'Halva' - Amit Noy (Year 11)
My grandmother is old. Gleaming bars at every staircase and a seat in the shower old. A tall woman, though - she wears big mama pantyhose, and violet sun-dresses that hang limp on pasty underarms and are as crumpled and loose as her skin. Her and I, we go to the laundromat every Thursday, straining under the weight of the whole family’s dirty clothes, helping each other up if we fall. Except lately I’ve been doing all the heaving and she just hobbles along.
Today was so hot, so wet. In August, the air tries to squash you as you sweat and sink down, down, down. Clothes stick to your skin, sealed by sweat and grime. August hollows you out - no energy; blinking takes effort. I spent my morning melting into the cold, tiled floor, absorbing rugelach crumbs and Wrigley wrappers. It was Thursday though, and no one had any clean underwear.
My grandmother and I sang on the way to the laundromat. We sing all kinds of songs, but mostly we do our favorites from my grandmother’s records which are crumbling and almost colorless. Whole letters have faded away, which is always funny. How does Aretha Franlin sound to you today? The Bee Ges? Her eyes crease so much they almost disappear and her chin folds in two, but her laugh is kind, so reassuring. Like the burgundy comforter you’ve always had which smells of incense and chamomile tea. Walking through Givatayim, her laugh seemed to hang around in little patches, smothering a telly antenna or fidgeting just outside a window.
Laundromats in Israel are always untidy, but where we go is the worst. Clothes are strewn everywhere, Speed Queens thrash wildly, taupe tiles eternally overrun by cigarette stubs. In winter, radiators sputter under the wet clothes of the stingy. Like the rest of Israel, everything is very old or very new. Adobe brick cowers below sliding glass doors. Women’s Weekly and Men’s Health lie discarded atop brittle black tables, the kind that can't even support a good cup of coffee.
I take a seat while my grandmother feeds the machine, watching as the light goes red, yellow, blue, and it begins to spin crazily, hysterically. When the light finally turns green, my grandmother begins to shuffle back. Her sandals scuff against tan tiles as she inches forward, doughy legs a mad flurry of movement somehow without moving forward at all. I fidget on the edge of my set. Our washer writhes frantically. My legs swing faster, faster. Finally, hours later, my grandmother arrives. Bloated fingers clutch my prize - two pieces of halva. Squashed, disfigured, and half-stuck to shiny tinfoil, but it doesn’t matter. It is still creamy and rich, so beautifully beige, so wonderfully textured - like breadcrumbs on your tongue but velvet down your throat. We sit together and sigh together as the halva passes our lips. Sweat drips down my cheeks. Right now, I couldn’t care less.
Walking back, I lurch under the weight of the battered clothes (my grandmother forgot money for the dryer), but I don’t mind. Soaking, they are heavier, but I cool down. This time, we sing Simon and Garfunkel, my grandmother’s favorite. ‘Hey, Mrs. Robinson’.