Esther: A Jerusalem Love Story

Esther: A Jerusalem Love Story

by Dvora Waysman



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781558748224
Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/01/2000
Pages: 150
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Dvora Waysman was born Dorothy Opas in Melbourne, Australia. She made "aliya" to Jerusalem with her family in 1971 and now has 16 Israeli grandchildren. She is widely known as a teacher of Creative Writing and a freelance journalist, syndicated worldwide. She has received several literary awards including the "For Jerusalem" citation by former Mayor Teddy Kollek for her fiction, features and poetry about the city;' and "Best Foreign Correspondent" Award from the Society of Justice, Ethics & Morals in Journalism. Her previous published books include: "To Any Jewish Teenager - Letters from Jerusalem," "My Long Journey Home" (Hebrew), "Back of Beyond," "The Pomegranate Pendant" and "Woman of Jerusalem."

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I was certain I wouldn't like Esther from the moment I learned about her. I worked as a journalist for Reuters and my Australian cousin had given my name to a young woman who wanted to become a writer. I always found doing such favors annoying. I had a slightly jaundiced view of the profession, and though the work was just right for me, I had a hard time encouraging others. My position would no doubt impress a twenty-year-old girl. I was twenty-five—an age difference back in 1951 that made me feel superior and sophisticated. I was also a bit pompous. I was angry that Stephen had bandied my name and phone number about so freely, and made a mental note to write and tell him so.

In reaction to Esther's strong Australian accent over the telephone, I rather overdid my best BBC-style voice. I hoped to intimidate her so that she'd apologize for disturbing me, and just replace the receiver. But she hardly seemed to notice. I had no choice but to invite her to my Fleet Street office. My plan was to spend an obligatory thirty minutes discouraging her from a writing career and send her on her way.

I knew my attitude was bad; still, it was appropriate to my line of work. Journalism had always been a cynical, cutthroat profession. It suited me, however, providing a full-time education in the social, economic and political life of any place where news erupted.

Before Esther's call I had just finished editing correspondents' reports for the day. Our man in Jerusalem was covering the assassination of Jordan's King Abdullah. A twenty-one-year-old had been sent to do the job by one of the king's rivals, and when the king's own guard shot and killed the assassin "on the spot"—from a journalist's standpoint—I could file it all away as "end of story."

Being a reporter and editor was also demanding. I never knew when I had to work, or where I'd suddenly be sent. I was continually on call which made it hard to have a personal life. But I was hooked; printer's ink, it seemed, ran through my veins. However, whenever young people came to me for career advice I tended to dissuade them. Giving up a real life for this one was not exactly something I wanted to sell to them or to this young woman. I truly believed I'd be saving her from a life of disillusionment and probable failure. In our brief conversation on the telephone I'd formed a mental image of a naive girl with a bit of literary talent who should probably work for a woman's magazine, get married, and live happily ever after.

I sat back in my "executive" leather chair and surveyed my office. Not much larger than a cubicle, it was still quite impressive for someone who didn't even have a senior position. The interior decorator had also given me an impressive red leather "client" chair—people seemed to feel good in it. My desk was cluttered enough to give an impression of hectic activity, even though I'd already filed my reports for the day and had little to do for the moment. It wasn't unlikely that some unexpected event would change all of that. On my plate for tomorrow was a follow-up story about the ten political murders in the last six years in the Middle East.

Although it was only 3 p.m., London got dark early in winter and I could see my reflection in the window almost as clearly as in a mirror. I straightened my tie and smoothed my dark hair, hoping Esther wouldn't notice the spot I'd developed on my chin; it seemed ridiculous still to be plagued by occasional teenage acne at the advanced age of twenty-five. Fortunately, I was wearing a nice Harris tweed jacket—a birthday present from my mother—with leather elbow patches. I had to admit it gave me that "man about town" look, which provided some distraction from those nasty little spots.

Esther knocked once, then not so much entered as burst in, quite breathlessly. "The lift took a long time coming, so I got impatient and raced up the stairs," she explained, and collapsed into the chair without even seeming to notice its expensive red leather. Her shoulder-length hair was scattered about her face. She pulled it back and patted it down in a reflexive gesture of pulling herself together, but one stubborn lock kept falling over her eyes. "Oh, I'm Esther," she added. "You can call me Essie."

I found myself laughing inside at her wild entrance, though I couldn't tell if it meant I was dealing with a wild woman or a deeply determined one. She was already difficult to read.

