From "Walking on the Moon"

Some friendships begin in a moment of magic and, like fireworks, explode with a bang. Others, grow slowly, suddenly flower like cherry-blossom, and then quickly wither. But my friendship with Arik was simply an inheritance, because my father and his father were best friends. In fact, they were like brothers because neither of them had a sibling of their own.

Our Dads grew up together in a small village on the banks of a great river in Europe. They sat next to each other at school, joined the Zionist Youth Movement and remained inseparable when they hid from the Nazis in a bombed out attic. Still together, they set sail for Palestine on a ship carrying illegal emigrants and Holocaust survivors and together they were arrested by the British and were deported to Cyprus. Finally, they even married two best friends, one of whom became my mother.

Arik is one year older than me and we were even given similar nicknames. I was called Orik - an abbreviation of Liora and he was named Arik - short for Ariye. But only the school year book kept our real names, although he lived in the desert, South of Israel and I lived in Tel Aviv.

Our fathers did everything together - except for dying. One night Arik's Dad went to bed and never woke up.

On the morning of the funeral Mom woke me up early and made me swear that I would keep the death a secret.

"Arik doesn't know", she said, "and you cannot tell him".

Dad stood next to her like a statue. His face had the colour of ashes but his eyes remained dry. I kept telling myself that grown-ups don't cry, not realizing then - perhaps rejecting the horrible thought - that Dad would never again see his best friend, and never again have such a soul mate.

Mom said "Arik will be staying with you during the seven days of mourning. You two will hang out and play as usual." Then she added "I will notify your math teacher that you won't be attending summer lessons."

I vowed to keep my mouth shut. Deep in my heart I thanked Arik's dead father for giving me such a gift, freeing me from those hateful math lessons that made my life such a misery. Before they left the house Mom said "Remember Orik, this is a test of your friendship", while Dad still remained silent. The word ‘friendship' made his body shrink, but this was something I recalled only years later.

From "Love for Beginners"

Suddenly, I understood how love ends. It struck me when Mom and Dad announced they were separating. It was like turning off the computer and watching the windows closing down one after another as the screen darkens, leaving only a tiny point of light until that too finally vanishes.

Although they said "We will always be your parents, because we are getting divorced from each other - but not from you", all I could think of was the moment their love had begun and how once, love had been turned on without anybody even touching it.

Mom and Dad said that they would always love each other, only not that particular kind of love, and I nodded, faking agreement. Then I hugged them both for the last time, hiding my true feelings. I felt as if I was collaborating with the virus that had crashed their operating system.

The day when Mom and Dad broke the news to me will always stick in my memory, because that very morning the headmaster called me in, announcing that I had been chosen to represent the school in the National Science Competition. My dream had come true. On my way home I was in heaven, until I saw Dad standing at the doorway with a suitcase and Mom wiping her tears.

"Our love has simply ended." Mom's words kept echoing in my head every time I took my school bag to sleep at either Mom's or Dad's house - according to the new arrangement. Now I had two homes and two different biking routes to school. Sometimes, it felt like I was my own double, and in the morning it took me some time to figure out whether I was waking up ‘here' or ‘there'.

But I could not decide where my computer should live. I have called it 'Homeless Hackmeister'.

Because the computer is my best friend in the entire world it has a name. Hackmeister is an expert at hacking into the deepest places, especially the forbidden ones. Let's face it, it's much easier to type out one's pains and then hit ‘erase' than to pour your heart out to an actual person because once you confide verbally, there's no taking it back.

Everyone in the class for gifted students tried to comfort me.

"Divorce?" said Gil304, the group's top mathematician who had also been chosen for the National Science Competition, "It's the most common thing in the world and your parents are simply part of the statistics".

The only one in our gifted class whose parents are still married is

Tom48. Despite the name, Tom48 is a girl. Whenever a new teacher arrives and reads out the students' names from the roll book he always assumes that she is a boy. Tom doesn't get upset at all. On the contrary, it amuses her, because having two identities gives her a clear edge. She deliberately causes confusion "so that the teacher must think twice about who I am and never takes me for granted."

Tom48 is our expert on astronomy, and she too was selected to be on the team for the National Science Competition.

In class we hardly exchange any words but we do send each other e-mails, especially at night when she is at her telescope. I always make it clear in the heading which of my two homes I happen to be in.

Translated by Dan Gillon
Dan Gillon, born in Tel Aviv, was taken by his parents to live in England shortly after Israel's War of Independence in which his brother Yoram was killed in one of the war's battles. A graduate of the London school of Economics and Harvard, Dan has lived most of his life in the UK and the US where he worked as an editor, freelance journalist and broadcaster. He also lived and in East Africa where he established small scale pharmaceutical production units in remote areas with no access to basic medicines. Completing a circle, Dan returned to Israel five years ago and began to translate contemporary Israeli literature and political history into English. Recent translations include Nava Semel's Beginner's Love and A Front Without a Rearguard by Shlomo Ben Ami.

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