‘Drink the cold water! You have to drink’, Shahar implored.
But I can’t, and I can’t talk, so I just strongly shake my head.
We were in the ‘horse garden’ in the heart of Jerusalem during the middle of the day.
The garden consists of a public toilet, a lawn, a small yard with a fountain designed in the shape of a waterfall, and of course a statue of horse.
We came to the garden an hour earlier, we sat in one of the corners and watched carefully. We came as part of Elem, an organization which aims to help teenagers at risk. We heard disturbing things about this lovely garden and our mission was to understand what happens here and how we can help.
It was a warm summer day and the hot sun hit our heads, exposing the garden in uncomplimentary ways. The fountain was full with garbage and the water’s hue was sickly green. A dog ran happily on the grass and a few young couples crowded together under the narrow shadow of the trees. A woman wearing a thick black coat and jeans with a rift in her crotch entered the garden. We immediately recognized her; she has a baby that she doesn’t let anyone near, at night she washes him in the garden’s waterfall. The rumor was that she dresses the baby as a boy (even though she is a girl) because she is afraid of the hard life waiting for her as a girl.
No one noticed her when she entered the garden. She chatted with the toilet cleaner over a cigarette; they seemed to know each other well. Nobody around us noticed her while she walked quickly with another man to the woman’s toilets.
Shahar pointed my attention to a young boy who slowly crossed the garden. Shahar told me that this teenager has homosexual tendencies, that he comes from an Arab village and his family didn’t accept him so he quickly descended into prostitution.
Shahar approached him when he passed by us and after a few seconds they both came back and Shahar introduced me to Adnan.
Adnan gave me a hug and I flinched for a second. The hug was not friendly huge, but a hug with a clear sexual significance. After a second I gained my senses and gave him a hug back. Adnan had a pockmarked face with yellow crooked teeth, but what caught my attention were his eyes with their deep blue hue and his large black eyelashes. Shahar offered him cold water and he drank straight from the bottle and sat between us. He told us that he just came back from Eilat where he worked at a hotel. When he talked to Shahar with his soft dreamy voice, he instinctively put his hand on Shahar’s bare thigh.
Shahar went away to make a phone call and I stayed alone with Adnan. I asked him about his life in Eilat and stared at his black elegant shoes with their thorn zippers. Suddenly he became silent in the middle of the conversation, which was surprising. I looked at him frightened while he gazed blankly in the air. It was like there was nobody there, a shallow peel. After that Shahar told me that this phenomenon is very common with people who work in prostitution; that we all have an important mechanism known as dissociation that protects us in traumatizing situations and disconnects our consciousness. People who work in prostitution need to use this mechanism so much that it gets ruined. This horrifying image of Adnan lying unconscious on a tattered bed with his blank empty gaze and a man lying next to him will haunt me for a long time.
When Shahar came back, Adnan already awoke and we talked about his return to Jerusalem. He told us that he now lives with his relatives but that they deny his sexuality so he would rather live on his own because it is hard for him.
Because he is 27 now, our organization can’t do much for him because we only work with youth until age 26. But we were reassured when he told us that he is coming to the ‘Open house’ (a place for the LGBT community in Jerusalem) so we felt it was safe to depart.
So there I was, a few seconds after Adnan left, standing in the middle of the garden with Shahar imploring me to drink from the bottle that Adnan drank directly from. I felt the blood rushing out of my face, which caused Shahar to bring the bottle closer but I couldn’t drink from it, I couldn’t! I threw the bottle out of his hand. We sat down and talked about the encounter with Adnan.
When we left the garden, the sun hid behind a cloud, and a fresh breeze hit our faces. I looked at a couple that sat on the grass. The boy looked nervously at the religious girl with the long skirt sitting beside him in what was probably their first date. They sat in front of the waterfall, which took on a deep blue-coloured haze under the shadow of the cloud, and it reminded me Adnan’s eyes.
I hoped he also enjoyed this relieving breeze. I can imagine us and see us in some other universe, sitting the three of us on the grass in this beautiful garden, enjoying a pleasant day free of worries and suffering.