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I Just Liked You More

"In the days when you were hopelessly poor, I just liked you more..."
(The Smiths, "Half a Person")

I met him in the army. We had to stay for the weekend. Guarding the base. We were both rookies, hardly 3 months in service. He was drafted 3 weeks before me, and I believe it gave him a sense of superiority at the time (you have to be in the service to understand this strange army mentality where people who are drafted just one day before you look down on you calling you "Fresh meat"...)He was skinny and pale and wore a brown yarmulke over short crew-cut red hair.

We had plenty of time to get acquainted. We patrolled together for 36 hours that weekend. By Sunday, I could easily have written his biography. We really did some serious talking. The cold winter night, the silence and the endless hours of patrolling around the barbed-wire fence brought some deep moments into the conversation. The fact that he was the first religious person with whom I had ever had the chance to really talk with just made it even more interesting.

He told me about his family, his fiancée (turned out she live two streets from where I used to live at the time), about their plans to get married in the summer, about his beliefs (I remember asking him around 4 AM that night - "Do you REALLY believe god created the world in six days?!?!" - after all - he was the first person I'd met who admitted to holding these beliefs ...)

After a few weeks they transferred him to another base. He finished the service and started up a company. Selling PC's. I knew that from reading his ads in the paper (he always made sure his name, and sometimes even his picture were shown there). One day he even came to visit his old military base. I suppose he came to clarify some issues regarding his reserve service. I hardly recognize him - tanned, long hair, wearing a suit (in the scorching Israeli heat), holding a leather briefcase, and above all - no yarmulke... the fragile religious soldier from 3 years before became a shrewd, yuppie secular businessman.

I did not approach him. I don't know why. I guess, at the time, it seemed as if he had made some serious progress while I was still in uniform. I was just observing him. I didn't like what I saw. He had changed so much. I couldn't hear what he was saying but I remember that at some point he was pointing to a red flashy car parked in the lot (I'm not sure if he was bragging about his new car or pointing out the fact that he got a permit to park it inside the base...). I later heard from some of the people who did engage in conversation with him that he was snooty and condescending. He was dispensing his business card to whomever was willing to take one, and told people to "call him when they're out".

A Few months later I read somewhere that his company went out of business. He was quoted as saying that the market in Israel is too small for his ventures and that he's seriously considering moving his business abroad. And that's the last I heard of him.

And why am I telling you this story? Well - every now and then it happens to me, that a song, or even a certain line from a song, becomes strongly associated with a person or an event from my life. This un-complimenting line is his. And I just happened to hear this beautiful song.


3/19/1999

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