There are secrets that we keep deep in our hearts that may never be shared with another. If we are lucky in life and love we find that special person who enables to share those tales that would never otherwise be told.
Not everyone is lucky enough to experience it and some who might have miss out on it because they don’t recognize it for what it is. Can’t say whether it is better to have never known it or to walk around looking for someone like you.
What I do know is that I never expected to find myself wandering around the largest alligator farm in the Middle East. Or maybe it is more honest to say that I didn’t wander for long, I ran and not because a gator was chasing me.
I ran because I saw Ann. I saw her standing off in the distance. Long black hair pulled back in a pony tail, sunglasses on and a blue dress that flapped a little bit in the wind. I saw her standing there and my heart stopped. I couldn’t figure out why she was there and then I started to laugh.
This was the kind of tale that could only happen in Israel. I can’t tell you how many times I have run into people I know in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but never at an alligator farm.
It is called Hamat Gader and the alligator farm isn’t the only thing there. It also has the ruins of a Roman bath and the hot springs that they once used are still there. They are still in use and in the past I have visited them on more than one occasion, but that wasn’t why I was here this time.
This time I was there because my cousin Jonathan’s baby son wanted to see the alligators. I hadn’t planned on going, but when he grabbed my hand and told me that I had to go I couldn’t say no. So we packed some snacks and jumped into a little Subaru and drove up North. Fifteen minutes into our ride I decided that Jonathan made Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride look like a Sunday drive.
Who knew that since my last visit Israeli law had made obeying traffic signals and stop signs optional. Ok, that is an exaggeration and the reality is that driving in Israel has always been an adventure but until that ride I had never truly been scared. I couldn’t decide if that meant I was getting old or if Jonathan was the craziest of the drivers I had ridden with.
Come to think of it I probably should have paid more attention to the way his father laughed as we left their apartment. I had chalked it up to his just being happy to see his favorite cousin from America. After that ride I might have to rethink whether he really thinks of me as his favorite cousin from America. I’ll have to ask him after I finish kicking his ass.
Anyhoo, we hadn’t been there more than twenty minutes or so when I saw her. It is possible that I looked up at the endless blue skies and spoke to God like Tevye once did. Except this time I didn’t run around my farm talking about what I would do if I were a rich man. Nor did I start singing about tradition. No sir, not me.
I started laughing and then I started running. I like to think that I ran I like it was tie game in the Super Bowl and I was fifteen yards out. Except I have this sneaking suspicion that I looked more like Curly trying to out distance Moe and Larry before all of the players on both sides could catch me.
Ultimately it didn’t matter whether I looked like a gazelle or a rhinoceros running because when people saw me they moved quickly to get out of the way. The whole time I was running I felt this incredible feeling of euphoria and a sense of destiny being filled. It didn’t matter to me why she was there I just knew that when she saw me we would end up in one of those crazy Hollywood movie endings. You know, long embrace and the kiss that your children never want to see you plant on anyone.
That is how it should have gone. That is how it would have gone except for one detail.
It wasn’t Ann.
In a matter of moments I went from praising god to cursing him. Considering that I was hanging out in the holy land that may or may not have been the smartest thing to do. But given the circumstances it was almost unavoidable.
The good news is that I managed to avoid completely humiliating myself and potential arrest because when I got close and heard “Ann” talking I realized that in real life she didn’t speak Italian. Granted I hadn’t seen her in a long time so it was entirely possible that she had learned the language. But I was positive that Ann hadn’t decided to start wearing a cross nor was it likely that she had suddenly become the mother of the twin boys in the stroller she was pushing.
Tastes Like Chicken
It really wasn’t a surprise to find a large Italian man standing in between the kids and myself. I can only imagine that I must have looked a bit like a crazy man as I came flying around the corner and towards his family.
In between the huffing and pushing I did while trying to catch my breath I tried to make light of the moment by telling him that Alligator tastes like chicken. I don’t know if he understood me or not but that is ok because I didn’t understand his Italian. I am fairly certain that he said something that was threatening and or insulting.
I returned the favor and said, “Hey Chef Boyardee, relax.” When he didn’t respond I threw out a series of other words like “Pizza, linguini, fettucine and gnocchi.” That was when I knew for certain that he didn’t understand what I was saying. I am not proud of that but I can only say that in the midst of disappointment and confusion I self medicated with thoughts of good Italian food.
If I ever write my memoirs I think I might leave that moment out. I need to make a mental note to come back and edit this section.
And we move on.
The day ends. I endure another nail biting ride back to my cousin’s apartment followed by a bus ride to Jerusalem that made the car ride seem pleasant. More time passes and I finish my trip.
Now I am six hours into the 15 hour flight home. It is just me and the 87 members of the something something West Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. Ok, there are lots of other people on the plane but I got stuck sitting in the middle of this group.
Don’t get me wrong, the people are among the warmest and nicest I have ever met. Under other circumstances I wouldn’t mind being with them at all, but these aren’t normal circumstances, they are far from it.
To begin with I hate flying and the last thing I want to do is talk to anyone. I’d much rather get lost in a book or movie and then follow that up with a ton of writing. And I would but for the constant conversation by the women seated on either side of me. They can’t stop talking. They want to know why I was there and what I was doing.
They tell me all about their trip and how thankful they are to have visited the lord’s home and tell me a million times how much they love Israel and Jewish people. I am grateful but I am tired and I am cranky.
I am about to tell them that I just can’t talk anymore when I veer off in another direction. Don’t know why, but instead of saying that I have to go to sleep I tell them all about Ann and I. Maybe it is because of that thing that sometimes happens on an airplane where you end up telling a stranger your life story. I can’t really say for certain.
But it doesn’t matter why because I share details with them that I have never told anyone. I tell them little things and big things. They ask questions and when I tell them about how things ended up they shake their heads at me and tell me that I was wrong. I get an earful about how foolish I was and then they surprise me by telling me that I shouldn’t have given up on her.
And it is not just the two on either side of me who are laying into me anymore. No, now there is a third and maybe a fourth speaking to me. They are in the row behind me telling me how dumb men can be and what I should have done.
When I tell them about the great run at the alligator farm they laugh hysterically and tell me that it is really funny. Just when I think we are done talking the lady sitting just behind me on the left says that the alligator farm was a sign and that I must contact Ann when I get home.
She says that I shouldn’t worry about what happened and that the past is the past and that Ann will think that my running to get to her at an alligator farm is romantic.
The other women agree with her. I surprise myself and confess that I want to call but that I am nervous about opening myself up. I say that she could reach out to me and that since she hasn’t I am not convinced that she is interested. I say that from all appearances she has moved on with her life.
They tell me that it is possible that she has but that their intuition is that she hasn’t. I am not sure that I want to listen to a bunch of old church ladies but there is something compelling about the moment. The one on my left put her hand on my wrist and looks me in the eye.
“You be strong here. She remembers the man that she fell in love with. She is not stupid. She knows that you have changed just as she has, but the man she loves is still in there. He just has new stories to share with her. And if for some reason she chooses not to take advantage of a second chance, well there will be someone else.”
The other ladies nod their heads in agreement, “but if you ask me, she won’t let you just walk away. Not as long as you reach out to her. She has to know that you are serious.”