“What are you doing right now?”
I read the text and had to double check it to make sure I read it correctly. It was in my third (or maybe fourth, depending on how I rank them) language, Hebrew. It was also 10 o’clock at night and I’d been up since 5:30 am and worked all day.
“Nothing. What up” I lied. Really I was in bed contemplating the nature of humus and trying to remember why I had decided 3 pounds of it would be a good idea for dinner. My stomach was heavy and I didn’t have anything to drink in the room.
“Get ready. I’m on the way to your hotel. We’re going to crash a wedding. Details when I get there”.
He had my full attention.
“No Dima, details now, please.”
A full two minutes passed as I made my way from laying on my bed to the upright and seated position. Like I said, I was tired, full, and it had been a long freaking day.
The phone rang.
“I mean you know I’m going with you, but what the hell, man?”
“My buddy just called me. He’s at a wedding of another of our friends. I don’t know that guy so well but I know him. Anyway, they’re doing a TV show about fast marriages and there aren’t a lot of people there, so, he wants me to bring people. Put on nice pants. No sandals.”
“So can I bring more people?”
“Yea but my car can only hold 4” he lied. Last year we had easily fit 5 into it and could have had 7 if he had just listened to me and ignored the rule about pretty Israeli girls needing seatbelts and not being on my lap.
“Right. I’ll see you when you get here.”
“No sandals, Sean.”
“You’re breaking up. See you soon.”
On the car ride to the banquet hall I would ponder what exactly it meant about me that I could send a text to three people after ten o’clock at night reading “Put on nice clothes. We are crashing a wedding” and have them all present and accounted for in the parking lot less than 15 minutes later. I can only imagine the stress the poor girls went through trying to figure out what constituted “nice clothes” for a wedding-crash in a foreign country late at night. As Dima, Nick and I walked out of the hotel the girls were running down the stairs screaming “What the hell do we wear?!” at us. But here they were, my stalwart soldiers, ready for a party. There was Nick, my ever-present hetero-life-mate. Tall, dark haired but with hawkish good looks, he had made a name for himself on our summer program last year as being a bit of a loose cannon. Some people disliked his willingness to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to do it, without giving another thought. It would come as a surprise to no one that Nick and Sean had gone galavanting around in the middle of the night when we were supposed to be awake at 6 am the next morning to pack our things and leave. Then there was Gina, a first year teaching program fellow from the east coast of the US. Tall, thin, fair, pretty, and mild mannered, I doubt most people would have expected her to just jump in a car and go like this. I was proud of her. Then there was Lacey, a second-year returnee that by this time I could only imagine was used to my tomfoolery. Shorter than Gina but also pretty and a little more curvy, I knew from past experience that this quiet and seemingly shy lass could run with the crazy kids all night long. Oh the secrets she could tell…
Our host and crash-coordinator was Dima, an Israeli of Russian descent from a town nearby. He’s short, well built with dark features and a heavy brow. When he smiles he looks like he’s got a secret that he loves that you don’t know. He speaks English with a minimal accent, and loves to make fun of me in Russian because by now I understand enough Hebrew to know when to tell him to “get bent”. His dark sense of humor was the reason I knew we would be lifelong friends. It was that ever present sense of gallows humor that made most Israelis so endearing to me.
The girls looked good- nice dresses and makeup done well. No short order for a quick escape. Nick’s hair looked like he had rolled straight out of bed yet managed to be stylish. It was the kind of look that gaunt billboard models for high-end labels paid thousands of dollars for in New York. Nick gets it naturally out of a habit of sleeping late and not giving a fuck. Dima was dressed for an Israeli wedding- button down shirt, nice trousers, and cleaned shoes. I was wearing the fanciest clothes that I had, meaning clean and pressed blue jeans and a buttoned down shirt.
“And you have on sandals.”
“Dima, we’re crashing a wedding. Tevas are the least of my problems. Also, these are Israeli.”
“They’re American, the name is just Hebrew.”
As we rushed into the car and pulled out of the lot, I made the usual introductions.
“Ladies, this nice strange man you just got into a car with is Dima. Dima, this is Lacey, and Gina.”
Everyone paused a slight second to take in the fact that they had, technically, just gotten into a stranger’s car in the middle of the night in a foreign country. The girls didn’t seem as concerned as Dima did about this, however.
“It’s ok though, Sean and Nick have known me a while. I’m not a strange guy. Dude, you make me sound like a pervert or something…Wait, I might actually have candy so you can say you were lured in properly.”
“Dima really is harmless” Nick added “The most dangerous thing he does is forget to look up when he’s chasing Pokemon through the courtyard at the hotel.”
The girls laughed and we all exchanged pleasantries and basic information. He filled us in on more of the details. Turned out the girls knew the American tv show that was the cause of all of this excitement, so their interest went up ten-fold. There was also a real possibility that we would make it onto the show as extras in the background during the wedding footage. We’d have to sign non-disclosures to make sure we didn’t tell any secrets before the episode aired, and we couldn’t share any images or video we took of the wedding party or the happy couple on social media before it aired either. Other than that, we were going to be able to just enjoy the fun. It would be our little secret.
