Follow Me: Chapter 56| March 29, 2022
Ruthie was right. People would forget, very quickly, and that… that was probably the worst of it
Ruthie’s words rumbled in Deena’s ears as the stillness of night just sat.
You’re so perfect.
Look at your feed.
The hotel room lights were dimmed, her kids were fast asleep. She kicked Nechama’s shoes into the closet, dumped used towels in a corner.
So perfect. Look at your feed.
She didn’t want to, but Ruthie’s word were a command, and — sinking into an armchair under the glow of a lamp — her fingers obeyed. She tapped the code on her phone, opened Instagram.
Nuts & Basil
Connecting special meals with special moments
She’d gotten 467 new followers, 2,203 comments, but she didn’t dare go there. She didn’t want to think what kind of comments her show had invited, she just wanted to delete everything, every last memory of the evening.
Instead, she scrolled far down, through weeks and months and years of posts, tapping on random images and reading.
Lazy mornings call for serious breakfasting. I gave myself a little love with this insanely delicious white chocolate croissant from
@lebonpatisserie. And of course, what’s breakfast without coffee? This pumpkin spice affogato really is the way to do it.
She closed her eyes, the scent of the coffee dragging her mind back in time. A little love? She remembered that “morning.” It had been eleven in the evening, Miri had been home with the flu for the fourth day in a row, driving her nuts. But she needed this photo up before she posted the skillet guy’s post that was already scheduled, to balance her feed. She had to squeeze this in. So instead of collapsing into bed, she’d set up bright lighting outside the drawn kitchen window shade and spent nearly an hour adjusting the indoor lighting. Lazy morning, sure.
She played a reel next, watched as she dipped roasted celery root into pesto sauce and took a bite. For a moment even she was fooled into thinking she actually liked it. Nobody would guess how much effort that smile took.
There was her meat board post that she’d slaved over for hours. It looked so beautiful, Shira had outdone herself with that shot. It had gotten 985 likes.
And then your kids came home and asked what’s for supper and you showed them your board and they ate… cereal. One powerful like, that.
She furiously scrolled back, back, back, to the shy posts at the very beginning of her feed. She stopped and blinked at the amateur creations. The work screamed trying-too-hard, but more than that, the words that accompanied the photos made her smile grimly. Lunch for my husband — help — is this considered guy food? She wanted to hug her old and innocent self.
She reversed her scrolling, inching back up to her more recent creations. Her dishes grew increasingly exotic, the photos clean and minimal and so perfect. Had this been another blogger’s feed, she would have been jealous. The comments were proof of serious popularity, her posts and reels were fantastic.
And at the same time, as her feed got progressively better and more professional, as the number of likes and comments increased, her palms grew clammier, the phone weighing like a load in her hand. She had collected so many more followers now… yet she felt so much more isolated and alone.
The video of her show was going viral, she couldn’t escape that knowledge. The entire world had seen — was seeing, right now, and forwarding Check this out! OMG, what happened? — that moment of shock, losing herself, jumping off stage like a madwoman…. How far had the camera played before Pessie made them shut it? She wasn’t going to watch it, she wasn’t going to find out.
Shame gnawed at her insides, making her sick.
But it wasn’t only shame that was making her sick.
Ruthie was right. People would forget, very quickly, and that… that was probably the worst of it.
And if her downfall was fake — nothing to worry about, seriously — what had the entire climb up been? What were all the likes and follows worth?
It was all… fake. Empty, meaningless love.
So many connections, yet no connection at all. She was still alone. So, so alone.
She stood up and dropped the phone into the armchair. A few feet away, Miri shifted in her sleep.
Deena shuffled over to the bed. She sat down gently, reached out to stroke her daughter’s hair. She sat and stroked, sat and stroked, the minutes ticking by, her mind in turmoil.
Miri’s eyes fluttered open. Deena bent down and planted a kiss on her cheek. Then she returned to the armchair and picked up her phone.
She closed Instagram and tapped on her photos. Her fingers drew closed on the screen, minimizing her albums down to years. With a few scrolls, she found the photo she was looking for: a chassan-kallah picture, she and Zev beaming at the camera, a snapshot brimming with anticipation and promise.
She zoomed in to Zev’s face. His eyes glinted up at her, his perfect white teeth gleamed in a smile that she’d always viewed as more of a smirk, almost like a real smile was a sign of weakness.
But she didn’t see that now. His smile seemed to hold a simple happiness, it seemed genuine and safe.
Staring down at the image, the smile suddenly blurred as a tear fell on the screen. She swiped her sleeve over the glass, lips trembling.
“I’m sorry, Zev,” she whispered.
She sat still for a long moment.
Then her fingers danced over her screen quickly.
AloneTogether. Login: MeMyselfAndI
The forum sent out notifications when users were offline. Maybe she’d get a response?
me: Trying my luck — you there?
She stayed on for a few minutes, scrolling through random posts without reading a word. Finally, a chat popped up.
@sleepaholic: Yup. How are you?
me: I want to tell you something. Something happened to me tonight — long story, whatever — but bottom line, I just realized something big.
me: K, this is going to sound a little corny, but I don’t care, I have to say this.
me: I have to tell you that you were right. This whole thing with my son (um, random, but I feel like I should be honest and tell you that it’s really a daughter, feels weird to keep pretending). Anyway, you’ve always been arguing that all these issues I have with her, it’s because of my own unprocessed grief. So I just have to tell you that I can finally see it that way. It’s true.
@sleepaholic: Oh. Um, wow.
me: That’s all?
@sleepaholic: No, one minute. I want to tell you something. Hang on.
Deena waited, but a few minutes passed and @sleepaholic was quiet. She was about to send another message — you still there? — when she heard a soft knock on the door.
What time was it, and who would be knocking on her door at such a crazy hour?
She stood up and cautiously tiptoed to the door. She moved the peephole cover aside and peeked out.
It was Ruthie.
Her eyes narrowed as she opened the door. “Ruthie?”
Her former classmate was wearing a slinky skirt and sweatshirt. She stood silently in the hallway, studying Deena’s face.
“Uh, what’s up?” Deena asked.
Instead of answering, Ruthie picked up her phone and tilted the screen toward Deena.
“I told you I wanted to tell you something, I figured it would be better to say this in person.”
Deena’s toes curled into the carpeted ground. “You’re…?” she stammered.
Ruthie nodded. “Yes. That’s me.”
Deena’s fingers were cold.
“I’m sorry to shock you like this.” Ruthie took a step back. “I… I didn’t know what the right thing to do was, once I connected the dots…. Go now, I realize you need your space.”
Deena retreated through the doorway. “I don’t believe it,” she whispered.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 787)
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