Mrs. Schwartz, my next door neighbor, woke up yesterday morning with an irritating itch in her left shoulder. She told Aaron, her husband: “This itch is killing me, and I think I’ll have to see my doctor today. I will leave work earlier, and head directly there. My doctor runs a clinic downtown, five bus stops from where I work”. Aaron couldn’t care less, but felt obliged to respond: “Fine, but don’t forget that, that itch has been coming and going for too many times. You should consider seeing another doctor”. Schwartz smiled at her husband, but he already focused his attention at his new shaving machine, and by now wouldn’t hear anything else.
After she had finished work, she tried to call her husband on the cellular, to remind him about her visit to the doctor, but there was no answer. She waited less than two minutes, until the bus arrived and picked her in. The bus was nearly full, with just a few empty seats left. She selected the one near the back door, adjacent to an orthodox religious guy. Drops of sweat were pouring all over his beard and black clothes, and he was sitting there, holding two large shopping bags, staring at the floor. No one wanted to sit next to that person, but Schwartz didn’t care. It was only for five or six stops.
At all times, the guy with the shopping bags kept his eyes staring down. That was quite natural. Orthodox Jews are not supposed to exchange eye contact with secular people, especially not with women. That didn’t bother Schwartz. She stared at the sidewalks through the bus windows, getting ready for her doctor’s appointment. When time came she got up, turned her back to the religious guy, just to make it easier for her to pass through. She stretched her left leg, then positioned her leg and leaned on it, then raised the other leg. The person’s bags were pretty big, the pass was quite narrow, and she didn’t get any help from that sweaty guy. During the time she was busy getting closer to the door the religious guy never took his eyes off his bags. Eventually, she did manage to pass, without noticing that by accident she tore the white string attached to the bags. As well, she almost didn’t feel the silent fart which she left behind, in the bus, as she was already on her way out. The guy didn’t feel anything either, or did – but wouldn’t respond. He kept his eyes stuck on his bags.
While she was walking on the sidewalk, heading towards her doctor’s clinic, the religious guy on the bus tried to pull the black string off the bags. Those were the instructions they gave him: tear the black string, definitely not the white one. He didn’t know that Schwartz unintentionally disconnected the white string, so he kept on trying. There was nothing else for him to do. He didn’t speak Hebrew, he didn’t know the neighborhood, and he was not Jewish, only dressed as an orthodox one. The sweat was pouring all over and around him by now, and he was desperate, without a clue about any alternative plan. He couldn’t return to his village anymore, there was no way for him to give back the advance payment that the operator had given him. His family wouldn’t accept him, because that would be a real disgrace. In fact – no one would accept him. A martyr’s failure is nevertheless a failure.
On the other hand, Schwartz didn’t have to climb the three stairs leading to her doctor’s office. The doctor was already waiting for her outside, on the sidewalk. When she saw him her face started smiling. He approached and gave her a gentle kiss. Schwartz said: “Looks like you were planning for us to go out. Don’t you think we better go first to your office?”
The doctor smiled back. He liked Schwartz, especially the things they did together in his office. They hurried into the building, almost running.
After they got dressed, she said to the doctor: “You wouldn’t believe what happened to me on the way here. There was an orthodox Jew sitting in the bus next to me, but I think he was an Arab terrorist. I think he had some bombs ready to explode.”
“How can you be sure that he was an Arab terrorist? There are extreme Jews too, you know. And besides, the so-called bombs could be just ordinary shopping bags, not necessarily suicide bombs”. Schwartz smiled at the doctor. That’s what she liked about him: he always saw both sides of the coin, and never did he take a firm stand. She replied: “You could be right. But let’s do it again, and talk about the maybe-Arab-maybe-Jew later”.
They did it again, and after drinking espresso machine coffee, they did it once more. The doctor looked at Schwartz, who was now getting dressed for the last time, and noticed that she was thoughtful, possibly bothered by something. He asked: “Are you still thinking about the bomb?”
Schwartz fastened her belt and answered: “Actually, yes. I wonder if something happened with the bus. I don’t like the idea of that terrorist performing such horrible things. Let’s go to the police”. Her doctor refused: “It’s too late. By now, the bus is either broken to a million pieces, or nothing has happened. Anyway, forget about the Arabs, forget about religious Jews, and forget about the itch in your shoulder. Let’s forget that and just do it again. Let’s do it now, for the very last time”.
Schwartz released another smile, sweeter than before. She said: “Yes, dear. Let’s do it again, but quickly, because I really want to go and check on that Arab”.