I traveled home the next day, feeling crappy and exhausted. My search for the Bukh — both Victor’s and Daniel’s — had ended in failure. To my knowledge, there were four Bukhs in all (Meir Gottlieb, if you remember, had divided his original copy into four parts which he’d distributed to his siblings) but I didn’t have the energy or wherewithal to hunt down the others. I was sick and tired of the whole thing. Sure, I’d had lots of adventures, some of them pretty dark, but I was ready to move on. As a measure of how sidetracked I’d gotten, here’s where I was with my portrait of Mme X, begun many months ago:
Not much progress, eh? So I unpacked my bags and checked my mail, determined to spend the next few weeks locked up in my studio, working on the portrait. I would allow NO DISTRACTIONS.
On my office desk, I found a large package from Romania with my cousin Laura’s name on the return address. I knew what it was: rejuvenative creams I’d asked her to send me because they were cheaper and far more effective than anything I could find in the US. I set the package aside, too tired to deal with it. I’d get back to real life tomorrow. I did remember, however, that while I was at the wedding in Israel, Laura had texted me a photo I’d taken of her joking around in the basement of one of Eddie’s farmhouses the previous summer.
At the time I wondered why she’d sent it to me at that particular juncture, but Laura was always sending me crazy stuff — odd bits of clothing from the flea market, books, photos, kitschy souvenirs.
I went to bed, happy to be back, peaceful if a little disappointed that my thrilling days of searching for the Bukh were over. When I woke the next morning, everything was fine. It was a warm, sunny day in Austin, Texas. Thanksgiving was ahead of us and I began mentally preparing for the big family meal, who’d cook what and how many of us there’d be. Then I went out front to retrieve the paper and saw, to my horror, that all four tires of my new Honda CRV had been slashed.