The concert was outstanding. Zehavit was extraordinary. She was of medium height and seemed slightly awkward in her growing body. But this disappeared as soon as she played. They were close to the front and he could see her slender frame move with elegance as she surrendered to the music. She had an eccentric beauty: wild red hair, pale skin and refined features on a freckled face that contorted in a changing kaleidoscope of expressions as the music coursed through her. She was a dynamic presence and he could not take his eyes off her. He regretted not meeting her earlier. He would have loved to photograph her. She performed Bach with confidence, Paganini with flair and a new Israeli composer with brilliance and fury.
‘It was written for her. It’s completely new,’ whispered Nizam.
‘It has a gypsy feel…’
‘Yes, it’s a variation on traditional Eastern European Jewish music that was influenced by gypsies. The composer’s parents are Romanian Jews.’
She received rapturous applause and afterward Nizam took them backstage to meet her. She was even more engaging close up. Noor clearly adored her. Her violin teacher Uri was there; a tall, blonde, earnest man. He asked Gabe what he knew about the Mann Auditorium by way of polite conversation.
‘Absolutely nothing,’ he replied, knowing he’d get a lecture. Uri was pleasantly brief, quickly listing the artists who had performed there: Bernstein, Perlman, Stern, Barenboim, Rubinstein, and of course his own teacher, Yehudi Menuhin. Most of the names were vaguely familiar, it was just that he had not really understood they were all Jewish and how much the Jews had contributed to classical music. And then there was Zehavit, a brilliant musician at fourteen.
‘She has great interpretive depth,’ said Uri proudly. ‘I tell her she is the reincarnation of Sri Ashok Shivanath, the great Indian composer and violin player. You know she can also play Indian classical music?’
Gabe remembered that he had heard that Yehudi Menuhin practiced yoga and had a long association with Indian music.
‘I’m heading to India in a few days…’
‘Are you?’ Zehavit poked her head around a door. ‘Where?’
‘We’re giving a concert there in three weeks.’ She walked toward him. She had changed out of her formal gown into an incongruous and eccentric combination of ugg boots, peasant skirt and a surprisingly loose fitting halter neck top. He couldn’t help notice she wasn’t wearing a bra and could make out the shape of a rather pert pair of budding breasts, a delicate, arching back and long, sensuous neck. He looked away, chiding himself for casually assessing her features and treating her like a potential photographic subject. ‘If you are there you must come. My manager can give you the details. Did you like the concert?’
‘Yes, very much, your performance was very…’ he wanted to say erotic, but tried to find another expression.
Zehavit seemed to read his mind. ‘Sensuous? Sexy? It’s okay; you can say that, I know what it means. In Indian classical music there are several moods and one of them is the shringara rasa, the erotic mood. It’s what the piece is all about, so if you felt it then I succeeded…’ she smiled with a mixture of honest satisfaction at her precociousness and just the faintest twinge of teen embarrassment.
Uri whispered in his ear, ‘she’s studying Hindu aesthetics,’ as if it might mean something to him.
They talked briefly in the changing rooms and then someone suggested they all go for a coffee. Nizam came up to him and surprised him by taking his arm. He immediately melted into her touch and lent into her. ‘She’s quite remarkable isn’t she?’
Noor held his hand and pulled him toward the door. ‘Can we go? I’m not tired and maybe we can have an ice cream. I don’t have to go to school tomorrow…’
As they walked towards the cafe Nizam lent into him. He wondered at her increased intimacy and responded readily. He could sense her body move with a sensuous and arousing flow. He imagined that making love to her would be like immersing himself in a slow flowing stream. He could melt into her.
‘You seemed transported during the concert? I wasn’t sure it would be your thing…’
He smiled. This explained her new warmth. The concert had been one of the small tests that potential lovers set for each other. Music was clearly very important to her and he guessed his emotional response to Zehavit’s passionate performance had earned him Nizam’s respect. At that point he didn’t care if they had sex that night. He wanted to court her, seduce her slowly, talk to her and get to know everything about her. He was suddenly very tired of one-night stands and he regretted his encounter with Aliyah.
He looked ahead to see Zehavit walking arm in arm with Uri. She had put on a leather jacket to ward off the chill night air, a further eccentric touch. ‘What was it again? Shringara rasa?’ he thought to himself. ‘Perhaps that’s what my work is about? I’ll have to ask her…’
The café was busy with a crowd of young people.
