| Follow Me |

Follow Me: Chapter 45        

“If it’s us…” he said slowly. “Then…. then we have a problem. It shouldn’t be this way. We shouldn’t be this way, really not”


Yochi tapped Eli T. on the shoulder on their way out from Minchah.

“How’s it going?”

T. flashed a thumbs up. “Great! Working our way through my list. We’ll get there, b’ezras Hashem. It’ll be okay, Yochi, really. You can relax.”

“Yeah,” Yochi muttered. “Uh… so what do you think of Berkowitz?”

They strode through the lobby in the direction of the kitchen. “He’s good,” Eli T. said. He nodded earnestly. “Really good. You found the perfect person. He has a knack for it, and he’s really pleasant to work with. Very hachna’ahdig, know what I mean?”

“I know what you mean. I wasn’t worried about a power struggle, believe me.” He paused as they reached the door to the kitchen. “I can’t shortchange our guests, T. We promised them you. The real deal. This feels so… dishonest.”

“He’s good,” T. repeated. “Trust me. You really have no reason to worry.”

“You’re not just saying this to make me feel better, right?”

“I’m not. I promise.”

Yochi gave a resigned sigh. T. patted his back reassuringly then pushed open the door to the kitchen.

Standing at the entrance, Yochi did relax. The place seemed to be under control. Kitchen staff were stationed around the large room, dicing, shredding, trimming, stirring. Berkowitz stood over a big pot, measuring something, tossing it in. He called out some instructions to a kitchen hand, the guy nodded, Berkowitz made another comment, and they both burst out laughing.

Yochi liked that. Maybe he could believe T. Berkowitz would be all right.

He headed over to the young chef. “This place smells incredible,” he told him sincerely.

Berkowitz smiled. “Thanks… I put up some food for supper for tonight. Come around with your family in an hour or so, yeah?”

“I sure will!” Yochi pointed to the pot on the stove. “What are you putting up there?

“It’s just a beef stock,” Berkowitz said. “We’re trying to do all the stuff we can freeze, you know.”

“Sounds great.” He picked up a stray strip of pepper and popped it into his mouth. “All right, if you need anything, just give me a holler.”

Binick was waiting for him in the office the hotel had provided for them for the course of their stay. It was in the corporate wing of the hotel, but Yochi made a detour to the rear of the building. He wanted to go out and take a quick look at how the succah tent was coming along.

He was about to push open the door and say hello to the crew when he noticed someone sitting at a small patio table just outside the tent.

It was Pessie.

His hand froze on the doorknob as he peered through the glass doors.

The kids were standing around, intently watching the crew together with a bunch of other staff kids. Everything appeared normal. Everything, except the expression on Pessie’s face. She looked…

She looked like there was a volcano boiling inside her, ready to erupt.

An awful sourness filled his mouth. Everything that had been spinning in his head just moments before — kitchen management, meetings, phone calls — vanished, and a new headache filled the space. Something was terribly wrong.

He hesitated at the doorway, then pulled out his phone and texted Binick. Running late, don’t wait for me. I’ll call you when I’m ready.

Then he turned his phone on silent and walked outside.

His feet felt heavy as he made his way over to Pessie. When she noticed him, her lips twisted into something that she must have meant as a smile but that turned out looking like a grimace.

“What’s wrong?”


“Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Why should something be wrong? Everything’s fine.”

Yochi stretched his lips in a tight line. “Let’s take a walk.”

“A walk? Aren’t you, like, busy with a hundred things?”

“I have time now. Come.”

With a stony face, Pessie nodded toward the group of children. “I need to watch the kids.”

“Hindy can watch them. She’s almost ten years old, and they’re not alone here. We’ll just take Motti along in the stroller.”

He watched her waver for a moment. Finally she stood up, went to get Motti, and strapped him into his stroller.

They walked around the building in silence, turning in on the side of the parking lot. When they reached the front of the building, Yochi gave a small cough. “Well?”

“Well, what do you want? I told you everything’s fine.”

“Is this about Malkie? I told you I was sorry.”

“You told me you were sorry?” she said scathingly. “I’m so happy you’re sorry.” Her voice shook. “Why should you be sorry? What were you supposed to do, tell the crew to go home because your kid threw up?”

A breeze swept over Yochi’s face, blowing his peyos back. “Seriously, what should I have done?” he snapped. “You make it sound like I’m some heartless who-knows-what for giving the crew instructions. Can you blame me for doing my job?”

“No, of course I can’t blame you that you left me with that mess. I can’t blame you for anything. You’re a tour director, you have a responsibility.”

“I do,” Yochi said quietly.

And suddenly, Pessie’s stiff shoulders sagged, her grip on the stroller went slack. She stopped walking and sank down on a bench in front of the hotel. “I hate this job,” she whispered.

He sat down next to her. In the stroller, Motti squirmed and twisted around the side to look at them. Yochi stretched out his hand and stroked Motti’s cheek absently.

“I’m sorry,” he repeated, staring at the ground. “I don’t know what to say. I wish…” What do I wish? That I never took this job? That I was still working at The Hartstein’s Group? “I wish it wouldn’t be this way.”

“I was afraid of this all along.”

“Afraid of what? That I would be busy the whole time?”

“Yes. No. That’s not it.”

“So what is?”

She put her foot on the stroller wheel. “I — I can’t explain it.”

A bird swooped down in front of them, pecked something on the ground and soared off again into the great Corvara landscape.

Yochi pressed his palm down on the corner of the bench. She couldn’t explain it, but she expected him to get it. To do everything right. To predict how she’d feel.

It was making him sick. And suddenly, anger simmered in his chest.

He stood up. “You know, Pessie, I’m sorry, but you’re really not being fair. You’re trying to guilt me, and guess what? It’s working. I feel horrible all the time, like I’m this selfish person who doesn’t look after his family. I keep apologizing — I do feel sorry when things are challenging for you. But why am I always feeling sorry?” He sat back down and pulled the stroller over in front of him.

“Think about it, I’m not partying here. I’m working. Hard. Every industry has its seasons, and this is mine. Remember what tax filing season used to look like? You never complained that I worked a hundred hours a day then. Why is this different? Why do I have to feel like I’m stealing away when I’m just at work?”

For a moment, Pessie was frozen in shock. He was already regretting opening his mouth when she gave a slow nod.

“I…” she stammered. “I hear you. You’re right.” She ran her fingers over the armrest of the bench. Motti started kicking and whining. She opened his straps and he jumped out of the stroller.

“I know that you’re right,” she continued. “I mean, I know this is your job, and I know you’re trying to make everyone happy. That’s why I said, I can’t explain it. It’s the job, but really, it’s not the job, it’s…”


“It’s us,” she said quietly.

A chill crawled over Yochi’s skin. He interlocked his fingers and forced himself to make eye contact with Pessie.

“If it’s us…” he said slowly. “Then…. then we have a problem. It shouldn’t be this way. We shouldn’t be this way, really not.”

Pessie lips curved in a small, nervous smile. “Right.”

A silence settled between them. Yochi watched Motti climb onto the ledge around the flowers that bordered the front of the building.

He was about to say something — try to figure out what it was, where they were going wrong, see if she had any suggestions — when Hindy and Zissi came running out from the main entrance. “Here you are!” Hindy cried.

Pessie jumped up. “What’s a matter? What happened?”

“Malkie threw up again! In front of the door in the back, where they’re putting up the tent!”

Yochi glanced at Pessie sharply. Their eyes locked. Then Yochi said. “Well. I guess… I’ll go get paper towels.”

A second passed.

And then they both burst out laughing.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 776)

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