Catpiss. I stepped into my new digs and recoiled from the odor of catpiss. I would have to find the source of that smell and eradicate it… but not tonight. I was tired. I had to make two trips from the West Bank because I could not drag my three suitcases on the city bus in a single trip. I rode the bus into Jerusalem with two suitcases, dropped them off at the new apartment, then rode a bus back to Neve Daniel where I picked up the final bag, and got on a third bus to return to Jerusalem. Doing it myself was 200 shekels cheaper than taking a taxi and I was poor.
I do not know how long my new roommate had been living alone, but she was obviously lonely. Rachel followed me around, chatting incessantly. I wondered if she even realized all the personal information she was gushing to me. Her last roommate was an under-aged drug addict who ran out on the rent. Before him, her roommate was an alcoholic man who sometimes broke furniture and seemed scary to me. Before him, her roommate was an older woman who was schizophrenic and beat her up! She got lucky when I came to live with her, but she did not know it yet.
I went out on the mirpesset (balcony/patio) with a juice glass and a litre bottle of cold beer that I had bought near the shuk; sat on a cheap, white plastic lawn chair; and took in the view. It was chaos. Our second-story patio looked into four or five other apartments, and those apartments also looked into other people’s apartments. I was in the Jewish ghetto but it was an expensive neighborhood in Jerusalem: Nachlaot. I did not understand it all yet. Rachel’s cat was across the way and while we were watching, she crawled into someone else’s kitchen window! I imagined she was stealing food off the counter. What if she got caught? They could shut the window and kill her! When the night air started to get really chilly, I went inside.
My “palace” was a double-sized mattress on a loft. I had not slept in a loft bed in 24 years! I had some difficulty climbing the ladder to get up there. Then I discovered my supposedly clean bed with fresh sheets was blanketed in cat hair. I did not care; I was so tired. I brushed off the cat hair as best as I could and crawled under the topsheet. The inside of the bed was clean; but the cat hair burned my eyes. I had probably made it worse by kicking it up into the air around my bed. “I’ll deal with it tomorrow.” I thought.
There was an electrical outlet and a bare lightbulb in my loft, so I plugged in my laptop and started watching “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. I love John William’s soundtracks; his music always relaxes me. After a while Rachel called out to me, “Do you have headphones on… ’cause I can hear everything?” I did have headphones on but I had plugged them in wrong. I fixed it and went to sleep. We both slept fitfully because neither one of us was used to having someone else in the room. Technically, we had separate rooms, but there were no doors and the wall had cut-outs in it that allowed us to hear if an ant farted nearby. Yes, it was intimate. Again, too tired to care.
It has been 48 hours. I washed the bed linens; I washed my hair; and I washed my pajamas. Rachel has decided she does not like me. I think it is because I called her out on her kosher kitchen that turns out not to be kosher at all. “…and what is this toaster oven for? Meat or dairy?” “Well, that’s dairy but sometimes I cook meat in it.” “…and the microwave?” “Oh, that’s definitely dairy… but sometimes I cook meat in it.” “…and the pots?” “This frying pan is dairy, but I sometimes cook meat in all the pots… except some of them I haven’t used recently.” “…and the silverware?” “I have two sets of silverware. My friend is a Rabbi and he said to wash the meat and dairy silverware together, as long as I use hot, soapy water.” What could I say to someone who is so ignorant of kashrut?
I am angry that the kitchen is not kosher, and it meant I had to spend money on things I had not budgeted for: plastic containers, disposable plates, knives. I bought a glass coffee cup with a pink rose decal on it, but I have been using it without toivelling it. This sucks. I feel like she lied to me because she needed my rent money, but in truth, it is probably just a misunderstanding. I need to work on “loving the rayocha camocha”, loving the onlooker as myself. I am really blunt and people generally do not like to be spoken to that way. I do not know what to do.
Rachel had a hashish addiction. Her dealer would come to our apartment and light up with her. That really disturbed me. I felt unsafe. Unfortunately, I had pre-paid her for six weeks and she was unwilling to refund my money. Therefore, I was not going anywhere. No way was I going to let her scam me. It was a horrible situation, but I made the best of it. Every American Jew dreams of living in Jerusalem and there I was, walking distance to the Kotel, the Western Wall! I took full advantage. Every week, I walked to the Kotel at least twice, including Shabbat, and stayed as long as I wanted. Every visit was miraculous. It really is the center of the universe.
I decided to handle it by posting this notice in the neighborhood:
AMERICAN LADY NEEDS APARTMENT TO SHARE IN JERUSALEM:
MY GOAL IS TO HOST PEOPLE FOR SHABBAT,
THEREFORE, ANY ROOMMATES NEED TO BE:
LOCATION: ANY NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE ONE CAN WALK TO THE KOTEL (FOR EXAMPLE: NACHLAOT, RECHAVIA, MORASHA, NAHALAT SHIVA, CITY CENTER, ETC.)
MONEY: I WOULD LOVE THE COMBINED COST OF RENT, WATER, AND ELECTRIC TO BE UNDER 2000 SHEKELS PER MONTH.
I REQUIRE A CONTRACT IN ORDER TO RECEIVE MY ARNONA DISCOUNT.
TO MEET FOR COFFEE, PLEASE CONTACT ME : Rivka.
Before my weeks were up, Hashem provided me with the opportunity to study Torah in Tzfat (Safed) and I boarded the bus for the city that would become my true home (:
“Memories of Israel: Nachlaot, Jerusalem.” is copyright © 2015 by 18mitzvot. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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