Ancient Digressions


The following is something I wrote a few years ago that when in a certain mood I drag out and dust off, tweaking a bit here and there as time changes memory.

I am posting it today just because I can.

Jerusalem Express

The bus station throbbed and wrinkled around me, like a film out of sync…

To my right, the line for the Jerusalem Express staggered listlessly, like Chaucer’s pilgrims.

To my left, cinderblocks constructed into a wall of grey legos.


Two figures strode past me like a humid breeze. Women in lockstep, girls really, sylphs in olive cotton.

I watched them over my paperback, like a Nabokov character.

Their hair? Cut relentlessly, longer than Claire but shorter than Winona, bouncing soft and shiny and calculatedly lush.

Makeup? Brushed carefully carelessly over pale skin, earth tones visibly intended to be invisible.

Their fatigue pants issued one size too small, their uniform blouses one size too large, unbuttoned too low.

Forms trim and tight, small but complete, built for speed – Woman-girls.

They languidly drawled to each other of boys and post-modern ennui, this show, this club, and randomly came to rest near me. Their Hebrew was ripe with the brittle consonants of the eastern empire.

They paused, and met my gaze for a beat. Then they returned to each other seamlessly, not a ripple in their ponds as they made the space their own.

I was sure I had existed when I got up that morning.


Two more women moved past me as I abandoned my book at last from sheer vexation.

Long, dark skirts swirled to confuse slender figures, pale blouses with cuffs buttoned tight as curtains did the same.

Hair? Worn long, dark and rich…pulled back from sonorous complexions, to be uncut till they were wedded and bedded and their maidenhood snipped away with their curls.

Makeup? Hard to tell.

Manner and dress and tradition and choice all obscured detail, making them seem almost not there at all – Girl-women.

They whispered to one another, perhaps of secrets no man or outsider knows, eyes lowered as they moved by instinct past me, as if I were part of the guardrail, to stand in the awkward silence of disapproving children.

My mere presence seemed to impact them like a scream in a library as they sanctified the wall despite itself.


The Express for Jerusalem arrived at last with the silent rattle of a dying mime, the line stirred to stubborn movement. Each pair of my accidental companions noticed the other in aggrieved shock, as if before then the station had been empty, their exclusive province.

Four sets of eyes looked fearfully upon another world, and looking, glazed with unexpressed pity before they mounted the metal stairs in silence…

…and the gates of Jerusalem slid shut behind them.

In the echoing silence, I stood and walked 20 feet to another bench.

The Express to Beersheba was due soon.


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