Pain Relief Chapter 22

Hindy wakes up much later than she planned, having left all Shabbos preparations for Friday morning. She decides to pick up ready-made food, and then discovers that her daughter has borrowed the car and not returned it.

*   *   *

“Abba?” The hitch in Miriam’s voice went unnoticed by her father.

“Miriam! How are you? How’s the family?”

“Abba, I—”

“We’re looking forward to seeing you this Shabbos. You’re still coming, right?”

“Abba,” her voice fighting back a  sob. “Something is wrong with Ima!”

Asher sighed and looked around his office. He studied the full glass window and the sharp clean lines. He’d spent a lot of time with the decorator to get it just the way he wanted. It was a refuge from the clutter and confusion that often permeated his busy house. He rested his fingers on his desk, tinted blue and transparent, a hint of the ocean amidst the crowded city. “I’ve been hearing that a lot lately. What is it this time?”

“She’s so angry at me…”

Asher sat up in his chair. “Why?”

“I… I didn’t have a chance to bring the car back last night. I got busy with the kids and it just got too late. So this morning Ima called me up, furious, and told me that if I didn’t get the car back immediately she’d never lend me anything again!”

Asher chuckled. “Miriam,” he said soothingly. “You were always so sensitive. Ima didn’t really mean it; she was just anxious. She’s always like that Erev Shabbos.”

“Excuse me, Abba, but this was something different. I’m on my way there in a second, but I need to let you know that there is something not right.”

“We’ll talk when I see you over Shabbos, Miriam,” Abba said, and they brought the conversation to a close.

Miriam threw on a jacket over her housecoat, lifted the baby out of his high chair, and headed straight for the car, strapping him into his car seat. It wasn’t until she stepped on the gas pedal that she realized she was still wearing her house slippers, but she could not go back and change them; there was no time to waste.

There was something about her mother’s tone, something she didn’t recognize. It so preoccupied her  that she wasn’t paying her usual careful attention. The rain, too, was distracting and she was thinking of the chicken she’d left in the oven, wondering if it would burn. Her mother’s censure was still in her ears; the baby had now started to whimper.

Her phone was ringing again and again on the seat next to her and she kept looking over at it, knowing her mother was calling and  afraid to stop driving and answer it.

She saw the stop sign out of the corner of her eye, but stopping the car, when she couldn’t see any cars coming in any direction, while normally non-negotiable, suddenly seemed not so necessary … just this once.

*   *   *

“Miriam, if you don’t pick up this phone right this minute . . . .” Hindy heard the words coming out of her mouth but had no idea why she was saying them. Her brain and her mouth were riding on two separate train tracks. Yes, Miriam had been irresponsible, not returning the car when she said she would, but it was hardly something worth snapping at her like that. Once upon a time, she’d have been annoyed for a few minutes and that would have been the end of it.

Suddenly she felt sorry she’d come down so hard on her daughter. She rang her again, and again there was no answer, but this time the message was very different. “Miriam, sweetheart, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to get so angry at you, but I do need the car. Please, honey, hurry on over, okay? I love you.”

She clicked off the phone, determined to calm her pounding heart and wait patiently. Shabbos was coming either way, and if they had to eat cold cuts and egg salad, then that is what they would do. The important thing was being together.

As she was waiting she scrolled through some texts and some emails, surprised at the backlog. She thought she’d been keeping up, but looking at all these unanswered messages, she realized she hadn’t. She was still standing in the rain and as she moved to stand under the awning she looked at her phone again. Twenty minutes had already gone by. Miriam should have been here by now, even with the rain. She dialed again, but this time she got a message that the phone was turned off.

Is she being chutzpahdig? she asked herself. Out of all the kids, it was always Miriam who, despite both of their earnest efforts, she never could click with.

Hindy sighed. If Miriam didn’t show up soon she was either going to have to pull Aharon out of his Erev Shabbos kollel to take her shopping, or else call her father. Neither option appealed to her. Another five minutes ticked by and she knew she had to make a decision. She tried Miriam one more time on her cell — no answer.

So she called the house, and Miriam’s husband Zalman picked up.

“Finally,” Hindy grumbled. “Let me speak to Miriam. Tell her I’m not upset.”

“Miriam? She’s not here. She left me a message that she’s on her way to you.”

“Well where is she then?” Hindy was anxious now.

“I don’t know, Ima. I really don’t know.”


To be continued . . .