Romance among the deserts
Jehoiakim Altland, the Jewish journalist woke with a start, his heart pounding and his face sweating, “Not again, how many more nights sleep will I lose before I can erase the memory of the lady in these dreams?”
He sat on his bed and took two pills with a glass of water to calm his pulse, as it was almost time for him to get up for work, he picked the phone up and rang his editor, Abir Moszkowicz, "Abir can I have a vacation for two weeks, please? I want to go on an Aliyah, a homecoming in other words back to Israel. I have something that I need to clear up for my peace of mind. I'll tell you more when I get to the office."
Abir didn't take long to reply, "Of course, you can take the time, this is only your second vacation in the eight years that you've worked here. This must be important to you to ask for the time off, and I am intrigued to find out what caused the call."
Jehoiakim got dressed and went to pick his car up from the basement where he'd parked it the night before. He was in such a state he almost passed his car before he knew it.
It is true that he was loathed to take a break, that was the driving force behind his success on the paper, he never knew when to call it a day with a story. This story had become a personal mission, something was niggling at the back of his mind, and he couldn't think what it was, and that was what worried him.
After 20 mins, he pulled into the office car park and stopped his engine, the longer he thought about his situation, the more Jehoiakim was puzzled as to what was going on in his mind. Being Jewish, he'd learned the value of staying calm and reasoning things out, rather than making rushed decisions, but the more he tried to reason his problem, the more he found himself at a loss.
Abir watched as his friend entered the room in a rush, and said to his secretary, Joanna, "This looks like being a long chat, can you make some coffee please?"
Abir opened the door for his friend and walked over to his seat behind the desk. "First, when do you want the time off, Jehoiakim?"
There was no time to think, as Jehoiakim replied, "When is it suitable for the paper?"
Abir shrugged his broad shoulders, and then replied, "You ask, when can I let you go? This vacation you ask for is the first, you have asked for time off, and I feel it will be the last time you ask, pick your dates."
Jehoiakim replied, "I'd like to fly out to Israel next week, if you can spare me at the time, Abir."
Abir smiled, and then said, "Consider the job is done, my dear friend. Now, can you please enlighten me as to what made you ask for time off, this is so unlike you. Normally, I have to force you to take a vacation or lose the time off."
Joanna came in and put the coffee pot on the table in front of Jehoiakim, after thanking her, Jehoiakim continued their discussion, "For the last two weeks, I've had vivid dreams about taking an Aliyah, I can't tell why this year but something is driving me to return this year. In these dreams, I see a beautiful lady with a full figure and dark brown hair beckoning me to the shores of Eilat, or at least I think it's Eilat."
Abir sipped his coffee, and was deep in thought, after a while, he replied, "Correct me if I am wrong, but you have not been to Israel in the last five years have you?"
"No, you are right, Abir, I have not been to my homeland since then."
"In that case, what makes you think you're in Eilat and not Tel Aviv, or Jerusalem, Jehoiakim?"
"Abir, the only thing that comes to mind is I can hear jazz music playing in the background."
Abir smiled as he realized his friend could be right about the annual festival, but something else was intriguing him, "Have you any idea who the lady is? Have you thought of anyone recently that could have triggered your thoughts?"
After a little thought, Jehoiakim replied, "No, I have no idea who she is, most of my dreams have been about the trip, it's only in the last week that she has appeared in my mind."
There followed a short silence. Then the phone rang, after putting the phone in the cradle, Abir said, "Joanna has booked your flight and hotel, all you need to do is pack and relax."
Jehoiakim glanced around at the areas covered by the paper, and then said, "Relaxing is the last thing I can do, Abir. This story could be a big story for our paper. I don't want to mess things up."
"Listen to yourself, Jehoiakim, for once, take a break and relax, who knows, this lady might turn out to be the holiday romance you need to calm down."
Jehoiakim rose from his chair and paced around the office, first looking out at the throbbing world outside the window, and then at the world map on the office wall. He walked to where Abir was standing and asked his friend, "Do you think I push myself too hard, Abir?"
