I was feeling lonely on my drive home. Stressed about all the work and pressures and decided to call Elie. No real reason, just he crossed my mind and his phone number is in my car phone...and I'm making an excuse.
Elie answered right away.
"How's it going, sweets?" I said as I always do. Yes, I shouldn't admit to calling him "sweets" but I figure I've got a few years or more before he decides to actually read this blog and by then...he'll figure years have passed and he'll forgive me (or so I'm thinking).
"Fine," he said, and before I could say another word, he burst out with, "Ima, I want a jeep."
Now there must be a story there, I thought as I smiled and answered, "me too. Are you at the checkpoint?"
"I haven't been at the checkpoint in a few days." He'd told me about other things he was doing (working on the computer system, processing permit requests, etc.), but I didn't realize it was a constant thing.
"So, where were you?"
"Patrolling." Patrolling means in a vehicle. Ah...
"In a jeep?" I asked, it all suddenly becoming clear.
He laughed. "We went in a pool," he said.
"A pool?" Hmmm....I don't think you are supposed to do that with a car. Something about blowing the engine.
"Fast? In a pool?" Define fast, define pool.
"Well, a big puddle," he clarified "and Ima, your Honda wouldn't make it." Now, I'm pretty sensitive when it comes to my car...but I'm not going to drive it through a puddle the size of a pool to prove it to him.
"What happened to the car?" I asked.
"Nothing. Well, we almost blew the engine," Elie answered. Clearly that was about as close to heaven as a boy can get.
"What happened?" I asked, visions of the army coming and arresting my child for damaging army property (not that he was driving anyway).
Most of the time they did this, nothing happened, other than their splitting the water, sending it hurling in a massive wave in either direction. This was clearly the cool part. By high, Elie assured me, he meant almost to the height of my puny Honda, certainly the car windows.
One time, the time Elie thought was the most fun, the car actually stalled, but they got it started again. The pool was relatively deep and the water splashed so high as they drove threw it that it reached the height of the roof.
"It was so cool."
Yeah, it sounds like it was. I'm glad he was there. "I don't think you're supposed to be having so much fun," I said to Elie and heard him laugh again.
"Are you patrolling near the security fence?" I asked him. Maybe it was a reality check for me; I'm not sure why I asked.
Some, he answered, but the fence meanders up and down between the Arab and Jewish populations in the area, separating, dividing, securing. It prevents bombers who would simply have to walk a short 10 or 15 minutes in some places to get to the hearts of some large Jewish cities. Elie explained that to follow the security fence would take too long in some places so they also cut through the Jewish towns nearby. "We patrol inside also...like near the pizza store," he continued.
He was enjoying himself; enjoying the light and easy conversation and the chance to brag. How young men this age love to brag! And how important it is for a mother to let them! No, I won't give him driving safety instructions. First, because Elie is a very good driver and second, because Elie knows cars. These cars are built to be abused and there is no difference to the "jeep" whether the people in the car enjoyed the ride.
"You sure have it tough," I joked with him.
He was in such a great mood even better later when I spoke to him again.
"When are you going back on?" I asked him.
He didn't know. "They don't drive like that at night, do they?"
"Sure, why not?" he asked, but of course they don't...right?
There are days like this that end on a light and happy note and yet there is always that other element. As much as I want to think about Elie being carefree and easy, doing what boys his age were doing back when I was his age in the States, that isn't the reality here.
Elie wasn't with a group of young men, having fun, testing speed against water, driving just a little too fast, enjoying the wall of water their jeep sent hurtling to the sides. He wasn't on the beach wearing a tank top and bathing suit, and he won't return home this evening when the day of fun ends.
For all that the attitude and laughter was the same and though he called it a jeep, Elie was in an armored Humvee, loaded with sophisticated military equipment. Bulletproof, meant to withstand the roughest of roads easily.
He was dressed in combat uniform, his gun by his side at all times. Tonight, like most of his nights, if he goes to sleep at all, it will be at an army base until he awakens for his next round on patrol. His friends in the Humvee were all soldiers and for the most part, they were driving along a security fence that divides two populations who remain, more than 60 years into our country's existence, two peoples at war.
Elie still had a great day. He still laughed at the sensation of driving a jeep through a pool of water and feeling the water give way, and most of all, though the friends that were with him were soldiers, the comfort in this is that the soldiers that were with him...were friends.