How to Ruin Your Boyfriends ReputationSimone Elkeles
A vacation without parents is like a chocolate brownie without the nuts -- absolutely perfect!
Hi my name is Amy Nelson-Barak. My mom is a Nelson and my dad is a Barak and just in case you were wondering, I'm aware I have two last names. If you don't know me, I'm a seventeen-year-old American teenager with red, white and blue blood running through my veins. You're probably wondering why right now I'm on a bus in Israel on my way to an Israeli military boot camp.
Yes, I did say I'm in Israel. No need to rub your eyes and reread that.
And yes, I did say boot camp.
And before you think it's a boot camp for teens with behavioral disorders, I volunteered for this summer program all on my own. (Although my parents often accuse me of being a total drama queen, I don't think that counts as a true behavior disorder. ) My friends signed up, too. Normally I wouldn't go anywhere near a program with the word "military" in it, especially during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, but when I realized what military base the boot camp is held at, I jumped to sign up--as a volunteer trainee.
You see, my boyfriend Avi is Israeli. He's in the IDF-- Israeli Defense Force--and since I live in the good ol' US of A (Chicago, to be exact), I haven't seen him since he visited me over five months ago. He's a commando, he's nineteen years old, and is just about the hottest, most gorgeous gift God has ever put on this planet. And he's all mine. Well, to be technical, the Israeli military owns his body until he turns twenty-one, but I own his heart. And he owns mine.
So I got this letter from Avi a few months back. He told me that after parachute training he's going to be at Base Nesher. He said if I was visiting Israel this summer, unfortunately he didn't think he could get any time off.
Then, when my best friend Jessica, along with this girl Miranda and my best guy friend Nathan (who I kissed once. . . okay, three times. . . but we're just friends), told me they were signing up for a program in Israel that included ten days in basic training boot camp, I laughed at them. I mean, what kind of idiot would go to a military boot camp on purpose?
But guess what? It's at Base Nesher--the same base Avi is at! When I figured that out, I begged my father to sign me up. I haven't told Avi that I'm coming--it's a surprise. I can't wait to see his reaction when he sees me. He's going to be as excited as I am!
I'm so thankful this bus is air conditioned and we have big, cushioned seats for the three-hour ride. We're on the bus with forty other American teens (half are girls, half are guys). The trip is called Sababa, which translates to "cool, awesome, a great way of life" or something like that. The tour starts out with the boot camp, then the rest of the summer is spent exploring and touring the country.
The director of the Sababa program gave me special permission to sign up for the boot camp portion of the trip only, because after boot camp I'll be staying at my aunt and uncle's house on their moshav (kinda like a community farm) in the Golan Heights. So I'll be with family while Miranda, Nathan, and Jessica spend the rest of the summer on the Sababa tour.
"Amy, I think Miranda is gonna puke," Nathan tells me. He's sitting next to Miranda, who has had anxiety about the boot camp part of the vacation. She's been stressing about it since we took the plane from Chicago to Tel Aviv (with a ridiculously long layover in New York). Miranda's a tad bit, uh, I don't know how to say this in a politically correct way. . . let's just say she's in the upper sixtieth percentile on the weight chart hanging in the nurse's office at our high school. (Probably closer to the seventy-fifth, but who's counting. ) She's afraid they're going to ration her food at boot camp and make her run until her extra, overflowing muffin-top disappears.
I lean over my best friend Jessica, who's blocking my view of Miranda. "Miranda, it's not going to be like Camp Meltaway. I promise. "
Mirandas parents sent her to a fat farm between seventh and eighth grade and she's never gotten over it. The girl cannot survive on granola for snack food. Believe it or not, during her second week at Camp Meltaway, meek and timid Miranda got caught trying to hitchhike into town in search of fast food.
Miranda smiles a little at the sight of a candy bar I pulled from my backpack. Seriously, one day I'll teach her that moderation is "the key" to weight loss. She can have a candy bar every day. . . just not three of them in one sitting.
Now for me, personally, if I could only get "the key" to smaller boobs (without surgery, since I'm not a fan of getting my little pinky parts cut off and reattached, thank you very much), I'd be the first in line. Yes siree, we all have our little personal issues, things we'd like to change or need to change about ourselves.
"I brought extra Kit Kats," I say, holding up the candy bar. Okay, so the label says Kif-Kaf 'in Hebrew, but it's the same thing.
Jessica slaps my hand down. "Don't show her that. "
"Because she wants to lose weight, Amy. Don't sabotage her. "
I roll my eyes. Sometimes my best friend has to be enlightened. "Jess, you heard Nathan. Miranda is so scared she's about to puke. I'm just trying to comfort her. "
"So comfort her with words and friendship, not candy bars," Jess whispers. "That stuff is poison. "
Is she kidding me? Chocolate is my favorite comfort food. Well, it's actually #2 because everybody knows sushi is at the top of my list. Not all sushi, just spicy tuna rolls with little pieces of tempura crunch inside. Nothing, not even chocolate, beats that.