Abir turned from studying the map and then replied, "If you are asking the question of me, you know in your heart what the answer is. You do need to take this trip back to Israel. I think if you don't go you'll end up having a breakdown. One thing still puzzles me."
Jehoiakim scratched the stubble on his chin and replied,"What is puzzling you?"
Abir gave a slight shrug, "You still haven't told me why you want to go this year?"
Jehoiakim thought about how to answer the unanswerable question he had been posed and then said, "I can give no certain reason. The only thing I know is that for some reason, my homeland is calling to me louder than before, and I need to answer the call. Perhaps, I'll find the answer when I get there, maybe there is no definite answer to your question, Abir."
Abir said to Jehoiakim, "Finish your coffee, you have a lot to do and not long to do it. I hope your journey is fruitful and brings you the peace of mind that you need so badly."
The week passed too soon for Jehoiakim. The days seemed to drag, but the week flew by. He had many things on his mind, not the least was the mystery lady, who is she and what did she have to do with the Aliyah? Try as he might, Jehoiakim could not recall seeing her face before, but something seemed familiar about her.
The plane flew into the Tel Aviv airport from Milan. The second part of the journey had been the longest for Jehoiakim Altland, the Jewish journalist. The first section of the flight from London to Milan took a little under two hours, but the trip from Milan to Tel Aviv took four hours. Air travel was no bother - now - for Jehoiakim, but he still remembered his first flight to Canada from Gatwick. How could he forget, he'd been forced to travel overnight for an early morning flight and suffering from nerves, he'd not been able to rest during the six-hour wait for the flight. It didn't help his cause that the night he set off, he'd got soaked through within minutes of leaving his house. How he longed to feel the hot sun on his back again after all these years.
The trip was made longer by an unexpected layover from his London flight, in Milan.
Although he was a Jew, Jehoiakim had spent the majority of his life far away, mostly in England, but his work as a photojournalist took him all over at a moments notice. Deep in his heart, he knew something spiritual was missing in his life. Jehoiakim knew he needed to return to the Holy Land for some reason, but the reason evaded him. He had been so busy he'd never had the time to plan a trip. He had found the longer he waited, the more the desire to return burned in his soul.
The flight change caught Jehoiakim off guard; he'd turned up at the airport expecting to board
the through flight to Tel Aviv, to find that his editor had changed the plan and booked him for the trip to Milan. There was no time to find an answer as the modification of policy had left him with only a few minutes over the hour passengers have to board their flights. The stopover in Milan was no problem, after all, he'd always wished he had the time for an Italian vacation, and Milan, not Rome, would be the city he wanted to see. He wished someone had notified him, that is all, sudden changes of itinerary could mean anything, and at this time, not knowing the reason for the alteration had put him on edge.
The only message he'd received at the desk was a garbled one, from his editor, "I arranged for you to meet Adrianna Kucinski, in Milan. She's doing a European tour and stopping over in Milan for a day or two."
The name was nothing new to Jehoiakim as he'd kept abreast of the writing world, in his role as a journalist - even if he had stopped writing outside his job on the Jewish Express. As a reporter, he'd made a name for himself by asking interviewees awkward questions, and not giving up until he got close to the truth - as he saw it - this had both won him fans and respect from his readers, but he'd also made enemies of some powerful people. Death threats were nothing new to him, either as a Jew or a hard-talking reporter. He always kept in mind the quote from Woodrow Wilson,"If you want to make enemies, try to change something."
The changes are a constant companion as a writer, people's views, opinions, and the political interplay was always moving, changing faster than the winds sometimes. Your friend today could become an enemy overnight; such was the life the Jewish people had been forced to live with since time began. The Israelis had long ago learned that trust is as fickle as the desert wind that burns the air surrounding you, most people would turn on you if it were to their benefit. Those who stood by you at any cost risked becoming targets of hate as much as the Jews themselves, and those were the people you could trust even if there were few of them to be found.
Jehoiakim had accepted the meeting with Mrs.
