The next morning the alarm clock woke me up early and I padded around the silent and deserted Sinbad making coffee in the galley, drinking it on the sundeck, and puffing my pipe. It was only when I was alone on Sinbad and had it all to myself, without guests, visitors, and crew, that the boat really felt like home. This time, however, there was a painful tinge to it. I was missing Helga, and wondered whether, if it were not for the business with Max, I would have succeeded in talking her into staying with me. She may have been expecting such an invitation and, seeing that it was not coming and not knowing the real reason, may have assumed that I was not all that interested and saw the whole thing as just another holiday affair. Now everything depended on whether she would get in touch with me while still in Israel.
I would stop, now by the deckchair she had been stretched out in only yesterday afternoon, and now by the crumpled bed in my cabin we had shared until the night before last, and I would almost be looking into her greenish-grey eyes again, hearing her voice, and smelling her hair. There was also an unexpectedly nasty tug at my heart when I stopped by Maria's narrow bunk behind the thin plywood partition. This was certainly no home. It occurred to me, that, with Helga, I occasionally had to make an effort to think about what to talk about next, while with Maria I could be silent for hours on end, both of us perfectly at ease.
I wondered how much each of the two girls really cared about me; and regretted, slightly, that no gadget for reading another's thoughts and feelings has yet been invented. Slightly, because the moment it was invented, the likes of Yankele and worse would get hold of it instead of their imperfect injections or lie detectors or beatings, and would quickly progress to inventing one that also implanted things in people's minds.
I was going to keep my promise to Yankele not to come to the airport to say goodbye to Max. But I had not promised anything about not having a cup of coffee at the rooftop restaurant near the airport, from which there was a distant but clear view of departing passengers and planes, nor about not bringing a pair of field binoculars with me. I was thus able to observe Max, alive, well, and smiling, walk to the Lufthansa plane with Yankele and shake hands with him before boarding it.
I was hoping that Werner's death would be not only the first but also the last such thing to happen to Sinbad, and that from now on the Israeli Secret Service and its adversaries would pursue their activities as far from its deck as possible.
©1997 Zygmunt Frankel - All Rights Reserved.
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