"P latform Nine and Three-Quarters?”

A street musician with dreadlocks banged on a set of drums in the corner of the train station. I pressed my hands over my ears, trying to block out the noise as I gaped first at the wall looming ahead and then at the woman next to it.

I’d first met her two hours earlier that evening, when she’d intercepted me wandering the neighborhood, trying to clear my head after a particularly bad blowout with my mother.

“You’re overreacting!” Ima had yelled. “Those pastries were on special! I’m not forcing you into any decisions! Shuli, calm down! Okay, okay, stop crying, mammele, see, I’m putting these nice cakes right into the freezer, no need for a l’chayim this week — well, it would be good, actually, with Leah’le and Moishe still here from Chicago… Shulamis Esther Levine, calm down! No, that is not pressure! I’m being pragmatic! You can’t schlep forever…”

I hadn’t believed Rochela Kokosh at first, as the middle-aged woman explained her shidduch program in a slight British accent. She was dressed all in black, except for the green ribbon tied around her sheitel and matching green eyeglass frames. Time-Out Zone, she’d called it, for singles needing a break from shidduchim.

Two hours later, I found myself at the train station, gripping a small carry-on and garment bag.

“Okay, remind me again how this works,” I said nervously. “I go on this break thingy and time stands still? How’d you even know about me? And no shidduch decisions? For how long?”

“Forget the time factor, dear.” She ignored the middle part of my question. “Time doesn’t move. It’s not a break, it’s a brake. With an ‘A.’ A time brake. The concept is derived from quantum mechanics — haven’t you heard of the quantum Zeno effect?”

“Um, I’m not a science person.” A time brake. A place to escape decisions, escape my bed piled high with clothing, escape the reality of what to do about—

Okay, don’t laugh, but mentally, I refer to him as, “The Boy” — somehow that’s easier for me to deal with — or, on occasion, “the J-Man.”

“Quite simple, once we worked out how to adjust the speed of light,” Mrs. Kokosh added. She pointed ahead of us. “Shall we?”

I stared dubiously at the wall, stationed between Platform 9 and Platform 10 in Grand Central Station, noticing the grandfather clock built in. Nine o’clock, it read.

“Platform Nine and Three-Quarters?” I repeated. “You’re kidding me, right?”

“Our techie was a Harry Potter fan,” Mrs. Kokosh explained. “You’re familiar with it, surely? Simply hold onto your luggage and walk straight through — I promise, it works.” She gestured again toward the wall. “Are you ready? Well, then, don’t pickle a pickle, dear.” She gave me a firm push, and the musician stopped drumming for a split second to flash me a peace sign. “Don’t think, just go.”

So I did. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 539)