Tzippy and Sruli meet again at the bookstore. Tzippy shares some research she has done on his behalf and gives him a book; he gives her a chocolate bar. Tzippy also tells Sruli what has been going on with their mother. Sruli, however, has figured that out, too.
* * *
If it weren’t so annoying to be monitored all the time, Hindy could say she actually felt pretty good. After Dr. Newman’s stern warnings, Asher had really stepped up. He accompanied Hindy to every test and appointment, sometimes cutting large swathes of time out of his schedule if they had to see specialists, and not one word of complaint crossed his lips. After the appointments, he seldom returned to work without buying her a meal or other treat, or one memorable morning, a trip to the Central Park Zoo. It was like a renaissance, turning straw into gold in their own way.
Work, too was picking up again. Hindy had noticed that Yochi was performing far more tasks than she’d been asked to, billing more hours than expected, and even getting chummy with the clients. Hindy was actually grateful; Yochi’s attentiveness had saved her business. In and of itself, she wouldn’t have missed working that much. She could take it or leave it, but she didn’t want to lose it. Giving it up should be a choice and not a fait accompli.
It was nice, too, handing out little pieces of her burden for others to carry, like the candyman in shul, passing candies to any child walking by. Asher had become helpful in every way; her mother and father called every morning for a list of errands. Sometimes she asked them to just come and have breakfast with her, and sometimes she said, “Not today, but thank you.” Everyone was being attentive and helpful, and it felt like a dream.
The only sticking point was Zalman and Miriam. Since that awful day, they hadn’t come once for Shabbos. Nothing was said, and there was no disrespect, but Zalman had clearly stopped trusting her. Their continued resistance held her tied to those last difficult days, when a kind of insanity had overtaken her that she still did not understand. As long as they held onto their feelings, a part of her would be stuck in that place, unable to move forward.
It felt good to go to see clients, and she was looking forward to meeting with Tzivia Meinhart. She usually scheduled meetings in her house where she kept all her books of samples, but since Tzivia was making an upsheren in the house, Hindy had to go see the space. She liked Tzivia and it was a nice day.
The meeting had ended up taking longer than she’d anticipated, but they’d gotten a lot accomplished, so it was worth it. Hindy was overtired and ready to leave, but before she did, she excused herself to the ladies’ room.
She wasn’t snooping — the medicine cabinet was wide open, and there for all the world to see was a bottle of Tylenol with codeine. Some inner switch flicked on and, like a robot, Hindy opened the jar. She gasped. It was full, barely used, and the label said it had been prescribed more than a year earlier, so no one was in dire need of it. It would be so rude to ask her, so inappropriate, but mumbling a lame excuse about HMOs and needing to send the pills off with a kid going to Israel, she gained Tzivia’s reluctant consent. Promising to replace the bottle “in a jiffy,” Hindy picked up her bag from the table where they’d been sitting, said good-bye and left, leaving Tzivia staring after her, perplexed.
Hindy was shaking just thinking about the pills. She suddenly felt achy all over, and she was sure just a small dose would make her feel better. She kept checking her pockets to be sure they were there, first one side, then the other, then back again. It was a 20-minute drive home, but Hindy didn’t think it would be wise to wait, so she pulled over and swallowed three tablets dry. She felt herself almost gagging but kept going until the pills were down, then she pulled out into traffic again.
By the time she got home she felt stuffy and clogged, not light and ethereal as before. Thinking she hadn’t taken enough, she poured out a few more with some orange juice, and later a few more. Every hour or two, a few more.
At four o’clock, her client Suri Kleinman came by to hammer out the final centerpiece details for her upcoming chasunah. Hindy sat her down at the dining room table, then hurried into the kitchen, swallowing three more Tylenols. The relief she remembered still hadn’t returned, and she wondered vaguely why that was.
“Okay,” she said, wobbling a little as she sat down. “Okay! What are we up to?”
Suri was staring at her strangely. “Hindy? Are you okay?”
“Of course! Why do you ask?” It was hard to talk then. The room felt like it was spinning, the table seemed to be lolling on its side.
“You don’t look so good. Can I get you a drink?” She looked very nervous as she hurried into the kitchen to bring Hindy some water.
“Do you have any orange juice?” she called.
When she didn’t get an answer she hurried back in. Hindy was trying to talk, her jaw working fruitlessly, words coming out in a slur. Suri was frozen in panic, not sure what to do, when Hindy’s whole body seized and, with a harsh wheeze, dropped from the chair to the floor.
To be continued …