[Transcript of meeting; eyes only]
In the absence of the unit’s chief officer, Aharon Migdal convened the meeting at twenty minutes past noon. The location was in the “bottom-secret” basement. Although there are other windowless rooms, Aharon had requested this one as being remote and unlikely to have ‘accidental’ entries.
Aharon: “My friends, the Office’s business is secrets: discovering them, finding them, keeping them. But it appears that a secret is about to become public that the Office knows nothing of, and that may affect Israel as well as the Diaspora.”
The chief officer, Shmulik Horvitz, entered.
Shmulik: “And what secret do we not know, Aharon?”
Aharon: “Ah, good morning, Shmulik, a very good morning to you! Will you turn off the light, please?”
The light was turned off. Aharon turned on the computer, and a black-and-white photograph was seen on the front wall: Two men smiling at the camera, in front of a sign advertising “Patisserie Ben Ezra.” The white, painted caption says, “Marseille, 1939.”
Aharon brought up the next slide in the presentation, meanwhile saying, “This was taken in Berkeley, California, during the summer of 2011.” This slide was in color, and depicted one man on a stage. The man was dressed in a sleeveless blue shirt and blue shorts, but his body was also blue.
Shmulik asked, “Are you saying this tattooed man is the same one from 1939? He doesn’t look any older!”
“Correct!” answered Aharon, “and it is not a tattoo, it is a condition.”
Participant: “A condition that keeps him from aging, I think.”
Shmulik asked, “Who is this man? Is he Jewish?”
Aharon: “No longer. He was Jewish, although he didn’t know that until after this photograph was taken. He was nevertheless active among the partizaním during the Shoah, and saved many lives. He refused the Righteous Gentile nomination — I think he believed even then that he was Jewish. Apparently, he had been circumcised, and in Europe in those days…..”
Shmulik: “Okay, he was Jewish, and he was blue, and he had this condition. What else?”
Aharon brought up the next slide, a picture of the same man, dressed, standing alongside another man who appeared to be older because of gray hair, but otherwise well fit. “The other man is still alive, and living in San Francisco. This picture documents their marriage shortly before the blue man’s death. One of my contacts is the doorman at the French consulate there, and he shot some of these.”
The next slide showed the gray-haired man, along with a much younger man. It was in the same room in the consulate. Aharon: “The gray-haired man and his friend here run a foundation called ‘Indigo Climate,’ which funds projects that combat climate change. They are here….”
Shmulik: “These two, their money? Is it from the blue man?”
Aharon: “Exactly. The blue man, Joseph Esterhazy, died at an incredible age with incredible wealth, all of which he left to the gray haired man, Joshua Shapiro. The other man is Kevin Kaplan….
Shmulik: “How incredible?”
Shmulik: “Either! Both!”
Aharon: “The wealth I don’t know, but it had accumulated in the London Rothschilds’ Bank for well over a century. The age of Esterhazy, 265 at his death, approximately.”
Participant: “Okay, incredible.”
Shmulik: “Agenda, please! What does this picture show?”
Aharon: “The Indigo group funds many wind and solar projects in America, but had just begun collaborating with a wind-power group in Brest, when the French government appeared to shut them down. They forbade Indigo from giving money to the Brest group.”
Participant: “The French turning down money. Even more incredible.”
Aharon continued: “The group sent two of their number to Brest to see if they could work things out with the government there, and the other two, the ones you see, to the consulate in San Francisco.”
Aharon paused. “The next photo is provocative. It was taken secretly by my contact in the consulate.” He brought up a slide of the two Indigo men having sex with someone. The younger man, Kaplan, is fucking the consul, while Shapiro is working to keep Kaplan aroused; it is clear that neither Kaplan nor Shapiro is enjoying this, but the bottom man is entirely aroused, sweating, and drooling from the mouth, and the photo is marred slightly because his head is not still. Only this bottom man is naked; no blue is visible.
Shmulik: “Why do we need to see this, Aharon?”
Aharon: “This was sexual extortion by the French consul; he had promised to rescind the injunction against American investment if one of the two Indigo men had sex with him. The consul, as it later turned out, had gotten the post through some illicit means precisely for the purpose of doing this. Shortly afterward, he was found out, arrested and sent back to France.”
Shmulik: “This consul looks good enough to get sex on his own. Why…?”
Aharon: “Because the Indigo men were just as their name says. They are also blue, like Esterhazy. In fact, they had gotten the condition through sex with Esterhazy. And the consul appeared to know something of this.”
Shmulik: “Disgusting all around. Still, you haven’t gotten around to telling us why this is so important to the Office.”
Aharon shut off the presentation, and asked for the lights to come up. During the presentation, he must have taken off his shirt, because he now appeared bare-chested — and blue — before the group, an unprecedented show. “This is why. Shmulik, how old am I?”
Shmulik: “The same age I am. We did our army service together. So, sixty.”
Aharon: “And do I look like sixty?”
Murmuring in the room: Aharon has the musculature and dark hair of someone much younger.
Aharon: “I have come to believe that the potential for this condition is inherited. In my experience, it was confined to Moroccan Jews. And not just any Moroccans. Only those who came from the northeast area along the Mediterranean, especially near Chefchaouen.”
Participant: “The ‘Blue Pearl.'”
Aharon nodded. “Exactly. The city is known for its blue color. Not only buildings but even walkways are painted blue. I don’t know the connection with my own blue, however.”
Shmulik: “Speaking of which, would you put your shirt on?”
Aharon got dressed. “Shmulik, please let me finish this up now. There are things I need to add about the condition itself.
“The condition: As far as I can tell, it is an infection transmitted anally, included along with the semen, as are many infections. But this one is symbiotic, more like yogurt bacteria, or other members of the human micro-biome. Its effect on the host is actually to strengthen, to produce an immunity to other infections, to reverse some illnesses such as arthritis. Any man who receives this gets the benefit, but only a few are able to keep the symbiotic organism alive long enough to also transmit it; it is this ability to transmit that is genetically determined, at least I believe so. The color I’m not sure of; some transmitters do not show the color. I have no information on what happens in anal sex with women, but I can definitely tell you that vaginal sex with this organism is quite harmful. Two examples:
“The more recent one is the French consul we saw. When he had sex with his wife later that day, she had to be hospitalized with a severe burn of some kind to her internal organs. She was eventually discharged from hospital, but has divorced the consul.
“The other event is part of my family history: You saw two of the Indigo men; the other two were in France then, remember? One of them is a distant relative of mine. A man married into our clan while in Melilla, an exclave of Spain on the Moroccan coast. The couple fled to France about the same time my parents and I did, but never went so far as to make aliyah to Israel. The man had the condition and, during sex with his wife — my relative — she had apparently a similar painful reaction. They had sex with condoms for years after that, but she eventually insisted on a child, and suffered the consequences, both in the sexual act, and also by dying in childbirth. The child is now one of the Indigo Climate group.
“The father was a petty criminal, eventually gunned down in the streets by competitors. And this French faux-consul was the child of one of those competitors, who now are not so petty anymore. So the secret of this condition is not confined to my Moroccan cousins here in this country.
Shmulik: “So you’re worried what will happen it the world finds out that there is a Jewish disease that makes us almost invincible.”
Aharon: “Not if. When.”
Shmulik: “And why do you trust the information from your San Francisco friend?”
Aharon: “I knew him when we were children in France; he was a pied noir, and….”
Aharon: “Pieds noirs are French citizens whose ancestors had been colonists in North Africa. The French government also decided that Jews, even those whose families had never lived in France itself, were pieds noirs. In any case, we became friends as children. For him, receiving the infusion means relief from terrible arthritis. He used to get the infusion from Esterhazy as well, but now I am the only one he trusts to visit him and not divulge his secret.”
Shmulik: “Your friend: who else does he work for? Who else has seen these pictures?”
Aharon: “No one, as far as I know.”
Shmulik: “My friend, you need to be careful. If he takes peeping-Tom pictures for you, I suspect….”
Participant: “Have you isolated whatever this material is in semen?”
Aharon: “Not yet. It’s destroyed as soon as it is outside a human body. Or at least that’s what I’m finding so far. I’ve tried some very clumsy experiments, but with no result as yet.”
Participant: “I think we need to find out.”
Shmulik: “Agenda! Do you propose to do something about this?”
Aharon: “I have one thing I want to do to verify some of my suspicions. I want to check the DNA of some people. I’ve already done that with us Chefchaouen refugees, but we are almost identical genetically. We know from our sexual encounters with local Arab men here that, even though they’re our cousins, they don’t have the capacity to transmit. I had thought that Ashkenazim did not have it either, but clearly those two Indigo men in San Francisco are transmitters. I want to take cheek swabs from those guys, to start with. But I also want to take the DNA from all the members of this group, even if only as a control group.”
Participant: “So this is why you’ve been taking genetics courses for the past few years.”
Aharon: “Rina, you always figure it out! Kol ha-kavod!”
Shmulik: “Does anyone have any objection? No, we will let you do this. But how long is it going to take you to find out what you need? If this matter is so important, we need to find out soon what it is we need to do to be ready.”
Aharon: “A week to go to San Francisco will be enough, and then the time to analyze the DNA.”
Shmulik: “Aharon, go ahead, but I think there is less here than meets the eye.”
The meeting was adjourned, and participants went to the infirmary, where cheek swabs were taken.]
* 2 *
I was met at SFO by my friend François, who embraced me particularly warmly. I realized it had been a year since his last infusion, and that he had to be in much pain.
“Okay, mon cher, you’ll get what you need. I’m here for a week, but I won’t be able to be with you every day.”
“Please, Aharon, remember that you are also my friend, so I embrace you! No one in the consulate knows either unfortunate fact about me, my devastating arthritis, or my love of men.”
“François, the arthritis is awful, but the other is not! Perhaps you must remain in the closet, I don’t know, but please release yourself from that shame! Do you think that I am unfortunate?”
He could not answer that. We broke our embrace and went to his car. He put me up in his own apartment, and I enjoyed fucking him that night several times. When we were played out, I told him, “You are such a good lover, François, how can you be ashamed of that!” Again, I got no answer, so I did not continue. We slept well, and in the morning I told him of my plans.
“I may as well take your DNA as well, my friend, to keep as a control.” He nodded agreement. After taking the swab, I asked him, “if you had my ability, or Esterhazy’s, would you still consider your sexuality an affliction?”
“No, of course not!” he said.
“Alors, you have nothing to be ashamed of as you are!”
“But I am being a parasite! You give me a release from age and pain, and what do I give you?”
I laughed. “Oh, mon cher, how can you even ask that? I look forward to every chance I get to share your bed. I would love to spend time with you at a restaurant or theater…. all your choices have turned out to be excellent.”
“But I am representing internal security at the consulate, so it would be….”
“Dangerous? to spend time with a Mossad agent?”
“I wish I could disagree. C’est un bien dommage!”
“Yes, it truly is a shame. But, as the Americans say, ‘it is what it is.'”
