Hanit Guli

Illustration by Emma Roulette

ISRAEL:  I really wanted us to enjoy this meal. So now, you’re going to drink a two-hundred-year-old wine. It was made two hundred years ago. Do you realize how rare this is?

NILI:  I’m sure you’ll tell us.

ISRAEL:  Think about it, Rona, what’s coming out of this bottle now was placed there two hundred years ago. Two hundred years!

RONA:  Will you cut it out with that silly two hundred years story?

ISRAEL:  What story?

RONA:  The one about the two-hundred-year-old wine. Come on . . . 

ISRAEL:  Two hundred years, I tell you.

RONA:  Yeah? Where did you get it from?

ISRAEL:  I bought it from a wholesale wine store I know. They have some amazing discounts. I know a guy who works there.

RONA:  Discounts . . . 

ISRAEL:  Yes, I went there to get us something special for tonight.

RONA:  And this “guy you know there” told you this bottle is two hundred years old . . . 


RONA:  And you believed him?

ADAM:  Ronny . . . 

RONA:  Shut up. You believed him?

ISRAEL:  I don’t understand why you’re interrogating me. Of course I believed him.

RONA:  Then one of you is lying, either you or “your guy from the wholesale wine store.”

ISRAEL:  You’re turning into an insufferable woman, Rona. You’re just becoming a . . . 

INBAL:  All right, cut it out you two.

ISRAEL:  Do you hear the way she talks to me?

INBAL:  What does it matter if it’s two hundred years old or not? Who cares?

ISRAEL:  Rona, you are a disgusting and bitter woman, and you want me to tell you something else? I’m not even sure it’s the hormones.

NILI:  Israel!

ISRAEL:  That’s just who you really are.

RONA:  Great, at least I’m not the one whose every other word is a lie.

NILI:  Rona! That’s enough!

ISRAEL (gets up, shaking the table):  Bitter! I’m not sitting with her!

RONA:  No problem. I was just about to leave. Come, Adam.

INBAL:  Hey! What is this?

RONA:  “I’m not sitting with her . . .  She’s a bitter person . . . ” Where is this coming from? Why is he talking to me like that?

NILI:  Rona, he’s your father. You need to speak to him with a little bit more respect.

RONA:  How can I treat him with respect when he insists on disrespecting our intelligence?

NILI:  You know how he is . . . 

ISRAEL:  Great. Keep it up . . .  keep it up . . . 

INBAL:  Why are you always getting upset about every little thing? Why?

RONA:  Because I feel like it! Do you believe this story, Bali? You really believe this wine is two hundred years old? Be honest.

ISRAEL:  Yes, tell her what you think.

INBAL:  Why should I care how old it is?

ISRAEL:  Just answer the question. Do you believe me? Do you believe this wine is two hundred years old?

INBAL:  I don’t know and I don’t care.

RONA:  Mom, do you believe this story?

NILI:  Rona, you’ve really lost it this time.

ISRAEL:  She has, but we asked you a question, do you believe?

NILI:  Of course I don’t. There’s no such thing as a two-hundred-year-old wine.

RONA:  There you go!

ISRAEL:  You don’t believe me.

RONA:  How could anyone believe a liar, huh? You could have very well said the wine was four thousand years old, why settle for only two hundred?

NILI:  That’s enough, Rona! Leave him alone.

RONA:  So let him tell the truth already.

NILI:  Why do you care about the truth so much? You should care more about how the people around you feel. And I feel that he cares, that we’re important to him. Can’t you shut your mouth just this once and let him feel good about himself?

RONA:  No, this whole family is fucked up. You’re all fucked-up liars.

NILI:  Adam, she’s . . .  I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened to her. She’s really not like that.

RONA:  Hold on, you’re telling my husband who I am? You’re interpreting my behavior to him? Is that what you’re doing now? Because you’ve no idea who I really am.

NILI:  All right, now she’s really lost it.

