They Ate Peaches
Chapter 1 – New York
Jacob had coal-black hair; Schubert locks curled over his forehead, others imbedded his ears in fuzzy cups, while the back ones pressed down his carefully ironed collar, making it disappear in the dark halo surrounding the head of David's angel. Three days before, he had stepped off a bus from Grand Rapids into the ethnic mousetrap of Port Authority. His journey began when he boarded the bus for New York, his halfway house, twelve days to look at everything before he bound himself to his new land.
Jacob strolled. The restaurant search dwindled into a haze of mixed aromas, an amalgam of indefinable sub-maxillary confusion pulling at his hunger. Years before, he had visited New York with his parents. Broadway had been a clean, two-lane thoroughfare, divided in the middle by grass with benches to sit and watch as New Yorkers took their lives in their own hands – running the gauntlet, feigning disinterest, challenging the automobiles, those rushing hordes of gasoline dragons, impotent metal creatures unable to snap up pedestrian knights, breathing fire, roaring – then the frustrated helpless braking. Now the grass and trees choked, the benches held the knights’ garbage, stinking, discarded remnants of the present; a sleeping place for impotent Don Quixotes.
Jacob stood outside the bookstore, assorted bins on the sidewalk, sale books set to trap the intellect of the passerby then lure him into the interior of high prices. David walked behind him, casually avoiding him as he stepped back. Jacob reading, unconscious of his own movements, had decided to purchase the novel he held in his hand, You Can't Go Home Again.
A dollar ninety-five, one of his favorites he considered, holding the prophet in his palm. David brushed against Jacob as he stepped back. He did not feel the slight interruption in his stride; too many people on the sidewalk had to be side-stepped.
He moved through the crowd, unaware of their destiny. Jacob turned, politeness inbred. He began to excuse himself, but the interruption had glided by. He caught but a glimpse, profiled by long, thick, wavy blackness. He was a full-lipped Nefertiti, long of neck, hair tossing itself rhythmically back and forth across high cheekbones separated by a long, slender nose reaching up over a slight crest, only to disappear in aligned compatibility into a forehead lineless, not furrowed by the concerns of mortal man.
An invisible thread of destiny, stronger than any man-made link, sent down to them, unavoidable, searched them out; a chain joining two tiny atoms in a vast sea, the distance impossible, the fusion inevitable.
Jacob stopped in front of the Broadway Grill. Like many of its kind, the restaurant filled itself with two rows of cracking-plastic benches surrounding salt and pepper shakers on sugared, vinyl-topped tables. A long, half-oval counter pushed against the two rows, a battle for space soldiered by mystic warriors who managed to sweep through no-man's-land, giving and taking orders.
They carried their weapons, indirect food death, tasty garbage to spangle the corrupted palate, on their forearms, two, three, sometimes four plates on a side. Jacob was reading the menu hanging beside the entrance when the purr of David Ames' voice swept over his shoulder and imbedded itself in his brain.
“Somehow I don't think this is the place we want.” The voice was focused, gentle, non-threatening. Jacob felt its warmth as he turned to greet the source. He had to look up. The man was very tall, very dark, and very beautiful. The word washed through him as he stared up at David; he could think of no other to describe what he saw. Jacob knew that, like the first drop of rain that fell ten thousand feet to sprinkle itself on his forehead, this man had been meant especially for him. He was God's personal gift, wondrous benevolence created for him, like the raindrop.
He was a six-foot-four main mast, capable of holding up all sails. Olive-skinned and sanguine of face with a Roman nose that was marred only slightly by a too-thick bridge, the eyes inquisitive, so large that they rounded the sides of his face. Two dark-brown open pools reflected the light of great intelligence, connected by almost-meeting, thick furred eyebrows.
The countenance of Zeus, the smile of Apollo, thought Jacob. “Pardon me?” Programmed, the reply uttered, Jacob wanted to pull back.
“I only mean this is not the place for us to eat. The food is not up to your level. I am sure you need beautiful food, good stuff, you know what I mean? Besides, there is a great little deli just around the corner.” David's smile bewildered Jacob, caught him up and whisked him off. It carried him to where bright lights waited, the lights of things not trashed, immortal, children bearing themselves through the souls of men like David.
David and Jacob ate together that day, ate of the foods and of each other. Expectations discarded, they smelled, tasted, swallowed. Jacob would leave in twelve days. He would fly to Israel, where he would wait for David. In six months he would graduate; school would have taught him all it could about cultivation, technical know-how, planning, and equalization of the earth. He would learn how to take land and make it live, things that the others, already there, had learned by being hungry. He and David would live in the Golan. They would stand together on the fallow land that drank the water Jacob brought. Its thirst not discarded, they would fight their enemies, prepared to die for their love.
