September 17, 2010

The Beach

Twenty-five years ago at the height of the John Hughes era a teenage boy and his friends walked down HaYarkon street in Tel Aviv and headed towards the water.

Endless hours running around shirtless had taken his olive skin and turned it a golden brown. Americans would approach him slowly and ask in broken Hebrew for directions to the bathroom or for recommendations for a place to go eat.

He thought it was funny to let them struggle to ask the question and then answer them in flawless English. Sometimes they would look at him and ask how he had learned to speak English and he would say that 16 years in Los Angeles helped. It was the truth, but not everyone believed him. More than a few had told him that they wished that they could speak Hebrew as well as he spoke English.

It made him laugh to hear that. He spoke decent Hebrew, but had a thick American accent that made him self conscious. But he quickly learned how to fool other Americans into thinking that he was Israeli or from somewhere else. There wasn't really a reason for doing so other than it was different. But that was part of being a teenager, exploring life and trying to figure out who he was supposed to be.

As they approached the beach he and his fellows immediately began to search for the best place to set up camp. They wanted to be close to the water and close to girls. In the midst of the summer heat it was a bit of a toss up as to which was more important, girls or the water. They were to use a tired phrase, footloose and fancy free.

Their parents and siblings were all back in the states. Ten thousand miles away they lived in a dorm in a time before email, Skype and many of the other modern luxuries that technology provides today. In their minds mom and dad were out of sight, out of mind. While the reverse might not have been true, it didn't matter. They felt like the kings of the universe.

It lent a certain amount of swagger to their stride- perhaps unearned and undeserved it existed nonetheless. In a matter of hours that extra swagger would give that teenage boy the confidence to ask a girl to spend time alone with him. Under the moonlit sky they would stare out at the Mediterranean and talk about the futures they imagined for themselves.

The main difference between them was that she was there with her family. It would take a while, but eventually he would work up the nerve to kiss her. A soft kiss that spoke of possibilities for something more- or so he remembered it. Not long after she would hug him and then mutter something about getting in trouble for not checking in with her folks. He would try to walk her back but his efforts would be rebuffed.

One moment she was in his arms and the next she was racing across the sand to a hotel. Alone on the sand he stared up at the moon and got lost again in the magic of the moment.

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