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Creative Nonfiction Drama Sad

It was midwinter in Jerusalem and I was a fresh student new to the capital, to the crowded dormitories of the Hebrew University. I was allocated a small room in a long, gray, railroad concrete building, one of many identical grey siblings. I unpacked the little luggage I had brought with me in the characterless room, and tacked a poster to the wall to help me feel I belonged somehow.

Small as it was, I still had to share the room with a chemistry student, a new immigrant from Germany. I hardly saw him at all on my first week there – he came to the room late at night to sleep and left early in the morning – our sole communications were the brief notes we exchanged. Almost every day I’d go on foot to the classrooms on the green, beautiful campus to gain myself an education. Then, when evening came, I would walk back to my humble abode that stubbornly refused to feel anything like home.

One day, as I was idly listening to the news on the radio, I heard that the former Prime Minister, Golda Meir, had died. The announcer intoned, in a suitably serious voice, that her coffin would lie in state in the Parliament Plaza, and that citizens were urged to come and pay their last respects. I had nothing to do with Golda Meir, but for some reason – most probably boredom – I decided to accept the impersonal invitation. At the end of my last class for the day, as darkness fell, I wrapped myself in a heavy coat, bought especially for my relocation to frigid Jerusalem, put on a thick woolen hat, wrapped a scarf around my neck, and set off for Parliament Plaza. Climbing from the foothills of Givat Ram, I passed the Israel Museum on my way to the Plaza and Golda’s coffin. I walked through several groves that were shrouded in darkness, recognizing the faint smell of moss in the air. The utter silence was disrupted only by the sound of leaves and pinecones crackling beneath my feet. From a distance, in the faint light cast by the waxing moon, I saw several blurry figures, all walking in the same direction, all obviously headed to the same destination. They seemed somehow coordinated, those blurry figures, walking at the same pace I myself was. Eventually I emerged from the dark groves onto the asphalt road, illuminated by yellowish street lights, that led to Parliament Plaza.

Golda’s coffin had been placed in the center of the square. People were circling it, giving it an occasional glance. I joined the circle and started orbiting the coffin too, my steps slowing in time with everyone else, going around and around, in the company of Jerusalemites clad in coats, hats and scarves, most of them many years my senior. As I walked around the coffin, I conjured Golda’s face in my mind, as well as a few of her famous sayings. There were a few police officers watching on, and members of the Parliament Guard along with a number of uniformed soldiers who were standing rigidly at attention and saluting. Israeli flags fluttered proudly in the night air. After two and a half revolutions, I retired from the circle. Others left with me, while a stream of newcomers joined the circle in our stead. I stood aside, watching the people circling the coffin, trying to guess which of them had personally known our Prime Minister, and under what circumstances. A cold wind pierced through my winter coat, making me shiver.

           Rain started to fall, fat, wet drops dotting my glasses, blurring the scene, hinting it was time to go back to my room. I gave a final look at the coffin and the dark figures orbiting it, and turned to head back. I walked, downhill this time, retracing my steps through the same groves I had earlier trudged up through. Only the distant, occasional howl of a jackal pierced the silence. I walked on, lost in strange thoughts, my mind drifting away from Golda Meir, eager to get to the kerosene heater that was waiting patiently for me in my room with its heavy scents and comforting heat.

I hadn’t gone much further before I discovered I had a little shadow that had, apparently popped out of nowhere. A little, beige-gray, shaggy dog was walking beside me, very close. From what I could see in the gloom, his eyes were large and wise, and his tail wagged incessantly. I felt sure he would be a temporary companion and walk beside me only for a very short while, that he would not persist and quickly find himself some other friend, of the canine persuasion perhaps. Or he would tag along with one of the others on their way home after visiting Parliament Plaza.

To put him to the test, I changed my pace a little, speeding up and then slowing, occasionally even stopping. The little dog passed every test, matching his pace to mine and apparently not even considering breaking off. I soon got used to my new, furry friend, and we walked on, side by side, at an even pace in the increasing cold, feeling the heavy raindrops that were still falling, heading for the dorms. An onlooker would have assumed we were a dog and its owner, not thinking for a moment we were only newly acquainted.

           We reached the dorms, my friend and I, and made our way to my block with its long hallway from which the rooms opened. I walked along the corridor to my room, second on the right. My new friend pattered along beside me loyally. I opened the door and walked in, closing the door, as I routinely did, without a second thought. I tossed my coat onto the bed and realized the little dog had not come in with me. Perhaps, I thought, he hadn’t made it through the open door in time. I quickly opened it, expecting to see him standing outside, his mischievous eyes looking up at me.

He wasn’t there.

I looked both ways, up and down the corridor, again and again. He was definitely not there. I quickly went from one end of the corridor to the other, searching for a sign of him. When I couldn’t find any, I went out of the dorm block, desperately hoping to see his little cute figure. I couldn’t believe he’d simply left me like that, and, of course, I was hoping for the best. I could find no trace of him, even going as far as the large, dark, parking lot.

I called out, “Here puppy! Here puppy…” in a quiet voice that gradually bloomed into a full-blown cry, hoping to see his furry head peeking at me from behind a rock, a tree, a parked car. But there was nothing. The little dog had gone.

           I went back to my room, made a hot cup of tea, sat on the bed and looked in my diary to see if I had any tasks still to do in preparation for my next day of study. But my mind insisted on drifting. I stood up, too restless to sit, and promptly sat down again. To my surprise I found myself struggling with a sadness that welled up me. Sometime later, I opened my door again and peered outside into the corridor, hoping I would see the puppy running towards me. But it remained stubbornly empty. Perhaps, I thought, something had happened to him. Perhaps a tenant had been walking along the corridor and had taken the little dog outside. And now the poor mutt was out there somewhere, sniffing the rain-drenched air, searching for me? I retraced, in my thoughts, the road we had walked together, side by side, from the Parliament to the dorms, and I recreated, over and over, the strange, abrupt moment of the pup’s disappearance, deluding myself that I could somehow solve the mystery.

Many years have passed since that night. Many dogs have run around me, large and small, some reminding me, in their appearance, of that little lost dog. I have experienced much more significant farewells since then, some very sad, deeply affecting. But it is actually that shaggy little dog, with his wise and friendly eyes, who vanished as suddenly as he had appeared, and without my saying goodbye, that haunts my memory the most, jumping up and down in the furthest reaches of my mind.

And giving me no rest.

May 23, 2023 17:22

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1 comment

J. D. Lair
20:11 May 29, 2023

Your writing has a great, easy flow to it. I really enjoyed this story. Welcome to Reedsy!


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