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Getting the Rise

Nechama Elbaz

She’d passed on shiurim, begged off friends’ invitations, wrapping herself in the new threads of marriage, tight to choking. There was that part of her that wanted her life to revolve around his. She wanted him to be her sun, to let all the other planets fall out of orbit.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

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She’s suddenly so angry, the tears pricking her eyes, because this is not how it’s supposed to be, but somehow it always is. The key turns in the lock just then, and he wings in with the breeze

O il. Egg. Flour.

Pour. Crack. Sift.

Salt comes last; don’t kill the yeast.

She scrapes down the flour, whipping the spoon around the bowl. Sticky tendrils pull it in, slower, slower, molding the mess into a craggy dough.

She tips the bowl onto the counter, dips her hands in flour.

She’s kneading with more force than necessary, anger aggravating her motions.

Why? Why always with the challah? This is her mitzvah, her time. She’s kneading the dough by hand, for crying out loud, her Bosch squatting enviously in the corner, excluded from the weekly ritual. A labor of love, they all say. She wants to suffuse the breads with love, with joy, with blessing. But he’s not home, again. Every night. Every. Single. Night. She watches the clock, tick tock, tick tock. Every night she hopes it’ll be different, but it never is.

Does he have any idea how hard it is to get each component of dinner hot and ready at the same time? How she hovers in the kitchen from 4 p.m., starting a sauce first, chopping vegetables next. Does he even know how hard she works planning menus to fit his diet? Not a single other person she knows can’t handle preservatives. The least he can do is show up!

She should just serve him a cold supper, really, show him what she has to put up with. But he probably wouldn’t even notice. He never notices anything. She could serve him boiled cabbage — leftover boiled cabbage — and he’d think it was delicious. But her pride won’t let her, she’s a fantastic cook, for goodness’ sake, not that it makes a smidgen of difference.

She’s spiraling downward, she always does. It starts with one thing and then she’s off listing every fault he’s ever displayed.

She’s not playing fair, but she’s too hurt to care. He’s a good man, and a good husband, but she’s angry, angry, angry.

The dough is sweet and supple, beaten smooth by her thoughts.

There’s blessed silence between washing and hamotzi, but it shatters when the first sem girl takes her bite.

“Incredible! So fluffy, and… did you put vanilla in here? My mother is always going on and on how she should just knead her challah by hand, how you have to give it love, but it’s so much work! Do you use a machine? There’s no way, it’s just too good. I’m really going to have to work on myself when I get married; we were just learning about atzlus anyway. And it’s a good way to get exercise, right?” Ever the gracious hostess, she smiles, though the bread pillows in her mouth, thick and impossible to swallow. She can sense the softness, but it sits, hard and cumbersome, until she bullies it down her throat.

The girl prattles on, silenced only by the steaming soup.

They’ve talked some since. She, breathing deeply, employing all the tactics taught in her pre-marriage workshop on “How to Discuss Issues.” And he listened, really listened, and even took her out to dinner — nothing fancy, just bagels, but it was the thought really. And even better, he was home on time the entire week.

But… now, he’s not. And all the familiar hurt and anger and loss piles up again.

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