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Simone by Starlight: How to Lose a 'Date' But Gain the World

I moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv on a day at the end of August, 2006. The move was hot, stressed, and nightmarish; yet I felt, all the time, a strange sense of anticipation.

It made it no easier that I was taking my cat with me. In the morning, after eating part of a tranquilizer I mashed into her food, she turned woozy and cuckoo yet still managed to jump out of her cage — poorly secured by me — while I was standing outside trying to flag a taxi. She ran far up a tree, and there were terrible moments when I thought—with the movers already on the way to Tel Aviv—I’d have to leave her there, then come back and look for her.

Eventually, drugged as she was, her strength gave out and she came down the tree in reverse.

At the Tel Aviv flat we were both in a state of near-collapse, the furniture and boxes strewn around us where the movers had thrown them, the air conditioner only slowly contesting the stifling heat. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are both hot in the summer, but the latter is much more humid. When I finally went out to find something to eat, it was a steam bath. At that moment the city—after so many years on my quiet, shady, serene street in northern Jerusalem—seemed to me alien and teeming, the opposite of what I could ever call home.

And yet, on another level, I had a sense that the magic time was drawing nearer.

At nightfall I went down—it was only a 20-minute walk from the new flat—to the shoreline. The red and orange cone-lights, part of the beach cafés where you can sit outside by the sea, already glowed against the deep dusk—like in those nights three years earlier when I’d sit out there with Simone (not, of course, her real name).

The wonder was that this was where I now lived—so close to this place of legend and mystery.