INBAL:  Maybe it’s that fucked-up wine—two hundred years old, it must have gone bad . . . 

ISRAEL:  Nili—I’m not a liar. And Rona, let me tell you something—if you dare to speak to me like that, without an ounce of warmth, or empathy, with nothing but poison in your heart, a moment before I’m leaving for a whole year, and after everything I’ve done for you, then you know what? I’m not even sure it’s a good idea for you to become a mother.

NILI:  Israel!

ISRAEL:  You don’t have what it takes to be a mother!

INBAL:  Dad! Now you’re really out of line! What is this?

ISRAEL:  It is what it is. Scream all you want.

INBAL:  I don’t believe you. You can’t even imagine what she’s been going through! You say the stupidest things just to hurt her! (To RONA.) He didn’t mean it.

ISRAEL:  I’m sorry, Rona, but I meant every word. You’ve no ability to contain yourself.

RONA:  And you do?

ISRAEL:  I’m a big boy.

ADAM:  So you’re allowed to say whatever you want?

NILI:  Israel, this is inexcusable. You’re going to tell her you’re sorry now.

ISRAEL:  I’m going to do no such thing. She’s the one who needs to apologize! You’ve some nerve. You’ve all completely lost your minds.

RONA:  I don’t care if he says he’s sorry or not. Come on, Adam, we’re leaving.

ADAM:  I don’t think it’s a good idea.

RONA:  I didn’t ask your opinion.

ADAM:  I know, but you’re still going to get it. I think we should stay and work things out.

RONA:  Work things out? Work what out?

ADAM:  Everything that just happened here.

RONA:  I have nothing to work out with him. You know why? Because this might just be the first time in years he hasn’t lied, the first time I agree with every word he is saying.

NILI:  Oh, come on.

ADAM:  I think you’re just upset.

RONA:  And I think you’re just blind.

INBAL:  All right, Rona. That’s enough. Come with me for a minute.

RONA:  I’m not going anywhere with you.

INBAL:  Just for a second.

RONA:  No. He needs to hear it.

NILI:  What’s there to hear? Look what you’ve done, Israel!

RONA:  I’m just not cut out for this.

ADAM:  Who was it on the phone?

RONA:  I’m just not cut out for this, do you hear what I’m saying?

ADAM:  Who did you speak with on the phone?

RONA:  What does it matter? I’m telling you I don’t even want to be a mother. I’m not going to be good at it.

ADAM:  Nonsense.

RONA:  Not at all. All the effort, the suffering, all those years—it was all just for you.

ADAM:  I don’t believe you.

RONA:  Well, you haven’t heard everything.

ADAM:  Oh, there’s more?

RONA:  Oh, you bet there’s more.

ADAM:  Can it wait till we get home?

RONA:  What happened? Suddenly you don’t think we should stay here and work things out?

ADAM:  Rona, I asked if it can’t wait till we get back home.

RONA:  That’s the thing, we don’t have a home. Not any more.

INBAL:  Rona!

RONA:  Shut up! There’s no more home, do you hear me? It’s over.

INBAL:  Adam, don’t listen to her! You’re coming with me right now. (Gets up and grabs RONA.)

ADAM:  Rona, I really don’t understand what you’re saying.

RONA:  You and me? We’re done!

INBAL:  Nothing’s done here. Let’s all take a moment. (Goes outside with RONA.)

NILI:  Look what you’ve done, Israel! You stupid idiot! Look what you’ve done!

ISRAEL:  But I didn’t . . . 

INBAL:  Just leave it alone for now, Adam. She’s not . . .  (INBAL and RONA exit.)

ISRAEL (to ADAM):  Yes, they’re always hysterical . . .  Don’t take it so seriously . . . 

NILI:  Is that what you have to say now? That we’re hysterical? I’m warning you. If you don’t try to fix what you’ve broken here, I’m going to make sure you regret it. You’re going to tell her you’re sorry.