I laughed. I told François that I would be visiting the Indigo group, especially now that all four would be together. He warned me that one of the four was no bluer than François himself, but rather also — he suspected — a parasite. I thanked him for the information.
The Indigo Climate group was headquartered in a nondescript apartment building close to the ocean. I always look for critical bits of information in traveling, and noted that it was possible to hear the ocean’s roar over the sound of the traffic, certainly not a typical city sound. Another critical bit: there was a place to park! In San Francisco! And also the wind that chilled an otherwise balmy day. The building was on a slope so steep that the sidewalk had steps. I enjoyed running directly up the street.
It was almost noon. I had called ahead to tell them I was interested in a solar-power project in the southern Negev, or perhaps a wind farm in the relatively flat Aravah along the southeastern border of the country where my fellow Moroccan homos might feel more free. It was the Kaplan boy who talked with me, and he seemed less than enthusiastic. I figured I could sweet-talk them into considering it.
I was met at the door by someone who looked very familiar. “You’re David!” I said.
He laughed. “Okay, Mister Secret Agent, how do you know that?”
I was shocked that he had unmasked me, even facetiously. But I was able to reply evenly. “Parce que nous sommes de famille. We’re related; you look like our cousins. And your last name, de la Torre, is just a translation of Migdal, tower. Your names are on your website, you know.”
He smiled, and embraced me à la française, kissing both cheeks. I was surprised that he was so short, no more than 5’5″, while the men in our family are 5’10” or taller. Then I remembered that his father was notorious for his small stature. Still, David was as dark as the rest of us, and fit but in a slender way.
He led me in to the dining area, where the others were already seated. We introduced ourselves. In the meantime, David disappeared and came back with a tadjine, which turned out to be a real accomplishment. “David, if I didn’t know before that we were related, I know now! You could open a Moroccan restaurant in Israel!”
“Along with all the others? I have the impression that there are quite a few.”
“Well, yes, but surely you want to do more with this artistic ability.”
The gray-haired one, Josh, said, “You’re trying to lure him away from us? You know, he does have other skills; he would be a real loss if he left us.”
I threw up my hands. “I am very sorry. That was not my intent.”
Kevin, the younger Ashkenazi, about as short as David but very muscular indeed, asked, “So what is your intent? I suspect that the government in Israel would be able to fund the projects you mentioned. They already have scads of solar projects.”
“Okay, cards on the table. Actually, I’m not sure if the government would be so generous as you have been with the projects you fund. But yes, that is not my only reason for being here.”
And then I did exactly what I had done in the meeting, taking off my shirt and exposing my blue body. This got wonderment from the four of them, but Kevin was still suspicious.
“All right, we get it, we are family in another way. But how did you know?”
“The doorman at the French consulate. He knew Esterhazy, and he had known me when we were children in France. He told me what he suspected — I don’t think he’s ever seen you naked, has he?”
“No, he hasn’t,” Kevin said. “Okay, so you are blue and I am blue, blah blah blah…. Let’s get back to the question: What are you looking for from us?”
“Well, first of all, your DNA. Other than you, Kevin, and you, Josh, all the blue people I know have come from Morocco. In fact, from a particular part of Morocco.”
David said, “Chefchaouen. Remember how I told you guys about the blue city?” They nodded, and I pointed to him in agreement.
I said, “I want to check your DNA. I’m convinced that the ability to transmit the blueness is genetic. So I want to see how close your DNA is to that of the Chefchaouen Jews.”
“Are you going to do that here?” David asked.
“I can get cheek swabs right here right now, if you’re willing.”
They were about to agree, but the fourth member, Rowland, who had been silent till this point, broke in. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and was not even slightly blue. François had suggested that one of the four was a ‘parasite’ as he put it, so it had to be Rowland. He was a beautiful man in the classic American-Boy look, big — over six feet — and as muscly as Kevin. But he was apparently hiding some kind of problem and the blue men were taking care of him.
Rowland asked, “What about me? I’m…”
“You’re not blue, and yes I want your DNA as well. And I’d like to talk with you at some point if we could. I think you may have an interesting take on this group.”
David laughed. “Someone likes you, Rowland!”
Looking around, I said, “You all like him.”
Josh said, “You’ve got that right. He’s the organizer for the group. Without him, we’d be a total mess. And he’s by far the most polite! Oh, and he kisses and cuddles the best of anyone.”
They all laughed at that, nodding vigorously in agreement, and making Rowland turn red.
“Well, listen, friends, can I do the cheek swabs now?” I got them out of my briefcase, and we got that taken care of.
“How long till you get results, though?” Kevin asked.
“If I did it here in the Bay Area, it could be very soon. But I’m not sure what genetic strands I’m looking for. If you were a perfect match, that would be easy, but if not, we’d have to sort through all the possible congruent patterns, so I would prefer to send them back home and have it done in Jerusalem. Which means, it will be two to three weeks — I think.”
Josh asked, “You’re saying ‘send’ instead of ‘take’ so you’re planning to stay here awhile?”
“Now it is you who are trying to throw me out!” Josh’s complexion was too dark to show a blush, but he was embarrassed, so I added, “Actually, I do want to spend some time with you people, and of course my friend in the French consulate. I like very much what you’re doing, and I really have wondered whether it could be done in Israel, especially for the sake of my homo friends who are so imprisoned in our little town. I also want to hear about Mr. Esterhazy, who sounds pretty amazing!”
Josh said, “Yes, he was. I was seventy when he found me, and now the only thing people have to suggest my age is my gray hair. I’m not the muscle boy that Kevin or Rowland is, but I am more fit by far than when he found me. I will be interested in the DNA, though, because I’m not as good at keeping or transmitting the blue stuff, and it helps when Kevin or David gives me a booster shot. So maybe I’m in between — maybe that will be useful in your research.”
“And what about you, Kevin? Are you ‘in-between?’ From what Josh said, it sounds like you have enough stuff to share it around as much as you want.”
Kevin laughed. “Yes, it does, doesn’t it? But, as far as I know, my family is totally Ashkenazi. Like my father and his father and his father were all rabbis in Poland going back a long time.”
“So you both will help me find out where this comes from. By the way, your arms and legs are all really dark blue. I can see why you call yourselves Indigo Climate. Not all my Moroccan blue men are that dark. Do you know why?”
David laughed. “I can tell you that! When I first met these guys, I wasn’t blue at all! It depends on touch. I mean, you can fuck or get fucked as much as you want, but what turns you blue is when another guy is skin-to-skin with you for hours at a time, like sleeping together.”
“Ah!” I said. “That does sound right. Many of my Moroccan friends are in the closet, so they can’t ever sleep over! But I had one lover and we were almost constantly in contact. And he is really blue, too. But do you go outside like that?”
“No,” Rowland said, “that’s one privilege that I have. You remember when David answered the door? He was covered up, right?”
“Ah, yes, Okay, so now I have the samples, and I want to get them down to the Israeli consulate right now, but I also want to come back and see you. I know you have things to do, but can I informally interview each of you during this week?” This went down well, so I asked if Rowland would be my passenger downtown and back. Everyone laughed, but I said, “Men, we will be back quite soon, too soon to do anything exciting, I’m afraid.”
Rowland agreed, and got into my rental car. Traffic was the usual San Francisco balagan. It was enough time for me to get him to talk about himself, although he asked the first question:
“You don’t say ‘gay,’ you always use ‘homo.’ How come?”
“That’s the way it is there. In Israel ‘homo’ is what the men call ourselves.”
When we got to the consulate, I invited him in. I asked him to wait while I jotted down some notes, and after that told him, “I’ll be right back after I arrange for shipping,” because I wanted to write down more of what he told me of his life.
* 3 *
[Interview: Rowland Bridger] Rowland was born and raised on an isolated ranch in Wyoming in the 1950’s. His coming out was embraced by his parents, with only a warning about the world around him. Weekends he would drive into Denver and enjoy the men’s admiration for his youth, the muscled body where his daily work made a gym unnecessary, and the F-150 he drove regardless of weather. He loved fucking men: younger men, older men, anyone who allowed him to climb down off the cowboy image and into the role of lover, enjoying any role that was asked.
He had two sisters, much older, married and far away, so when his father began developing strange symptoms, it was Rowland who drove him to the doctor through the snow, first to Laramie and then to Denver to hear with him the diagnosis: a specific form of dementia. Though the father had only just begun forgetting things, he also had auxiliary symptoms, some physical and emotional, and the hallucinations. These were fleeting, and were understood as hallucinations as they happened, often even entertaining. But the doctor warned he would begin forgetting names, things, people. All-consuming rages would make him a threat to himself and others.
As the father deteriorated, Rowland took control of the ranch, while mother kept watch over father so he would not walk out naked on cold nights or turn on the stove without the pilot light. Ultimately, it was not such missteps that forced the family to seek an institution; rather he attacked his wife, believing her to be an intruder. The state institution kept a locked ward for patients such as Rowland’s father. There he was medicated into compliance, making it impossible for Rowland and his mother to have meaningful contact. The man was found dead one morning of what turned out to be a urinary infection that he had been unable to report, partly through the fog of medication and partly through the fog of disease.
The family showed up at the funeral, and began to settle the estate. But the mother said, “It is already settled. It is all in our name, mine and Rowland’s, and when I go, it is his. Your father decided this many years ago, long before the disease. Rowland has been the only one here who took care of me, your father, and the ranch.”
“But, Mother, Rowland is a homosexual.”
“Everyone around here already knows, and they will think that he has come into his just inheritance. And if you don’t like that, you are free to walk out the door.” The entourage indeed made a silent, dramatic exit. “I guess you’re Cinderella,” the mother joked, and Rowland laughed in appreciation.
The mother died six months later, the death striking Rowland very hard. The funeral was private, only Rowland and some neighbors in attendance. He did very little of anything for several months, ultimately keeping the house but renting out the ranchland, so he had both money and time to pursue a life of his own, in Denver and farther away.
Only three years later he experienced hallucinations, the friendly visual displays that he knew even as they flitted away were not real. At first, he ignored them, but then he would have quick spasms that immobilized a hand or foot. The doctor gave him the same diagnosis.
“So I should just live it up while I can, and then, if I can pick the right time, disappear.”
The doctor turned away and held his hands out, as if to say, ‘What can I tell you?’
Rowland said, “You’ve done what you could. Best of luck,” as he picked up his hat and walked out. He now had to be his own doctor.
He sold the house, and began visiting gay-friendly places throughout America. After a year, he decided to visit France (“why not?”) and it was there that he met Carlos de la Torre, the petty criminal, and discovered a way to at least stave off the horror, a little at a time. Carlos knew that if he fucked Rowland, the symptoms would go away for some time. Carlos was not a friendly lover, fucking Rowland only from a sense of obligation to a pair of gay men who had saved his life when he had been on the run back in Morocco. But even this unfriendly sex satisfied Rowland’s need to stay alive and sane.
After Carlos was shot, Rowland found the son, David. Their arrangement was sometimes lovely, sometimes awkward. but at least David was openly gay. Then Rowland happened to meet Esterhazy, then using the name “José,” though he was, like Carlos, neither Spanish nor French. Rowland suspected that, like Carlos, the man was older than the thirty-five he appeared. Too, his face had some of the dark complexion and angularity of Carlos.
