Avi was raised on a Kibbutz in Israel in the 60s. A kibbutz is an ideological, socialist farming community that lives and builds together. Initially, conditions were harsh and babies and children were raised together to allow the parents to work long hours. Children were presented to their parents washed and fed at the end of the day, and returned for bedtime.
‘We were all cut the same like blades of grass.’
Each Kibbutz had its own rules, but the psychological damage was pretty much the same, although some share fond memories of deep friendships. Sadly, Avi’s mother passed away when he was seven. He had no emotional support and no aunt or grandmother to turn to. His father continued to work hard and with the loss never discussed, Avi felt alone. At the age of 18, like every other Israeli, he entered the army.
This is his story.
I truly loved being in the army, the brotherhood, being part of something important, and keeping people safe and alive was exciting. At some point, I was sent to the north near the border with Lebanon where I met Shoshi. She lived in the village where we would hang out in our free time. One night I was walking past the local bar when I heard a woman laughing. I peered in and stopped, mesmerised by her voice, her beauty, and her confidence. I decided there and then that I wanted her to be my wife.
He looks away from me and sighs, reminiscing.
Shoshi and I dated, well, as much as we could considering communication is far from what it is today. The phone boxes with special coins and plenty of letters to keep me company. Avi laughs. She was smart, sassy, strong and she provided me with a warmth I had been yearning for. When my national service ended I decided to stay in the army and I was deployed to a more elite unit. Our time together was all or nothing and soon I was sequestered to go overseas as I spoke english thanks to my father. We got married and moved to New York where we made a home together. Shoshi was a trained nursery teacher and found work immediately. It quickly became difficult for me, she had her working hours and I had mine. Our free time never seemed to coincide and I was in a career where I wasn’t allowed to share my day. It was fine when we lived in Israel, but alone in NYC made it so much harder. I buried my anxiety and fears and avoided all communication. You could say I shut down.
Then I met Lisa, who was light, fun and easy to talk to. She worked next door which meant I could easily spend time with her without getting caught. Shoshi could tell something wasn’t right and asked for a divorce. I agreed on the spot, gave her money and the small apartment we owned and that was that. We didn’t have any children to keep us together and neither of us appeared to want to fix things. As far as I know she returned to Israel and life has been good to her. She was, is, a good person.
This sounds so brief and matter-of-fact, but Avi had been infatuated and in love with Shoshi. She was his first love and they had been great together for a significant time. Without children in the mix and Shoshi having a career, this divorce appears simple. It is possible that it was.
Tell me more about Lisa.
Avi squirms about in his seat like a little boy knowing he has done something wrong, he is a little hunched over and stares at his hands, takes a long breath and his face reveals absolute shame.
Lisa, oh Lisa (he sighs). We had such a fabulous time together. I loved her, her friends, and her family. Life was really good and our sex life was fabulous. He laughs, “Am I sharing too much? Do stop me if I am.’ Lisa's family was not only wealthy but generous and loving too. We had a simple wedding ceremony and they helped us buy our first home and I left the army for a more stable career in finance.
Avi pauses and slightly crumples.
We hadn’t planned on getting pregnant so soon, but ‘great’ we were happy and we loved each other. Except that towards the end, she experienced complications and our baby was stillborn. Not uncommon, but we hurt in a time when people didn’t talk about it, especially men. Lisa sank and suffered so much and there was nothing I could do for her pain. I was hurting too, and instead of being present and supportive, I started to stay at work later and later. I would find reasons to join my colleagues for drinks and dinners as often as I could. It was during this time that I had an affair with Brenda. Brenda was sex, pure sex, an escape from grief; mine and Lisa’s. Meanwhile, we had started bickering and things were a mess at home. I knew I was failing her and I didn’t want to face it.
Avi pauses, sinks into himself, looks away
“I am so ashamed for what I did next."
I found out Lisa was pregnant again. Her sister called me to confront me. ‘She’s pregnant and terrified to tell you.’ Lisa was very superstitious and I was a jerk. I should have been elated, excited, and relieved we had another chance but instead, I sold her on the idea that having a baby was not a good idea. I planted the thought of what if it happens again. I hadn’t recovered from the loss of our first child and our relationship was crumbling because of my shameful and despicable behaviour. There was no way of making us better and she had the abortion. Her family got involved and encouraged a painless divorce. I was bought out of my share of the home and that was that. I know that she has had a good life and is happily married with children. We have mutual friends that have kept me informed over the years. In fact, a year after our divorce we went for a long walk and I got to apologise, but I still live with utter regret and shame.
