Below is the final segment of ‘The Mysterious Texture of Memory,’ a new short story—based, however, on my award-winning short memoir, the ‘Sweet Life.’
But the need to find out the meaning of the words in the film’s title remained. And so was the need to learn the name of the actress I’d fallen in love with on the roof that night. It would take some years, though, before I would find that out. Not before graduating from high school; not before serving in the army’s paratroops brigade (jumping was my thing, I concluded); not even after returning to the kibbutz and working for a year in its grapefruit orchards. Where it so happened that driving a tractor on the summer road one hot day, I heard an inner voice calling on me, instructing me to leave the kibbutz, conquer the world and find that woman.
My first stop was the big city of Tel Aviv. And it was there, in a small art-house cinema theater that I joined an all-night retrospective and discussion of Fellini’s films. Among them, of course, La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life. Starring Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg.
I never met her at the end. I never made it big enough as a filmmaker. And though I’d made some films and had met some film stars, our roads had never intersected. And then she died. Just like my two friends, both of them dead now. And even though when I’d left the kibbutz—a backpack with some clothes on me, some change jingling in my pocket, the rhythm of the wheels beating the open road piercing my heart—I hadn’t heard yet of the saying about the world being a book, about the need to travel if one wants to read more than one page; innately, I knew what I had to do.
But now, as I keep staring bleary-eyed at the old picture of Anita Ekberg on my laptop’s home screen, I’m baffled still by the mysterious texture of memory. How it comes and how it goes. How hard it is sometimes to decipher its meaning. And yet, I’m thankful to her for tempting me to leave my birthplace. No regrets now, or almost none, in my old age. Because if life is but a fleeting moment, then that was my moment: Lying there on the roof under the bright stars, a sprinkler raining cold water on me, the people of my beloved village lying on the grass below while she—a woman of celluloid dreams—was having fun under the fountain.
So no regrets now, in my old age, for being tempted by her to leave my birthplace. Well… maybe some regrets. Especially on my walks by the river bank, where on the meandering horse trail, beneath my feet, I can still feel the ground of those narrow dirt paths of my home village. As if I never left.