Kucinski without a second thought; he had little else to do as it was too late to question the call when he received it and Jehoiakim realized he could use a stopover once in a while, his writing was getting jaded recently he had noted. He lacked the biting touch his readers came to expect, and he wasn't happy with his work either, even if the regular work paid the bills there was no satisfaction in writing lackluster articles for the younger readers when he wanted to do items of note. Sure, he had gained a massive following with the youngsters, but did he want to report on the pop circus when he knew life was moving fast, and he was missing the real stories?
Something out in the world was calling Jehoiakim, and he needed to find out what was calling him; first he had to find out what was calling him back to Israel at this time, more importantly, why this year?
The plane landed in Milan, and Jehoiakim made his way to the lounge for a cup of coffee - when in Milan try the best coffee in Italy - one of his colleagues told him on his return from a job in Italy. Jehoiakim sat in the lounge listening to the flights getting called in, as there was nothing to suggest that Adrianna’s flight from her last scheduled in Barcelona was nearing, he decided to have a coffee and a pastry to belay his hunger.
The unexpected change to his plans meant that he had to visit the Bureau
de Change to get some lira for his meal as all he had was sterling in his pocket, the traveler’s checks were safely locked in his luggage. He had time to open the case, but he didn't wish to open it now, after all, he only needed a light snack, not a full meal.
Jehoiakim glanced around the lobby, trying to get his bearings and find his way to the pastry counter. Being in Italy, he found an abundance of cake and ice cream stands, Jehoiakim realized, he was either going to have to watch what he ate or accept the consequences of gaining some weight with all the exquisite food to eat.
After getting his coffee and cake, Jehoiakim went in search of a seat, preferably one with a view of the arrivals screen. He sat and sipped his coffee, as he
did he thought, "this is more like the coffee I prefer, the European blends are too weak for my taste."
The screens showed the flight from Barcelona was about an hour out of Milan and had no unexpected delays. As always, he began to sweat, it is a trait that Jehoiakim had had since childhood when meeting somebody new, even in his late 40's he hadn't shaken his
trait; "some things will not change," he muttered as he waited and watched the passengers disembark from the flights. "Stations, airports and bus terminals, lives crisscrossing in a mesh and no one cared who you are, or where you're going, he muttered. As he thought of the many millions of people each day whose lived intertwined, and yet, never meant anything to anybody, not in their lives.
He began to feel on edge
as the time for Adrianna's flight landing came closer; would she object to having her short stopover disrupted by another writer, while she expected a rest in her schedule? He wondered why she had agreed to this meeting in the first place? His editor had said that she had a busy schedule planned, and had not much time to spare before going on the second part of the book signing tour and returning to Israel, for her winter break.
Jehoiakim got so anxious he began to pace, "Why am I so nervous," he thought, this isn't the first and probably won't be my last interview." He'd got so wound up, he realized with a start that he'd wandered out of sight of the arrivals board. As he gathered his thoughts and walked back to the seat he'd vacated, he glanced at the board above him, the flight was on the circuit and would be disembarking within 20 minutes.
As he waited for Adrianna to appear, a thought hit him, in all the rush to change flights, he'd had no time to collect ideas for questions. This is going to be fun," he muttered, I don't know what to talk about or if she has any taboo subjects to avoid, talk about winging it. Jehoiakim smiled as he thought of the possibilities he was about to encounter, he'd never gone into an interview blind before, he'd often blindsided his interviewee with questions they either didn't know how to answer or chose to avoid, but he'd been in control until now.
The flight landed on time, and Jehoiakim watched as the passengers walked down the aisles to their different meetings, some met friends or relatives, others were met with business associates. It was easy to see the relationship involved by the degree of personal contact in the meeting. To an observer of people, such as Jehoiakim, it was clear that many people were passing through Milan, going to
where was the question?
He was so intent on watching the traffic, it was a few minutes before he realized that the Barcelona flight had fully disembarked and Adrianna was not among the passengers. "I hope nothing happens to her," he thought as he made his way to the information desk. His mind was running ahead of him at this point. He began to wonder about all the various scenarios that could have taken place between the meeting being arranged and now.