It wasn’t hard to get Esterhazy into bed, though it was much harder to coax the condom off him.
“Monsieur, I think I know something of who you are.”
“Really! Well, then, why not tell me!”
“You’re older than you seem, perhaps a lot older. And your semen contains something unusual that you don’t want to share.”
José stuttered, so Rowland told of his affair with Carlos and David.
“I did not know there was anyone else. And you want this ‘infusion.’ What for? Why should I give it to you?”
Rowland succeeded in putting forth the facts without begging, with no quaver or whine in his voice.
“I must tell you, Rowland, that this is highly unusual for me. Normally, I use the infusion only when I have a real lover. And, s’il vous me pardonniez, I do not see that as a possibility.”
“Tell me an alternative. I can do whatever a top wants. Certainly, love would be wonderful, but life is good on its own, n’est-ce pas?, and I may find my own love.”
José asked how it had been done before, and agreed to a similar regimen, except that, unlike Carlos, he had no problem with Rowland’s nudity as long as Rowland did not see José’s body.
Rowland agreed immediately. He said it would at least allow him physical contact.. Since he already had a hood at his room, that is where they went. No need to stop up ears or mouth, however, as Carlos had sometimes done. Rowland’s responsiveness and understanding about the mechanics of the infusion seemed to please José.
José slept for an hour afterward, and Rowland took the opportunity to take off the hood. Waking up to Rowland’s eyes on him, José asked only, “Well, Rowland, do you think it worked?”
“Oh, please never call me ‘sir;’ it is for other situations. But I’m glad the infusion worked. I will be repeat when you need it until I get a boy of my own. After that, I do not know how we can arrange it.”
And so, Rowland would go to José’s much grander apartment on Montmartre. It seemed that the infusion was needed about every six weeks, almost twice as often as with Carlos or David. Rowland began to understand that the other man was older even than imagined. He finally summoned up the courage to ask him.
“I’m told I was baptized approximately 1750.” Rowland was not fazed, merely interested. He was clever enough not to ask more questions, though he would have liked to have known about José’s circumcised cock.
Occasionally, the two would meet for dinner or theater. Rowland learned quickly that José would have sex only when the infusion was called for. At one point, early on, Rowland took José’s hand walking on the Boul’Mich, out of affection. José did not object, but was entirely limp, so Rowland dropped the hand.
One day, José called Rowland to say he was moving to San Francisco to take care of a dying friend. He was willing to help move Rowland if necessary. Rowland did not need monetary help, and followed José a few weeks later to see the surprisingly dingy house near the ocean, south of Golden Gate Park. “Temporary,” and Rowland nodded.
Rowland himself found a small apartment on the north side of the Park. It was close to a jiu-jitsu dojo and to a fitness center, and he introduced José to these.
Rowland became an avid devotee, now that he did not have to worry about dementia. He’d be at the dojo even before the sunrise exercise program, waiting at the door. He had the chance to watch the goings-on in this strange seaside neighborhood, where so many people spoke Chinese, Russian, or surfer, none of which he understood.
One person who caught his eye was an older man who walked his old whippet each morning. Man and dog seemed a natural team; each understood the other’s movements. Some days, the walk would be quite long, while other times, the dog wanted to turn around soon after relieving himself. If they passed by the dojo, Rowland said a few words, eventually engaging the man in conversation. The dog was over fourteen, and failing more and more with each month. Walks became shorter and shorter. The man always went exactly as far as the dog wished. Sometimes, Rowland could hear him saying, “Do you want to turn around?” and then the dog would turn around and head home.
One morning, the dog’s back legs collapsed, and the man had to right him. In later days, this became more common. Rowland found himself bold enough to say, “I think it won’t be much longer.”
The man choked back tears; the vet was coming to the house the very next day to ‘put him to sleep.’ And when Rowland next saw him, alone, he could not but come up and wrap his arms around the man. The man shuddered once, and then said, “Thank you.”
They introduced each other, Rowland and Josh, and then Josh moved on. Rowland was awash with emotions. Josh was a sweet man Rowland could love without having to beg something in return. But Rowland knew that Josh, probably a retired professor, was exactly what Esterhazy was looking for in a ‘boy.’ That day after the workout, Rowland told Esterhazy, “I have someone for you, someone who would be good for you.”
José asked for details. Rowland described the retired man with the dog. “The dog is dead now, so he is free, but I saw how devoted he was. Also, you may think this arrogant of me, but he has some of the same features and complexion that you have, and Carlos did, and David. It’s obvious he’s never had an infusion, though.”
“You have met him.”
“Yes. We’re almost friends, I guess.”
“Do this. Invite him to Berkeley next week. They are presenting the one-act plays we students created, and he will be able to see me. But do not show up yourself! I will leave him a ticket at the box office, and I will see him home. Sneaky, yes?”
“Yes, it is! One more thing. If this match works, I still need my infusions, please.”
“I should not punish you for your help by allowing you to die of dementia? Agreed. We will have to create strict terms, however, so that it will never feel like love making. I am sorry to put it that way, but….”
“Pas de quoi.”
Yet Rowland still desired Josh. After Esterhazy died, he sought to re-connect. Josh was already working with Kevin on global warming; Rowland had never worked for causes other than his parents’ lives, and then his own, so he saw his desire for Josh as putting him in touch with a more productive self.]
* 4 *
On the way back, I asked Rowland what I should see in San Francisco, the things beyond the tourists’ knowledge. We planned some sight-seeing, but I told him I’d have to do some of that with the other Indigo men.
“But I have you tonight, right?”
I must have grinned so wide my ears could have fallen off. I put my hand on his thigh and squeezed it.
In the morning, the breakfast table had the expected banter about what had happened between us, but I noticed that it did not have the nasty edge I would hear among the gay Moroccans back home. They asked Rowland if I “did the job,” and he was all smiles, and then David asked him if I was as big as he was.
Rowland said, “David, I love your dick — and everything else — but I honestly don’t care that much about size. Really. But no, you’re still the biggest.” Everyone laughed about that.
Then one of them asked me if I had allowed Rowland to top me. “Yes!” I said. “He’s quite a good lover, isn’t he?” and everyone laughed again, agreeing.
I said, “Listen, guys, I want to spend some time with each of you — and I don’t mean just in bed. You all have stories I want to hear. All the blue men I’ve known have been from my own clan, and you are very different. So, what about if each day one of you takes me sight-seeing, and we get some time to know each other?”
Kevin said, “So yes, we can do that. But that means you might have to lay out who you are, too, you know.” Kevin’s job seemed to be to harbor suspicions, and he was doing the job to perfection.
I know I must have sighed. “Okay, so this is how it is: I work for the government — don’t ask any more than that, but I’m the highest ranking openly gay mizrahi in the civil service, and the only blue man. Open about being gay but not about being blue. The only blue men I knew were all men I was related to in one way or another, from the Chefchaouen area. I didn’t think I’d ever have to say anything about it.
“Then we heard about the scandal with that French consul, and by the way, I really hope they send him away forever! But the point is that some people already know. The French government doesn’t know everything, because you guys were smart enough to keep your clothes on, but they know something — my friend got pictures through a keyhole. And who knows who else knows? So, some day it’s going to break more widely, and the Israeli government –”
Kevin interjected, “Mossad.”
I sighed again, I’m quite sure. “The Israeli government needs to know before the rest of the world does. How many of us are there? Are we all Jews? When did the mutation happen that gave us this capacity? I can tell you that the Arabs in my neighborhood don’t have it. They enjoy our fucking them, but they can’t produce the stuff themselves. I can’t do such research in Morocco, of course, but…. we do know that the nasty consul was a pied noir, and he was also from the Rif area, the northern coast of Morocco, and he was apparently familiar with the situation. But — here’s the important point — from what I can tell, he lost the symbiotic colony soon after Kevin gave it to him. Yes, he did have enough the same day to harm his wife, but he’s been able to have sex since then, so it must have died.”
The four of them were my best audience so far, so I went on. “So let’s say that it’s a Jewish phenomenon. Did it happen before or after the Jews left Spain in 1492? If it was before, then there might be hombres azules among the conversos in Spain or the Americas. If after, then no. But then the question is, how did you guys, Kevin and Josh, get it?”
Kevin laughed. “Boy, if my father knew he was Sephardi, he’d have a real shit fit!”
Josh asked, “And what about Joseph, Esterhazy? Where did he get it?”
“That is one I think I can actually answer!” I said. “There is an old Moroccan song about a Jewish couple who move to Vienna on business and are murdered in some kind of anti-Jewish uprising, leaving behind an orphan baby boy. It’s from about the time that Joseph was born, according to what Rowland told me, 1750. The boy is adopted by the local prince and brought up as a Christian, and the song ends with the hope that he comes back to Judaism. Of course, I don’t know who infected him.”
Josh said, “Well, he did come back to being Jewish, how about that! Joseph had wanted to be Jewish ever since his work in the War, but he thought he’d have to go through conversion and didn’t want to be seen blue in the mikveh. He found out that, since he was Jewish to start with, that wasn’t necessary.”
I liked that. “I wish I could put that into the song. Maybe someday when the story comes out about us. And, by the way, do you have anything with his DNA on it?” They explained that, his body had been cremated, and his clothing and the like given away.
We had finished eating and talking. I asked Joshua if he’d be willing to be my tour guide that day, since he had lived in the area the longest.
“Call me Josh, please, and how did you figure out …. oh, Rowland told you about seeing me. Okay, sure.”
We walked up some rough stairs set into the hill that led up to a small park area that gave us a great view of the coastline. “You’re lucky. Today it’s sunny, but it’s foggy a lot here, and then you’d see nothing.” Then he took me to Land’s End, where we could see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. I asked if we could walk there; he put me off till later. In the meantime we walked along the wild coastline, forgetting we were in a metropolis, until we got to the Legion of Honor, an art museum that had been built to copy a building in Paris in the 1920’s. There was also a small Holocaust memorial sculpture. Josh said a quick kaddish there, and I gave the responses.
“You must get sick of the Holocaust stuff in Israel, since your clan never experienced it.”
“The ones who had already moved to France did,” I said. He was right, though, that all the Holocaust ‘stuff’ seems to leave out the suffering of the rest of us from Arab countries.
The museum was on a lovely hill above the water, and Josh told me that weddings took place there, “even if it’s cold and foggy, because you can never know ahead of time.” Then he asked if I wanted to make good on the bridge walk. I said no, that I wanted to sit down with him for awhile, so he took me to the museum restaurant.
* 5 *
[Interview: Joshua Shapiro] All four of Josh’s grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe. Unlike Kevin he has no pedigree; he does not know what cities his grandparents emigrated from. His parents were blue-collar, not educated, but eager to see their son succeed, which he did thanks to an Ivy-League scholarship. He became an adjunct professor at a small southwestern school, deciding not to work full-time but instead use some of his time to combat anti-gay violence in his town. He got burned out by the work, and quit in 2009 to come to San Francisco. He had decided then not to become involved anymore in politics, but meeting Esterhazy changed that.
