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The fax of life

Love story ... soul partners Edward and his wife Judith

It was 1989. Fiftyish, footloose and fancy-free, I was living in digs in Givatayim. My marriage to Rafi had run its course and we had parted ways by mutual consent after 20 years.

Offspring Michal and Gilad were both in the IDF but based with the ex.

Shortly after getting my divorce I also resigned my job as a translator for an avowedly macho CPA firm, where I was shamefully underpaid, being a female. My male successor, who was totally unqualified for the job and would have to be trained from scratch, admitted having been told not to let me know how much he would be making …

I didn't leave empty-handed, though. In addition to my severance pay, I carried away some invaluable assets. I now knew my way around a balance sheet. I could translate a set of financial statements, a prospectus, a tax opinion. I no longer blanked out when confronted with a column of figures.

I planned to set up as a freelance translator. But to establish an independent business and start working from home I needed to advertise in a way that would reach potential clients; and I had to have a fax. In those days, well before the advent of the PC, the Internet and email, the facsimile machine was a fairly new but indispensible arrival on the business scene.

In the square just off my street there was a shop with its window milked out. There was no name, no sign and no indication anywhere of the kind of business being conducted there. Whenever I passed by I had the urge to go into that shop. Finally, one day, I did.

"Looking for a Xerox machine, are you?" deadpanned the shopkeeper as I entered. He had been watching as I dithered outside and no doubt surmised that I had simply blundered cluelessly into his store.

"No," I retorted. "I'm looking for a fax."

"Well, I can sell you one of those," he responded, trying to hide his surprise.

"The thing is," I explained, "I've only got one phone line, and if I attach a fax to it I won't have a phone."

"Not a problem," he answered. "I've got this model where you can toggle back and forth between phone and fax. You just have to flip the switch."

Ah, the wonders of modern technology! As he produced the model and demonstrated, my attention was distracted by a pile of colorful postcard-sized cards near the door.

"You can take them," he said. "Each of those is an advertisement for a different business. Here," he said, extracting a single card from the pack, "This is the firm that makes them. You want to advertise, you call them and they make up a card for you. The thing about these," he added, "is that the whole pile gets past the secretary and onto the manager's desk."

Sure enough, the firm made me a card and business started to flow my way. Clients faxed me material that needed translating, and I did the job (on my trusty mechanical typewriter) and faxed back the finished product.

So I was making a living. But something was missing. I admitted to myself that I wanted a husband. Not, this time, the proverbial good, reliable man to raise a family with. Been there, done that. This time, it must be someone for my soul to waltz with. "Someone for me" I muttered to myself. I am not prone to hearing voices. But I heard one just then. As I uttered that "Someone for me", it sounded, loud and clear: Go to your post office box.

I had rented the P.O.B. some time before as a favor to a friend who was visiting Israel and wished to advertise in the lonely hearts column. I had never advertised, but had used it to answer a few boy-seeks-girl ads. That was how I came to be contacted by a pinheaded American, radically right-wing and religious, one of those messianic types who only discovered Israel after it inadvertently acquired additional territories in the Six Day War. We agreed that our world views did not coincide, but he insisted on keeping my snapshot.

It was a very long time since I had written to anyone; and the lease on the P.O.B. was nearing expiry. But a hunch is a hunch, so I took a bus to Tel Aviv's main post office, in the Shalom Tower building. I unlocked the box and there lay a single envelope. This letter, too, proved to be from an American, but one radically different from the pinhead. I recalled the ad I had responded to (ages ago!) in which he described himself as being a military man who wore a beard but was not religious. I had had a feeling that this man would come to mean something to me, and felt badly let down when I got no answer.

In his letter, he apologized for having taken fully nine months before getting around to my letter. He had a reasonable explanation. A resident of Kfar Saba, he had started contacting the respondents living nearest to him geographically, whereas Givatayim was somewhat out of range. No lasting relationship had developed with any of the ladies he had met so far, but he had kept my letter and would like to meet me. He included a phone number for me to call.

A sexy, gravelly voice answered when I rang. We arranged to meet.

Over a cup of coffee, Mr. (U.S. Air Force Sergeant retired) Edward Fortus extended a surprise invitation. "I'd like you to come to Turkey with me, all expenses paid," he said; adding, with touching diffidence, that there would be no strings attached. He had booked a trip with a certain lady, but that relationship had ended and he was left with the two tickets.

