Israel has two sons. One's name is Israel. And the other one's name is Israel.
When this subject comes up, I always ask, in my perennially curious way, why he would name both his sons the same name.
He never really answers the question. Yesterday his reply was: "My brother's name is Gabrielle."
End of subject.
Of course his brother's name being Gabrielle has nothing whatsoever to do with his two sons being named Israel. It is a non sequitur. But I don't say this. I let it be.
Until the next time he mentions his sons.
If Israel had not taken the job here, the chance of our meeting or ever becoming friends would be about nil.
He told me that they have only lived here a few years. For over twenty years he worked in Texas. He said you make more money there.
They came here because his stepdaughter was alone and having a preemie baby. They came to help her. And so here they still are. And she and the baby live with them.
He is very attached to the toddler. He calls her "Be-be." He buys her candy from a Mexican place he found where he sometimes eats lunch, and he carefully wraps it and takes it home to her.
One day he unwrapped it and showed it to me. I had never seen candy like it before.
He always wears a cap, and his long black and gray ponytail sticks out the back. He is very short, maybe shorter than me, and you can tell he's had his fair share of beers with his friends.
The other day there was a knock on my door. I knew it had to be Israel. Or the mailman or the FedEx guy.
He came in and asked where my hammer and screw driver are. I asked him where his was, and he said he locked them in his car.
He has taken to carrying around this tool bag with a strap that he carries over his shoulder, so that he could keep his tools organized. He proudly showed me where there is a place for everything.
So I asked him how he managed to lock his keys in his car. He said he had to go knock on a door and tell a resident to move his vehicle out of the space where the big trash truck gets the trash.
When he got back to his car, he realized he'd locked them inside.
When he comes back with my tools, he explains in great detail how you get back into a locked car.
He talks about how things work in his Mexican world. If someone's relative has died and they need to go to Mexico for the funeral, everyone will automatically get together and pool their money to make sure they have the money to go.
It seems to me that they take great pride in taking care of one another.
Because he is accustomed to being around me, I think he talks as he would around his friends. And it has been said that I can curse like a sailor.
It is hilarious to hear him spout a string of curse words in all combinations when he is mad or frustrated. He talks so fast it is like one long word. English mixed with Spanish.
Sometimes this reminds me of Desi Arnaz. He played Ricky Ricardo. Probably many of you are too young to know who he was. He was Lucille Ball's husband. And I Love Lucy was one of my favorite shows as a child.
Ricky would get mad and start talking very fast in his native Cuban language, his eyes bugged out to show how upset he was. And then he would say: "Ay-ay-ay." And Lucy would be in the dog house. Where she pretty much always was.
Israel has a dog named Chico. At least he didn't name him Israel.
We have pretty much nothing in common, Israel and I. And yet we are comfortable around one another.
He comes in and perches delicately on my wicker chairs in the living room, as though he might break them. They are indoor/outdoor chairs and quite durable. He isn't going to break them. But I don't think he's accustomed to wicker.
I hear him outside chatting up all the residents. He is happy-go-lucky and everyone seems to like him.
He has a good soul.
But I really wonder what it's like when his oldest son from Austin comes to town, and all of them are in the same room.
How would you know who is talking to who when all three are named Israel?
I will of course continue to ask, and I will get some answer that has nothing to do with my question.
That's just Israel.
Conversations With Israel