ISRAEL:  But I haven’t done anything, Nili. You’ve all heard how she spoke to me.

NILI:  Look what you’ve done! (Gives ISRAEL a searing look and doesn’t take her eyes off him. ISRAEL becomes increasingly uncomfortable.)

ADAM:  I’m sorry. I’m going to go out to the porch for a minute. I need a moment to think.

ISRAEL:  No problem. Come, I’ll join you. (Gets up.)

ADAM:  I’d rather you didn’t.

(ADAM goes outside and takes RONA’s cell phone with him. ISRAEL sits back down, looking uncomfortable. NILI won’t stop staring at him.)

ISRAEL:  What? What do you want from me? I just don’t get it, Nili. Why is everyone always out for my blood in this house? Why can’t I get an ounce of respect? My daughter called me a liar in my own house, in the middle of dinner, and you? You haven’t said a word! When the girls talk to you disrespectfully I’m the first to protect your dignity. But you? You said nothing. She interrogated me in front of everyone, humiliated me and called me a liar. Why do I deserve that?

NILI:  Because you are a liar.

ISRAEL:  I’m a liar?

NILI:  You’re a liar, Israel! A liar! Your every word is a lie, your every action is a lie, this dinner of yours is a lie. It’s all a lie!

ISRAEL:  And what are you, then?

NILI:  I’m cooperating with the lie. That’s true.

ISRAEL:  You’re the reason for the lie. You started it. Me, everything I’ve done, all my mistakes, the mess I’ve gotten myself into, it was all for you. You started it with a little lie you told a friend, telling her we’re going away on vacation, and we have this villa and we’re going to buy a new car. And I just stood there and listened to it. How do you think it made me feel? So I got you everything you wanted first and started to think about getting the money to pay for it later. But it all began with your lie, not mine. I didn’t need this house.

NILI:  That’s just the way people are! Sometimes we exaggerate a little! What can you do? Sometimes we want to make an impression.

ISRAEL:  I just wanted you to have everything you’ve ever dreamed of!

NILI:  Do you understand what you’ve done to us?

ISRAEL:  I never meant for it to turn out like this, Nili. I swear I didn’t. I just wanted you to have the life you always spoke with your friends about.

NILI:  A great life you’ve given me to tell my friends about now . . . What am I going to tell them about this year? What am I going to tell our daughters about this year? One more story I have to tell in your name? One more lie?

ISRAEL:  Nili, I’m asking you nicely . . . 

(INBAL enters.)

NILI:  Well?

INBAL:  She’s all right. She’s . . .  washing her face in the bathroom. She’ll come out in a minute. Where is he?

NILI:  On the porch. Where did she get such crazy ideas from? What’s that silly talk about separating?

INBAL:  Forget it, she’s . . .  hurting and doesn’t know how to express her pain. And Dad . . . Really, you’re . . . this is no way to behave. I’m telling you . . . 

ISRAEL:  You’re not going to educate me, do you hear me? Stay out of it.

NILI:  Stay out of it? She’s trying to help clean up the mess you’ve created for us!

ISRAEL:  Who asked for her help?

INBAL:  Listen, you know the kind of hell she’s been through with these treatments.

ISRAEL:  Stay out of it! You don’t understand anything. I gave you my soul, but you don’t appreciate anything!

INBAL:  Dad, forget about everything else—bottom line: your daughter is sitting there now, crushed, tearing apart her relationship, her house, her soul, and she won’t stop crying because of the poisoned words you’ve said to her. Now do whatever you want with it.

NILI:  No, you’re not going to do whatever you want, you’re going to apologize right now, do you hear me? You’re going to say you didn’t really mean all the filth that came out of your mouth.

(ADAM returns and sits at the dinner table.)

ISRAEL:  Go on, go on! Call me a filthy liar. It won’t do you any good—I’m not going to say I’m sorry. My daughter humiliated me in front of everyone and I’m the one who needs to apologize?