At that first meeting, and for quite some time thereafter, it was plainly apparent that Mr. Fortus was seeing me not as an individual, but merely as some generic female. I could have been anyone. He simply needed a reasonably presentable and agreeable woman to accompany him on his trip to Turkey.

It seemed prudent to take some time for us to become better acquainted before I committed to any such escapade. We had a few more dates, on one of which I made him dinner at my place. He was suitably appreciative. "Haven't had chicken livers in ages," he mumbled, with his mouth full.

And so, to Turkey we ultimately went. He had booked into a group tour in order to secure a room at Istanbul's splendid Büyük Sürmeli Hotel at a reasonable rate, but abandoned the group on arrival to do his own touring while hiring local guides. So there, for our delectation, were the Byzantine splendors of Asian Turkey and, across the Bosphorus, the European part where we went to a cinema to see Saving Private Ryan.

We visited a leather bazaar where I bought my son a jacket; and in a modest little shop near the hotel I found a beautiful turquoise scarf. I treasured that scarf for years, but on our last visit to Turkey in 2008 I left it behind at some roadside café. I have been mourning it ever since, never finding anything like an adequate replacement.

Back in Israel we were now seeing each other regularly. Occasionally Ed would mutter something about there being plenty of other women out there who would love to go out with him. One day I told him to take a couple of weeks off and see whomever else he liked.

He showed up again ten days later. He hadn't gone out with anybody else, he admitted. Evidently I had graduated from generic female to individual woman. So we picked up again where we had left off.

Two-room rental flats in the central area were very hard to come by, and I was lucky to have found the one I had in Givatayim, shabby though it was. But one day Ed said "You know, even if you and I were to move in together or get married, you ought to have a place of your own". He went on to explain that his apartment was the one he had shared with his ex, and that on getting divorced, he had made his share in the apartment over to her in exchange for a lifetime right of occupancy. Thus, no new flatmate or wife would have any rights there after his demise.

A place of my own sounded good, but what was I to use for money?

Scanning the Friday newspaper to get an idea of prices, I came across an ad for a new government-backed building project in Rosh Haayin, in which a certain housing company was offering a number of 2-room apartments at a more or less affordable price.

Part of my job at the CPA firm had been to manage the Dead Sea Works share transfer agency, and deeming them a fairly solid security I had invested some spare cash in DSW shares, which had meanwhile appreciated nicely. Disposing of them would net me sufficient cash for a reasonable down payment on a flat in Rosh Ha'Ayin. As luck would have it, the housing company, normally headquartered in Yavne, had set up a temporary office within walking distance of my place in Givatayim. Ed gamely chauffeured me to Rosh HaAyin to view the flat, which proved to be a little bijou on the fifth and top floor of the condo, with a lovely large veranda, a through-breeze and a panoramic view of the surrounding area. I cashed in the shares and made a down payment. I obtained a mortgage from the British Olim Society which stumped up its maximum, topping it off with another from Bank Leumi, which was monitoring the project. Ed was staunchly there for me, signing guarantees and taking me wherever I needed to go. And so I moved in, after undertaking to live in Rosh Haayin for at least 18 months.

One day, out of the blue, Ed said, "You know, if we were married I could fix you up with a pension."

At the time I merely shrugged and told him I already had a pension. The idea of remarriage seemed a little premature. And I was, in fact, paying into a pension insurance policy (which I later cashed in to repay the mortgage on the Rosh Haayin flat).

It was some time before he repeated the offer. But the day came, and this time I was ready. "You know," he remarked offhandedly, "if we were married, I could fix you up with a pension."

"So, was this a proposal of marriage?" I asked.

"Hell, no!" he said, his expression belying his denial. Clearly, I had to be the one to risk rejection.

"Because," I continued obligingly, "If it had been, I would have been happy to accept."

"I was hoping you'd say that," he replied, adding, sotto voce to himself: "All right. I'll go through with it."

And bravely go through with it he did. It would be good, he explained, to have another presence in his apartment.

Well, this was a life-changer par excellence.

I had found the one my soul could waltz with – not to mention an avid fellow crossword-puzzle solver!

In addition to a wonderful new husband, I acquired a whole new family in the shape of Ed's daughter and sons along with their respective spouses and children.

I moved from Rosh Haayin to Kfar Saba. We have now been happily married and waltzing, soul to soul, for 18 years. 

 

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Tuesday, 06 December 2022

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