The added health that the infusions gave him also allowed him to concentrate again on making the world better. He confided that, though Israel was dear to his heart, a place he visited many times and where some family lived — he saw global warming as the greatest emergency. “If we don’t stop that, there will be no Israel, no Palestine, nothing.” Esterhazy was moved to put all his wealth into Josh’s name to work on this project, the Indigo Climate Project, which has now over 100 clients in the United States and also two in France. He did not like having to send someone by plane to visit the long-distance ones because of the fossil-fuel use necessary. This didn’t sound good to me to make any pitch for Israeli projects, but I put that question off till later.
He saw it as extreme luck that his project was now run by a foursome who were so kind and caring of each other. Typically, for him, political action meant infighting. He smiled as he realized that he got enough respect from the group that he rarely felt the need to confront anyone.
I told him how the four of them were so different, and he just said, “Yeah.” So I zeroed in on David — I wanted to know how he was getting on in the States. Josh said, “I think David has always wanted to live here. He watched American films till he could speak English with hardly any accent.”
Then he looked over at my laptop. “You’re writing this for yourself, not for the organization. And is that the way they spell ‘David’ these days?”
So he’d been reading what I wrote, and understanding it! Kol ha-kavod, Bravo! I told him that this was my personal log, and that I would heavily edit it for “the organization,” as he politely called it.
I briefly went over what Rowland had told me about how Josh had met both him and Esterhazy, and Josh confirmed it all. “None of us knew that he was really selecting me as his heir. He said often that he regretted most the 200 years he had spent as a hedonist, and was most proud of his work during the War. He wanted the money to go to something that also made the world a better place.”
Then he asked me, “So, is tonight my night with you? I think it won’t work well here unless you treat us equally.”]
* 6 *
I shut the laptop and leaned over and kissed him. I rarely, and I mean rarely, kiss in public, but this was, after all, San Francisco. I’m sure I would have done the same with François, if only he had been willing. We got up, and then I realized I was tired.
“Is there another way back?”
Josh gave me the thumbs up, and then led me to the bus stop. The bus took us within a few blocks of the house. I could smell David’s cooking from the front door — Indian!
At dinner, Josh briefly talked with the others about business, nothing that seemed to be serious. He leaned over to me and said, “We try very hard to pick projects where the principals are eager, smart, and willing to learn and persevere. So we get very few where we have to withdraw funding.”
“Do you demand that they hire minorities?”
“The law demands that,” Kevin said. “And the law fits our plan, so yes.”
After dinner, Josh took me down to the Esplanade to watch the sunset and listen to the sea. We walked south as far as the Park went, and then walked back. I suppose he wanted me to know what he found attractive about the area, and he succeeded.
I had him figured to be relatively passive in bed, but as soon as we were back in the apartment, he became physical. First it was merely massaging my body, but at some point I realized that my clothing was off and his massage was becoming more sexual. I was afraid I would climax without even having entered him but, even though he pushed the sensuality higher and higher, I never came until I took control and forced him to be as passive as I had thought he would be. He laughed and complied, and we had a good time.
Much later at night, a few hours before dawn, I woke to find him sitting on his chair opposite the bed. When he realized I was awake, he asked me, “You know, that doorman, your friend? He knows a lot, doesn’t he?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “And where do his loyalties lie? I mean, besides to you. Who else in France knows about the blue stuff?”
“I don’t know.”
“So your trust in him is entirely because he needs your infusions, right? And because you really like him?” No answer from me. “So maybe your organization needs to know more about his connections. From someone other than you.”
I was insulted, and then worried. He was right. I said, “And everyone thinks that Americans are naive.” He just shrugged his shoulders and came back to bed. He made a point of holding me — or having me hold him — for the rest of the night. In the morning, I was expecting a repeat of his comment, but he said no more about it.
At breakfast, expectations were turned upside down again: We had planned on Kevin spending the day with me, but he had to attend to a serious problem in Lille (the second of the two French projects); it sounded like the group was likely to drop funding entirely. I wondered why Kevin — the most rough-edged speaker of the group — was the man for this job. Wouldn’t it be better to have someone else try to bring the Lille people into line?
In any case, I set off driving with David. His idea was to show me all the staircases in The City. (“And they always capitalize City”). In so many places, hills were too steep to permit streets to continue, so a pedestrian staircase existed. Some of these were quite beautiful, but the one that David like the most was in the Sunset district south of the Park, the “Moraga Steps.” David’s talking points for these were first that the huge staircase was a beautiful mosaic, and secondly that the residents of the neighborhood had been the ones to assemble it. Some of the stones actually had people’s names and dates on them.
When we got to the top of the stairs, there was another set, of cement, and then a set of stairs in wood, ultimately leading to “Grandview Park,” aptly named. At the top, he began to talk about himself; I think he specifically wanted me to listen to him without my laptop (which of course I had not carried up the steps with me).
“You know what I have here, Aharon? I have a family; I’ve never really had one. You know that our relatives essentially dispossessed me because of my father. I loved my father, and he did his best, but it was not a family, and I often had to stay with some of his cronies’ wives and girlfriends. Ugh! And something else: I don’t speak either Hebrew or Arabic. I hope I never have to go back to France, and certainly not to Israel.”
I made sure to answer him in English. “Okay! Can you get off the soapbox now? I get it: You like it here, and don’t want things to change.”
We stayed up at the park for a while, and then walked back down, David navigating me to one of the Thai restaurants in the Sunset. David’s short rant had left me almost speechless.
In the restaurant, he made sure our orders did not contain fish sauce — he assumed, correctly, that I found seafood as repugnant as other blue men did. While waiting, he apologized for his tone of voice. “I’m sorry, Aharon, you did nothing wrong, I was being totally defensive.” After I nodded, he went on, “I love Israel from this distance, and I want to see it prosper. Which it won’t do if global warming continues! And that is actually another reason I like my job.”
“I haven’t talked to Kevin yet, but it sounds like all of you have these feelings for each other, as a group, that match your feelings for the fate of the earth.”
He smiled. “And Kevin will probably admit to that just as readily.”
We walked into the nearby section of Golden Gate Park after lunch, holding hands. He gave me the choice of the Art Museum or the “Cal Academy,” the science museum across from it. But then he said, “You need to see the Cal Academy,” so we went there. The attraction he insisted most on was the Rain Forest, where we entered through an air lock at surface level and then spiraled up through the canopy until we were surrounded by butterflies. He very wisely did not tell me how this was what he wanted to save, knowing that I already got the message. At the top, I put my arms around him from the back, and just held him for a while.
Dinner was by Rowland, typically American: steak, mashed potatoes, and apple pie. The only concession to the group was that no dairy products were used. It was Friday evening, so with my consent, we went to the very gay, and very Ashkenazi synagogue. I, the visitor, was asked to introduce myself, and said I was a relative of David’s from Bet Shemesh, which indeed is where my parents lived.
Someone came up to me during the refreshments and asked whether I was doing anything to change the segregation-by-sex problem in that very traditional town. I was about to look for an answer when David broke in. “Hello? this is Shabbat, yes? and this is our guest.” Sometimes his biting rants work quite well; the interloper was at a loss and walked away.
Back home — it seemed like home! — I assumed I would be sleeping with David, but he refused. “I like you, Aharon, and you’re really hot, but you’re almost my brother!” I warned him that, if left alone I would write about him in my laptop, but Kevin came forward and kindly proffered himself to ‘keep me warm.’ I was in no position to refuse him, of course but, once we were alone, I asked Kevin why David felt the need to be secret from me.
“I don’t know all of it. What I do know I wouldn’t tell you without his say-so. But you can,” he said with a laugh, “get anything you want about me.”
“Okay,” I said, having been played well, “do we start with sex or with talk, or do we walk around town at night?”
“We can do all of that, but right now why don’t you get out your laptop?”
* 7 *
[Interview, Kevin Kaplan] Kevin began by noting that his ‘frumm’ family would never allow the use of a laptop on ‘Shabbes.’ He recounted growing up in the embrace of an enormous extended family, only discovering the downside when he reached puberty and did not want to marry the girl that had been chosen for him. The family put a ‘herem’ on him, not talking with him till he changed his mind, so he ran away, all the way across the country to San Francisco.
Like other runaway orthodox, he chose the other extreme, engaging in as much sex as he could, often of a gritty or abusive kind. He preferred not to tell me how old he was when this happened, but said that at eighteen he knew exactly what he wanted — the admiration and sexual desire of older men — and could get it quite easily.
He met Esterhazy at a leather club in 2010. They had sex at Kevin’s place. Esterhazy wore a condom but it came off and Kevin felt the power of the infusion almost immediately. He set out to get it more often, working to bed Esterhazy as much as possible, providing him with intentionally damaged condoms. Esterhazy apparently did not find out until after having established his relationship with Josh, and was forgiving in the extreme, leading Kevin to think that Esterhazy might have known more than he had been willing to say.
Kevin made a point that, unlike David — who was desperately seeking a family to belong to — Kevin had to be convinced that this new family, with Esterhazy and Josh, would not be as suffocating as the one he grew up with. Eventually, though, he was convinced. And then getting to know Rowland got him interested in bodybuilding; before that, he was a ‘slinky twink.’
Josh wants Kevin to go to college, and Kevin admits to being afraid of not succeeding at this, though the others are constantly praising his intelligence. Kevin asked my opinion. I had to remind him that I was only the interviewer but wondered how a college education would be anything other than an asset for him, especially for a job where he needed to appear educated. That got no answer.]
* 8 *
“I think I’m done,” he said. “I’m willing to do sex now if you want.”
“Kevin,” I said, “it’s not something you owe me. Yes, you’re beautiful, and I can imagine lots of things to do. But can we just lie together for a little bit? I mean, you’ve just spit out a whole lot of emotional stuff; don’t you want to feel safe?”
“I feel safe, Aharon, because I’m home with my new family. But yeah, the big reveal felt very strange, and I was shaking sometimes, believe it or not. So I’ll let you take charge, how about that?”
We lay in bed together, and Kevin broke down and cried for a bit. I made a note — not in the laptop — that Josh needed to know this. We talked about irrelevant things, the sounds at night, some comparisons of Ashkenazi versus Mizrahi customs, and then went quiet and just ‘hung,’ as he said.
In an hour or so, though, he was very much ready for sex, and this time was not at all doubtful about it, so we gave each other a good time, and then slept back to back.
At breakfast in the morning, a very simple Israeli-style breakfast, David was in a foul mood. Josh asked him what was wrong, but he refused to say. “So you’re pissed off, and you intend to stay that way. Let’s see: You said you didn’t want to have sex with Aharon, did I get that right?”
David wanted to walk out, but Rowland stood in his way. “Okay, no, I can’t imagine it. It would be too strange.”
“But you’re not getting something you want, so what is it?”
David shouted, “What is this, the Inquisition?” and then realized how silly he sounded.
Josh repeated himself. “What do you need?”