"Very well then, Essie, what can I do for you?" I asked in my most official voice, trying to quickly establish a more professional tone to the interview. "You know, I don't really like the name Essie," she said quite unpredictably. "It's not quite me. I'd rather be called something exotic like Crystal, or Desiree, or Jasmine—but Esther's my name. Have you ever felt that way, like you're not the person you know you were meant to be?"

She wasn't the typical interview, and she continued to draw out different reactions in me. I was torn between thinking her a bit foolish, while at the same time feeling moved by something about her. Was her impetuousness a product of fear and nervousness or a certain sense of conviction about being utterly herself? I watched her, still wondering about this, as she walked around my office carefully reading the text of the journalism awards I'd won and framed. She moved slowly through the room looking at everything, eagerly lifting up magazines and newspapers strewn about the office that had some pieces I'd written in them. Her journey finally landed her back at my desk from which she lifted a small sculpture of The Thinker. She turned it around thoughtfully. "I wonder what he's thinking?" She laughed.

Without missing a beat she switched gears, turned to me and asked, "Do you love your work?" I felt a bit uncomfortable being placed on the spot like that. Fortunately, she didn't wait for an answer but rushed ahead, talking about her own hopes. "I've always dreamed of coming to London to write for a great newspaper. How exciting to be an observer, to participate in the world in that way. That's where I want to to be, in the world. I realize you can't give me a job, after all you just work here, too, but I mean—I hope—you'll give me some contacts, help me get started, and so on. I'll do the rest," she concluded confidently.

Esther looked the epitome of the girl-next-door. She was barely five feet tall. She had a sprinkling of freckles on her nose and dimples in her cheeks, and there was a certain restlessness to her which seemed to be given away by that lock of hair that kept falling into her face. But her dark brown eyes had a certain sparkle. She wasn't beautiful at all, yet her ready spirit, her unpretentious self-determination made her deeply compelling, leaving the girl next door in the dust.

"So tell me more about yourself Essie," I asked, a bit uptight. "You've come so far. What . . ." Once again Essie interrupted me with her rapid train of thoughts, and began to describe her remarkable six-week journey by ship from Australia to England. She was certainly an adventuress at all of twenty years old. In preparing to tell me her story, she curled her legs up under her skirt and leaned toward me, speaking from someplace in her imagination.

"We went through the Suez Canal and saw Stromboli erupting. Can you imagine? It was absolutely extraordinary. And in Bombay I bought a bottle of Chanel No. 5, only they'd filled it with something awful." She held her cheeks as she laughed. "It smelled like Canal No. 5. We were in Aden, too, right on the equator . . . so hot and horrible. There were women in cages. I couldn't believe my eyes. But no sooner did we see such horrors than we moved on to Marseilles, which I so loved. It was so French!" Her descriptions came in gusts, without any sense of order, but I could see it all through her eyes and in the turns of her expressive hands.

"I slept on deck when it got hot," she confided, "because I was in a ten-berth cabin in the bowels of the ship. We were carrying a cargo of wool which somehow got wet and smelled awful. But the Indian Ocean was beautiful, so vast, with sunsets like symphonies. And then there was the Bay of Biscay which was terrible—rough all the way. I got sick and so did everyone else." She leaned back, laughing, remembering it all.

"Though it sounds terribly exciting, it must have been quite horrible at times," I suggested. I wasn't quite sure how to respond to her, I was so intrigued.

"Actually not. It was wonderful, the best holiday—make that the only holiday—I've ever had. We played deck tennis and had ice cream every day; the flavor was called 'pistachio.' It was green with bits of red maraschino cherry in it, and it was delicious. We listened to concerts and went to parties. Oh, and every day at five, the band on deck played Gershwin and Irving Berlin. It was just splendid!"

I was getting used to her accent. Somehow it didn't sound so terrible; in fact, it was rather nice. She was so spirited, so smart. She had enormous presence for someone so small. Suddenly, I felt very excited about her. I really did want to help her, although she'd endowed me with much more power than I had. I'd got my own job more through good luck than good management; my journalism degree meant much less than the fact that my uncle was on the city desk at the Daily Telegraph and just happened to have some good friends at Reuters.

Once I'd gotten the job, I took it seriously. I was proud of my work, although as a typical Englishman I often downplayed its importance. I knew what Essie meant about feeling connected to the world through reporting. I, too, had felt her eagerness, though now mine was tempered by experience which brought compromise and some disillusion. But her passionate nature reawakened something I liked in myself but with which I had somehow lost touch. Maybe I wouldn't reprimand Stephen after all. Maybe I'd write and thank him. I'd only known Esther for half an hour, but already I was smitten.

(c)2000. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Esther by Dvora Waysman. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Simcha Press, 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.

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