The Type Machine


From Jerusalem I bring back an old manual typewriter in a half torn case that cracks open the leather spine during all the security checks. Random people stare at it with familiarity or confusion, the security guards click on the keys and laugh with each other in Hebrew. Then I trek it across Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Madrid and then back to Guatemala feeling the weight of this commitment. Once the machine almost falls on my head from the overhead compartment as I board my plane from Madrid to Guatemala.

When I show it to my new friend Kiki she doesn’t know what to make of it, she turns it around and calls it the “typing machine”. I tell her it’s my story machine, beneath its heavy keys lies my novel. With the machine and my words I I will pivot towards Ma’ayan Alexander, another writer who gave me this machine – hers in Hebrew, mine in English. But both of us vowing to write our stories and what’s inside us from across the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, two magnets of intention forcing us to create, to weave narratives one heavy key at a time with no “delete” button. We will chisel into stone. But most importantly:  I vow to write, we vow to write, the world vows with us and leans in to our stories.

Off of Allendale Street in Tel Aviv, I come searching for more ribbon.  Isaac, the owner of the store, knows the machine well, an old sturdy friend he calls it. He  tells me the catridges are no longer in the machine’s original red and black, but he’s got plenty of black. I ask him why they don’t make it in the original catridges and he laughs. “Where are you from?” He asks. I tell him Guatemala, via the United States, twenty hours away by plane. He pauses and stares at me waiting for a good story, but as I turn the new black cartridge in my hand, I get restless.

More and more these moments start to feel like a fragile egg I hold carefully in my hand where I have to pay very close attention to the cupping of the hand and the way I care for it as I move through the world or it moves through me.

All of my trip through Israel feels this way, an innate interwoven sacredness to interactions with people, with the religious history just beneath or on the surface, the politics of a present State and a future State, the diversity of the young State of Israel formed in 1948 by so many Jews taking refuge. And then there’s always the general pushy familial informality of Israelis.  You have to think fast and think on your feet. There’s no room for ruminating, weighing out options, finding options, there is just well-grounded quick decision-making based on a local knowledge and history shared by everyone.

To learn the city, I ride the buses. The 31, the 18, the 161 through Jaffa and parts of Tel Aviv that later people stare at me in confusion wondering how I ended up there. I learn quickly that Tel Aviv is to play and Jerusalem is to pray.  Later on, in Ramallah, I feel the heaviness of the occupation and the unhappiness that stems from it.

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