S

he’d been very sorry to hear about his father-in-law’s heart attack, but what did Hershel Levinsky expect, a man of his age running around like a teenager? He wasn’t in the best of shape either, if she wasn’t mistaken. And who would run his camp, she wondered in mock alarm.

Chaim reassured her that his father-in-law would be okay, and that he seemed pretty determined to make it to camp. “Of course, it’s up to the doctors. He really has to take it easy, so we’ll see how it works out. But he doesn’t talk about anything else besides camp.” Chaim smiled as he said this, as if he imagined his mother would find it endearing.

His mother pursed her lips and shook her head, but she said nothing.

She asked how he was keeping busy, and he kept it light. He told her how he’d started learning with the rav each morning, how he monitored his investments after that, how he’d started running at the high school track.

“You do exercise? I don’t see it on your waistline,” she commented.

“Yeah, the truth is that Rivky isn’t around too much at night, so I’ve been eating too much take-out,” he conceded. “Maybe it’s catching up with me.” He tried to keep his tone light.

 “Well,” Clara Reimer said, smiling, “Rivky’s not making supper is no big loss, if I remember correctly.”

Chaim said nothing. It was time to go. 

On the way back from Monsey, he made an admission to himself.

As a bochur, he’d learned how to handle being alone. It wasn’t like he had options: He’d never really connected with the local boys inBridgeport because his mother hadn’t liked them. Once he was sent to yeshivah inBrooklyn, his mother’s great wish, he was an outsider. After a while, he’d given up on trying to break in, and learned to content himself with his own company.

He preferred being alone to awkward conversation with roommates and chavrusas, and it wasn’t until he was introduced to Rivky that he felt hungry for friendship again. When he sat with her, he had the sense that he’d never be lonely again: She was all energy and warmth, siblings and siblings-in-law, and a gaggle of cousins and friends. She had stories about everyone who passed by. He listened politely, happy to be part of the excitement.

After that, he had relied on her. There was Rivky, the kids, the small conversations with coworkers, some banter in shul, and that was more than enough for him.

Now, for the first time in years, he was lonely again.