Maybe Shachaf knew what he was going to do, because Zamir found the note shortly after.
Thank you. Goodbye.
Zamir pulled the note out of his pocket again, to look at them once again. Raz whistled. Haven followed suit, having dozed off at some point during Zamir’s short recollection, but waking up with Raz’s vocals.
“Yer family sounds fucked up.”
He put the paper back with a snort. “That is one way of putting it, Raz.”
“Did you think he might be happier off wherever he’s decided to go?”
Zamir had not. That wasn’t the point. The point was that his brother just up and left on him. “I’m not the rest of our family.”
Raz shrugged, leaning back. “Yeah, I guess.”
Maybe Zamir should have done something sooner. Maybe he should have just said it straight out. He would have to do that when he found Shachaf.
If he did.
She had left everything to Zamir. He didn’t want it.
“This is wonderful, his mother would say. “She loved you so much.”
There was the stipulation. He couldn’t give a single piece of it to Shachaf. Their mother didn’t seem to notice. Zamir ground his teeth. And kept his discontentment to himself. There was no hiding this now.
“Am I an idiot?” Shachaf sat on Zamir’s balcony. Zamir filled up another glass.
“Yes, but that’s besides the point. We stem from idiotic stock.”
Shachaf rubbed his face. “There’s a lot you could do with that inheritance.”
Zamir couldn’t be more irritated. Neither of them cared about the money. They both knew that. “I have a job. I don’t need it.” He wasn’t going to make the choice against his brother.
“True. You aren’t hurting for it.”
That wasn’t the point. That wasn’t it at all. Zamir shook his head and sat down across from him.
Zamir pushed his hair back, the gel once keeping the dark waves from his face long since having lost their hold. “What took you so long? You couldn’t call?”
Shachaf must have realized what that meant, because his urgency fell off the map immediately. He looked away, then back at Zamir. “Car broke down outside the towers’ range. I didn’t even get your message until…”
Zamir sighed. Shachaf cleared his throat.
“Did she ask for me?”
His brother was an idiot. Always hoping for the favour of a woman who had never liked him. Zamir wanted to lie for him too, but he couldn’t do so in the way Shachaf would want. “She didn’t say much, near the end.”
They both stood there. Zamir wished he was anywhere else. He wished he could have been out there, stranded like Shachaf. He would have even done so alone, swapped places with him.
“I’m glad you made it,” Zamir said.
And Zamir would be the only one.
When grandmother Parvena died, Shachaf hadn’t been there.
Zamir tried not to grind his teeth or pick at his sleeves. Parvena wasn’t asleep, not yet. She breathed slowly. But both age and her recent illness had taken its toll. Everyone knew it would be today or tomorrow. Any moment now. That is why the family was here. That was why what remained of Parvena’s closest friends were here. He felt as though any one of them might go too. A couple were older than his grandmother.
Then he chastised himself for the thought. He was upset because mother was upset. Because Shachaf was not here.
“She wishes to speak to you,” mother said, voice tight.
Zamir didn’t want to talk with his grandmother. She made him uncomfortable in life and near death didn’t help. But it was her final moments and he would not begrudge her whatever she wished now.
Zamir went to speak with her.
“No sign of him yet?”
Zamir adjusted his cuffs. He never used to do so as much. It was becoming a nervous habit. He stopped himself. “What are you talking about?”
Raz lazed on the other side of the hotel room. Zamir wasn’t about to change his lodgings for the man, or give up his bed, but Raz looked at the recliner and determined himself absolutely happy about it. He certainly had made a one eighty from his previous disinterest for intended charity. “You’re still looking. You brushed it aside before.”
“Shachaf.” Zamir sat down on the bed.
“Yep.” Raz stroked Haven’s back. She slept on his shoulder, unaffected by the noise around her. “You think if he wanted to see you he would of called. It’s not like you vanished off the face o’ the land or anything.”
“True enough.” But this had nothing to do with what Shachaf wanted, if Zamir was being honest with himself.
The room fell quiet. Zamir knew exactly what Raz was going to say, right before he said it. “So what happened? What was he runnin’ from?”
Zamir closed his eyes.
The movie continued to play on the street screen. Zamir didn’t know why he continued to stand there, but in truth he had no other place he had to be waiting. It was noise in the background. Noise other than the crowd who watched and the crowd who continue to use the roads for their intended purpose (walk from point a to point b, who would play a movie in public like this?).
Urit watched with big eyes. She had lived here her entire life, so she said, but big displays always seemed to impress her. Then she had to speak. “I haven’t seen your brother around recently. How is he?”
