Avital Gad-Cykman
Soap


Little bursts of laughter explode between the twin couches and around the table. I didn’t clean after last night’s visit. Crumbs of salt crackers and laughter still roll over my floor.
The laughing sound does not belong here.
Long ago I left home while the family was watching TV. They didn’t even notice. I closed the door on the fake laughter the TV produced. When I called a week later, my mother asked if I’d be back in time for "Soap."
I imagined my father and my mother falling in love and then buying a TV set to pass the years.

Ever since, I have stood on the beach every morning and looked at the passing clouds carrying light from my sea to cities that have no ocean. My ears have held the sound of the waves the way seashells do.
People used to tire me.
I was wary of the family’s visit when I arranged the plates, the silverware, the wine and the water glasses by the order I place them for myself, but for fifteen people. My family seemed oversized, because the news about the newborn had skipped me. News floats like clouds, and if you sleep you miss it.
Yesterday, we made a toast to happiness. When the cheers dissolved into idle noise, I asked my family to be quiet for a moment and listen. We heard the permanent humming that rises beyond the silence.
"What a buzz," my cousin said.
"People say it’s the voice of the universe," said my sister.
"Do people talk about it?" I wondered. I thought they were busy watching TV.
"Please fill my glass," my mother asked. She smiled. "How would you know about
conversations?"
My father touched my arm.
My sister’s baby cried and she got up. Babbling and mumbling came from the corner where she changed his diapers. My brother talked about a new TV series and teased his wife. She told me, "You really should buy yourself a television."
Before I replied, my uncle said he brought his.
They sat on the twin couches and joined their laughter with the TV's canned one. I imagined they saw me on the screen.
"Go back to the table," I said from the TV’s belly.
"Stay with me," a stunning blond man told me. I realized he was my lover for the series.
He kissed me hard. The family held their breaths. I slapped him, because I was surprised.
The laughter burst from all sides. I did not stay with him long enough to see what followed.

My niece chased after my cousin.
"Pass the salt," my father asked. He hummed an old song from a movie.
I felt their cheer, refreshing like the salty spray of a broken wave.
Today, when I take a bath, bits of laughter burst out of the water. I try to touch them, but they slip between my fingers. Out of the bath, I dry myself with my blue towel and think how angry I was when I left home.