Pain Relief Chapter 43


Aharon muses on the relationships within his own family and how they conflict with his parents’ household. Hindy asks Aharon to recollect what happened to her. The discussion of whether or not Hindy overdosed comes up. They are both relieved when a nurse tells him to leave the hospital room so she can run some tests.

*   *   *

As Aharon stepped out into the hallway he saw his sister Miriam flying down the hallway. He cringed a little at her appearance, bags in both hands, her sheitel in dire need of a wash and set, her dingy raincoat, her worn shoes.

“Is Ima awake?” Miriam usually sounded like she was on the verge of tears, so it was hard to tell whether she was really upset.

“Yes, she is,” said Aharon. “But the nurse is with her now. They kicked me out.”

“Oh, so what should I do?”

Aharon looked down at his younger sister, and he felt a pang of pity. “If I were you, I’d just go right on in. Ima won’t mind. She’ll be happy to see you.”

“Okay. Thanks. Are you sticking around?”

“Nah, I’m on my way. I’ll be back tomorrow sometime.”

Miriam nodded, knocked on the door to her mother’s room, and then gently pushed it open. She walked in as the nurse was changing the nasogastric tube and, being squeamish, began to back out quietly, hoping her mother hadn’t seen her.

“Miriam, is that you?” Her mother’s eyes locked on her.

“Ima! Yes, it’s me.” She tried not to look at the nurse or her mother, but it was hard. “I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am, about everything. I know it was my fault about the car, and you got so mad, and I’m so sorry! I feel so terrible! Miriam was brimming with tears now, her voice quavering. “You were mad and you took the pills to calm down and you didn’t know what you were doing and you took too many and…”

The nurse looked at Miriam and then back at Hindy. “Everything okay here?” she said.

“Everything’s fine,” said Hindy, coolly. “Thank you, nurse.”

Miriam started removing small plastic containers from the shopping bags she was carrying. “Here’s some soup, it’s still warm. Here’s some chicken and sweet potatoes, it will give you koach. And,” she said, dangling a container a little larger than the others, “Here’s your favorite — chocolate mousse!”

She took out a plastic bowl and spoon and started ladling in soup. “Eat this, Ima! It’s delicious.”

Hindy didn’t have the heart to tell Miriam she couldn’t eat anything yet. Her stomach was so sore that even water and weak tea felt like drops of acid when she swallowed. She smiled at her daughter and pointed to the chair, encouraging her to sit down.

“Miriam,” she said. “You mustn’t blame yourself for what happened. You had nothing to do with it.”

“But what else could it be? Why else would you have taken so many pills?”

Hindy wasn’t sure how to answer that question. She wished she knew herself. The past months felt now like they had happened to somebody else. Who was that woman, popping 20 Tylenols a day? Who would do something like that, and why? Hindy really did need some answers.

“How are the children? How is Zalman?” She hesitated as she said Zalman’s name; something felt wrong.

“Oh, Zalman is waiting for me down the hall. He sends his regards.” Miriam’s voice grew stiff and uncertain. Around them the heart monitor and saturation meter flashed and beeped, and the sound of footsteps came from outside in the hallway. The bed overlooked a large window, but all she could see from there was more buildings.

“Is everything okay with Zalman?” asked Hindy.

“He’s still a little upset. He’ll get over it though.” Each word she said was cut and clipped.

“What’s going on Miriam? Did something happen?” Hindy was starting to recall some real unpleasantness winding its way around Zalman.

“He was very disturbed about the car accident…”

“The car accident! What car accident?”

Miriam looked panic-stricken. “You don’t remember? Oh, so it was nothing. Just a little thing. No big deal.”

“Wait,” Hindy sat up abruptly, then sprung back as though she’d hit an invisible wall. “Ow, that hurt.”

“Ima, please, don’t upset yourself. I came to cheer you up, not down. Eat some soup. I’ll put the chocolate mousse in the fridge down the hall.”

Hindy allowed a small smile. “Don’t! Someone else will eat it. Leave it on the bedstand.”

“I’m sorry,” she continued to Miriam. “Everything is still a blur. I’m sure if you had an accident I’d remember it. When did it happen?”

“Really, we don’t need to go over it now,” said Miriam.

“I want to. Please.”

Miriam sighed. “I guess it must have been a few days before you…” She couldn’t bring herself to say the word “overdosed.” “Took ill. It was Erev Shabbos. You were waiting for me to bring you the car and I ran a stop sign.”

“You ran a stop sign? I don’t believe that. You’d never run a stop sign.”

The door, which Miriam had left open, banged a little as Zalman walked in. “You forgot to tell your mother that the baby was in the car.”

Miriam turned to look up at her husband, who had positioned himself behind her chair. “Why would I want to tell her that?” She tried to hint to her husband not to say any more about it but he was not picking up on any cues, verbal or nonverbal.

“Miriam,” said Hindy. “That was terribly irresponsible of you. How could you do such a thing?”

Miriam burst into tears then, and Zalman motioned for them to leave. “Refuah sheleimah, Shvigger,” he said, and then firmly shut the door behind them.

To be continued . . .