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Saturday, April 21, 2012
"Jerusalem Happened" by Kim Bond
Maria jumped to her feet and dropped the magazine on the horn-shaped coffee table. Her boss tightly crossed her arms. She said to her assistant, “You idiot, why did you do that? Find the page you were on — the page with the scalloped necklace. It’s memorable. If anyone in America doesn’t know the name Lana Falls or my songs, the upcoming video shoot will fix that.” She paced back and forth as she spoke. “A necklace like that one would complete my look. I need that jewelry designer.”
Lana knew when she behaved unreasonably. Sometimes she couldn’t help herself. Other times, she purposely dramatized her actions to clarify the distinction between herself and her workers. Lana's fondness for her assistant exacerbated the irrational fits rather than curbed them.
The personal assistant smoothed her practical trousers and sat again to find the page. “Would you like me to get Daphne Edmond on the phone for you?”
Lana rubbed her eye carefully to avoid makeup smudges. “Who?” She preferred to emphasize the quantity of her acquaintances by pretending to let names slip her memory occasionally.
“The magazine editor, Daphne Edmond. She is your friend.”
Lana grinned. She was unsure if anyone was truly her friend anymore, but she loved hearing the word. She snatched the magazine from Maria’s grip and stared at the ad. “I don’t want to talk to her. Just find out who designed this necklace. Arrange for the designer to come tomorrow at noon.” She hesitated a moment. “No, the personal trainer comes tomorrow at noon. Two o'clock."
Maria took a black organizational device from her pocket and disappeared into another room of the upscale New York apartment. Five minutes later, she returned with a legal pad and read her scribbled notes to the famous pop star.
Lana's nose flared. "I don't care what his name is! I want him to come and create a custom necklace for me. I cannot wear anything off the rack. It isn't me."
The assistant held back a sigh. "I asked, but he lives in Jerusalem."
Lana closed the magazine. Through clenched teeth, she demanded, "Get me a flight to Jerusalem then.”
After a moment’s pondering, she decided to alleviate Maria’s frustration by asking a stupid question. She considered the dopey act every beautiful woman’s best manipulative ammunition. Without it, she figured she would still reside in a Lansing suburb. The stupid question made homely women view the playing field as equal. It coerced intimidated men to relax. It allowed people everywhere to listen to their favorite music — his or her own voice, particularly when spouting “worldly wisdom.”
Lana tapped her index finger to her mouth several times. “Should I bring energy bars and toilet paper? Is Jerusalem a third world country?” Then she added, “You really need to come with me."
"Lana, you know how sick I get on planes. You’ll be fine.” Maria suppressed a giggle. “Incidentally, Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. They have an ample toilet paper supply."
Following the arrangements and packing and preening and the cancelling of several days of appointments, Maria drove her employer to the airport. She walked her as far as allowed before the two exchanged their typical icy goodbyes. The hostile undercurrent evolved from Maria’s irritation with Lana’s arrogance and Lana’s frustrations with Maria’s inability to sense her every desire. Despite this, both knew they depended on each other. Lana needed a responsible mother figure, and Maria, having had no children of her own, needed someone to nurture. Regardless of their aggravation with one another, they spent nearly every waking hour in New York together.
Nevertheless, Lana had grown accustomed to travelling alone and tolerated the long flight to Israel. After the plane landed, Lana trusted her rhinestone laden sunglasses to hide her from the photographers she felt certain waited for her. However, none stood on the sidewalk when she arrived. None waited in the hotel lobby as she entered. She pretended to be relieved.
At the bar, she ordered a drink. The bartender didn’t recognize her famous face. Lana reassured herself that the $25, 000 personal training fee could still be seen on her buttocks whether she held fame's power in this town or not. Fiddling with her spaghetti straps and twirling her blond extensions around her finger, she requested the bartender’s telephone number in case she needed help navigating the town. He wrote only his email addresses on hotel stationary before he abandoned her to attend to another guest’s needs.
The frustrated pop star was more ready than ever to meet the jeweler and receive the type of attention only money could buy. She felt confident that the relationship between a seller and a buyer was international — one that consisted of butt-kissing by the oodleful.
As she strolled through the market, she felt men stare. Already so familiar with lust’s hungry look and desire’s intense stare, she acknowledged that these men’s stares lacked both qualities. Their looks showed disapproval, seemingly saying, "You are a disgrace! Put more clothes on!" She wrapped her hand across her chest and quickened her pace to a sprint.
When she finally arrived at the jeweler’s shop, she pushed the door open with an aggressive thrust. The bell on the door rang with a loud and obnoxious jingle. The shop owner appeared suddenly from a back corner of the shop. He laid down an ornate dreidel to reach out for her hand. "Ms. Falls, you are early! How lucky for me to meet such a famous and beautiful young lady." He grabbed the hand extended to him and stroked it. "And how have you enjoyed your stay here in Jerusalem?"
