Once, Avi never came home all weekend and, though I was somewhat close to some of his many siblings, no one said a thing about when to expect him. I went nearly two weeks without word. Is this what I worked so hard to come back for? A relationship full of secrecy and long-term absences? Perhaps that was the price I had to pay for loving him, but after working so hard to get there, and still not being accustomed to the ways of the country, or the very real security concerns, I was upset. The longer Avi was away, the lonelier I felt. At just 20 years old, I couldn't clearly identify my discomfort as something justified, so instead of investigating it, I tried hiding it. My loneliness turned to depression and my fear to anxiety. The relationship soured, and we avoided making future plans. Our goodbye at the end of the summer was lackluster.
This time we exchanged few letters and eventually none at all. The end of our relationship felt unresolved. In a childish attempt to gain closure I wrote a scathing letter to his family scolding them for allowing me to be somewhere I hadn't belonged. (This letter is my biggest regret to this day.)
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Later, my mind would protect me from strong and difficult memories by suppressing them. I forgot all the Hebrew I had learned. Names, places, and events became faint memories. It was as if I had lived in Israel not in a past era of my life, but in a past life altogether.
Life ensued. Jobs and relationships came and went, but in the back of my mind, I must have never stopped wondering about Avi. After more than 6 years, my memory was jogged when the second Intifada brought images of familiar places to the nightly news. An American actor who looked like Avi made a series of popular movies, and I felt haunted by the handsome face I had once loved. Places, smells, and even Hebrew words came flooding back, sometimes in dreams. Then, during last summer's war in Lebanon, I started to obsessively wonder about Avi. Was he even alive?
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By now I was married, and my fear and wonder about Avi seemed unsavory. I told my husband about it; he supported the idea that I might find relief by just learning about Avi's general whereabouts. Finally I got the courage to contact his one sibling who could be found on Google. Soon after, I heard from Avi himself. This was just over a year ago.