Kevin whispered to me, “This is part of Josh’s Sixties shtick.” I nodded.
David still did not answer, so Kevin said, “Look, David, you’re angry about something, and it’s not going to just get better, you know? So come on…”
“Okay! Here’s the thing: Aharon is a really nice guy, but he’s from my family, and they treated me like shit the whole time I was growing up. I know he’s not to blame but….”
Josh said, “Okay, we’ll play to my Sixties shtick, okay? I want two chairs facing each other right here, and Aharon will sit in one, and David in the other. Now!”
I had not heard Josh giving orders before, but David and the others took it in stride, and soon I was sitting opposite David.
“Now, Aharon, you’re going to just sit there for a few minutes, and not respond to anything Daivd says.” I saluted.
“David, here is your family. What do you want to say to them?”
“What you did was wrong, just plain wrong! I was just a little kid. I didn’t do anything wrong. Even my dad kept saying he was the one who killed my mother. But you people shunned me the whole time I was growing up. I can even remember meeting one of you on the street, and you didn’t even say hello! You guys fucked up!”
David seemed finished, so Josh faced me. “Aharon, in the name of your family, what do you have to say?”
I could hardly keep from crying, but I answered anyway. “David, nobody should be treated that way. I am sorry. I really am so sorry. I understand why you are so angry. I can’t make up for what the others did, but if there is something I can do, tell me.”
“Well, you can say that it was not my fault that my mother died!”
It seemed so obvious, but why not? “David, you are not to blame for your mother’s death. Even your father is not to blame. He did what your mother wanted. He did his best. I am sorry my family were so stupid. I want you to be happy, David. If I can be part of that, I’d like it. And if not, then amen selah. Don’t carry that burden around anymore, David. You are innocent.”
And then, of course, David started crying. Josh pushed him to see if he would come to me. At first he wouldn’t but then he threw his arms around me, and I cried, too. Well, I think everyone did.
After a few minutes, Josh asked David how he was. “Better. A lot better. I like your Sixties shtick.” We laughed.
“Well,” I said, “I have to go back tonight after three stars, so what can we do today?”
Kevin said, “How about breakfast first, hey?”
During the meal, someone again brought up the idea that I should be investigating not only the DNA of transmitters but the material of the infusion itself. I gave them the same answer.
“The stuff doesn’t last once it gets outside a human body. I tried masturbating and catching it, and then running to a lab with the stuff — do you have any idea what kind of favors I had to call in for that? But it’s going to take someone with more background to solve this one, and I don’t know yet how I’m going to do that.”
“You know, you’re right,” Kevin said. “One time, I caught Joseph’s stuff in a condom and then tried to empty it back into my ass. It didn’t do anything at all.”
Josh laughed. “Now see? With the proper education, you could be the one to figure this out.”
David looked outside. “It’s very foggy right now, so maybe a good time to see the places that the crowds go to.” Then turning to his re-found cousin, he added, “When it’s sunny on the weekend, everyone comes out to the beach. I think the City might tip into the ocean of these times. But today is not very inviting for the sunbathers, so we might spend some time in the Park.”
“Which park is that?” I asked.
Kevin smiled and said, “When David mentions ‘The Park,’ it means Golden Gate Park.”
So we dressed and went out for a stroll. There were more people than expected, Segways, uniccyles, electic-powered skateboards, and just lots of people, so David steered us to the unpaved paths he had learned to explore. Occasionally we could hear the hubbub around us, but generally we were in a silent enclave within the park where the only creatures we saw were wild — squirrels, raccoons (“stay away from them, and the skunks, too”), and even a Red-Tailed Hawk that caused the group to ooh and aah, flying right in front of us).
Kevin said, “So Native Americans had definite ideas as to what it means when we are close to a wild creature, and that’s doubled when it’s the animal that comes near you of its own will. I think the hawk is supposed to mean clear-sightedness, like an ability to view things from a distance. I hope that’s true for us, because we need that right now.” I asked what he meant. “Well, we’ve been pretty secret for awhile, and it works really nice, but that may be changing, right? So it would be nice to have that ‘long view’ of how to deal with it.”
The others murmured their approval to his comments, though I don’t think they subscribed to the hawk-medicine theory. I said, “Yes, it would be really nice if I could talk to my people — my blue people and my government people — with some longterm idea of what the heck I’m aiming at.” That was a conversation killer, however, so I added, “In any case, I’m glad to have seen the hawk, Jewish custom says you should say a blessing…”
“Like all the time,” said Kevin.
“Yes, right, but I can say it for having met you all, for having been your guest, for having become closer to my own mishpahá.” So I took the chance and recited the blessing for experience new things, and the guys all said, “amen,” even Rowland.
“But, guys, I owe some time to my man in the French consulate, so I’d like to leave now if I could.” And we walked back out of the little Garden of Eden that they had shown me, back into the world. I kissed everyone and then set off downtown, knowing full well I had traffic to contend with. When I was stopped at a traffic light, I called François to tell him, warning him that I had only till midnight. I remembered the joke about Rowland and asked him to keep my glass slipper.
“Ah, mais ça, c’est l’histoire Américaine!”
“Okay, I’m sorry, chéri. In any case, I hope to see you soon, depending only on this traffic!”
* 1 *
We were having dinner when we heard people approach, and then there was pounding on the door.
“FBI! Open up! You’re in danger!” When we didn’t immediately respond, the pounding increased. I went to the door and quietly opened it, causing one of the FBI men to fall down in front of me. I made sure not to laugh.
“What is going…..”
He showed us his badge. “Your friend from Israel? His French friend has just been killed!”
“And you think that Aharon did it?”
“No! But whoever did it will probably target Aharon, and you guys, too, okay?”
The other three gathered around me. I could barely ask, “So what is it you want us to do?”
“Your friend is already on his way back to Israel. Mossad said they would find a way to ‘absorb’ you, too, if you want.”
I laughed; ‘absorb’ is exactly the word they would use, I thought.
Rowland asked, “So that means all of us?”
“Yeah, big boy, you too. Yeah, I know, you belong on a ranch somewhere, but that’s not gonna happen anymore. Look, we’re doing this for one reason: We don’t want you dead, and we’re afraid that some hyper-Americans are part of this. That’s it!”
Kevin said, “That means we take all our records with us! You’re not going to take all our computers and stuff.” The agent hesitated, so Kevin continued, “I mean, that’s what the Israelis want, right? So you’re not going to play any three-card Monte with them, are you?”
The agent’s buddies were clearly aiming to do just that, but the one we were talking to held up both hands. “Okay, okay! You have an hour to get the fuck out of here. We’ll drive you to the airport and hand you over to your new friends. Anything you leave behind is ours.”
I stifled a silly comment (“like our porno?”), and closed the door. “We can’t take all the computers, so we take the backups and overwrite everything on the originals. Can you handle that, Rowland?”
“Aye aye, Sir!” He laughed but started immediately. “I’ll need Kevin’s help.” Kevin began to load laptops and jump drives into a backpack. We left behind almost everything we used for our daily affairs, pots, pans, utensils, most of our clothing.
I called out as we rushed, “Make sure you take something to remember.” I was going to take Joseph’s ashes, then let them go. I settled for a picture of Joseph and myself together by the beach.
The hour went fast, but we were ready when they knocked again. This time they had some other agents with them. I didn’t recognized the badges they flashed but Rowland whispered, “NSA” to me. So this was for real.
The limos were waiting down the steps at the street corner, with our neighbors clustered around. I called out to one, “It’s okay, Cathy, I’ll write you, I promise,” though she seemed unconvinced.
We drove down the Great Highway and then crossed over the Peninsula to get to the airport, sometimes resorting to sirens. It was all exactly as exciting, and scary, as the movies show it; my heart was beating hard and fast. They had been kind enough, or Kevin had been bold enough, that the four or us were in one car with at least one set of jump drives. We didn’t know what was happening to the rest of our data or belongings.
At the airport, we were driven right to a waiting, unmarked plane on the tarmac. Uh-oh, I thought. Who are these people really? The plane’s door was open, at ground level. I said, “Erev tov,” to the attendant at the door, “good evening,” and she responded, “Erev tov, ha-kol be-sèder.” She understood our doubts, so as she closed the door, she said, “Gentlemen, this is really an Israeli plane; everything is okay, but it will be a very long trip, as I’m sure you know, so please just sit down.”
The plane took off maybe a minute later. We could hear the pilot insisting he had diplomatic priority, and the tower’s angry agreement to let him go.
Taking off, I was able to bid a farewell to San Francisco, joined by the other three despite the attendant’s objections. Kevin told her, “I’m sorry, but we don’t know if we’ll ever come back, and this has been such a wonderful place for us.” She stopped insisting.
When The City was no longer in sight, we sat down and found Israeli passports on our seats.
“This plane cannot make it the whole way in one jump, so these are what you will use if we have to stop over.” How could they have done this so fast? Everything still seemed so impossible, and yet here we were, the four of us facing each other in the small jet.
“What would you like to drink? We have wines and beers? Or?”
“We can’t take alcohol,” I said. “We’ll settle for some soda, maybe with some mitz? Some juice. Maybe cranberry, because I don’t think we’ll be seeing that for awhile.” The others agreed wryly.
She brought the cranberry juice and water, and said we could have more as well. To calm our fears, she sipped a bit from each of our cups, then sat down while we had some as well.
“I was wondering how you got these photos,” Rowland said, “but they’re not, are they?”
“No, they’re CGI’s based on the pictures we did have. Now, let me put some context to this craziness, yes? I was at the meeting where Aharon showed us his blue skin and asked to be allowed to go to San Francisco. After he left, some of us went over the head of the unit commander and said we thought there was more than even Aharon had suggested. In fact, as you now know, his French friend was assassinated a few hours ago. We’re not certain about….”
She was interrupted by the co-pilot, who came out to tell us that an RPG had been fired at the building we had left so recently. He showed us video footage from across our old street. The entire house was in flames. Thankfully, we no longer had tenants there, so no one was likely injured.
The pilot said, “I think we are a little more certain now, Rina, ken? This is not the French government’s act.”
I said, “We had always worried what would happen when our secret was revealed. Aharon said the same thing.”
The attendant — or at least the person playing attendant for our sake — agreed. “And now it looks like someone has found out about your blue capacities. But what about you?” she asked of Rowland.
David answered for him. “He has a condition that would kill him if we did not give him the infusions. I don’t have to explain, do I? No. And he has been our best agent, merely in terms of his skills in organizing and prioritizing. So he’s been responsible for the success we had.”
Kevin said, “David, you’re using the past tense… do you think like we’re done?” But David shrugged.
“Gentlemen, I suspect that we will have ample use for your talents, all of them. And Aharon will get something he wanted, though at a terrible expense, yes?” And we all nodded.
I asked, “Do we know who was responsible for all this? We turned down a project in Lille that seemed a little shaky. Were they just a front?”
“Well, that’s what we think, but….”
