The Missed Chance
They’ll never make it to the big concert – that concert of love – for which they learned all the lyrics and melodies, listening to scratched-up tapes played over and over again on weary cassette players. When the band takes the stage and they hit the lights, and the young girls with their soft hair and slender necks raise their heads like white doves, they won’t be there.
They’ll never tell her, “I love you” — words practiced over and over under night’s immunity, against the broken mirrors of military showers reeking of Lysol. They’ll have picked out the right shirt, dusted off their jeans, placed her yearbook photo under their pillow. But someone else will have to say those words to her. They won’t be there.
They’ll never marry. They’ll never have children. When the cries of a baby’s new life are first heard, they won’t be there.
They’ll never set off on that long trek to the yellow desert. Their rappelling ropes, supple as snakes, will never unravel in the baggage compartment. The campfire won’t be lit. The acoustic guitar, it’s case adorned by stickers, won’t be taken out and no one will forget the second verse. And when a flash flood winds its way through a narrow desert gully, they won’t be there.
They’ll never “work over” a payphone, and never call to announce that they’re coming home or that they won’t be able to make it. They’ll never lie that everything’s fine, that they don’t need a thing, that they have enough cash, thanks Mom. On the weekends, out of habit, the car keys will be left out for them. But they won’t be there. They won’t be discharged from the army. They’ll forever wear their stone, square uniforms. They’ll forever remain Sergeant Assaf, Sergeant Nir, Sergeant Golan, Lieutenant Eyal, Sergeant Tzachi, Sergeant Avni, Sergeant Ari, Sergeant-Major Rakh’l, and Lieutenant Avi.
Their battalion will return to base, return their equipment, get their release papers and a pat on the back. They won’t be there.
They’ll never study. Not in the school of Life, nor in the yeshiva, nor in the university. One Hundred Years of Solitude will forever remain opened to page 120. Beitar Jerusalem will forever remain champions of the soccer league. Yehuda Polliker’s next record won’t be released until the end of all generations. There are so many things that they still need to learn, chiefly about themselves, but they won’t be there.
When they die, we always write about who they were.
But the pain, the real pain
is because of who they’ll never be.