Lana gently withdrew her hand to fiddle with her dangling earring. "Terrible, really. The service at the five-star hotel is more like that of a two-star." Lana accepted the seat offered to her at a small table. "And what is wrong with this town anyway? Everyone looks so serious. They glare and frown, walking around haughtily, as if these middle-aged men were really important. So condescending!" She gazed at the shop owner as he moved towards a glass case containing a gold replica of the ark of the covenant.
The jeweler unlocked the case and pulled out a black tray with precious jewels inside. "Jerusalem is different." He closed the case again and rested the jewels on the table before her. His eyes locked with hers. "We value things the rest of the world overlooks, and overlook things the rest of the world values."
He continued to speak, but Lana's mind wandered because he seemed to mix a foreign language with English as though they were one language. She directed him to design whatever he deemed best and wrote her home address for the necklace’s shipment upon its completion. Lana ignored his cordial sentiments in a rush for the exit.
Back at the hotel, she stuffed her luggage with clothes. She arrived at the airport six hours before her flight was scheduled. She passed two hours by thumbing through magazine pages and calling everyone she knew. With the next two hours, she wrote new song lyrics about a lover who rejected her as she felt Jerusalem had rejected her.
As the time to board the plane drew nearer, two uniformed officials walked toward her. She grinned like a cat with a mouse in its mouth while she pretended to be distracted by her zebra purse’s contents.
The officials stood on opposite sides of her. “Mam?”
Lana looked up, unable to contain her excitement a second longer. "I knew someone would recognize me!"
The older of the two men stood with wide shoulders and feet hip-distance apart. "We just have a couple routine questions, that's all."
Lana rose to her feet. "Routine, huh? You are not undercover journalists for a celebrity magazine, are you?"
The younger and significantly thinner man spoke up. "No, we just want to know if there was anyone you met up with during your stay here in Israel. Did you receive any gifts while you were here? Any phone numbers exchanged?"
"The jeweler. I met with a jeweler, but I only ordered a necklace. He is shipping it to me. Oh, and I have an email address from the bartender. Here," she said as she handed the younger man the hotel stationary. He read the name aloud. The two men glanced at each other.
They grabbed her arms and escorted her to a back room for more questioning. After she profusely denied the onslaught of acronyms they mentioned, she glanced at her diamond-studded watch. She grew certain she would miss her flight. Tears welled up in her eyes.
"I hate this place; I cannot understand why anyone travels to Jerusalem." She spit on the airport floor.
The older man chuckled. "'Where you headed..." He looked down at a piece of paper. "…Ms. Falls?" Before she had time to respond, he answered for her, "New York, is it? You love New York, eh? Tell me this. Who has ever called New York a song? A song and a lamentation. That's what David Shipler called Jerusalem. You cannot fully appreciate that because it means noth..."
The other official grabbed his arm. "Now, now. I doubt she is a threat to security and that is our only concern." He raised his eyebrows at the older man. "Would you like a drink of water, Ms. Falls?" He gestured to a nearby water cooler.
"No, thank you. I just want to go home."
The younger man escorted her on the plane. As soon as Lana was seated, she pulled a satin eye mask over her eyes and pretended to sleep. Behind the mask, tears flowed from her eyes.
The time spent in Jerusalem reminded her of when she was called Laney Falanopholis. Everyone had appeared more important than her in the years before she had the outrageous wardrobe, boob job, and thousands of crazed fans. She had felt invisible back in Lansing. When words rose from her lips, it was as if they dissolved in midair because it seemed no one cared about what she had to say. She knew people would pay attention if she could develop the kind of confidence she projected after she transformed from Laney Falanopholis to Lana Falls. But she could not do that without the fans to tell her she was worthy to be heard. Jerusalem had stripped her props away from her.
She could not feel invisible again. She wiped the tear that had escaped from under the eye mask and rolled down her cheek. Laney and Lana were one person. If Lana's words were valuable, Laney's were also. If they mattered in New York, they mattered everywhere else.
In the New York airport, reporters swarmed around Maria like zombies waiting for a taste of celebrity blood. She innocently tapped her cheap vinyl flats against the metal chair legs and tried to blend in with other passengers. Until she spotted Lana.
Her hair was disheveled. Her eyeliner had smeared. And her arms were wide open. Unsure how to react, Maria gently wrapped her arms around Lana. Reporters snapped pictures from every angle. Still joined in the embrace, Maria whispered to her, “What happened?”
Lana replied, “Jerusalem happened." She let go of her personal assistant and lifted her purse strap back on her shoulder. "And I am all the better for it.”
As the two walked through the airport, Lana slid her arm in Maria’s.
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