NILI:  You’re going to be sorry. I swear to God you’re going to be sorry!

INBAL:  Mom, calm down. Drink some water or something.

NILI:  I’m not going to drink anything and I’m not going to calm down. This man ruins everything he touches.

ISRAEL:  Everything I’ve ever done was for you.

NILI:  Everything he’s ever done was for me . . .  You want to hear something, Adam? One day, I’m talking on the phone with my friend, Ora, and she tells me with excitement that her husband has just bought them a large villa by the sea. So without even knowing why, in the heat of the conversation, I tell her that Israel has also just bought a large villa up north. It was just a slip of the tongue, I was stupid, I wanted to feel that excitement too, just for a moment. I don’t know what I was thinking to myself, but Israel happened to be there and heard the conversation. Next day, he tells me with excitement about a rare opportunity, a once in a lifetime bargain involving a villa that has to sell quickly at half price, so he’s made a quick decision and bought it for us. I was shocked. I told myself miracles do happen after all. I couldn’t stop hugging him. I cried with happiness. I was so happy to finally get out of that lousy three-room apartment. Go pack, he told me. That’s my man. He wanted to please me, right? And I just went packing and didn’t even ask to see the house, because everything was already happening. And I called my mom to tell her the exciting news, then I called all my friends. Two days later, I’m sitting on boxes, the girls are already packed and ready to go, the moving truck is downstairs.

(Pause. NILI looks at ISRAEL. He lowers his head.)

NILI:  So the movers come up and ask me for the exact address and I tell them—ask my husband, he knows the address. And Israel, he’s just standing there in front of them, not saying a word.

ADAM:  Why?

INBAL:  Because there wasn’t any villa, Adam, isn’t it obvious? The movers showed up and then he suddenly remembered to tell us there’s no villa.

NILI (to ADAM):  That’s how my daughters had to grow up. You get it now, why Rona became so upset? This is not really about the wine, she doesn’t care how old this wine is.

ISRAEL:  All right, I’m the source of all evil. I fucked up everybody’s life. I’m the bad guy. That’s me.

NILI:  He means well, I know he does, but somehow it always ends in tears. Call him unlucky, or a hopeless fantasist, or sinfully irresponsible, I don’t know what to call him any more . . . 

ISRAEL:  Hello? I’m still here. I haven’t left yet.

NILI:  Really? You haven’t flown to “Uganda” yet?

ISRAEL:  Nili, please . . . 

NILI:  Let’s stop this act right now, Israel. Let’s end this stupid charade.

ISRAEL:  Nili. (RONA enters.)

NILI:  Because I’ve had enough. Do you hear me? Enough!

RONA:  Inbal, calm her down.

INBAL:  Mom!

NILI:  I’m all right. Tell her you’re sorry.


RONA:  Let him be. I don’t need him to say he’s sorry.

NILI:  Tell her you’re sorry right now. Tell her you didn’t mean what you said.

ISRAEL:  Leave me alone, Nili. I’m not a puppet. You don’t control me. I’ll say whatever I want to say, not what you tell me to. I’m a man!

NILI:  Did you hear this, everyone? He’s a man!

ISRAEL:  Exactly.

INBAL:  Leave him alone, Mom. Let’s calm things down here.

NILI:  We’ll be calm. We’ll be very calm. I just want to ask “the man’s” permission to tell you where he’s going. Because he’s a man, right, Israel? And men aren’t afraid of anything, huh? (ISRAEL lowers his eyes.) Israel, look at me—you know me. I won’t give up. You’re going to tell her you’re sorry. No one knows you better than I do, I know you didn’t mean all those things you told her. You know it too. You’re going to end up saying you’re sorry anyway, so let’s save us the argument. (The phone is ringing. ISRAEL looks at the screen.)

translated from the Hebrew by Yaron Regev