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Leah Gebber

Oh, of course he could be stabilized. It was just a small episode, nothing really. Besides, it wasn’t full-blown mania, and Chananya had told her that he’d never had a psychotic episode. He’d just danced on the border

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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Maybe he doesn’t realize that he does it. That every time she comes close to talking about something uncomfortable, he turns away from her, refuses to let their eyes meet, refuses to let her read what’s inside.

W hen the phone call comes, Mina is in line outside Cofix, the late afternoon sun so hot she feels the heat rising through the soles of her shoes. She glances at her screen: Batsheva. Which means that something’s doing with Mommy.

“What’s up?”

It’s finally her turn; the man behind the counter is impatient. She steps out of the line, is almost rammed in the knees by a woman with a stroller. “Sheva? I’m with you.”

A tiny kid whistles past on a scooter. Buses rumble by, a cloud of fumes and dust. Batsheva is talking into her ear, but she can’t hear a word.

“Batsheva? Give me a sec.”

A few steps down Rechov Sarei Yisrael there’s a sign for a housing expo. Mina ducks into a large, air-conditioned hall. It’s cool and quiet. Around the edge of the large space are desks covered in architectural plans; bent heads pore over them. A screen shows a showcase living room with a beige couch, art deco lamp, a huge picture window with a view of the sky. “Hi, so sorry, I’m with you.”

“It’s Mommy.”

“What’s up now?”

Batsheva talks, a burble of worry and confusion and a plea for help from across the ocean. Her blood pressure isn’t great, 139 over 86, and she’s still got seven weeks until her due date. And the social worker at the hospital said that Mommy can’t go home, I mean, it’s not like we didn’t know that before, but somehow, hearing it like that, from a stranger… and Levi found a place, a lovely place, not far from us, but someone needs to help her get from the hospital to the old-age home. Oh, I don’t mean physically, the hospital will provide an ambulance for that — bless the NHS — but help her settle in, and I would, you know I would, but my blood pressure, and the doctor said I should take it easy, and Aunt Mirel is a doll but she’s got enough on her plate and and and Mina nods repeatedly, though Batsheva can’t see her.

She looks around, sees a young couple, the woman twisting her ring, the man’s hat pushed far back on his head. A man in a natty suit and a thin tie approaches her. “What are you looking for?”

Batsheva is still talking into her ear. Mina’s scarcely listening, just thinking. Yom Tov. Her and Chananya.

Chananya.

She could go help Mommy. And Batsheva, too, with all the kids and the cooking. She’d be there to clean out Mommy’s house, help her settle in, take the pressure off Aunt Mirel. Chananya.

Maybe this is just what she needs. To get away.

“Listen, Sheva, I’ll see what I can do. I’ll call you later, okay?” “Ahem.” The guy has an over-interested look. “Can I help you?”

She blinks, thoughts on Batsheva, Mommy. When she gets home, she’ll look up that blood pressure measurement, try to see if Batsheva should be in the hospital. Her ninth. Not so simple. Distracted, she turns to the salesman.

 

“I’m looking for a—” She wants to say home, but catches herself in time. “Apartment.” He rubs his hands together, anticipating a sale. If not a sale, a challenge. “How many kids?” “None.” She feels like rubbing her ring, telling him that they just got married, it’ll be six weeks on Tuesday. She says nothing.

The guy rocks his neck and forth as he nods. “What kind of place are you and your husband looking for?”

Right now, they’re in a tiny basement with exorbitant rent: it was available, and their engagement was so short that they decided to look into neighborhoods, think about layouts, figure out the Israeli fixation with wind direction, after the chasunah. Chananya hadn’t cared. He’d taken out the new Shabbos candlesticks and set them in the middle of the table, with a smile of pleasure. “Now it’s home,” he’d said.

“What kind of neighborhood you looking for?” He looks at her thoughtfully, trying to grade her into chareidi or yeshivish or chassidish-ish or baal teshuvah mainstream or baal teshuvah artsy. She looks straight back at him. She doesn’t want to be defined. Otherwise, she’ll get something like — married late, might divorce.

She doesn’t want labels. She just wants a home.

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