“Fine.” The lie came out before he could stop himself. Zamir tried not to shift uncomfortably. “He has gone abroad for a little bit.”
“Oh, how exciting! Where to?”
“Well, he has always wanted to go to-” Zamir’s mind stopped there, though his mouth filled in the rest of his sentence for him, “-a few places. I’m not sure of his itinerary.”
Shachaf had wanted to go to a few places, certainly. What if that was where he had gone? One of the places Zamir knew he had wanted to visit, see, something.
“That’s nice. I say people should always take a little time to travel.”
Zamir really couldn’t go running off willy nilly. He really couldn’t.
That was to say, he really shouldn’t.
When all of that was said and done, Zamir went home.
Maybe he could forget about Raz. As his disappointment and shame sunk in, turning a part of him to anger, he decided that given enough time he could forget about Shachaf as well.
He had only settled himself down long enough to have turned on the television when there was a knock at his door. With a sigh, he stood up and returned to the door. “Miss Urit.”
His neighbor smiled brightly. “I apologize for the intrusion. I heard you coming in and with as late as it was… well, I presumed…”
Zamir had not missed the plate she held in her hands for him. Urit was always doing something like this. Why? It eluded him. His work had enough late nights though that he had been too hungry and too tired to come up with a refusal in the past. Now that a few years had passed and he had built up a few months worth of meals during that time, he didn’t know how to tell her to stop. “You are too kind.”
“You always work so hard, Zamir. I am glad to help, if even just a little.”
Technically, he hadn’t been working today. He wouldn’t tell her that though. He wouldn’t mention anything about Shachaf. There was no anger to set upon his neighbor, but it still boiled inside of him. He heard the television still saying who knew what. He just wanted to sit down. “It is always appreciated, Miss Urit.”
Zamir returned to his desk with dinner. He pretended the news was not on for him to perhaps catch wind of Shachaf.
He fooled no one.
“I can’t help you,” said Raz. “You aren’t looking for something he’s gotten into. You have to look into what he’s getting out of.”
Zamir tried not to grit his teeth. “What are you implying?”
“That note addressed to you? You know why he left then.” Zamir shook his head, while Raz wheezed out some more laughter. “You’re just bein’ stubborn. Like him. I see the resemblance.”
“Is this all the help you’re going to be?”
Raz pulled his cigarette out and jabbed it in Zamir’s direction. “I’ve been helping you all day! Getting in the way of my own job, you know? He’s left you, get it? No one else up and outed with him. You’re like a bird that can’t fly, jumping off a cliff. Recognize you’re grounded.”
He wouldn’t protest out loud. He couldn’t. Zamir refused to sound like a child to this homeless man who probably conned enough money out of people to have a home if he had bothered.
Dropping the cigarette, Raz put it out with his heel. “I’ll miss Shachaf. Good guy. Hope he finds better.”
And Raz left him with the truth. Shachaf had left by his own volition.
Zamir refused. He had to have been blackmailed. Coerced. Something.
There was nothing left for him to find.
Raz gave him a look. It was one that suggested he would have risen an eyebrow, had he a brow to raise. “Listen,” he lisped, “if I gave a fuck about my lungs, I wouldn’t be living in the city. We’re already in it, why not complete the journey?”
That confused Zamir, though he didn’t say anything. Shachaf didn’t usually hang out with nihilists. Nor did it seem like one would help with a missing person’s report. “Consider my opinion shut.”
“Like this case?” Raz blew out smoke. Thankfully he aimed it in a direction other than Zamir’s face. “Something you’re not telling me, Vest?”
Zamir couldn’t imagine what, until he could. The paper that sat in his wallet. The reason he had started looking in the first place, long before he might have if his brother hadn’t left him a message.
But even those three words were personal. He wouldn’t share them with Raz.
“Look. If you give a fuck about this search, you would lay it straight. Come this far, yeah?”
It was true, he had. Zamir steeled himself and presented the note.
Thank you. Goodbye.
There was something about shady places that meant card games had to be played in them. Zamir wasn’t certain what. There were more interesting games, as far as he was concerned. Whether one wanted to bet on it or not.
Raz smiled at him, much too shifty for Zamir’s liking. “This is the last place he asked me about, that one.” He whistled as he spoke.
“I can’t just go in here and ask about my brother!” Zamir retorted.
The other was still smiling. “Sure you can, if you feel like being taken advantage of.”
“Then what, pray tell, did you even bring me here for?”
Raz shrugged. “You asked, I showed.”
Zamir tried not to groan. When he found Shachaf, he was going to make him pay for this.