Again, the co-pilot interrupted with TV coverage. Several Americans had been arrested, an anti-gay Christian group. And they did apparently have some contact with the Lille people, who turned out not to be from Lille but from the criminal gang. A video, apparently pre-taped, showed one of the conspirators explaining the need to stop the gay, Jewish takeover of the world, and the obvious hoax of global warming. Then the coverage — thankfully — moved to interviews with our former neighbors, all of whom had nice things to say about us. They had known me quite some time, and several of them mentioned my treatment of that old dog, to whom I silently sent a blessing, wherever he was.
“Anyone who is willing to put out as much effort as he did…. well, I think his group was doing exactly what they said they were, and now all that’s ruined!” That was Cathy, and I was proud of her.
Rowland said, “I’m glad you made us such good neighbors, Josh,” and gave me a bear hug. I had indeed insisted that the group interact as personally in our little neighborhood as we could. We had made no secret of Indigo Climate’s purpose, and in that liberal neighborhood, it went over well. I hoped that Cathy’s and other neighbors’ comments might be the more persuasive side now, after the fact, though my cynical self wondered how many Americans would back the attackers’ beliefs.
The attendant-Mossad agent said we should stop thinking about it for a bit. “Yes, of course it is shocking, but you have a long journey, yes? So, perhaps you can lie down and let yourself rest? There’s nothing more you can do in San Francisco right now, and you will need all your energy to work out what you want the future to look like. Yes?”
David said, “Yes, Imma,” calling her “mommy.”
“Well, that’s a start, bni, my son.” We were all pleased with her poise in the situation.
David said, “But one thing: Did you know we would be attacked?”
“No. We only suspected. We had gotten intel on people angry at Aharon’s French friend. But we certainly did not know about the Christian group. Can we sleep now?”
And, amazingly, we did.
* 2 *
I woke up in the dark. There was just enough light to see that, yes, we were still on the plane, but it was not moving. One person, the co-pilot (?), was sitting up, the rest of us lying down, all asleep but myself. The windowshades on the airplane were all pulled down; I put my hand on the nearest one and then looked over at the co-pilot, who signaled I could open it.
But it wasn’t any better. Night, at some very small airport, where we were parked far away from anything that had light. I got out of the bed — yes, it was almost a real bed — and walked over to the seated man. He put his finger to his lips and then pointed to the others, so I asked as quietly as possible, “Where are we?”
“Melilla,” he answered, apparently expecting that I would not understand. But how could I not! This was almost where I was born! The man saw that the name excited me, so he again put his finger to his lips. “One more hour. Sunrise.”
So I hoped to get a glimpse of the “old country,” though the dour man would certainly not let me if the others were still asleep, and I was not going to wake anyone.
“My parents,” I said, and pointed out the window. “Here.”
His eyes opened. “David. Migdal!” I did not correct him; this was probably going to be my name now. He stood up and motioned for me to follow him to the cockpit, where there was a bit more light, and spread his arm out as an invitation to peer at the lights in the tiny Spanish town in the distance.
But I did not know what to feel; I often don’t know what to feel about my past. Would I have to meet all those Migdal family that had spurned me earlier? No, thank you very much.
I would have asked more but it would have been meaningless — how long had we been in the air? where else had we stopped? when would we get to Israel? where were we supposed to go when we got there? He probably didn’t know the answer to the last question anyway.
He turned on the television, muted, and we were still all over news. The video of the carnage at our old house were everywhere, and of the arrests of the Christian crazies who had attacked us. Interviews with American politicians, Europeans, Arabs. I didn’t hear any of it, of course. There was a cordon of police around the gay synagogue in San Francisco, since the attackers had mentioned gay Jews as their target. And some members of the congregation being interviewed, in daylight, morning their time, but how long ago? once again throwing my internal clock into chaos. I wondered briefly whether the members, especially the most left-leaning, were sympathetic to us or angry at us, but at the same time it was so distant, in reality, and in my mind. Would it ever matter to us again what they thought of us?
I walked back out to the cabin, to sit near my comrades. I felt even closer to them now, and laid my hand on their blankets, one at a time. I wanted so much to be with them, and I wanted them so much to sleep.
Eventually, the co-pilot woke his boss, as well as Rina, the woman who acted as our attendant, or perhaps, our minder. I went into the cockpit for a last glimpse of Melilla, under a sky beginning to color, and then back to my place. The pilot contacted the tower and received a ‘go;’ if Melilla had a lot of traffic, it was not at this hour. I was belted back in place before the attendant could tell me to, and then could feel the plane moving along the runway and lifting off. It was now too light to open the shades without waking people, so I did not see the Mediterranean below us.
I dozed, and then woke to everyone being awake and eating. “We don’t have that much left on the plane, but you should eat it, please.” The shades were all up, but there was not much to see; we were flying very low, low enough so that I could see our shadow on the sea. Literally, under the radar. We had probably been doing that since San Francisco, stopping at friendly bases to refuel.
The news was no longer muted, and we heard the many theories about what had happened to us, and of course who we “really” were. Josh asked that it be turned off for awhile. “Reality is strange enough; we don’t need other people’s spin right now.”
The attendant, Rina, gave her name officially, and we asked her what was going to happen when this long trip was finally over.
“To be honest, I don’t really know. I think they are trying to work that out right now. It’s not just a Mossad thing now, of course; the whole country — both countries, Israel and the U.S. — kno about you, and the RPG attack. But no one in either country even knows that you’re alive.”
I laughed. “The ones who know are our neighbors. They saw us being hustled out of the house before it happened.”
Josh put in, “Do you know if anyone was hurt or… or killed by the attack or the fire?”
Rina said, “No! We can tell you that much. The intel had said that some kind of attack was likely, which was why you were ‘hustled out,’ and the American authorities cleared the whole area.”
Josh said, “Something to be thankful for.”
Rowland answered, “Josh, my friend, we have a lot to be thankful for, whatever happens now.” We all agreed.
Josh said, “I hope that all those Indigo projects are okay. Rina, do you think the attackers knew who our grantees were?”
“I don’t know for certain, but all of your computer equipment was either taken beforehand or else burned in the fire. Your FBI has contacted all the recipients to warn them not to divulge such information. You know, they probably feel very loyal to you and would want to stand up for you.”
“Yeah,” Kevin said, “but I sure as hell hope they don’t. I just want them to keep on keepin’ on.” The rest of us nodded agreement.
We were quiet after that. Someone noticed that the plane was approaching land. Rina leaned over and said, “Ashkelon.” I knew where that was, on the southern coast, close — too close — to Gaza.
The plane did not veer northeast towards the Ben-Gurion airport but southeast instead, and I looked at Rina. She said, “I think we are intending to land in the southern Negev. There is an airport north of Eilat; it was built for all the Scandinavian tourists who come in the winter, but it’s mostly military now.” And in fact, the pilot had us put the seatbelts on again, and said we were about to land at Ovda.
Josh nodded as if he knew the place. “Okay, guys, if there’s any place that’s different from San Francisco, it’s this place — hot and dry, all the time. This is the real desert.”
Rina said, “You sound bitter, Mr. Shapiro.”
“No, it’s just that I had spent forty years in the American southwest; I felt like I’d done my recommended lifetime requirement for desert. I can handle it, of course, and I’m sure the others can, too, though we need to get sunscreen for Rowland.” After a second, he added, “Rina, is there any chance that they will separate Rowland from us?”
Rina said, “No, I think we’ll make a case for him being a Righteous Gentile. If we have to, we’ll have him save somebody.” Of course, that made Kevin clutch his throat and act as if he was choking, so Rowland duly administered the Heimlich maneuver. Rina had been serious the entire time, and with good reason, but she at least smiled at this.
The plane touched down, and came to a quick halt. We were ushered out to a reception committee of very serious men. I said to Rina, “You work with these guys, right?” She pushed me forward but did nod her head slightly. It felt like we were meeting people from another world. Or more exactly, like we were the ET’s. Where was Aharon?
* 3 *
A Shmulik Horvitz introduced himself and said we were to feel welcome. Israel would be home for us if we wanted that. And, of course, it was Kevin who asked, “And what if we don’t want?”
Horvitz was unflappable, it seemed. “Right now, it is the Americans who want us to keep you here, to keep you safe. No one knows how many conspirators there are in the U.S. or where else they might be. In a little while, I hope, you will be able to make your own choices. But let’s get out of the sun, no?”
He led us into a secured waiting area of the airport, and asked us to sit down. David said, “You know, Sir, we’ve been sitting a long time.”
“Please, Mister Migdal, we don’t use ‘sir’ here. You may call me Horvitz or Shmulik, I don’t care. And I’m sorry to have to sit you down again, but we do need to de-brief you, for your own benefit and for ours. We all need to know what we’re facing after that attack; isn’t that true?”
David nodded silently, and Shmulik led us into a large, undecorated room with no windows, but a round table and more than enough chairs. Aharon showed up, sweating from the drive down from some civilized place. Aharon seemed distant, so I went up to him and embraced him. He shuddered, and then backed off.
Rina said, “Mr. Shapiro, Aharon thinks this has all been his own fault, but he’s no more to blame than anyone else here. We all knew who the assassinated Frenchman had been, so any one of us could have been more careful than we were. I can assure you that he was overjoyed to hear you were all safe.” I had nothing to say to that, just looked over at him and put my hand on my chest.
Shmulik said, “I think you’re the real softie here, Mr. Shapiro.”
My friends laughed at that. “Yeah,” Kevin said, “he’s a real softie, but he gets things done, okay?”
Shmulik said, “I was not intending to offend. But your old neighbors all speak so highly of you on the television, how sweet and modest you were in the neighborhood.”
“But they know we’re not dead, right?”
“Your immediate neighbors know. They have been told not to talk about it, however. We hope to find out more about how this happened in the meantime, while people think you’re dead.”
David said, “I saw some really bizarre TV coverage about this. Is it representative of how it’s playing generally?”
Aharon spoke up. “David, the crazies really are out there. The good thing is that they contradict each other so much that I don’t think they will make any difference. The anti-gay people and the anti-Jewish people are not exactly the same, you know, so they’re saying the strangest things they can to get some attention.”
I asked if anyone was talking about the blue or what it did for people. Aharon said, “No, they don’t know that yet. In fact, if some outsider does mention it, we think it will show us that they were in on the plot.”
I asked about his friend, the Frenchman. Aharon got very quiet. “We knew each other even as kids before I came to Israel. He was older than I was, and sometimes he protected me from bullies — I was very skinny as a child. So everything I did for him was just paying him back. The Office won’t let me work on the case because I’ll get too angry if I find out who’s responsible.” Shmulik nodded at that.
Kevin asked, “I don’t suppose you have any DNA news yet?”
Aharon said, “Actually, I’m very surprised because your DNA came out to be very close to mine and David’s. The fastest approach was to start by seeing who matched us Chefchaouen émigrés, at least for the segments that the émigrés share. David was a no-brainer, right? But you, Kevin! So you will have to keep this a secret from your faux-Ashkenazi father. I don’t have any other readings yet. Meanwhile, please feel welcome to my clan!”
Kevin laughed. “Oh, Dad! That is so funny! Well, I’m glad there’s something funny I could hear today!”
