Tuesday, June 12, 2012


He bragged so frequently about smuggling a lump of hash into the country by tucking it behind his balls that at last I was forced to assume that he wanted me to smoke it for him. Presumably, the hash had been wrapped before it came in contact with his scrotum. In any event, sack hash was better than no hash.

The weed in Israel was uniformly depressing, sold by seedy British guys in back alleys of Eilat, thirty shekels a matchbox. Weed came in matchboxes—about the equivalent of a nickel bag—gritty, dusty, low-quality. We’d separate it on plastic plates: a pile of ganj, a pile of sticks, a pile of seeds, and a pile of sand. Every matchbox contained a nice helping of sand.

Nut-hash didn’t belong.

We were, for the most part, in our late teens and early twenties, hiding from the people we were in our home countries, volunteering on the kibbutz for room and board and a pittance that earned us enough to purchase a candy bar or a stick of real butter in the kibbutz store.

Nut-hash was forty-two, a professional chef who “followed the season,” three months in a hotel kitchen in Hawaii, four weeks at a resort in Thailand. Whatever, wherever. He came to Israel because the foreign girls were easy. The British, I noticed, threw off their inhibitions along with their clothing as soon as the sun hit their skin.

But he seemed stuck on me, and never lost an opportunity to brag: underwear models he’d had, exotic ports he’d explored, the beauty of his ex-wife, who he’d left because, “Can you imagine sleeping with the same person for ten years?” And, of course, the lump of Dutch hash he’d taped between his penis and his testicles.

His chunky but good-hearted redhead roommate had a crush on my well-endowed raven-haired roommate. She and I would stay up late at night, laughing about how they’d never have their way with us. I was in fact sleeping with a Russian body builder who had his own house on the other side of the kibbutz, far from the horrifying volunteer quarters, and also with a soulful Moroccan engineering student, who was running away from his Borderline fiancĂ©e. They knew about each other and were good friends, often boring me with long-winded conversations about math.

The Moroccan revealed to me the redhead’s real reason for being in Israel: he was wanted on a drug charge in New York. His mother had made him come. My roommate was running from her dangerous obsession with Mexican-American gangsters. I was running from adulthood.

Technically, that’s what nut-hash was running from too, but I was twenty-one at the time, and he was twice my age.

The Russian body builder was not running. He had citizenship and lived on the kibbutz because the IDF had deemed him too crazy for the mandatory military service required of every other Israeli.

I didn’t like to smoke pot with my lovers; they were both lightweights. The Russian would take a few hits, cough madly, and then spend an hour debating with himself about whether or not drugs made him crazier. The Moroccan would take a few hits and fall asleep.

Mostly, I smoked with the redhead, because he was a real drug dealer and didn’t mind dealing with seedy British guys in Eilat alleys, whereas I found it distasteful and nerve-wracking. On Rosh Hashana, we took an apple from the dining hall and carved it into a pipe, lighting the weed with a lighter my roommate had brought from her local Hillel.

We didn’t hatch a plan to get at the scrotum-hash, but after the fiftieth time he bragged about his act of daring, my roommate and I double-teamed him. We had shared our sandy weed with him. Didn’t he like us? Didn’t he want to come over to our room and share his stash with us? The redhead got in on it, too. Nut-hash either needed to pony up the hash or stop talking about it.

“Come after dinner,” we advised them.

It wasn’t a terribly impressive lump: a fraction of a gram. Perhaps he had already smoked some portion of it. The guys were overly solicitous, lighting the pipe, complementing the way we’d decorated our room: a combination of our own artwork and images torn from magazines.

When the hash was gone, we stretched our arms in mock exhaustion. “Well, goodnight, then,” we said, shoving them out door. Afterwards, we laughed. It didn’t occur to us that we might be cruel. They had wanted to take advantage of us.

Late at night, the Moroccan and I took a walk out in the desert, where I almost fell into a wadi. Although slender and without strength, he caught me, twisting his own ankle in the process. We laughed together, and I supported him with my shoulder all the way back to the kibbutz, where we had a little sex, but only a very little, because the workday started early.

Nut-hash got some sandy weed from the redhead and invited me to smoke down in the desert, and I went, for the drugs.

I fell into another wadi, but this time there was no one there to catch me. Nut-hash stood up on the ridge watching dumbly as I tumbled into the sand and climbed out again. He didn’t offer to help as I limped back to the kibbutz.

We sat behind the dining hall while he bragged about the places he’d been and girls he’d laid, and the Russian wandered out into the pavilion, but he couldn’t see us in the shadows.

“What’s he doing?” Nut-hash interrupted his narrative to wonder.

“Looking for me,” I said. “He’s my lover.”

“Oh.” He sounded hopeful. “Do you have a lot of lovers?”

I smiled in the darkness. “As many as I need.”