Updated: Aug 29, 2022
Every time he said my name I could feel my heart literally skips a beat - LIBERMAN! He shouted, and I stood there terrified. He always looked the same; every day he wore the same white shirt which was pale, dirty and almost gray. It disgustingly stretched on his big hairy belly and had the same meaningless quote on the back. Every day he used to sit in his big office with the transparent glass door, smoking the same type of cigarette on his big black exclusive wheelchair behind that big dirty brown table. I always looked at him as a person who has no skills, no human feelings, and no clever thoughts or understanding, stuck at the same job that gave him the ultimate power he enjoyed playing with. I entertained myself thinking about what kind of person he would have been without all that power, in the real world where you need practical skills, where no one will treat him like god, and no one will obey what he says just because he is scared, maybe that’s why he is not leaving, probably. What a cruel world put this person in charge of me, with no way to escape. In some cruel way that hideous guy has so much control over my life, and my future, and my happiness. He can make my life miserable every single day, and make me wave goodbye to my athletic career. That place had the same smell, every day there had a familiar smell of burned oil, spilled bleach, old rust, men sweat and vast quantities of fresh raw meat. Yoram was a type of guy who thinks that his opinion is the only one, he was so square and impossible to talk to, but who can blame a guy that served for 32 years in the IDF? He was just a machine following the requirements above him. And what was I? I was a small, tiny nail in a giant machine that runs a massive plant of people, who contribute themselves for the ugly reality that requires security. As a small nail, how can I fight the planet? How can I make the planet put me in a place that will fit my conditions, while I am paying my time? No one cares about the destiny of a tiny nail, one out of a million pins in a big factory. Yoram had no understanding of the sport, he thought that what I’m doing is a waste of time. He was a powerful army commander rolling a bunch of impertinent young soldiers, and I was a problem. I was an athlete, and working in the army kitchen was probably the worst thing that has ever happen to my professional career, but it’s not Yoram’s problem. On my first day in my new army’s base, I was a young 18-year-old confident girl happy with my life and positive about my future, I had no idea how bad I will have to fight the most obvious things, since I joined the Israeli army under the title of an excellent athlete, determined to keep chasing my goals. A mistake of another prominent screwed commander in the factory’s program put me in the army’s kitchen thinking that is a place where I will mind the least. I tried to keep training hard after long hours of physical labor work, cleaning Yoram’s kingdom. After a long time, I accepted my destiny and decided to work with it, instead of against it. I developed an immunity to those smells, even though it got stuck to my clothe and followed me all the time, I could no longer cough over the smell of cigarettes, I was no longer disgusted by flying bugs nor surprised by walking humans that worked around me. As cleaning other people’s leftovers was a lot worse than what it sounds, I was no longer paying attention to all the little gestures of disrespect. Most importantly, at some point, I manage to developed a survival gene to Yoram as he is screaming my name – LIBERMAN! Yoram saw that I am a hard worker and an ambitious girl, and he took advantage of that for his own benefit. He told me that if I will work hard and do what I need to do, he will work with me and help me. I did the best I could, believing that if I get my work done early and fast, I will be free to go to practice. However, this is not how it worked correctly; I was free to go once lunch was over, and the dining room was clear and clean. Some days we had a lot of people, and I was stuck cleaning for hours begging Yoram to let me go because I am late for practice, but he never did. Sometimes we were required to make the tables for special dinner occasions, and that took hours, which means – leaving the base at night and no practice for me. One day I walked hesitatingly to Yoram’s office, holding in my hand a formal yellow sheet that asks Yoram to sign and approve a week of vacation day from work because of a big meet coming up, the Israeli championship. I saw Yoram’s car parks near to the kitchen’s space, he had his own parking space two steps away from the door to his office. His car was a silver Chevrolet which he received from the army, and he had a blue sticker on the side, recognizing the vehicle as a career man in the military. I walked into his office, he was on the phone, his voice was always loud and demanding, that kind of voice you can’t argue with, and you don’t want to either. As I was feeling sorry for the guy on the other line, I kept rehearsing in my head how I will ask him to sign on the vacation form for me, because I knew that he would not understand… I promised myself that this time I won’t choke, I won’t remain silent, and I won’t leave without a signature! He hung up the phone, didn’t looked at me, although I was sitting in his office for at least 5 minutes, he was too busy writing stuff in his big black leather diary with his green pen and his sloppy handwriting that contained a lot of spelling mistakes. I stood up in front of him, and then he finally said without raising his head off the diary – “why are you here and not working?” I pulled out the yellow sheet and said with a smile and a confident voice – “in two weeks Israel Swimming championship starts!” he dropped his green pen and straight his big dark brown eyes directly to mine, “IS THAT MEAN YOU WILL BE GONE?!” I couldn’t help but stare at his bushy black eyebrows, I immediately answered with a shaky voice – “yes, I am taking a vacation,” he jostled me with several questions that showed complete lack of understanding; “Can’t you go and come back after you are done swimming? Why do you have to take a whole week off?! Don’t you think you are over asking? Are you saying that you on top of insisting on leaving work early you are also taking a week off??? It was moments like this that made me wish I wasn’t attached to any defective factory. I wanted to scream at him – “are you an idiot?! What do you think I am doing here?! My way of contributing to the state of Israel is in meets like this where I am getting better, faster and representing your country! Do you really think I got put in your kitchen because this is all I can get out of myself? How is that even an argument, this is what I do! This is who I am, this is the Israel championship!!! Shut up and sign the dam form!”. Luckily, as an excellent athlete in the army, I got 90 days a year I can use for meets and training camps. I explained it to Yoram and eventually signed, but he wasn’t happy about it. The only good thing about this situation is that I get to keep swimming, unlike the majority of athletes who don’t even get the degree and been forced to quit. In the kingdom of swimming, I am a princess, not a tiny meaningless and ineffectual nail, I am a strong, powerful hammer with full control over my life. I wanted to show myself and Yoram that I am doing it for a reason and that it’s worth it! My main even was 50 m’ backstroke, and I was determined to win. I stand in my fast-skin, my tight cap and goggles in front of the start block, waited for the first whistle… getting into the water, second whistle…placing my feet and being prepared… I could hear the crowd shouting and cheering, calling names, but I was completely focused on my race. The third whistle made everyone silent and then came the final sound – TAKE YOUR MARKS – BEEEEEEEEEEP – the race started, and I was in! I felt powerful and strong, I felt sharp and in charge – touching the wall with a new best time and the first place! After coming back to the kitchen from the meet, Yoram warmly shacked my hands and said it is all thanks to the fact that I am working in the kitchen, and cleaning is like my exercise. It wasn’t in that moment that I realized he will never understand me, and will never understand the athlete life, only because he has no connection to it, This whole situation didn’t make any sense, but that how the army is a defective factory.