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My bancha tea friend called a few days later with “great news”: A publisher had taken up the memoir that she had been working on for years.
“And this is just after I had a consultation with the ayin-hore lady,” she noted. For good measure, she added, “Just because you can’t see the ayin-hore doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
I scribbled down the ayin-hore lady’s number.
When all else fails, why not try something new?
Still, I couldn’t quite bring myself to make the call. This was just the kind of crazy thing my grandmother would’ve suggested. “Go ahead, darling,” she’d say. “Why not?” Why not? Because it was silly, and I swore to myself a long time ago, I would not lead a silly life. I would work rationally and hard, not relying on superstitions. Whether the Talmud said so or not, I associated ayin-hores with all the irrationalities and craziness that fueled my grandparents’ existence: their incessant, childish lovers’ quarrels; their complete investment in talismans and things that didn’t matter — gold bangles, Hamsa necklaces — to make the evil eye avert its gaze, a neurotic attachment to food, including kibbeh, couscous, Moroccan candy cigars, a grilled green pepper salad that took hours to make.
Finally, after a few more months of bad news, I was brought to my knees.
I called the woman furtively, when no one else was home, certain that my husband, a psychoanalyst, would just dismiss the evil eye as an unconscious projection of one’s own evil.
A woman with an Israeli accent picked up the phone: the ayin-hore lady herself. She sounded in her 40s or 50s. In the background I heard kitchen noises, as though she were in the middle of cooking supper. It was 10 a.m. in New Jersey, so it had to be 5 p.m. in Jerusalem.