Peeing on the Holy Mountain

This kid wasn’t taking “But I don’t have any money” for an answer. He just stood there, legs spread, palm outstretched, ready for a fight.

All around us, pilgrims crawled down Mount Sinai like ants, stopping to snap pictures and buy souvenirs. Yards from where God was supposed to have cracked the spectral shell between the earthly and the divine, locals sold stuffed camels and belly dancing scarves. Rachel and I had climbed all night, sat shivering at the peak, and watched the sun appear in a blaze of glory. Oh, and we had gone through two liters of water. Each.

And now an eight-year-old was the only thing between us and the squatty-potty at the top of the rock.

“What is this, the toilet bouncer?” Rachel asked.

“One dollar,” he answered. His beady little eyes fastened on me.

“Look, I don’t have a dollar,” I said. “Not even one."

“One Euro,” he said, raising his eyebrows and shaking his head. Did he think we were playing a game of semantics?

“Please,” I said. “I really don’t have any money. If I did, I’d pay you, I swear. But I don’t, and this is an emergency! Please!” I gave him my most pathetic poor-tourist look. Rachel, meanwhile, crossed her legs and bobbed up and down.

The Toilet Bouncer was unconvinced.

“One dollar. One Euro,” he said.

“Geez, can’t we get a little sympathy?” Rachel said.

“Maybe he just doesn’t understand my English,” I said. I turned to him again.

“No money,” I said. “Look.” I turned out my pockets, unzipped my backpack and showed him the contents. A journal, a camera, food wrappers, and an empty water bottle.

The Toilet Bouncer didn’t even glance inside. He was too busy positioning his legs in a boxer’s stance, squaring for a fight.

“Seriously,” Rachel said, “I do not have time for this.” She set her jaw and looked the Toilet Bouncer in the eye. He dug his back foot into the dirt and tensed his 63-pound body. She charged. He stood his ground. It was like watching a game of Chicken.

At the last second, Rachel stopped, leaving about a millimeter of room between his nose and her belly button. She glared down at him; he glared up at her.

“Fine,” she said. “You know what? We don’t have to use your facilities.”

She swiveled on her heel and hopped off the trail where thousands were still swarming. Ten feet from it was a small ledge. She didn’t hesitate; she just jumped.

I didn’t have time to stare in bewilderment. I just ran after her and jumped, too.

Under the ledge, with thousands of footsteps pounding over our heads, we dropped our pants and sighed in relief.

B Malone

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