Maybe things aren’t just going to go back to how they were. Maybe they never can
It’s the last day of school. Henny drives me. She graduated already, but she’s coming in to sort out some G.O. stuff or something. I’ve lost track of her multiple projects, to be honest.
The drive is quiet. I open the window, let the sweet June air fill the car. “Aaaahh,” I breathe.
Henny smiles. “You really are feeling a lot better,” she comments. “Listen, Libby, just a word of advice. Don’t talk to your friends about your diagnosis, okay?”
I haven’t, but her bossiness prickles at me. “Why not?”
She gives a long-suffering sigh. “Just because, okay? Your friends have heard enough about it, you don’t want them thinking of you as the sick girl, you want to go back to normal. And you can’t ignore the fact that you’ll be in shidduchim in a few years. Be careful, okay?”
I close my mouth. I want to be angry with her, but she might just be right.
School is flying; girls rushing around, books and papers all over, teachers valiantly trying to maintain order. There’s an insistent bell ringing for final assembly, we traipse down to the auditorium, and I find seats with Shana, Dina, and Chaviva. They’re a firm threesome by now, I feel awkward tagging along, not sure if they really want me there or just feel sorry for me. But I don’t have much choice.
I’m much better now, I comfort myself. Things will go back to normal with Shana, with everyone. Summer vacation’s coming, everyone’s gonna forget what happened, it’s gonna be fine.
“Two more hours is too long,” Chaviva says theatrically. “I mean, vacation, I’m literally packing for camp already….”
Shana laughs. “I know, right? Who has the patience for some guest speaker now?”
I’m quiet. I’m not going to camp this summer; vacation isn’t particularly enthralling, and my mind is a million miles from speakers and school. I wish I could join their conversation, make some funny comment or something, but I just have nothing to say.
The thought makes me sad, and it niggles at me. Maybe things aren’t just going to go back to how they were. Maybe they never can.
I’m surprised to find that I actually don’t collapse when I get home from school.
“Hi, Ma, everyone.” I disappear up the stairs before I have to talk to anyone.
In my room, I flop onto my bed, then just as quickly, sit up again. My skin is crawling. I have a crazy adrenaline rush, like I’m itching to just do something but also don’t want to move. I should empty out my bag, it’s vacation now after all.
It feels really strange to be so productive. I dump the contents of my schoolbag on the bed and start sifting through it. Old assignments that I never completed, straight into the garbage. A book I borrowed from Shana months ago, yikes. I smooth out the crumpled cover and make a note to call her and apologize, ASAP. And there’s one of those awful protein bars — I nearly gag at the sight of it. I’m tempted to toss it out the window, but I guess there’s a shred of normalcy left. I add it to the growing pile for the garbage.
I’m nearly done when I notice a small, crumpled piece of notepaper that’s drifted to the floor. I unfold it, curious.
The note reads, Shaindy Lieber 347-201-4566.
It takes me a minute to place the handwriting — it’s Miss Halb’s. Memory rushes back, it’s her cousin or something, a girl with Crohn’s, she suggested I call her. Back then, in the agonizing whirlpool of confusion and doubt, I hadn’t been the slightest bit interested in calling anyone.
I look at the paper for one more minute, undecided. Thoughts flit through my head: Henny’s authoritative statements, Shana and her new friends, my new label setting me so far apart from the rest of the world, the healthy world…
I reach for the phone.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 818)
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