‘There’s a disco nearby,’ explained Nizam.
They had to wait for a table but when the owner found out who Zehavit was he created room in a typically brusque Israeli manner. Everyone was excited but Gabe could only catch snatches of conversation amongst the noise of the café and the constant switching between Hebrew and English. At one point Noor climbed onto his lap. He felt content as he felt the warmth of her body. He realized it would be impossible to talk to Zehavit so he sat quietly with Noor on his lap, listening to Nizam talk enthusiastically to Zehavit’s manager Paul. Their conversation slipped between Hebrew and English but he could just manage to understand that they were talking about some form of collaboration. He could easily imagine Nizam’s soaring vocals with Zehavit’s playing.
‘I think I’ve just arranged for Zehavit to play on the new Pardes album, Slam will love it.’
‘Perhaps we should go?’
‘Can we get an ice-cream?’
‘I’m not sure it’s open, it’s a bit late and it’s a bit cold.’
‘Can we see?’
They said their goodbyes and Gabe excused himself to go to the toilet.
‘We’ll see you there,’ said Nizam. ‘It’s just over the road.’
On his way out he caught Zehavit’s eye. She was standing and talking animatedly to her manager. She waved and smiled. ‘Three weeks,’ she shouted, ‘take my picture in Mumbai!’ She put her hand beside her face and made a gesture suggesting the clicking of a shutter.
The blast picked him up and threw him to ground with full force, his nose and forehead hitting the road hard. Adrenalin and panic surged through his body. He forced himself to his feet. His ears were ringing with the roar of the explosion. He could hear muffled screams and shouts. A part of him wanted to run away but he was overcome with a fear for Noor and Nizam. He pushed himself toward the café. People were staggering past him, many covered in dust, glass and blood. A shocked woman staggered past and he noticed a lump of burnt flesh on her dress. Then he saw the body parts laying on the ground and flowing trickles of blood mixing with dust and glass. Someone, running in a blind panic, knocked him to the ground again. He was confused. He was supposed to be looking for Noor, Nizam, Zehavit, to help them, but he wasn’t focusing. He shook his head and forced himself to look closer. He was now seeing what he feared the most and what was always hidden from the news reports: the body parts, the torn clothes and flesh lying in mangled and surreal heaps amongst the shattered glass and concrete dust.
Then he saw her lying on the footpath, her pale skin lying under the wreckage of tables and masonry. He ran to her and couldn’t fully comprehend what he saw. It was Zehavit and she seemed to be asleep. The blast had torn her top off and she lay there naked, her red hair splayed about her and her young breasts exposed to the chill night air, untouched by dust, glass or blood. She looked peaceful, even beautiful. He stood frozen by the sight and distressed that his first thought had been that she had very cute, rose pink nipples and milky white breasts. Then he realized she might be still alive. He tried to remember what to do. He felt for her pulse. Her arm was limp but he couldn’t tell through the pounding of his own heart and the dull roar in his ears. He noticed the wreckage of tables and thought that if he cleared the weight from her she would be able to get up. He tossed the table away and lifted a panel of shattered wood, straining against his own body tremors. In the distance he could hear sirens and shouting. He stared at her, slowly comprehending what he was seeing. Her waist had been torn apart, her entrails and organs mixed with her piss, shit and blood. He couldn’t see her legs. There was a lump of flesh with a piece of torn pink cloth and red hair, pubic hair. He realized with horror that he was looking at her vagina attached to the bloodied flesh of her left thigh, he could make out the folds of her labia and her clitoral hood covered in blood and dirt and the pale white of her hymen. It was then he saw the blood dropping onto her chest and stomach. It was his. He was bleeding heavily. He collapsed to his knees and began to heave, his vomit mixing with what remained of her lower body.
He was in the darkness, the ending darkness, the beginning darkness.
A young Dora was squatting on his erection, her vagina sucking endless flows of sperm from him. She was covered in blood and held his head in her hands.
‘She is virgin and whore, mother and destroyer of children.’
She smashed his head on the ground, cracking open his skull. She dipped her finger in and scooped out the flesh of his brains and then put it in her mouth. She laughed but the sperm continued to flow.
‘This is not who you are,’ she said as she scooped another pile of flesh into her mouth. ‘This is not who you are.’
The red light in the distance grew brighter and warmer. He could hear crying.