He arrived at the desk, and waited impatiently for his turn, when it came, he didn't know where to start asking questions. Can you tell me if a Ms. Adrianna Kucinski was on the Barcelona flight, please? We planned to meet, but she hasn't come through customs and the passengers have left the terminal."
The young lady at the desk checked the passenger list and replied, I'm sorry, according to our information, your friend wasn't on the flight from Barcelona."
Jehoiakim thanked the young lady and went to get another coffee, now more than before he needed a drink to calm his nerves. In these days of terrorism, there are so many scenarios, he needed time to get his thoughts clear, but it is hard when you think somebody you know of could be in danger.
"Airports," he muttered as he looked around at the crowds milling, "people coming, going, and meeting people. All these people's lives cross, and they go unnoticed. I wonder how many people passing through could describe even one person here?" Jehoiakim walked over to the window that showed the planes in the circuit and wondered "Are you in the circuit, Adrianna?" With little else to do, he ordered another coffee and went back to his table, and he realized that worrying about things only made them appear worse than they were in reality, but when your friend is late it is unavoidable - especially if you have no reason for the delay.
He sat and pondered, "I wonder where these planes are from and where they are going, there are so many airlines and destinations to choose from these days. I wonder what makes a person choose their destination?"
He was so deep in thought that he didn't hear a faint voice call his name, "Excuse me, are you Jehoiakim?"
With a start, he turned to see the face of a mature lady looking at him, "Yes, I am, you must be Adrianna," he stuttered as he saw the face of a beautiful Jewish woman, "please take a seat."
Adrianna opened the conservation, "I am sorry to have caused the delay, and I apologize if I worried you. I did have a good reason; I stopped over in Turin for a couple of hours."
A little perplexed, Jehoiakim inquired,"Turin?"
Adrianna gave a smile and replied, "Yes, your articles on the Superga tragedy aroused my interest, and as I don't know if I will be in this area again, I decided to see the scene of the crash for myself. It was a great tragedy that all those lives were lost returning from the match in Portugal. To think that most of the Italian national team died in that crash is terrible."
He glanced at her beautiful face and said, "What is worse, is that outside Italy few people have heard of the collision, yet many can recall the Munich disaster. In honor of those who died in the accident, the other teams played their reserve squads for the remaining matches of that season so that
Internazionale would win the title."
Adrianna smiled and ran her fingers through her graying hair, and then she asked, "What made you come to Milan? Most people visit Italy and want to see Rome or Venice."
He shrugged, and then replied, "I guess I am not like most people. It isn't anything religious, I never fancied seeing Rome. As for Venice, my friends tell me it is like an open sewer. Other than that, I have long had a fascination with Milan and Northern Italy driven by the desire to find information on the top policeman of the 1950's - Mario Nardone. I tried everywhere, but I can't find any information on his life, do you think it is indicative of the modern society that we know more about the criminals than the police who bring them to justice?"
Adrianna gave a short laugh, and then said, "I think it is more a case of the crime is more interesting because of what was stolen, people's thirst for the knowledge of what others have is unquenchable, that is why gossip columns are so widely read in the papers."
He shrugged, and then replied, "That is true, and the main reason I chose not to write celebrity articles for my paper. I prefer to write about what is happening, not about which celebrity is doing their thing this week. Numerous other writers fill that space. I can't tell you how honored I am that you stopped over for my interview, Adrianna. I realize how busy you must be, and that you are on a whistle-stop tour of Europe to promote your latest book."
She ran her fingers across the table, and replied, "Believe me, I am only too pleased to have this opportunity to take a breath, at my age dashing around Europe is no fun. I too am honored that you took the time to interview me, from what my editor emailed me, you're on your Aliyah and returning to Israel this year, is there a reason why you chose this year?"
He looked at Adrianna, and then said, “All I know, is that for months, I have had dreams of a lady beckoning me to the shores at Eilat, and for some reason I am feeling the pull of my homeland more this year than ever. I get the sense that something important is about to happen in my life, and for the Lord’s sake, I have no idea what it possibly can be.”