Pain Relief Chapter 72


Max forgives Hindy; Lena suggests that Miriam do the same.

* * *

Hindy had heard Miriam’s footsteps come in and out of the kitchen while she stood on the porch, half of her hoping she would be ignored and half of her desperate for Miriam to come to her. They would make up, apologizing tearfully to each other, and perhaps hugging. No. Hindy knew that was pushing the limit of even an imaginary scenario.

Her father’s words echoed in her ears, repeating itself in increasingly reproachful tones. “I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.” As she played it over in her head, she wondered now what her father meant when he said, “You can do what I will do, right now,” when she asked how she could fix it.

She came back inside, tidied up the kitchen, loaded the dishes in the dishwasher, going through the motions while her thoughts raced furiously through her head. As she reached down to get the soap, her eyes lasered in on the small bottle pushed to the side of the cabinet. Her breath caught. Her mother must have seen one of the bottles at Hindy’s house and confiscated it. Hindy remembered when that bottle had disappeared, how panicked she was as she’d frantically turned the house upside-down looking for it.

Her eyes began to water; her body pumping adrenaline in anticipation of the rush the codeine would give. All she had to do was reach out her hand and all the pain and misery would fade away. She put one hand on her phone, debating whether to make an outreach call and be talked away from this huge nisayon. She was a woman on a ledge — should she jump, or turn back around and walk to safety?

It hadn’t been that long; rehab was little more than a quick fix, a band-aid on a weeping gash. Would she have this reaction every time she saw a bottle of Tylenol? According to the program, in order to be truly clean and sober, she had to steer clear of all drugs, not just her “drug of choice,” as they called it. There were some in the group who even refrained from receiving novocaine during dental work.

“You can do what I will do,” her father had said, and its meaning suddenly dawned on Hindy. It was time to forgive herself. She’d made a thousand mistakes in every part of her life; all the pills had done was bring them to the surface. She’d been oblivious, stomping over feelings like puddles on the sidewalk, drenching anyone who got in her way. It was all true; her family was angry, and some of them might continue to resent her. But her father had indeed given her a way out. Asking others for forgiveness was a noble gesture, but forgiving herself would be the key to moving forward.


* * *

“The queen returns,” said Ahsha as Hindy walked through the lobby. She’d left Asher outside even though he’d offered to accompany her. This was her journey now, and for the first time in her life she’d have to walk alone. She had always prided herself on her fierce independence and single-mindedness, and if someone had pointed out to her that they were little more than buoys floating at the top of the lake with nothing to support them she’d have become indignant.

This time it was different, the opposite really — she was terrified instead of courageous, and in pursuit of the deepest qualities. She’d be diving down into the ocean where it was dark, dangerous, and impossible to breathe.

“How was your day pass?” said Ahsha.

“I don’t know,” said Hindy. “I don’t think there’s a word for it.”

Ahsha laughed in a friendly way. “A lot of people come back and say that,” she said, then her tone shifted. She walked over to where Hindy was standing and brought her to the side of the reception desk. “Empty your pockets,” she said, pointing to a little tray. “Take off your coat. Dump out your pocketbook and hand it over.”

Hindy felt the rage boil up inside — Don’t tell me what to do — then slowly die down. Ahsha was watching her carefully, waiting to see what would happen.

With a sigh, Hindy did as she was told. It was a first step towards the bitul and humility she was seeking, and this was how it started. A dull ache weighed down her limbs; the road seemed so long, the goal so far away.

“What’s this?” said Ahsha, holding up a small, white pill. Her eyes narrowed as she questioned Hindy.

Hindy looked more closely, and she recognized it instantly: It was one of her father’s low-dose aspirin that he took daily for his heart. It must have fallen into her pocket somehow, but she had no strength to defend herself. Ahsha would believe her or she wouldn’t — it was up to Hashem to decide.

“It’s my father’s,” Hindy said, her voice low and toneless. Ahsha already knew it was aspirin; it wasn’t only pockets and handbags she was searching. She could tell that Hindy was telling the truth, that whatever had happened during the pass had bashed a hole in her defenses. She was finally ready to settle down to real recovery. She’d been sure this one would check out after a day or two, not anticipating the tremendous resilience that would rear its head in the midst of all the kicking and screaming.

Hindy retrieved her things and trudged down the hall to her room. Rochel’s things had been packed and cleared away; her bed was an empty shell. Hindy lay down, and wondered what would happen now.

“I forgive you.” She tried the words out soundlessly on her tongue.

I forgive you. I forgive you.”


To be continued . . .