The congregation rose simultaneously as the Torah was lifted and was being carried to the Hekhal (the closet where the Torah and other holy articles are kept). David stood there in his own world. The Sabbath would be ending soon and so would his respite from reality. All around him he kept hearing about how “business was down,” yet within the same breath of a conversation he would also hear the question “Where are you going for vacation?”
It was the reason he didn’t like going to shul. A gathering of friends and family which sometimes felt like a schoolyard during recess. Pissing contests and bullying, whether real or imagined, seemed to hit David in the balls time and again. He couldn’t win.
“How’s your brother doing?” He would hear that over and over. Sometimes it felt sincere while most of the time it felt as if his own presence was of no importance. Similar to a desk clerk being asked to bring out the boss or an understudy for a lead in a play forced to perform in front of an audience wanting to see the star. His presence, he felt, was always a letdown.
He decided to walk out of the services before the end so he wouldn’t have to shake hands and hear the usual bullshit. He threw on his coat, his baseball hat and walked outside into the cold. It was dark now and the Sabbath was moments from ending. He pulled out a cigarette from his coat and lit up despite the minutes remaining where lighting a fire was prohibited.
He walked to the benches on Ocean Parkway and sat down. It was cold outside, definitely too cold to be sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette. He noticed a figure approaching with a dog on a leash leading the way. As the figure passed him by revealing a young woman who threw him a courtesy smile, he felt a chill and decided to stand up and head home.
In his house he went straight to his room and fell onto the bed. Still in his coat and hat he closed his eyes. Too old for this pressure but too young to feel so lost and overwhelmed he opened his eyes and checked his phone. He checked his emails and if there had been any breaking news stories – thankfully nothing to report.
“Why are you in bed in your coat?” His wife, Sandra.
“I am tired.”
“You slept half of the day, are you coming down with something?” She walked around the bed to touch his forehead. “You seem a little warm, but it could be because you are wearing your coat – take it off, get undressed I will get you something to drink.
“I am good. Don’t you have that charity thing you are going to tonight?” He asked her. He knew where she was really going and who for, but he kept it quiet.
“Yeah, but later on. Do you want me to stay home?”
“No, no, I am good. Just, go.”
He knew she was seeing someone although he wasn’t sure who. How could he blame her? He was this mass of depression walking around with the darkness surrounding him constantly. He felt like a ship on fire in the middle of the ocean. Still moving but in a ball of thick black smoke, slowly sinking, slowly dying with no help in sight.
Sandra, for her part, was not ‘seeing’ anyone. She was just getting away from ‘seeing’ David. She didn’t know how to make him happy or to solve the problems he carried. So she immersed herself in helping others whose problems were clearly defined. The poor who needed money for food, the sick who needed money for medical attention, the unemployed who needed a job or the grieving who needed to be consoled.
She wasn’t as passionate as David was and was able to go through life without the perks and spoils her contemporaries took for granted. What she could not handle was the cold sadness that emanated from him. Once when he used to come home the house would light up and she would run to see him. Now it seemed as though his presence brought about a dimming light effect on the home which in turn caused any sense of happiness to see him, to disappear.
David was in his room, still lying in bed with his coat on when he stood up and went to check on the kids – they were all in their little world. Watching TV, listening to music or on their computer. He loved them and he loved Sandra more than they could ever imagine. But he was tired of being dealt a losing hand whenever it came to making money. It was as if there was a hex or curse put on him. Or maybe he had made a deal where he would get all that mattered in life in abundance but would never take it over the red line when it came to finance.
David was a poet, a lover and a dreamer. He lacked that killer attitude when it came to business and it showed. His father labeled him “Mr. Softie” and his brother Joe just ignored him and referred any issues to others rather than to David.
To the world they were a successful family – but in the bank and in his head, David was the black sheep – living in his own dark and dreary world. Everyday seemed to be overcast and wet – even when the sun was shining bright and the temperature was high.
It was around seven years before his father got sick that he ended calling on Bobby for help. He was in Las Vegas for a trade show when he thought he was having a heart attack.
“Hey Bobby, I am in the emergency room in Las Vegas – I think I am having a heart attack.”
Bobby flew down there and arrived just in time to hear the Doctor telling David that he must have had an anxiety episode.
“You mean a panic attack?” Bobby asked.
“Yes, in a stronger phrasing of it yes, a panic attack.”
“I get them a lot – I have been on medication for a while now.” Bobby said.
“It’s usually hereditary. Anyway, your heart looks great and your blood came out pretty good as well. Your blood pressure is elevated but that could be because of your agitated state. When you get home go get a complete physical.”
They walked together from the can into the Wynn where David was staying. They sat in the bar and each had a drink.
“Whats going on with you Dave?”
“Things are OK…but, things are not OK. Things are falling apart and…I don’t know what to do anymore. I am on the verge of losing everything. My wife doesn’t even like to see me anymore and I really don’t blame her. I don’t like to see me anymore. The kids see me as a failure and I can’t blame them because I see myself that way. I cannot do anything correctly. The business, my side of the business is going under and I truly don’t know what I am going to do next.”
They spoke for the next several hours and ended up sharing the room.
“Just like old times.” Bobby said. They both laughed.
“Keep it down Dad may come and tell us to shut up and go to sleep.”
“As if that ever stopped us.”
“You did the right thing avoiding Dad. Working with him has been a nightmare. Its all about him and he doesn’t even give me the time of day. When I first started he expected me to be him; how can I be him when he is 30 years or so in the making?”
“He can be a cold bastard at times and then he calls you in and is the ultimate salesman.”
“I think he gave up on me and that is what hurts the most.”
“Fuck him, you are a grown man and you need to find your own identity. I will help you until you are able to get on your feet.”
“I cannot accept your help, Bob. I need to do this or something on my own. But thank you for caring it means more than you can ever know.”
They spoke once in a while after that night and months would go by without a call but it was somehow accepted as reality. Sadly time just passed and passed; before one would turn around the calendar would show another year had come and gone. He had tried to start his own business with a partner but the partner cheated him out of sales. He tried to go back to work with his family but was told that his job had been taken already.
“Sorry Davey, but business is not how it once was. We have two families pulling money out right now – we cannot afford a third.” His brother Joe replied. “I am getting a call I need to take, its important. But keep in touch, if you need anything let me know.”
After several jobs, ups and downs he found his way to pay his bills. If not in full, at least enough to keep the heat and the lights on.
Now as he sits in the hospital calling Bobby he cannot comprehend where the time has gone.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“You need to come home, its Dad.”
He hung up, went to see his mother and put his arm around her.
With that she broke down.