C

haim sat down, looking at Rivky’s back.

“What?” she said without turning around.

“Nothing,” he said.

“You’re looking at me like you recognize me from a picture hanging in the post office. Just say it already. What?”

“I didn’t say anything. Rivky. If I had something to say, I would have said it.”

This was a familiar argument. “No, not really,” she said, turning around, “because you’re keeping it inside, all proud of yourself. But if you’re staring at me that way, then whatever is on your mind is about to burst. You might as well let it out.”

“What’s for supper?”

“I grilled salmon, it’s almost ready. There’s some corn, is that okay? Now what is it?”

Chaim hesitated. Rivky had finished work yesterday, the school year finally over. The first year she’d taught, they’d gone out to eat to celebrate the start of her vacation. He’d asked her what her plans were: Did she have a project for the summer, some productive use of the time? She’d laughed like it was a great joke and said that her plans were to have no plans, to sleep late and then eat brunch or maybe not, to daven slowly, to go walking and maybe take a nap again. He laughed along, pretending it was funny. Going out to eat on her last day of school had become an annual tradition. Last year, they’d gone toManhattanand Chaim had laughingly told her to “rejoice in her two months of unproductivity.”

Today, she’d spent the morning visiting her parents, then went toLakewoodto help Nechamie plan Simcha’s bar mitzvah. There was no talk of going out to eat.

He knew what it was. It was him. He was the unproductive one, parked in the house, at the kitchen table, at the computer, so she was finding things to do elsewhere: Was that so wrong? It was her life. She was allowed space, right?

He wasn’t a clingy husband, like Dolinsky, who would stand by the door to the women’s section at every chasunah and dispatch people to call his wife: Did she need a drink? Was she okay? Did she remember her glasses? Was the music too loud for her?

Dolinsky, Chaim once told Rivky, pretended to be taking care of his wife, but he was really the needy one. Rivky had said that it was so sweet how much he cared and that Chaim wasn’t being nice. Besides, when they’d made a ladies trip to Niagara Falls, she said, Nechemia Dolinsky had been the only husband to wake up at five o’clock in the morning to greet his wife as she’d come off the van. He’d been waiting on the porch with a hot coffee, Rivky remembered.

Rivky sat down across from Chaim. “I feel like you’re not okay with me,” she said, “but you don’t want to say it.”

He needed a job. He needed a schedule. He needed to be the busy one. None of this was her fault.