A Spy in Exile: Chapter 39



Nufar and Sayid ran into each other as they exited the terminal at Tegel Airport, on their way to the long line of taxis that was waiting idly, spewing fumes, for the few passengers who were arriving in ice-cold Berlin on a Sunday afternoon. Nufar arrived on a connection from Frankfurt, Sayid flew in via Amsterdam. Nufar was pleased to see him, and she allowed her emotions to brighten her face with a broad smile. “It’s so good to see you,” she said as she hugged him. “I’ve missed you. All of this.” She gestured to form a wide circle with her hand, her movement designed to include the aircraft and the airline counters and the cold air and the low clouds that lay over the city.

“I’m happy to see you, too,” Sayid said. “And to get back here. I’ve been restless over the past few days. I’m a little surprised by myself, but I’m missing the action. Me, an economist in the bank’s research department, who’s missing a few hours of surveillance in the swamps around Bremen.”

Nufar laughed. “What you’re saying is so true. Those brief and action-packed weeks have messed with our heads. I’m like some kind of a junkie now, craving more.”

“How were things back in Israel? All good?”

“I spent time with my mother and sister. It’s always nice, even if we start arguing about every issue in the world after a few days together. And yes, I wanted to get back here already. Everything seemed a little strange to me. As if I was seeing something in regular things that others couldn’t see, like I had a third eye.”

Sayid wanted to ask her about her father, but he didn’t want to encroach on her privacy, which until now seemed to envelop her meticulously from all sides. And he didn’t ask. “Yes,” he said, “you’ve got a point there. As if the world itself is different, strange. You know, I was just hanging out one day at a café on Weizmann Street in Givatayim, enjoying the Israeli winter sun, thinking of the cold here with a shudder, and suddenly the entire street seemed different to me. Nothing was necessarily as it appeared to be. Is that electrician’s van really an electrician’s van? And that older woman over there wearing a headscarf and sunglasses and carrying a small dog, what is she really up to? To be honest, we need to keep things on an even keel. After all, most things are truly as they appear to be, right?”

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” Nufar responded.

Sayid looked at her, and she couldn’t tell if he had understood the Freud reference.

“Should we share a cab?” she asked, and immediately suggested he join her for dinner, if he didn’t have other plans.

“Gladly,” Sayid replied gallantly, “wherever you choose.”

“I feel like Vietnamese. I’ve been dreaming about a bowl of noodles with chicken.”

“Is that all?” he asked with a smile. “That sounds like a dream that’s easily realized.”

Nufar smiled, too.

As they walked side by side, dragging their trolley suitcases, there was something natural and simple between them, so much so that Sayid was required to remind himself just how much his life had changed. It’s me, Sayid, he said to himself. The shy boy from Algiers. A cadet in a unit so secret that it still has no name. Going out to dinner in Berlin with a young woman, so smart and beautiful. It’s me, Sayid.


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