Hindy discovers that Rochel, her roommate, has overdosed. Rochel’s parents, about whom Hindy has heard so much, come to the rehab center, in deep pain over their daughter’s condition.
* * *
Hindy lay awake for hours before falling into an exhausted sleep just after the sun came up. Even though she herself had overdosed, she’d slept through it, with no idea how it looked from the outside. Now, having seen Rochel, all her bravado fell away, replaced with a fear so profound that she could feel it pulling her down as though it were a stone.
Her own family — Asher, Aharon, Miriam, Tzippy and Sruli — had arrived. Hindy could hear their familiar, noisy clatter all the way down the hallway.
No matter how hard she tried, she could not pull herself together. She’d planned to do it the night before, but had completely forgotten about it in the wake of the turmoil over Rochel, her roommate. Her sheitel no longer had any recognizable styling. The clothes she’d brought with her were unironed; she’d taken to wearing a house dress and tichel most of the time, except when she had her sessions with Dr. Bachman. She searched through the possibilities now and pulled out the least-wrinkled options, a black skirt and a striped button-down blouse. There was no mirror to check; she didn’t even know if her tichel was on straight.
* * *
If Asher hadn’t been with them, the kids would have walked right by her as she stepped out of her room to greet them.
“Whoa, Ima, what happened to you?“
“Nice to see you too, Tzippy. Glad you could make it.”
Sruli smiled at her. It was a new smile, she noticed, mature, settled calm. “You look nice, Ima,” he said. “It’s the real you.”
Aharon and Miriam seemed oblivious to their mother’s simpler garb, nervous about being in such a foreign-seeming place. They’d fought the hardest against coming, and Miriam’s husband Zalman, lagging behind the group, had at first forbidden Miriam to participate.
“Absolutely not,” he’d decreed. “I don’t understand this. I marry into a perfectly nice family, and now this. How the mighty have fallen.”
It had taken both Lena and Asher to finally convince him to let her come, “But only if I come with her.”
“You can’t join the session, Zalman,” Asher had said, trying to maintain a reasonable tone. “It’s only for the immediate family.”
“I’ll wait right outside then.”
Asher and Lena had agreed it was better than nothing, but the sight of Miriam clutching her pocketbook as though someone were going to grab it out of her hands, and Zalman looming in the background was disturbing.
They were met by Dr. Bachman, who escorted them all into his office. He’d borrowed some chairs from the cafeteria and arranged them on either side of his own in a semi-circle. Hindy had assumed he was going to sit behind the desk, and was strangely pleased that he’d gone to the trouble to set up the room for her family.
After introductions were made, Dr. Bachman waited to see if anyone had anything to say, and all heads turned when it was Aharon who spoke up, directing his question to the doctor. “Have you ever been attacked by one of the inmates here?”
“Not that I know of,” he replied, keeping his voice under control. “And even if I was, it obviously wasn’t fatal.”
Aharon chortled, pleased with his opening volley.
Dr. Bachman decided to take the lead. “The reason we’re all here is to speak openly about what happened to your mother and to see if we can adjust your relationships with her so everyone feels more comfortable.”
“I’m already comfortable,” said Miriam. “Thank you. Ima, I’m sorry, I need to go. Zalman’s waiting.”
“He said you could stay, Miriam,” said Asher. “Don’t blame your reluctance to be here on him.”
Miriam squirmed in her seat, refusing to look at Hindy. “You’re right Abba. This is Ima’s problem, and I don’t understand why I have to be here. I’m married with my own family, and it’s enough for me just to manage that.”
Dr. Bachman was watching the interaction like he was at a tennis game, shifting his gaze every time one of them spoke up. “I’d like to challenge you on that,” he said now.
“I beg your pardon?” said Miriam, as though he were a stranger interrupting a private conversation.
“You were so afraid of your mother that you endangered your life rather than disappoint her,” said Dr. Bachman. “I think that warrants further discussion.”
Miriam didn’t reply, determined to ignore him until the session was over.
“Mrs. Fishman?” he continued. “Do you have anything to say?”
Hindy cleared her throat. “I do, as a matter of fact.” She looked around at her family, resting her eyes on each of their faces before moving on to the next. “I know this is hard for you all,” she began. “And you might not believe this, but it’s been even harder for me. Every day I tell myself I’m signing out, that I don’t need this, that we were all overreacting.”
It was Sruli who gave her the courage to go on, encouragement radiating from him. “But last night, I got a full picture of what this is all about. It’s true, I’m not an addict like we sometimes picture them. But last night, a beautiful young girl, no older than Tzippy, was taken out by ambulance, unconscious, because she overdosed. Your own mother was in a coma! We have to take this seriously, or else we’ll have to pay the consequences.”