I rummage through my backpack. "Have you seen these? I say, creating suspense as I slowly pull out a Kif-Kaf bar wrapped in a white package instead of the usual red one. "It's a Kit Kat bar in white chocolate, Jess. They were almost sold out at the store, but I found this one lonely package mixed in with the regular ones. I know you love white chocolate as much as I do. " I wave it in front of her nose. "Smell the white chocolate. . . crave the white chocolate. "
"I can't smell anything. It's still in the wrapper. "
"I'm saving it for a special occasion. "
Before I can stick my rare white chocolate find back in the special zippered compartment in my backpack, Nathan reaches across the bus aisle and snatches the Kif-Kaf out of my hand. "Cool, white chocolate Kit Kat. I've always wanted to try one of those. Thanks!"
"Give that back!" I yell.
Nathan, who is a total and complete dufus 90 percent of the time, rips the package open and takes a huge bite from the top. He doesn't even snap off one of the four sticks like any normal, decent person would do. No, he bites a quarter off the top, so now all the bars have a chunk out of them. "Damn, that's good. "
My mouth is open wide in shock. "I can't believe you just did that. "
"First of all, I was just telling Jess I'm saving it for a special occasion. I only have one white chocolate, and you. . . you. . . you. . . " I can't even express how pissed I am at him.
Nathan shrugs, then holds out the rest of the uneaten bar. "Here, you want a bite?"
Yuck! "You bit off the whole top. You're supposed to snap off the sticks one at a time. Everyone knows that. Now the entire thing is tainted with your saliva germs. "
"Come on, Amy. You've been exposed to my saliva germs before. " He makes a smooching noise, then grins. "So what's the big deal?"
I pretend to gag. "Don't remind me. "
You probably think I hate Nathan. I don't. Next to Jessica, he's my best friend and the most entertaining thing I have in my life, especially when Avi and I are apart. Nathan is like my very own live Elmo doll that walks, talks, and farts. Maybe that isn't the greatest analogy, but you get the idea.
"I'll have a bit
e," Miranda sheepishly chimes in, leaning toward the half-eaten chocolate.
Nathan sticks his tongue out at me and moves the chocolate closer to Miranda. She takes a bite, then Nathan finishes it off by popping the rest in his mouth. Miranda can be my guest and swap germs with Nathan all she wants.
"You owe me another Kif-Kaf" I tell him. "A white chocolate one. "
"Whatever," he says, licking his fingers one by one, making those little sucking sounds on each one to annoy me.
"Keep doin' that, big guy. You forget that my strong, military commando boyfriend will kick your butt once I tell him you mutilated my white Kit Kat without my permission. "
Nathan stops licking his fingers. "Seriously, tell that guy to stay away from me. I think I still have bruise marks on my face in the shape of his fist. "
"Avi only hit you because you attacked him first," I remind him.
"You told me to, Amy," Nathan says defensively. "You know, during your stupid Operation Get-Avi-Back on the Northwestern campus. "
Nathan's right--but it was only to stall Avi so I could let him know I was devastated we broke up during his trip to Chicago. I was desperate to get back together. It wasn't a stupid plan. It was brilliant, especially because it worked. "Well, that's old news. Avi doesn't even remember you. "
Okay, so that's not exactly true. Sometimes Avi will ask about Nathan when we talk on the phone. He knows Nathan and I kissed. . . he doesn't know it was three times, though. To be completely honest, the first time was awful, the third time was fake (it was actually last month--to make his ex-girlfriend Bicky believe he was dating me so she'd stop dropping into his life), but the second time. . .
I don't want to think about that second time. So Nathan knows how to kiss when he puts a little effort into it. It's not a big deal.
It doesn't matter, anyway. Avi is the only guy I ever want to kiss. He knows nearly everything about me (of course, he's never heard me on the toilet because I run the water when I'm in the bathroom, and he has no clue I have a fear of spiders), and the guy still loves me. My dad warns me not to wait around for him, because he's in Israel and we have a long-distance relationship. He also says we're too young to say we'll be together forever.
As if my dad knows about love. My dad is single and has just started dating Maria, the woman who runs the coffee shop in the building next to our condo. I admit I set them up. . . one night I invited her over, and when my dad came home I had Nathan come up with an excuse to get me out of there so they could have some alone-time. The rest is history; at least, it will be when my dad decides to ask Maria to marry him. Then I won't have to worry that he'll be without a partner the rest of his life.
The bus comes to a stop and I glance out the window. The security checkpoint, the gates, and the soldiers in green military uniforms clue me in that we've finally arrived at the base. Almost everywhere you go in Israel, you see someone in a military uniform and most have a rifle strapped to their backs.
I've only been to Israel once before (although this will be my first time on a military base) and I'm already desensitized to seeing military personnel everywhere I go, from the mall (they check your purse before you go inside to make sure you're not carrying an illegal bomb or weapon) to tourist and religious sites. They even have a security guy stationed outside the grocery store. It's totally different back home in Chicago. While the abundance of military presence in Israel isn't what I'm used to, it makes me feel tremendously safe.
I'll have to remember to pray for the day Israelis don't have to worry about war or terrorism. I also have to pray they can make some sort of peace with their neighbors, because I'm a huge "let's make love, not war" kind of person.