Pain Relief Chapter 27

Novel

On Shabbos morning, Hindy dresses to go downstairs but becomes anxious that everyone will judge her. She ends up waiting out the seudah upstairs in her room. She also deals — with great difficulty — with the fact that she is out of pills.

*   *   *

Hindy waited until everyone had gone to rest before she came downstairs. She hadn’t really eaten much the last two days, and she was famished. There wasn’t much food left — there hadn’t been much to begin with — so she just took out a plate and filled it with whatever she could find. “Hunger is the best sauce,” Lena would say, but Hindy was so hungry she could barely taste what she was eating. She made Kiddush and washed, feeling silly at the empty table, ashamed of the foolish thoughts she’d had earlier, and  promised herself that starting the very next day she’d get a hold of herself and get back on track. Enough of this nahrishkeit. She barely recognized herself, and that was going to stop.

One by one, family members streamed back in from their naps and their rests and their walks. The house was slowly filling up, but Hindy remained alone at the table. Finally one of the grandchildren climbed up on her lap and started to babble and coo, and the ice finally melted. A pleasant hum of conversation filled the room, and by shalosh seudos time, it seemed things had gone back to normal.

Hindy had joined her mother and Tzippy in the kitchen, rustling up whatever they could, keeping silent about her earlier food raid when Tzippy wondered where all the carrot salad went.

After Havdalah, the guests packed up and left, unsure of what to make of the prickly Shabbos they’d just experienced. Lena and Max were reluctant to leave, but Asher had spoken to them earlier, saying that, although he knew how much they cared about their daughter and how much he appreciated their loving concern, it would be better if he and Hindy could speak alone. They had agreed in principle, but it was hard for them to leave their daughter in such a precarious state.

Asher egged them on gently, bringing their bags down, starting up their car, gently depositing their belongings into the trunk. It was a hesitant procession, but eventually he got them on their way. Tzippy had gone out to meet friends, and if Hindy had been thinking ahead, she would have realized that Asher would corner her once everyone left.

He closed the door as he came inside, then leaned against it, looking at Hindy. “Gut voch, Hindy,” he said. Hindy was a little wary: Was this the calm before the storm, or was the weather really mild?

“Sit down,” he said, not unpleasantly. “I’ll bring you some hot coffee.”

When she turned to go back up to her room, he called her back. “Hindy, please. We need to talk.”

“Asher, I’m tired. Can’t we talk tomorrow?”

He walked back from the kitchen. “No, we can’t. We need to speak now.” He abandoned his offer of coffee, afraid she’d escape while he was preparing it, and sat down squarely on the three-seater couch.

“Hindy,” he said, his voice calm. “Talk to me. Tell me what’s happening.”

She started to laugh. “Asher! Why so serious? It’s me, Hindy, remember?”

His expression was grave. “I’m not so sure,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“Something’s changed.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m fine. You know that I’m fine. I was just out of sorts yesterday.”

“That’s putting it mildly. I spoke to Zalman before Shabbos.”

Asher realized he was just going to have to speak directly. “Hindy, something is wrong with you. Apparently I’m the only one who didn’t notice it, but believe me, now I do.”

Hindy knew she should just let him say what he had to say and wait for the whole thing to pass, but she couldn’t stop herself from responding in time. “What? What’s wrong with me? How am I different?”

Asher didn’t reply, and she knew that he wouldn’t say anything until she, too, quieted down. He was not going to fight with her.

“Tomorrow morning, you and I are going together to see Dr. Newman.”

“I don’t go to him anymore, remember? I go to Dr. Gladstone now.”

“I repeat, you and I are going tomorrow morning to Dr. Newman, and we are going to get to the bottom of whatever this is. I care about you, Hindy. You seem to be suffering terribly. Let me help you.”

A storm of protest rose up in her, but she managed to quell it. Stacks of petty resentments spouses, even happily married ones, store up, like squirrels preparing for winter, lit up at all at once as he urged her to trust him. Somehow, she forced herself to listen.

“We’ll leave no stone unturned,” he was saying, “until you get back to yourself. I’m sure there’s a simple solution, and we’ll find it. I assure you.”

Hindy nodded her head as he spoke. “Asher, I appreciate your concern, but I went to Dr. Newman with my parents already, remember? He said I was—“

A blurry picture flew up in her mind, sitting, phone in hand, waiting for Dr. Newman’s receptionist to pick up, then clicking the off  button and disconnecting the call. The last thing she needed was for Asher to find out what Dr. Newman had said about her. She eyed him as he spoke, wondering how she’d get herself out of it, but she knew she would. She’d think of something; she always did.

To be continued . . . .