There are numerous reasons I opted to step away from the journalist’s daily bang-bang/chained to beeper and cellphone/sleepless for days/languishing in 100-degree-in-the-shade heat of Jericho rooftops/sleeping on office chairs and couches/sleeping on flatbed trucks beside satellite dishes in Gaza City ten years ago. One of those was the Delay Factor.
The Delay Factor was working around the clock covering a harrowing story or living through a particularly painful experience yet continuing to go through the motions of so-called normal life. A few hours or a day later, the implications of the experience would suddenly dawn hitting full force at mostly inopportune times. Like in the backseat of a taxi en route to Jerusalem. Or while sitting placidly at a cafe. Or yesterday on the playground.
I spent the better part of yesterday in a local hospital visiting suicide bombing victims for a story I’m working on. It’s been nearly a month since the Tel Aviv bus station hit and for the fortunates who lived through it but were unfortunate enough to be critically wounded, the hospital is their new home for the indeterminate future.
One person I met while making rounds was Daphna, a nurse working in surgery. Petite, dressed in knee length corduroy skirt, elbow length cotton shirt and stockings, worry lines furrowed deeply between her tired brown eyes. Her 16-year-old daughter was killed earlier this year in the Netanya mall bombing. I half listened as she quietly discussed her youngest daughter’s upcoming bat mitzvah with a case worker. She knew a ceremony was in order but couldn’t stomach a celebration.
I excused myself to make a phone call and upon return noted her red rimmed eyelids and the tissue in her hand. My thoughts, however, were still focused on the business related conversation of a moment prior.
Later that afternoon while quietly reflecting on a playground park bench, the nurse’s face came back to me; I began imagining the empty hole left in her daughter’s stead, the longing and the ache that cannot be satiated. Ever.
Tears welling, I pulled my 4-year-old son Raphael into a tight embrace and silently apologized to him for the times my temper is short, for not always paying attention, for not being in the mood to sword fight and for hemming and hawing over a chocolate bar or ice cream treat.
Despite prolonged hibernation in San Francisco, the Delay Factor has returned.