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That time I ate Humus and didn’t leave the table

I lie in my bed, my wife to be asleep at my side. The top sheet is white and the one covering the mattress is a deep claret colour. For no reason I can think of my mind turns back to 2012. A time before I had even met my wife to be and the last time that the rockets were fired at Tel Aviv. Which is to say the first time I had ever experienced the rocket fire upon my adopted city.

I sat eating humus with ful in a small restaurant on the corner of Frishman and Sderot Chen. The man serving me had dark skin and a dark frown. His hair was black, closely cropped and his eyes seemed to be the same colour. His family were surely Moroccan or Iraqi or from somewhere in the Middle East. He was perhaps a little older than me, perhaps a little younger but with not much in it either way.

The restaurant was tiny, it had a very few tables big enough for two inside, the mainstay of the tables were in a very clearly designated square outside by the street.  The humus there really was very good. The man serving it very kind and cheerful. There were always people eating. Sometimes they even ran out of food if the place was really busy. That day it was not.

Then the sirens began their wail. The man exited from behind the counter and ordered his diners inside where it was safe. The few who were there left their food behind and did as he told them. I did not. I sat there and I continued to eat. And I remembered the black and white pictures of my grandfather in his army uniform. I remembered that my great uncle’s home was destroyed in the Blitz along with other relatives long dead.

I remained seated and I ate. This was not the Blitz. This was an unguided missile sent from Gaza.

I sat in the black, cheap plastic chair using small hunks of pita bread to scoop out dollops of humus while the others were retreating. And the man looked at me as he was shepherding his flock and I simply shook my head. The siren screamed her scream. I tore off another hunk of pita and scooped up another mouthful of the grey humus mixed with the brown ful. The siren died. To my left, further down Frishman towards the sea, I heard the boom.

It was the first crump of an explosion I ever heard over my city. It was a great deal louder and closer than I expected. I finally stopped eating and peered down that leafy street. Willing my eyes to find some evidence of the sound that had intruded into my life but there was nothing to see.

And now all that remains is a memory and the knowledge that two years later I left my table for the safety of a shelter each and every time the siren screamed her song. I remember that now as I lie next to my wife to be on a claret sheet.