Friday, February 25, 2011

The Bus Ride Home

The sunlight streaming through the bus number 65 to Squirrel Hill is so strong, I want to pull down a shade. Even my thick rimmed UV rays won't block out the tiny shards of light that pretend to scoot behind clouds. I extend my hand as if to pull a blind and I am suprised at what I had just done.

There are no Egged busses here in Pittsburgh. It takes me a few seconds to remind myself that I am riding on bus #65 from Duquesne University to Squirrel Hill. No blinds. No soldiers. The snowy capped roofs of Pittsburgh's south side against the slope of Mount Washington reminds me of an Austrian town, Solvang.

I am an Israeli soldier taking the first Friday bus up north to see my parents who just moved from the States to a settlement overlooking the Sea of Galilee known as Korazim. I reach high up for the blinds. My dogtag ID jingles. When I am satisfied with the right visibility length, I settle back again the red and black checkered seats and notice that half the foam is sticking out. 

I squiggle a few times to avoid landing on a crease. I hug my legs to my chest and prop my knees high enough so they act as a barrier between myself and the glass divider to the rear end door. Across from me are two male Israeli soldiers bunched in a fetal position, too tired to pay attention clanking of the M-16 against their knees. A blind suddenly zips up disjolted by the fasteners and the windows are wide open. No-one bothers to close them. 

I'm taking the 845 Express bus from Tel-Aviv to Kiriyat Shmona. I will get off at "Tzomet Korazim" - the Korazim junction.   I will see my parents' house for the first time and wonder, "How is it possible to live in such a beautifully rustic piece of countryside when I have to pull out smelly tomatoes in the middle of the Arava Desert?" I will perform the one act of kindness and prop the male soldier's head that now rests on my shoulder. Here, there are no physical and non-verbal boundaries - with a push of my hand, I gently nudge the soldier as if I am his big sister. How awkward it feels to be pushing a soldier's head in its upright position. He opens his eyes and smiles and curls in the other way. I'm satisfied by this small feat - aching for a little bit of physical space.

By the time we reach the end of the highway to the developmental Afula, the town is in wide range. I will keep an eye out for people who aren't soldiers and are pushing shopping carts to the nearby "shuk," market for their Shabbat food supply. I will look longingly at the civilian clothes and think about the first shower I will take in my parents' new home - happy to finally feel "settled in."

The bus driver shouts, "Eser Dakot Hafsaka - Ten minute break" and everyone shuffles out except the male soldier next to me who is snoring loudly. I'm now too bunched in the nest I've made for myself. Buying a bureka or a chocolate milk is enticing, but not enough to jostle myself or the soldier next to me. Sleep catches on with me and I submit myself to the quiet lull of the almost empty bus.

One hour later and I'm passing through the Yizreal Valley that I mistakenly perceive as the Golan heights. It is speckled with kalniyot. They have enjoyed the last heavy rainfall and now the entire valley sparkles in technocolor rain that pentrates the hills and mountains to a point of honest perfection. 

I'm on my way home.


  1. This is your story, the one you were meant to write. Blessings.