious, he laughs, but you know, the ones that dress—he pauses, cocks his head—modestly, they’ll wear like long sleeve shirts and jean skirts, barefoot. It’s sexy. He looks up and delivers a devastatingly good looking smile, like hippies, free spirits.


3: Sea Change

I’m in the kitchen with the women. It’s all everyone can talk about tonight. They seem ecstatic. I seem ecstatic. The woman with the updo smiles widely, she is telling the story about the production assistant because she won’t talk about the men in the trees by the train station who were a permanent fixture on her school route and what they left there seeped into the dirty

earth into the winding roots of those trees that they climbed every morning hanging there

waiting, the woman with the updo says she’s not even going to mention that, a semi-natural occurrence, like cracks or dog shit on the pavement, but she does tell us about the production assistant and barely have the words left her mouth before the RN says that nothing as dramatic had ever happened to her but she did work briefly for a plastic surgeon—we nod, as if this means something, and suddenly it does, suddenly it must be a plastic surgeon, of course it must—and one time they were working late—when she gets to this part her voice lifts, practically buoyant—the RN managed to convey that she wasn’t interested but it was the only time she feared for her life, real fear, and our eyes meet, I’m weightless, giddy, out of my mouth tumbles the happy story of the professor who works on my floor and has seen me around and wants coffee and by the time the next sentence reaches me mentioning that he is on the approval committee I laugh laugh laugh at the fucker because it seems I don’t look my age and now it is time it is the moment, a history professor no less, I raise my eyes to his face and say: well then good luck to me! And the RN and the woman with the updo and I burst out laughing and we drink more and our eyes are unsinkable and all of the women are talking a whole lot and the men are not.


4: Coda

I’m sitting with the guests. The living room table where we usually put our feet is littered with crumbs and remnants of the evening’s haul, wrapping paper torn off of the books they brought as gifts: Anne Frank in comic book form, German Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. The good looking man with the face like a plowed field accidentally brought a bottle of olive oil, he thought it was wine. No one mentions his wife. She may be missing the olive oil tomorrow. And we are all tired, we look our ages. The RN’s husband is the only one still drinking and the musician needs rolling paper. Our neighbors won’t have any, not in this building, nor can we ask at this hour and so the man for whom we have all gathered, my man, steps out to buy some.

On the night of his fortieth birthday he walks out of the apartment and closes the door behind him, I clear the table and go to the kitchen to prepare the coffee as usual but there still is the question of his return.

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Maya Klein is a writer, translator and researcher based in Tel-Aviv. Her fiction and book reviews have appeared in "Brevity" The Ilanot Review" and "The Literarian" among others.