Caesarea, Israel: The Curve
Caroline Goldberg Igra
If it were like any other curve, we wouldn’t need to flatten it. We could watch it rise, arc, turn, bank and bend; we could marvel at the way it deviates from a line, continuous, smooth and flowing. But this curve is like no other and its aesthetic qualities are insignificant. This curve is about life, about preserving it and living it, because the flatter it goes, the quicker we’ll all be back to doing just that.
There’s only one hitch.
Flattening the curve, denying it of its inherent magnificence, trying to beat it into something as close to a line as possible, means spreading the distance between the far corners of the earth to the maximum, separating the ends that modern technology and innovation have so spectacularly brought together. The losses of this flattening are as clear as the gains.
For me, they began when Lufthansa abruptly announced the cancellation of all flights to Israel. That was the moment I truly understood that everything was going to change; that everything I’d planned and awaited, the freedom of movement integral to my happiness, was going to be washed right down the drain. This move shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. Foreigners arriving at Ben Gurion airport had already been told they’d have to return home. With only citizens welcome, the number of travelers would obviously dwindle to a trickle, an obviously unsustainable situation for any airline. And so, as one after another followed suit, fewer and fewer planes swooping down, full to brimming with new arrivals, dropping anchor briefly before collecting travelers to take them to points onward, I felt the tide rising, the water racing in from all sides and the country I called home becoming a bona fide island. All of a sudden, there was no escape.
At no time since making Israel my home, have I ever felt so terribly isolated and alone. The stay at home order that came shortly after the mass cancelation of air travel, officially sealing me up in my own house, restricting my movement, redesigning my days, had not a fraction of the same effect. Closing the skies threatened my emotional security more than that package of realities that make life in Israel seem so very threatening to outsiders: military conflicts, wars, borders, car rammings, missiles, stabbings and a whole range of other acts of terrorism. The irony that I am safe but miserable, has not escaped me.
Seeking some way to relieve the pressure created by this state of affairs, I’ve taken to following the curve. First thing each morning, coffee cup in hand, I glance upward, squinting my eyes in an effort to follow its tantalizing trajectory as it reaches farther and farther beyond my view, stepping onto its smooth and seductive surface as it winds its way out of sight to the great unknown. Taking that first blessed sip of brew, I close my eyes and imagine the summit, that glorious tippy top where magical doors will great me and the skies will spread wide with invitation, releasing me from this period of stasis and stagnation. The trick is to stay this course, ride the rails, suffer the constant malaise that has come from counting the pile of missed opportunities, dashed plans, and canceled celebrations, the genuinely heart-breaking disappointments that grow exponentially with each passing week. For then, I will be rewarded with the adrenaline-pumping, endorphin-releasing thrill of that dizzying, ride downward. And there, at the very end, I will find life as it was meant to be lived.
In the meantime, I’m stuck: mid-thought, mid-sentence, mid-project, mid-career, mid-life. Time, which is famous for flying by, has ground to a brutal halt. And the comfort I’m meant to find in numbers, in knowing that I’m not alone, is consistently denied by the mere fact of my separation from the rest of the world, in the way we have all been pushed so violently far apart in an effort to stop the course of this insidious virus; in an effort to flatten the curve. The only recourse is to cling to it, holding on for dear life as it wends its way, embracing it from dawn to dusk, feet flying, struggling to finally spot its elusive apex–to wait for the moment when it’s finally safe to close my eyes and let go, extending my arms as far as they’ll reach in the hope that someone, on the other side, will miraculously manage to close the distance and catch me.
Caroline Goldberg Igra has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in international, academic art history journals, a book on the work of WWII artist J. D. Kirszenbaum (Somogy Éditions d’Art, 2013) and a novel, Count to a Thousand (Mandolin Publishing, 2018). She blogs for the Times of Israel.