It began with a kiss. It almost always
begins with a kiss. Ella and Tsiki were in bed,
naked, with only their tongues touching – when
she felt something prick her. ‘Did I hurt you?’ Tsiki
asked, and when she shook her head, he quickly
added, ‘You’re bleeding.’ And she was, from the
mouth. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said and started a frantic
search in the kitchen, pulling ice-cube trays out
of the freezer and banging them against the
worktop. ‘Here, take these,’ he said, handing her
some ice with a shivering hand, ‘put them against
your lip. It’ll stop the bleeding.’ Tsiki had always
been good at these things. In the army he’d been
a paramedic. He was a trained tour guide too.
‘I’m sorry,’ he went on, turning paler, ‘I must have
bitten you. You know, in the heat of passion.’
‘Never –ind,’ she smiled at him, the ice cube
624Y_tx.indd 88 30/11/2011 12:04
sticking to her lower lip. ‘No—ing ha—ened.’
Which was a lie, of course. Because some—ing
had ha—ened. It isn’t every day that someone
you’re living with makes you bleed, and then lies
to you and says he bit you, when you distinctly
felt something pricking you.
They didn’t kiss for a few days after that,
because of her cut. Lips are a very sensitive part
of the body. And later when they could, they had
to be very careful. She could tell he was hiding
something. And sure enough, one night, taking
advantage of the fact that he slept with his mouth
open, she gently slipped her finger under his
tongue – and found it. It was a zip. A teensy zip.
But when she pulled at it, her whole Tsiki opened
up like an oyster, and inside was Jurgen. Unlike
Tsiki, Jurgen had a goatee, meticulously shaped
sideburns and an uncircumcised penis. Ella
watched him in his sleep. Very, very quietly she
folded up the Tsiki wrapping and hid it in
the kitchen cupboard behind the rubbish bin,
where they kept the bin bags.
Life with Jurgen wasn’t easy. The sex was
fantastic, but he drank a lot, and when he did,
he’d make a racket and get into all kinds of
624Y_tx.indd 89 30/11/2011 12:04
Suddenly, a Knock on the Door
embarrassing situations. On top of that, he liked
to make her feel guilty for being the reason he’d
left Europe and come to live here. Whenever
anything bad happened in this country, whether
it was in real life or on TV, he’d say to her, ‘Look
what your country is coming to.’ His Hebrew was
lousy, and that ‘your’ of his always sounded very
accusatory. Her parents didn’t like him. Her
mother, who had actually been fond of Tsiki, called
Jurgen the goy. Her father would always ask him
about work, and Jurgen would snigger and say,
‘Work is like a moustache, Mr Shviro. It went out
of style a long time ago.’ Which nobody ever found
amusing, certainly not Ella’s father, who still
happened to sport a moustache.
Finally, Jurgen left. He went back to Düsseldorf
to make music and live on benefits. He’d never
be able to make it as a singer in this country, he
said, because they’d hold his accent against him.
People here were prejudiced. They didn’t like
Germans. Ella thought that even in Germany his
weird music and kitschy lyrics wouldn’t really get
him very far. He’d even written a song about her.
It was called ‘Goddess’ and the whole thing was
about having sex on the breakwater and about
624Y_tx.indd 90 30/11/2011 12:04
how, when she came, it was ‘like a wave breaking
against a rock’, – and that’s a quote.
Six months after Jurgen left she was looking for
a bin bag and found the Tsiki wrapping. Maybe it
had been a mistake to undo his zip, she thought.
Could be. With things like that it’s hard to say for
sure. That same evening, while she was brushing
her teeth, she thought back over that kiss, over the
pain of being pricked. She rinsed her mouth with
lots of water and looked in the mirror. She still had
a scar, and when she studied it up close, she noticed
a little zip under her tongue. Ella fingered it hesi-
tantly, and tried to imagine what she’d be like inside.
It made her very hopeful, but also a bit worried
– mainly about freckled hands and a dry complexion.
Maybe she’d have a tattoo, she thought, of a rose.
She’d always wanted to have one, but never had
the nerve. She’d thought it would hurt a lot.
624Y_tx.indd 91 30/11/2011 12:04

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