Chapter 2 – A Letter
My dearest David
I am writing this to you as I sit on top of a hill in the desert. It is not particularly high, just a slope in a body of sand. Funny how I found granite in the sand, dear man, but there it was. It makes me think of you, reminds me of our first meeting, how you made me want to stay in New York. Christ, I wanted to stay! Anyway, I decided to walk this morning before the sun rose. I was told to be careful. Funny, I was not told by an Israeli but by an elderly Arab gentleman. I think he must be about a hundred and ten, but those eyes. I have seldom seen such eyes, David; not unlike the first time when you walked up behind me and breathed love into me, yet different. His eyes were see-through eyes, understand? They saw into me, around me, told me of ancient times, of lithe spirits and youthful joy. It is hard to explain but his eyes, well, they gave me courage. They made me understand that to walk in the desert one must be cautious but that not to walk would take me back. God, this sounds silly, I bet, but they made me understand something started by you, by You Can't Go Home Again. You know that was the book I held in my hand on that day we met – you know that, don't you, David? More than that, I cannot really explain but as I walked in the desert, I understood his eyes. Then before me, as out of some sea of copper, this granite hill awoke and drew me to it. So here I sit, David, thinking of you, of the soft touch of your lips, your gentle tongue upon my neck, my ear, my eyes – that first kiss as you reached into me yet your lips only graced mine as a light breeze swept upon my heart. I love you, David. You shall be inside me forever and after. Bless the sweet street of light that led you to me. Thank you, my friend, my lover, my life.
“What did that man say to you?”
Nachum bent to the old man, pointed a hard finger into his face. “Never mind. Take the child; he is prepared!” Nachum, small wired hatred, pressed the child's hand into the old man's. “Go to the marketplace, stand with the child. He has spoken with his mother; we wait no longer. Go!”
Jacob finished his letter, put it into his back pack. The sun had risen, the desert spoke as the light made Jacob turn back, look toward the small village he had just left. His thoughts were with the light, his eyes watched as the village set its heart against the desert sky. For a thousand years it had risen to the sun, had held its children to the god of their choice, had forgiven them their sins. Now it was dying.
“Doctor Ames to ER! Stat!” David folded the letter then put it in his breast pocket close to his heart. There was an addendum to Jacob's letter telling him of the explosion.
Two solid days and not much rest, his mother had dropped into David's apartment to clean for him and pick up his mail.
“Since when is my son getting mail from Israel? It’s such a long one, as well. David, you have friends in Israel?”
He took the letter from his mother then kissed her on the forehead. “Bless you, Mama. Yes, I have friends in Israel – well, at least one. Don’t worry, dear; wipe that look away. I will be there for Sophie's birthday. I promised, didn't I?”
David's mother turned, alone out and away. She stopped, looked back to her son before she walked out the door. “You promised, David. Don't forget; you promised!”
David stood watching his Mama walk down the hall. He knew she would turn, knew she would ask, knew he had to wait even though the ER was calling. “I wait here for her to turn. I have always waited for that turn. Someone is maybe dying and I am waiting! I wonder if I’ll ever not wait. Maybe it’s just a Jewish doctor thing!” David turned to the ER, chuckled to himself and felt Jacob in his heart.
David changed into his jeans and a light high-necked polo. Proud of his body even after the last days at the hospital, he would walk the seven blocks to the gym, suck in the air of autumn, blow out the smell of the place where he felt useless; despite the saving, despite the effort, he felt useless. Jacob had walked into his life and life had walked back into his heart.
He felt his stomach as he walked, slipped his hand under the polo and gently massaged himself as he thought of Jacob's light-tongued touch, his lips kissing his abdomen, sliding down the slight line of dark hair, breathing hot air into his gut. He felt himself. He grew hard and he did not care if anyone took note. He walked and he dreamed of Jacob.
David reached over and gently stroked Jacob's smooth, glistening forehead. Even with the air-conditioning humming through the apartment, the beads of sweat grew as he watched. Like tiny, living pearls, they shuddered indecisively, first to the right, then to the left, until they rolled too far and gravity pulled them down the cliff side of the young man's chiseled face, occasionally allowing them to stop to build small, shimmering pools in the corners of his mouth. As David turned to face his sleeping Adonis, the liquid that had gathered above the Kirk Douglas cleft spilled over, sending rivulets carousing down on either side of his Adam's apple to their final destination in the hollow above his clavicle. He put his face down close to this gathering of sweet salt, filled the space with his tongue, and drank it dry.
David awoke from his dream; the horn of the taxi slapped him. He did not hear the words of the irate cabby, he was no longer hard. David gently touched the letter close to his heart. “Soon, Jacob, very soon!” He whispered the thought aloud.
Jacob, sleeping in his room awoke, erect, reaching to the empty space beside him. “Soon, very soon!”