Shmulik asked, “Don’t you want to know how or when that might have happened?”
“I don’t give a rat’s ass, frankly,” Kevin said, speaking without a filter as always. Aharon laughed — he already knew Kevin well enough — but Shmulik did a double-take, finally saying, “Well, fine.”
I asked, “I take it my DNA does not match?”
“Your Y chromosome is a spot-on match, J2a1b1, but there are so many places on other chromosomes where you don’t match, and we don’t know which of these differences are relevant.”
I said, “Okay, I can wait. What has been the fallout for all our projects? Have they been attacked, too?”
Aharon said, “No, todah la’El! Thank God, nothing so far, but they’ve all been put on alert and told to report any suspicious behavior. Everyone we talked to also asked after you guys, and the only thing I could do was to tell them there would be a statement in a few days. The Americans have some officers patrolling near the projects now. After all, everyone knows about Indigo Climate now, so American cops are watching even the solar and wind projects you had nothing to do with.”
Rowland asked whether our families had been informed. “Yes,” Shmulik said, “I can at least say, Mr. Shapiro, that your cousins here in Israel will be down here in a week at the most. Aharon’s parents have passed away. His other relatives were told just, ‘Everything is in order. Please keep quiet a few days.’ And they understand that. Mr. Bridger, we decided we will not talk to your sisters unless you ask. And Kevin, it’s up to you how we approach your parents.”
Kevin said, “I don’t think my family knows I’ve been with Indigo, so there’s no point in telling them now. So, what is it that we will be doing for the next ‘few days.’ And please don’t say ‘nothing’ because that’s not us; we do things. Will we at least have a chance to move around this area? When Aharon first came to us, it was to scope out possible project sites in the Negev, and here we are. Why not take a look?”
Shmulik and Aharon looked at each other and then each held up a finger for me, “just wait.”
Rowland came up behind me and held me in his arms, whether to support me, or grab support for himself, or merely as defiance. He said to Shmulik, “I expect you know how I became entangled with this group, and I know you will not stop me from keeping up that relationship.”
Most of the officers had no answer to that, except for Aharon and Rina, both of whom understood how vital this was for Rowland. Rina answered, “Please don’t worry. We didn’t take you out of Egypt just to let you die in the desert,” a reference to the Exodus that I was not sure Rowland got. “We are responsible for your well-being now.” I could feel Rowland relax his hold on me a bit.
Shumlik said, “Enough! We will solve problems but not all at the same time, please! You are alive now, alive enough to be cranky, and that is good. But please have some patience.”
Aharon said, “Well, I have something we can do, and we need to do it very soon. I brought food down here from Jerusalem, and it will go bad soon in this heat. David, would you come with me to see what it might be good for?”
They left; I knew then what we would be doing for the rest of the day. I asked Shmulik, “How many people do we have here all told? I mean, how many will be staying overnight?”
Shmulik counted out the guards and Mossad personnel, and told me, and I went out to Aharon’s car to help bring in the provisions. David was admiring the spices included in the haul, though Aharon kept pushing him along. I told them, “We have at least twenty people here staying overnight. What do you think we can make? Remember that the rest of us want to help, even if it’s just chopping vegetables.”
David usually hated having people in a kitchen when he was cooking, but he grabbed onto this new, top-chef position. “Okay, how much oven do we have?” Once inside, he checked out the airport’s kitchen and said, “I think we can make, say, three tadjines, chicken, lamb, and vegetables. We may have to switch out what’s in the oven every so often, though I hope not to. Do we have salad? Yes? And hummus and tehina? Okay, so that will be good enough, I think. And if they don’t like it, they can walk to Eilat,” he giggled. Eilat was not in walking distance, of course.
So for the next few hours, the four of us and Aharon occupied the kitchen, working under David. I don’t know where the Mossadnikim were, or the guards; they left us alone.
When it was time, David asked Rowland to announce dinner for all in an improvised dining area where the ticket counters must have been. The tables were already set with the hummus-tehina mix, salad, and barely enough pita. Rowland reminded people that they should not fill up on the pita, since they could smell what was coming. It had to be translated, but still got a laugh from the guards.
The food was a hit! David was beaming, and we were beaming for him. The guards asked whether this was what we did in America; it meant they did not know, or claimed not to know, who we were, so we waffled on it. In any case, we were all tired and satisfied after the meal; it was Aharon’s idea, so I went over to let him know how much I appreciated his efforts. He gave me a quick embrace, and then turned away, still shaken by the loss of his friend. I leaned in and whispered the Hebrew consolation, “May the Omnipresent One comfort you, along with all the mourners in Zion, in the world, and in Jerusalem.” He muttered a quiet “amen.”
When the guards had left the table and we were left with only Rina and Aharon, I asked, “What do the French know?”
Aharon sighed, and began, but Rina shushed him. “They have, of course, arrested a large number from the Lille group. They are otherwise doing just what the Americans are doing, trying to find out who else might be involved.”
“But the French have the photos that Aharon’s friend took, right? Including Joseph — Esterhazy — showing all the blue.”
“Yes. And they know who Esterhazy was in the Résistance during the War. They asked us about it, of course, and we have put them off for the moment. The only sources they have are the people they arrested, and since these have all been criminals, they have no idea what is rumor and what is fact. They do not know that the four of you are alive, unless the Americans have let that slip. You can be sure that every part of this has been earthshaking, in the States, France, and here. We know we will have to — spill the beans? — soon, but we want it to be when both the American President and our government are ready. Something you did not know is that some American officials, members of Congress, have been arrested; that’s the reason the President wanted you out of the country. He didn’t know how large the plot was.”
As if on cue, another Mossadnik came rushing in and whispered to Aharon and Rina; I could make out the words ‘telephone’ and ‘United States.’ Rina turned to us and said, “We’ve been waiting to make sure the telephone line is secure between us. There’s been enough leaks, right?”
We were then ushered back into the meeting room. No Skype — not secure enough — but the President’s man was on a speaker line. After the necessary handshakes on both sides, we actually heard his voice.
“Are you guys okay?”
“Yes!” we all said.
“Good! I can tell you that none of your neighbors has been hurt, and they specifically asked me to say hello to you — they’re the only ones who know your situation, you know.”
“Thank you, Mister President,” I answered. “I’m sure things are pretty crazy there.”
“Not any more, thankfully, but indeed they have been. There was one attempt to attack a solar project in Idaho — not one of yours — but that was thwarted before it started. And you can be certain that we are protecting all the hydro, wind, and solar projects in the country as well. If anything, I hope that this episode has awakened people here, especially young people, to realize who their friends are. Like yourselves! You have been doing such excellent work, and now you’ve been punished for it. It makes me so mad! It will be up to you, but if you decide to return, I will be at the airport! Oh, and one more thing: I have taken executive action to guarantee government funding if any of your usual grant transfers fails to come through, so please do not worry about that. I’ve already talked to my Congressional opponents and warned them that they would be aligning themselves with the conspirators if they tried to block this.”
Rowland said, “Thank you very much, Sir. I am looking forward — We are looking forward to getting back to work as soon as possible!”
“Great. And now, I’m afraid I have to do the same. God bless you, guys.”
* 4 *
Funny how things work out. As soon as I mouthed off about not caring about my family, I realized what bullshit that was. No, they didn’t know that I was involved in the Indigo Climate project, but they did know I had gone to San Francisco, so how could they not be worried? Maybe even my father, my not-so-Ashkenazi frumm father who had already sat shiva for me.
I went over to Rina and asked her what could be done, given the secrecy situation. She said that, in fact, my mother and a sister had gone to the Israeli consulate in New York to ask about me. The consulate asked for orders, and finally got to tell my mom, “Your son is alive and well. We cannot say more. You must not even mention that you spoke to us.” Apparently, this was one secret my mom — and even my sister — were able to keep, because the consulate reported no questions from anyone there. I thanked her, and stepped away from everyone to bentsch gomayl — to say the prayer of thanksgiving after going through an ordeal; it was the first time in years I had prayed on my own, and even while doing it, I was aware that the very term is Ashkenazi! How many ironies can dance on the head of a pin?
I went back to her and asked what the sleeping arrangements would be.
“To be honest, Kevin, we’re trying to work that out ourselves. Aharon and I have to stay, the guards will take shifts, and we don’t even know how many beds or cots are here.”
I went to the group, but they already knew the score about sleeping. I told them about my mom, and they were glad I had made the leap to ask.
There was very little involved in setting up for the night. Military from somewhere else brought a truck to the airport and backed up to the door of the reception area. From there, “our” guards brought the cots in to the various rooms in the building, with the meeting room being set aside for the four of us plus Aharon. We actually considered using the round table but that turned out to be way uncomfortable, even worse than the cots. It was also beginning to get colder, enough so that we were uncomfortable, and then our guards knocked on the door and brought in wool blankets for all of us.
Josh asked one of them in Hebrew whether there were enough for all of them as well. When he replied that they could share, Josh said we could as well, and gave them back two of the blankets. The man smiled and warned Josh that the cots could easily collapse with too much weight or…. and Josh smiled back and said he doubted any of our cots would be ruined overnight. His Hebrew was good; I knew enough to understand what was being said, but didn’t want to reveal that my own language skills had been learned in Ashkenazi and only from Torah and Talmud, so I kept quiet.
Josh kept looking at me during the exchange, and afterward came up to me to say we ought to share a cot. Once we were settled in, he said, “If we have to stay here any length of time, you’ll have to open up and talk, even if it sounds like loshn koydish.” He was using the Yiddish for “holy tongue” and I knew that Israelis sometimes used it to deride unhip language like mine.
We were all plenty tired, especially poor Aharon, who slept alone so he could get up when he had to; Rowland and David made a nice pair, sleeping spoons, and Josh and I back to back, each of us holding an edge of our blanket. We knew that Aharon would be up some of the time to stand watch, but we slept through it; at least I did.
We were up at dawn, even before the sun rose over the Jordanian mountains. It seemed that we were so much in sync that we woke up in unison, except for Aharon, who was back asleep after having stood watch. We tiptoed out of the room to see what provisions were possible for the day, as well as what the news was about.
The news came at us first, because the guards were watching the TV as they munched on the leftover food. When they saw us, they stood up and applauded — now they knew who we were!
One of the guards asked us, “Will you stay?”
We shrugged our shoulders. I said, “We have no idea what happens now. We were just going along trying to stop global warming and then we’re ten thousand miles away!”
I knew that the guards were not all the same rank, but I also knew that rank didn’t matter so much in Israel. So I didn’t know who to ask anything. The one who spoke with us the most had lived in the US for a while and had the best English, so he became our go-between, assisted of course by Josh.
Josh asked him, in English, “Any more phone calls?” The guard shook his head. “Not even from the Israeli government?”
“Well, there isn’t a government yet; they’re still trying to make coalitions.” There had been an election recently; a coalition had formed but had broken down, and now the parties were seeing who hated each other the least. “But the President said he wanted to call as soon as you were awake. But I don’t know if he’s awake yet!”
