"I

bought you a present,” Malky said.

Kivi dropped his phone on the small brown table near the front door and stopped walking.

“Oh?”

A present from Malky, he thought, could run anywhere from the Kif-Kef chocolate bars he loved to the Montegrappa gold-trimmed fountain pen she’d bought him for the first day of work.

She handed him a white box. He caught the look in her eyes — somewhere between pride and fear of rejection — and he started smiling even before he opened the box.

He pulled out a large stuffed animal, maybe a beaver, with a sign around its neck that said, Who says therapists can’t be cool? and smiled wider even as he felt weariness wrapping itself around his shoulders like a scarf, the exhaustion at not being understood.

“It’s amazing Malk, best present ever, I love it,” he tossed the little animal up playfully, trying to avoid eye contact.

“You know, ‘cause of what you told me in Ottimo? I saw this today, I thought it was so cute.”

“It’s great Malk, I love it.”

It was quiet for a moment, and then she asked if he was ready for supper.

“Yep, I’m just going to wash up, coming,” he said, grateful for a moment to clear his mind.

He headed up the stairs, knowing that she was reading the slope of his shoulders, the spring in his step. She meant well, he knew she did. He’d mentioned that he liked the idea of becoming a therapist, so she bought him a gift for therapists. It was the easiest way of acknowledging what he’d said. For her.

He’d been in a lousy mood in Ottimo that day, but he’d meant what he said. He was done. He didn’t like his office anymore, didn’t feel like he was good at real estate. He wanted to get off the roller coaster while he still could and become a therapist. That’s what he’d told Malky. He’d never told it to anyone else, but this was his wife.

She was the one who said, “Kivi, you understand people so well, you get Daniel Stockman in a way that no one else ever has.”

Another time he’d said, “Malk, I figured out why everyone in this neighborhood is so determined to be fit, why they’re always running or biking or eating weird salads. It’s control. They’re all like me, a bunch of enslaved rich kids who really have very little control in their own lives. Everything is already decided for them. So that leaves weight, that’s the last place you can assert yourself.”

And she’d thought about it and said, “Wow, Kivi, that’s very good. Very deep.”

As soon as he’d dropped his secret, he’d regretted it. He remembered playing a Chol Hamoed game with Malky’s family, and the question had been “If you could leave your job and do something else, what would you want to do?”

Benjy Halb’s eyes had crinkled with good humor, as if the question were what name he wanted to give his personal spaceship. “I guess I’d want to pitch for the Yankees, maybe,” he finally said.

Malky’s father had never come home from work wishing he could press reset and start a new career. So when Kivi shared his secret dream, he hadn’t expected her to say, “Wow, Kivi, you’d be great. Let’s go right home and see where you can sign up for classes. Maybe you can do it online.”

But still, this — a black and gray beaver with a shocked expression on its face — was a weird way to show your husband you took him seriously.

As Kivi prepared to go down for supper, he had one more thought. If you really want to be a therapist, he asked himself, then why can’t you try to understand Malky too? (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 734)