Invisible stains of sadness:

Original by Ronit Yedaya, translation by Yaron Regev

Before I’d lock the door behind me, I’d open the taps and squeeze spools of scented liquids from the myriad of bottles. The water that would fill the oval tub would cascade to the floor in little rivulets and bubble into white, thick foam, which would wipe off the sweat stains left by Lydia, the housekeeper, and disinfect the tear-circles that stained the cheerful ceramic tiles with invisible scars of sadness, and it would flow with a powerful ejaculation from your husband Meir’s shower, rising up and filling the house with swelling, thickening foam, flooding the stairwell too, and the pinkish marble covering. Your clothes would swirl and be swept away, slalom down the stairs between the floors in a terraced waterfall that would flood the neighbors’ apartments with their parquet floors and Persian carpets, all the way to the lobby, where they would mow down the Arab guards, who would flutter in their uniforms in the frothy rapid, flailing their swarthy arms in vain from amid the smothering foam, until they would tire and vanish in the stream, their hats floating behind them. And when the water level reached the windows, the sound of panes of glass shattering would echo, and a cascade of white water would gush from the windows and join the flow coming from the lobby to wade its way into the tranquil waters of the pool, and rush from there in a little river to the sea.

And once the water has drained, and the house was standing clean and dry and disinfected – a faint scent of mold would be left hanging in the air, from the bathtub – I would call your lover, the handyman, to seal with concrete the sea in the windows; to freeze your look so that it would always turn outward. He would also cast, in white concrete, the oval tub, to preserve the shape of your body, like the statue of a bathtub casting you had once seen in London and loved, and, once you came back, you felt like taking a concrete casting class, to cast yourself some cute little things.

“If cast in a different material,” you explained to me, “it takes on a completely different meaning.” Back then, I didn’t understand what you were talking about.

I will fulfil your wishes. Everything here has been cast in your own image. I am merely the vessel, the keeper of your grave. Once we have sealed all the windows, and all the black holes, and also covered the Venetian mirror with a sheet, so that your soul won’t be reflected in it, I will paint all the furniture, even the leather upholstery of the armchair, so it will rupture when I sit on it. Everything will be white. New. Like some royal dynasty’s burial ground – with you as its founder. We’d call it the ‘Shoshi’ dynasty and give it a symbol of white roses, or white tulips, perhaps, like those that had bloomed in the window boxes, even without you. Plants don’t remember. They have already forgotten how you used to water them with thin trickles of distilled water. How, with a delicate finger, you had brushed the stems aside, not to harm their sensitive petals, not to make them rot.

Each winter, I will water the floor, and tulips will sprout from between the floorboards, gape open their petals. I will drip water into the moist leaves when you will tell me, “I’m thirsty too, drip some on me as well.” And I will tell you, “I can’t anymore.”

“But I’m dying of thirst,” you’ll tell me. “Dying of thirst.”

And finally, we will cast in concrete the seawater swimming pool too, to freeze your final swimming motions in it. Water remembers.

Only the babies in the baby pool will still slowly waddle on their chubby feet, dipping in their mothers’ milk that will fill the small, round pool with the sweetish liquid. Their tiny bodies will not be reflected in it, the limbs floating over it will be cut, those under it – swallowed. If they become thirsty, they will be able to bend and take a sip.

Finally, the furniture’s turn would come. Your husband’s new wife will, perhaps, think she could get a couple of extra pennies for your beautiful furniture, unaware it is smeared with white. She’ll want a fresh start with new furniture made of walnut wood, and a kitchen made of teak.

“Actually, why not?” Meir will say, forgetting that the house is already sealed to the sea and only facing inward, to me, my desire cast in concrete, and with a sigh of relief will turn towards the armchair as well, cupping a chubby breast with his hand and telling me, “Come, little girl, let’s have some fun on the sofa,” and I will get up and press myself against him for a brief eternity. His touch will be like warm water on your frozen body.

Come evening, I will sprawl on the television armchair and watch you reflected in your plasma screen, and sit by the designers’ table and paste you, picture by picture, like a collage, only with different contours. The contours of a jellyfish. Rhopilema nomadica, a common strain along the shores of our country; a gelatinous, bluish lump. Your body will be comprised of almost one hundred percent seawater. We could dry it and sell it to the Japanese, a true delicacy – a mother’s jello. You would slide into the pool, shattering the mirror of skies and clouds, coil your long arms with their suction cups in every direction. Perhaps you’d be able to leech onto someone, suck the life out of him, then flow on. Transparency would be your best defense. No eyes, no ears, no brain. The fish will die while you prosper in your oxygen-deprived environment, shed your tentacle arms as I chase you, like a lizard shedding its tail, only much more sophisticated. The poison would still be released, even after the tentacles are detached from the body. Only seawater would ease the sting you leave behind, as you’d drift away, contracting and expanding to the beat of all things swallowed and spewed.

Yaron Regev is a published author and translator who is equally comfortable writing in Hebrew or English. He is the author of two graphic novels, Ghosts of Love and Country (2019) and the soon to be released Descartes’ World, an upcoming YA fantasy series called The Door Behind the Sun, and several adult novels.

Ronit Yedaya lives in Israel and has published seven novels. Her latest novel, Mini-Me, was published in 2019. She is currently head of the creative writing department at the Minshar School of Arts.

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