It’s after midnight, and I’m at Movieing, my favorite café in Tel Aviv. I’m sitting outdoors next to the heater and writing. All the other customers have left, and the staff is getting ready for the New Year’s Eve party at the café tomorrow night. Two staff members whom I consider friends are going to be the party’s DJs — I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
They are setting up the equipment and doing a sound check, playing great music. I put my laptop in its case and join them inside. Two women in their early twenties come in and start to dance — I’m dancing too. They are laughing and giggling and smiling at me. Then they pose and take pictures, together and separately. Their laughter still lingers after they have gone.
I go to the neighborhood supermarket: it’s open late. There I run into Ethan.
I’m not sure if he remembers exactly what happened last summer and my role in it — he was too drunk then. But he says to the cashier, “Be nice to Lilac. She is my talisman.” So maybe he does remember.
I know Ethan from the neighborhood park. I go there to meditate every night, and he likes to be in nature. He has always seemed like a well-balanced man.
Except for last summer.
When I saw him then, he was very drunk. He was holding a translucent bag with a few beer bottles inside. Walking in an unstable way, he was heading to the park just as I was leaving. And he looked like a third of himself. He hadn’t looked like that when I’d seen him last, only a few weeks before.
“Are you OK, Ethan?”
“I haven’t been eating for three weeks since the accident,” he replied. “Only drinking beer.”
“I fell on my head.”
I immediately thought to myself, “I must help him.” But how? For starters, I said, “I’ll go bring you some hummus.” We have the best hummus in my neighborhood.
“Thanks.” I was sure he’d decline.
He sat down on a bench, and I rushed over to the hummus place. But when I got back, he wasn’t there, and the park looked deserted. I felt stupid. He didn’t want the food. I shouldn’t have left him alone. I took a walk in the park. Maybe he had just moved to another bench. But I only saw a homeless man lying on the ground. I left the food next to him, and he jumped to his feet.
It was Ethan.
“You brought me food.” He said. “You are wonderful.”
Then he sat down again, lit a cigarette, and opened a can of beer.
I sat down next to him. “Forget the beer. Now you eat.”
“Nobody would do that for me, come back with food. Thank you.”
He ate very little, and then he said, “I want to die.”
“I have nothing to live for. I’m divorced, my kids are grownup. I left a beautiful apartment to my ex.”
“I’m older than your kids, and I still need my dad.”
“We shall overcome, we shall overcome,” he sang, slurring.
“We are going to the hospital now.”
“I don’t want to go. I want to sleep on the grass and never wake up.”
“It’s not going to happen. Not as long as I’m here, and I’m not leaving. You are not well. It’s not a good idea to make a major life decision when you are in distress.”
“I am in distress.”
“I know. Let’s call your ex-wife. Maybe she can take us to the hospital.” He was still seeing her and the kids daily.
“Why call her?”
“Because she knows your medical history.”
He gave me his phone.
“You can’t imagine how many times I came over to take him to the hospital,” she said after I awkwardly explained to her who I was, “and he changed his mind in the last minute. He is a grownup. He needs to decide first that he needs help.”
She hung up.
“We shall overcome, we shall overcome,” he was singing again.
“We’re going to leave now, Ethan.”
“I don’t have energy.”
“So lean on me.”
“I don’t want to.”
“You can’t do this to your kids. But you can’t do this to me, either. Rejections are not good for my ego.” I winked at him. He laughed. “So do it for your kids, but also for me.”
He agreed to lean on me then.
“Let’s call my ex. She’ll take us there.”
“But don’t pull the I-changed-my-mind shtick on me, OK?”
He laughed. “OK.” Then he called her.
Shortly after that, the three of us were walking to her car.
“You know that he needs a psychiatric hospital, Lilac,” she said.
“Why is Lilac not coming with us?” he asked as they got into her car. She didn’t reply, but she asked me not to go, which I thought was wise.
He was smiling and waving at me as they drove away.
Ethan has regained all of his lost weight, and he looks good. He also has stopped drinking.
Sometimes it is so easy to make a huge difference in someone’s life. We only need to care. Like angels.