Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Lesson learned

Well, here is my assignment from Jay at The Zero Boss
For this Blogging for Books, write about a time you were pushed to the brink of insanity (figuratively or literally), and how you lived to tell the tale.

Lesson Learned

I walked with apprehension into the spacious communal dining room of the Kibbutz to begin my first morning of work in the kitchen. I looked around hopefully for a familiar face. People were rushing back and forth looking busy. I didn't recognize anyone and no one made any eye contact with me. I scanned the room again and noticed an Israeli guy, 6'4", dark and serious, looking straight at me. His stare was frightening but I couldn't look away. He slowly walked towards me and gave me a curt, "Hello," as he nodded his head.

I had never heard such a deep and sexy voice in a guy my own age before. He was unlike the boys back home, that was for sure. In that moment, I knew there was something special about him. Somehow we were going to be important to one another. I willed my brain to come up with the proper response to his greeting. I was proud when I managed to regain my composure and mutter, "Uhm, ya, hi!" He must have been dazzled by my brilliant command of the English language because he half laughed when he said, "Ah,..... you are American!"

We introduced ourselves. I told him I was 22 and had only been on the kibbutz for one week. Due to my severe hayfever I had been transfered out of the cotton fields and into the air- conditioned kitchen. Ofer was 20 and he spent 6 months on the kibbutz and then 6 months in the army until his 4 year of army duty was completed. He had just arrived for another 6 month stay on the kibbutz so I would be seeing a lot more of him over the next few months. That was just what I wanted to hear. Ofer escorted me to the kitchen. With a wave and a wink he said softly, "I will see you later." Later seemed like forever and I wanted to rush after him and say "Please don't leave me. I just found you!" But we both had our jobs to do.

I worked in a haze of dreams and Air Supply love songs that first morning. I wanted another chance just to look at him, talk to him, be with him. I was assigned to work with Nourit who was in Ofer's army group. Once I found out that tid-bit of news I tried to casually pump her for more information about him. Who was he? What was he really about? Nourit looked at me with pity in her eyes as she said, "He is no good. You need to keep away from him. He will hurt you. How you say in English......F****** Asshole!"

I learned that Nourit and Ofer had dated for a few years. She had broken up with him but he never got over it and still continued to pursue her. She wanted nothing to do with him. Why didn't I listen to her? Why was I so sure that I knew more about what Ofer needed and wanted than the girl who had dated him? I thought, 'She just doesn't understand him. I am very kind and sympathetic. He needs me! I will be so good for him.'

For the next three months Ofer played a cat and mouse game with me.
On the "good days", Ofer would catch my eye as I entered the dining room for our morning break and wave me over to sit with him. We would talk and laugh and get to know one another. He would tell me how pretty I looked or how sweet I was or how happy he was that we were spending time together. I knew he felt what I was feeling. I could see it in his eyes and in his smile when he allowed himself to relax and be happy. After work he would sit outside his room and wait to see if I would walk by. He would call me over to have coffee and listen to the Israeli music that he knew I loved. We would listen for hours as he patiently translated the music into English so that I could truly appreciate it. He flirted outrageously with me and I flirted right back. Even though I was quite innocent at 22, I didn't mind the flirting. In fact, I enjoyed it. He made me feel so special when we were together. He would hold my hand and look deeply into my eyes and my stomach would flip. What a wonderful feeling that was.

On those "good days" I would look in the mirror and think I looked beautiful. My eyes were bluer, my smile was brighter, my hair was prettier. Ofer made me feel cherished. It was a new feeling and it made me feel so free.

On the "bad days", he would make sure that I saw him looking at me and then spin on his heels and walk away without a backward glance. That always meant no acknowledgement from him at break time either. That was the time that he would surround himself with his friends and completely ignore me. Once I got my morning snub I knew what to expect, but, it still hurt deeply when it happened. I was always surprised when the scenario didn't change and I wondered why I continued to put myself through this. I couldn't understand why he would try to hurt me. It didn't make any sense at all.

On these days I would look in the mirror and see a hag. Of course Ofer ignored me today. I was ugly and dull. Who would want to spend time with someone like that? I would lie on my bed, punch the pillow until my hands were sore and cry for hours. I would think up ways to change myself so that I would be prettier and sweeter and a good candidate to be his girlfriend.

One day Ofer saw me walking with a Danish volunteer named Anna. The following morning he asked me what I thought of her. I told her, "Well, I guess she is ok but there is something I don't really like about her. Why?" He said he was just curious. That evening Anna asked me if she could borrow one of my favorite shirts and my perfume. I said she could and then asked her why. "Oh, this boy asked me to go into town with him tonight. Do you know this boy......Ofer?"

My knees had a mind of their own as they buckled underneath me. I grabbed the railing and sat down on the steps. I couldn't catch my breath. Anna looked at me and smiled, "Are you ok?" No I wasn't ok. What the hell was going on? It wasn't enough that Ofer was playing some mind game with me every day of my life? Now he was going to date someone he didn't even know and who I told him I didn't like? Was he just sitting with his friends dreaming up daily ways to torture me? And if so, for what reason? I didn't like Anna before this happened but now I hated her and wondered if she was in on it all along. Was she pretending to act casual about all this just to torment me too? How many people were plotting against me? I started to become paranoid.

I stumbled to my room and fell to the floor. I grabbed the bedspread and hung on for dear life. I sobbed for the rest of the night. I couldn't understand this. It must have been a mistake. He couldn't be taking Anna out on a date! He liked me! What was all this about?

The next morning brought new hope because I was so sure that Ofer would offer some type of explanation or apology about his date with Anna. I walked into the dining room and I could see that he was waiting for me. I looked at him and willed him to say something first. He made a tsk tsk sound, shook his head and said,
"Poor little girl without a thought of her own."
I spun around to face him. I was suddenly consumed with rage.
"What the hell are you talking about, Ofer?" I demanded.
"I'm talking about you!"
"What do you mean that I don't have a thought of my own? Of course I do, you moron!"
"No. You don't. You think what I want you to think."
"That is absolutely a lie and you know it!"
"No it isn't. Think about it. When I want you to be happy I talk to you and smile at you and make you feel special. I make you believe that you could be my girlfriend. When I want you to be sad I ignore you and I date a girl who means nothing to me just because I know it will hurt you.You feel whatever I choose for you to feel. I control all your feelings!

I wanted to argue with him but he was right. I had given him permission to manipulate me. The craziness had to end at that moment. I deserved to be treated with kindness and respect not be controlled by Ofer, the master puppeteer! How did I get myself into this type of situation? Was I so insecure that I needed some guy to validate my very existence?

I closed my eyes to hold back the tears. I took a deep breath and slowly walked away. Ofer was cruel for doing that to me but I was even more at fault for allowing him to have that much control over my feelings and my life. He taught me that sometimes people are hurtful, spiteful and downright cruel just for the pleasure of seeing someone else in pain. I made a promise to myself that I would never give anyone that kind of control again. I realized that the only person responsible for my happiness was me! Over the past 19 years, that realization has served me well. Lesson learned!

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