We arrived at the banquet center and parked the car. Dima handed me the keys as I would be driving back, and Lacey threatened to kill me if I left them as some sort of joke. She knew me too well.
We tried to act ‘normal’ when we walked in. The things is, not a one of us knew what ‘normal’ was for an Israeli wedding except Dima. This was a first for all of us.
We arrived before the dinner portion of the evening, but after the actual ceremony. The groom was a local- Russian descendant like Dima from the same town. Most of the guests were his family and friends. The only ones representing the bride- a beautiful young Jewish girl from the US- were her parents and a couple of close friends. Otherwise, it was old Russian immigrants and ridiculously attractive young Israelis. The Russians had already been draining bottles of booze and the younger people were out on the dance floor tearing it up to Euro-trash techno. This was going to be fun.
Dima made some introductions for us. We met his friend, the one that said he wanted more people there. We met about a half dozen people who didn’t speak much English and exchanged some pleasantries. Then we made our way to the bar. Alcohol, the great social lubricant that it is, never fails to deliver. I don’t drink, but I also don’t suffer from any sense of shame, so after about 30 minutes we were all much more relaxed and dancing away happily.
During dinner I made my way to the bride to declare ‘Mazel tov’ and thank her for a wonderful party. Since she didn’t know most of the people in attendance, she had no idea we were crashing. Upon hearing my American accent, she completely freaked out with joy. She came over to our table and was so happy to see other Americans there that were friends of friends of friends, she she cried a little. Dima, having unfortunately left me unattended for a whole 3 minutes while he went to talk to friends, came storming back over.
“Why is the bride crying, Sean? What the hell did you do?”
She stepped in to save me though, and thanked Dima a million times for bringing friendly Americans so she didn’t feel completely like the only stranger in a strange land.
We ate dinner, which was one of the best I’ve had in a long time, mind you, and continued to chat with people around us. Since we were all working for the summer in local schools as summer school English teachers, we actually were quite a hit. All of the older folks knew about the local schools because their children had either gone to one or someone they knew had children who went to one. Hearing that a bunch of American teachers were there to teach in their little corner of the world was both surprising to them, and impressive. This was the usual reaction that we got in Israel. Most Israelis seem perplexed that we would give up the comforts of the USA to come and visit the homeland of our ancestors when life here was not always so easy.
If you go and see any movie that contains party scenes, you’ll know what comes next. Glow sticks, shots, body shots, weird hats, mardi gras beads. You name it, it happened. Booty-shaking, dirty dancing, jumping around. Gina even gave out a salsa dancing lesson or two. (Right? Salsa dancing. I’m telling you, this girl is a sleeper. You just don’t see it coming.) There was a man that came out in a caricature costume of giant hasidic rabbi to dance with everyone too. That was a first for me, personally. The groomsmen all put on t-shirts that read in Hebrew “The bride can’t read Hebrew and our buddy just got a green card!” and the bride wore one that said “I’m the green card!” I held my tongue about her t-shirt when she looked at my sandals and smirked while saying “Nice shoes”. I didn’t think it wise to anger the bride on her wedding night.
On the ride back to our hotel, we all agreed to refuse to mention what happened for as long as we could hold out when people asked. We knew we couldn’t keep this little gem to ourselves, especially once drunk people started returning from their last-night-out activities and declaring what an awesome time they had. We knew we’d won.
The girls bid farewell and good-night, and Dima, Nick and I went to the courtyard to set up our hookah for our nightly ritual. On their way upstairs Lacey commented “If you ever need to bring people to a last minute party again, you know who to call”. We set up in the darkened courtyard of this little northern-desert palace and sat back to look up at the clear night skies.
“You know that smell on the drive back was my parking brake burning because you didn’t take it off, right?” asked Dima.
“Not my fault. You elected to let the sober person drive. When he fucks it up, it’s on you for drinking.”
“I’m not really sure that’s how that works” added Nick, the traitor.
“It’ll be fine. It’s not like you use that often anyway.”
“Every day, Sean. We use them every day in this country.”
As the air filled with the aroma of the fruit flavored tobacco, we chatted idly about nothing of much importance at all. People straggled back in clearly in varying states of inebriation and decided to flop down with us and talk. They wanted to compare stories of our last night here on this trip. We just laughed and listened, but didn’t share too much. The intrigue was killing them, but that was our intent. The stars shone brightly, the conversations flowed and waned, and eventually we all went to bed knowing that we wouldn’t be together again like this for at least a year.
“Why’d you invite us out tonight Dima? You could have taken anyone.”
“I knew you guys would do it. You don’t say no. You’ll jump at the chance to do something crazy just for the story.”