Shanghai

The other night, I ate a meal cooked by people I didn’t know. I didn’t know if I should help them, what they were cooking, or what they were saying, at least part of the time, because they occasionally spoke to each other in Hebrew. At first I thought they were speaking Hebrew to keep something a secret, like their opinions of me or the exact location of their jewelry and valuables, but later, I realized with some excitement that they were saying things like “the eggs are burned” and “our son is annoying, get him out of the kitchen” or “take out the trash” or “did you remember to put my underwear in the dryer.” I too would like to use a language other than English to convey banal questions and instructions to my spouse. The only things I can say so far in Hebrew are “thank you,” “hello / goodbye,” “no,” “girl,” “boy,” “woman,” “man,” “cook,” “read,” “write,” “run,” “swim,” “dog,” “egg,” and “apple.” I don’t know how to say “does this food have meat in it,” or “please,” or “where is the laundromat.” Meanwhile, at the house where I had only just met the people who were cooking for me, my children and their children shot each other with Nerf darts and played with chinchillas, even though they—the children, not the chinchillas—did not share a language. Playing with Nerf guns and the softest animals in the world obviates language.

Dream: I’m sitting on the conveyor belt. It’s moving forward at its maximum speed of 8 miles per hour. The person in front of me announces that he has won an Olympic medal. The strap is visible around his neck. I can’t see what mint the medal is, and if it’s a bronze medal I won’t care, but it may be a gold medal, so I sit up straight with good posture and act like someone who also has a medal. The only thing around my neck is a chain with a car key on it. The key is black and it flips open like a switchblade. I like the way it opens very much. I close it and flip it open with the little silver button, for fun. It can be stored compactly when it’s in my pocket. It can ignite a 2.5-liter engine. These engines are manufactured in the factory in Shanghai where I’m sitting on the rolling conveyor belt. I have the key so that I can do quality control checks on the engines once they have been mounted on a chassis and inserted into a car. The key can turn on any of the engines. It will render most aspects of quality control meaningless, but I am not motivated to make waves or to complete my job in an ethical way. I am only motivated by my paycheck. I press the silver button again and again. The man in front of me turns around and we look at each other. His medal is silver, like the button on my key. I’m relatively impressed.

Israel

I moved to Israel. The hotel where I’m staying ran out of falafel last night. I ate a carrot for dinner, with hummus. I did not go to the dinner buffet. The head waiter, Abed, likes my children, because they are well-behaved. Many of the other children who come to dinner throw spaghetti noodles at the walls and slap their parents. He sends plates of fruit upstairs with us after dinner: pears, yellow oranges, something that looks like a plum. Soon, when we move to a house, I will be able to cook my own food again, if I can remember how. I will not be able to rely on Abed to make sure I have fruit to eat when I am lonely in the middle of the night.

Dream: The first elevator is the size of a master bedroom. It goes from the ground to the sky and back. The second elevator is the size of a dorm room, and rises only half as high as the first before returning to earth. The third elevator is the size of an IKEA elevator; the pattern of ascent and descent continues. The fourth elevator is the size of an elevator. When it stops, I get out and go into the next one; it’s the size of an accessible shower. It feels small. I disembark and push the button to open the next elevator. It’s no bigger than a single shower stall. This elevator ride is dark and upsetting, but it feels good to get out of it. I look for the next elevator. The button is in the shape of a cherry, and it flashes when I push it. The new elevator arrives. It’s the size of a dumbwaiter, and opens like one. Inside, where I will barely fit if I contort my body, it looks cozy and inviting. There is a candle burning in a recessed alcove. It occurs to me that the ride on this dumbwaiter-elevator will be very brief, if the pattern continues, and evidence suggests it will. I bend down and start to climb inside, arms and head first. But someone wakes me up before I can see if I will fit inside the small, romantic elevator, and where it will go, and whether the candle is scented or not, and whether it was the last elevator in the series, or if I would have been offered another elevator the size of a Christmas present.