Here I am in my mid 30's, divorced twice and it felt good to be single. NYC was buzzing and finance was booming. A kibbutz friend had moved to NY and we shared an apartment. My life was perfect. Except that I guess I was targeted by this lady at work.
This lady at the office, she was nice enough, but I wasn’t attracted to her. She was pushy and she knew what she wanted, and that was me. We spent some time together and things just kept moving forward without me wanting it and then suddenly she is moving in and demanding more. A year after being together she got pregnant, gave up work and became a full-time mother. She wanted a home closer to her friends, and I was working very long hours to support us; rent, the british nursery. Our life was expensive and she wanted a lot more and I worked more. I felt like I was taken on a journey I didn’t want to be on and I didn’t know how to get off. I jokingly asked if he had heard about contraception.
Avi goes on to explain in a very matter-of-fact manner.
She was the decision maker, even holidays were with her family and never mine. I guess we were friends and I never fell in love. Anyway, things became stagnant and I started an affair at the office. It was purely sex for me and when this lady asked for more I ended it. I had no desire to leave my wife and child. I took up running to burn off my sexual needs, I even trained for the NY Marathon. That's how I met Miranda, who was fun, young and full of energy, the opposite of my tired wound-up wife. She was training too and we naturally started to run together. I used to take her for drinks after work and she was incredibly flirtatious. Obviously, we ended up having sex which was mind-blowing, nothing like at home where the sex was ordinary and not so great.
Avi laughs nervously.
Well, it was great until my brother-in-law followed me and saw us going for a run together. My wife confronted me when I returned, and I lied. She showed me the photos and threw me out. I sofa-hopped for a good few weeks. I deserved it and yet I didn’t want a divorce or to not see my child daily. I did the maximum to be in her life and spend as much time as possible with her, but staying married wasn’t realistic. So I asked for a divorce, paid the rent, alimony and child support. She refused to go back to work. What choice did I have?
"I’m not proud of any of this" he says as he squirms.
I'm seeing a pattern here, are you?
And if things weren’t hard enough, I got Miranda pregnant and she wanted the baby. After my shame with Lisa I was never going to suggest another abortion ever again. My wife found out and she was enraged, humiliated and every detail of life with her became impossible as she became more and more vindictive. So much so, that when she met another man, who is still her partner, they moved 6 hours away to another State which meant I lost out on watching our child grow up and my son lost out on being a sibling. My daughter was raised by another man. I can’t fault him, he's a good person, but he isn’t me. I didn’t have a leg to stand on with her moving so far away, I could have called in the lawyers but what good would that do? The world economic crisis of 2007 annihilated my finances and I had to start all over again whilst supporting two families, I couldn't afford to fly back and forth.
I am still with Miranda, we have a beautiful son who has a career in the army. We moved to Israel many years ago. Maybe it’s an age thing, but I felt it was time to go home. Before you ask, yes, I have remained faithful and no, we didn’t get married. Avi chuckles, maybe that’s why?
I ask Avi if he felt emasculated by being bankrupt and incapable of supporting his families.
“I don’t know what emasculated is, and everyone around me was struggling too.’ Avi is remarkably resilient which he puts down to his years in the army. He is even optimistic and agrees with me when I suggest that he may be ‘detached or delusional.' Sharing this story wasn’t easy for Avi, he required no sympathy or empathy. He makes no excuses but he is human and still has regrets.
“I am embarrassed and mortified by what a c*nt I have been. Yes, I have apologised, but the loss of our unborn child ricochets through me. I should have been honest and shared my pain or said this isn’t working for me anymore, I don’t think I love you anymore, instead of seeking a light, fun distraction.’
Avi called me a few days after the interview to thank me. He had never shared his story in its entirety and he got to witness himself, his immaturity and his inability to communicate with his ex-wives. He never set out to hurt anyone even though that is what ultimately happened.
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