(page 5 of 5)
He said, “Maybe one or two.”
“That’s all?” I said, feeling stupidly disappointed. The character in my novel, Mustafa, came from a poor village and experienced terrible hardship. He laughed. “They have a nice, big house. They do very well.”
“Okay, but what about your other uncles and aunts. I’m sure they must live in cramped quarters.”
Again he chuckled. “They all do very nicely, make excellent livings. They also don’t have to pay taxes like the Israelis.” He gently poked fun of me. “You’re like all the others who think Arabs live terrible lives in Israel. It’s a fantastic country. I can’t wait to go back.”
Finally, I asked about the bathroom.
“Sure,” he said. “There are definitely bathrooms.”
No hesitation. I was stunned by this simple declaration. “Really?” I was so excited. Bathrooms — in plural. “What do they look like?”
“Twelve at a bunch. Finished toilets, pretty, some white, some blue. Some marble floors.” The details came spewing forth. Such a man I believed. I whooped. I wished I could hug my bathroom verifier. I went back to writing my novel and Mustafa went back to mopping bathrooms.
Now all these years and revisions later, my son doesn’t get his haircuts at Waleed’s anymore. My husband bought a kit and cuts our child’s hair himself. Waleed’s barber shop is still right next to my husband’s office on Main Street. I am tempted to walk in and tell him, “Pssst. Waleed, there is a bathroom up there. There really is.”
I still wonder why there was so much confusion and dissension about the bathroom’s existence. Perhaps my question touched a nerve. We have our lower halves — the parts that go to the bathroom, and upper halves — the parts that pray. And never the twain shall meet? Maybe I’ll find out the most definitive answer once I start going on my book tour.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of Waleed through the window of his shop, LA. Hair Design, cutting the hair of the little Orthodox boys of Passaic and making sure not to shave the sideburns, according to Jewish law. He is devoted. Really, I think. Why say anything?
Ruchama King Feuerman’s new novel, “In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist,” was published as an e-book last month by the New York Review of Books.