And that’s when we got that call. Josh represented. The President welcomed us, “Berukhim ha-ba’im” — Blessed be those who come — and Josh and I both answered with Blessed are those who are here, “Berukhim ha-nimtza’im.”
Josh then switched to English so David and Rowland wouldn’t be left out. “Mr. President, can you give us any news on what is going to happen with us? The guards keep us safe, and we’ve eaten and slept, but I hope this doesn’t go on too long.”
“Well, I’ll tell you. It depends on the American president: You have to be our state secret until he is willing to let the world know where you are. So, it isn’t up to us. But I can get material to you so that you are at least a little more comfortable. I suspect that you are bored, too, no?”
All four of us answered, “Yes!” as well as the military folks, who apparently understood enough. Rina was there but said nothing.
“I will see what we can do without a government! You realize that I have not even told any of the competing parties about you. I’ve never had to deal with something like this before; my job is supposed to be more or less as a figurehead, and now I actually have to organize things!”
One of the guards said in Hebrew that the first thing he needed to send us was bath towels, and soap, and maybe shaving lotion. The guards all approved loudly, and Josh said, “We do feel pretty dirty at this point, sir. Where is Shmulik Horvitz? He knows the situation.”
“Ah, he has just become my quartermaster. We will see to it.”
When he hung up, Josh told the military guys who hadn’t understood, that they were the only people in the country who knew who we were and where we were. They commented that there hadn’t been a secret like this since Eichmann had been kidnapped in Argentina half a century before.
* 5 *
I could see that my friends were all off-kilter, and Aharon seemed in dismal shape, more than just tired. Myself, I got to remember yet again that my own life depended so much on having someone to keep me sane. The last couple years had been so lovely; the four of us were so often making love that I never even thought about how essential the act itself was for me, especially since our relationship had been so sweet, the nicest feelings I’d had since I had had my parents.
Now, I looked out at these men I loved so much, and I knew that there were so many ways this could go. I would never have said this to the guys, but it felt like, one way or another, this would be the end of our foursome. We might or might not get to rebuild the house on Balboa, but it seemed so likely that one or more of us would want to stay here with Aharon — or even without him. Could we go on as three? or two? It certainly would not be the same, not as easy.
I didn’t realize that, of the four of us, I had been the one standing at the window looking out, oblivious to the conversations around me. Then David came up and touched me on the arm.
“You’re really worried, aren’t you?” I could barely nod my head up and down in reply.
“Well, it’s a little early, you know? And do remember, please, that none of us died. I know something about suddenly having your life shaken up. And so do you, don’t you?”
“Sure,” I answered, “but I had been enjoying my life — our life — so much and it seemed the shaking was over.”
“Yes, well, me too. You do know how much love there is among us, right? And it isn’t going away. Like I said, it’s early; do me a favor and put off worrying till you need to, okay?”
I laughed and agreed. He was turning away but I grabbed him and held him in a great big hug. “Last night was nice, David, but now I want to hold you belly to belly,” and kissed the top of his head. David giggled and then went off to answer someone who had called him.
Josh was next, almost immediately. “You’re not blue, and you’re not Jewish, and you’re here in this nowhere with a bunch of blues and Jews.”
I laughed. “Well, that’s been true for awhile now, right?”
Josh came over and hugged me close. “If this ends up separating us, I will be so angry! I don’t mean just you, either. We’ve done such good things together for the world, and for each other, too. But, above all, I’m so proud that you have loved me so much.”
I would have broken down entirely if I had opened my mouth then, so I just kept my arms around him and let him hug me back.
* 6 *
Right then, everything broke loose at once. First, Shmulik showed up with an entourage including food, clothing, and cleaning supplies. And then, maybe a minute later, we got another phone call from a woman from the White House, telling us that the news was out about us being in Israel, and we were free to say anything we wanted. Which meant that about fifteen seconds later we got a call from one of the American TV networks, asking if they could interview us for the morning talk show — time differences meant it would air some hours later.
Shmulik warned us that Aharon and the Israeli military could not be seen in this, and we could not reveal where we were. But we could use the equipment in the airport to do an actual TV segment! So I told the network rep to give us at least a few minutes to clean up before we did the interview, and that worked out. David set up the camera and monitor in the meeting room, and made sure the software would work, while Kevin and I cleaned up the room). Rowland got some of the clean clothing and wash cloths — we had to do whatever change we were going to do right there in the room — and then came back with a bowl of warm water.
We wiped each other down, and picked out what we could wear; we didn’t even realize till we were done that it was standard Israeli wear, meaning short-sleeve shirts that would reveal all the blue arms. We were coming out like gangbusters!
Rowland said, “Josh, you have to do all the talking. Or at least almost all. Right?” David and Kevin nodded.
I exhaled and agreed. The others all pumped their fists and yelled. Then it was time. We sat at one end of the table, facing the camera and the computer monitor.
Are you there, Israel?
I found myself saying, “Indigo Climate is ready.”
And then it went on. The interviewers — a man and a woman — rattled off the rumors about us.
Are you independent or agents of some larger group? “We have been acting on our own. The only obligations we have are that we cannot do political work because we’re a 501(c)(3).”
So you are not part of a larger Jewish group? or a larger gay group? “No. I’m sure that some of the grantees are Jewish and I’d be surprised if none of them is gay, but we don’t ask, and keep no records of who is what.”
But you did have contact with an Israeli agent, and you were in Israel at the moment, true? “We are in Israel as far as I know, though I have to tell you that you couldn’t tell that by looking out the window. The President — the American President — asked Israel to keep us until the US authorities could figure out how large the conspiracy against us was. We ourselves don’t know the answer to that, by the way. We don’t even know who shot the RPG at our house.”
The interviewers were still more interested in what terrible things we had been doing. Who was the Israeli agent? “I’ve been asked by the Israelis not to reveal his name, but he was visiting us on a more personal mission, as far as we knew. We had never met him before.”
But he is related to one of you, true? “Yes, David here is a distant cousin, but they had never met or contacted each other until last week. Is that right?”
David said, “Right. He’s from my mother’s side, and after her death they disowned me.”
They then pushed David. Wasn’t your father a criminal? To which he said, “Yes, and it got him killed.”
Are you trying to convert people to being Jewish or to being gay? We know that you belong to a gay synagogue. I said, “Frankly, we didn’t have time to do that. And one of us isn’t Jewish.” And Rowland raised his hand.
And you’re trying to say that this massive gay-Jewish group was not part of your plans to change American politics. “I don’t think four people counts as “massive.” The synagogue was not involved in our work……”
Well, why was it vandalized if it wasn’t involved. “I didn’t know about the vandalism. Was anyone hurt?”
No, but let’s get back to you. Have you been running a conspiracy to change American politics? “I would like American politics to change; I would like not to be bombed out of my house for no crime whatsoever. I would like you to realize that we are the victims here, and we have done nothing to earn the kind of violence that has been dealt to us. We have acted openly to support renewable energy sources; that has been our entire mission.”
What about the comments by anti-Israel groups that you are “green washing” to cleanse Israel’s image, to make us like Israel even after all the terrible things it’s done? You need to make clear: Are you for Israel or for the Palestinians? “Our position is that in a generation, if we don’t stop climate change, there will be neither an Israel nor a Palestine — a zero-state solution — because the land will be uninhabitable. So you can say I would like to see Israel succeed and Palestine succeed, and neither will if we don’t stop global warming.”
“But what about this green-washing charge?” Kevin laughed at that: “Excuse me, folks, but look at us. Is your color control on? Do we look green?” And then he stood up and unbuttoned his shirt down to the waist.
They were clearly entirely unaware of the blue. Their prepared list of questions did not include anything about that.
I said, “I think we need to break now; we have not eaten yet. May I just take a moment to speak to our neighbors in San Francisco–”
Rowland: “Who we miss very much right now.”
And I could barely go on, “Our neighbors whom we miss so much. I would like to think we can return soon, but it is out of our hands right now. We were glad when we learned that you were not injured in the attack. And Cathy,” I added, making the sign of the Priestly Benediction, “live long and prosper!”
David broke the connection. “Ugh!”
“That was awful!” Rowland said, and we spent a few minutes wondering how representative it was of American opinion. Shmulik came in; he’d been remote-listening the whole time. He said that Israelis would not treat us so badly, that we would be welcome throughout the country.
“Even blue?” Strangely, it was Rowland who asked that.
We had hardly gotten stable after that, when another call came, from a different American network. I threw up my hands, so Rowland said to let him handle it, and we changed seats so that he more centrally faced the camera.
Are you ready to admit that climate change is a hoax created by the gay agenda?
Rowland: “A hoax means intending to deceive. We believe in what we’re doing. We didn’t consult any other gay people to do it. And,” looking around at each of us, “I don’t think any of us knows what a ‘gay agenda’ might be.”
But you do admit that the people who tried to stop you were against homosexuality?
“We don’t know who the perpetrators were.”
But they did include some Congressmen who wanted to stop gay encroachment on traditional values, so….
“Again, we had been gotten out of the house before the attack, and we don’t know anything directly about the attackers.”
But look, you are gay, and you were attacked, so isn’t it reasonable to assume that the people who oppose you favor traditional family values?
“I don’t think so. We’ve been told that some of the perpetrators were from France, and they seemed to have a personal grudge to settle. Which reminds me, do you know whether the wind-farm in Brest is still safe?”
It was destroyed, and the climate-changers are dead.
Rowland could not go on, so I answered, “And the people in Brest were not gay.”
You’re changing the subject! We know that your conspiracy is trying to undermine our civilization!
“I don’t know of any conspiracy, except that the American and Israeli governments co-operated to save our lives. But saving life doesn’t count as undermining civilization, does it?”
In this case, it does! And now you are safely away from those who uphold Christian values, and you can go on with your propaganda war!
“No propaganda here. The only way to know what we have been doing is to visit our webpage. But I do hope that we can continue to fund renewable energy sources.”
You’re trying to destroy the livelihoods of Americans who work with coal and oil!
How can you even say that? After all,….”
At this point Rowland — the coolest head among us — turned off our computer, and destroyed the connection. His face was scary red, and the rest of us went over to him.
David said, “Listen, mon petit cher, I know how you feel about what happened in Brest. I was there, too, right? Do you want to go somewhere else with me for a minute?”
They walked off together to a bathroom, six-foot-plus Rowland leaning heavily on little David. We could hear crying, and eventually Kevin and I walked in and made it a Teletubby hug, the two of us bearing silent witness to their pain.
Next: Josh is stabbed by an Israeli Arab, a Christian; he recovers slowly while reminding himself of what Esterhazy went through during the War. Israeli police shoot the stabber to death immediately, foiling any chance to find out who paid the stabber. Then, a visiting Christian minister stabs him with a silver spike through the heart, and he dies[??]. The remaining 3 have to decide how to go on, and maybe they split. Aharon becomes part of the group, but Rowland is the de facto CEO even though that position is supposed to go to Kevin.
Obviously, people will be involved far outside the group. I’m not sure about where that goes yet, but eventually the 3 remaining group members will get back together in the end, with Aharon.