Even if I wasn’t a market professional with four hanging screens and a smartphone, tablet, and smartwatch, I took my trading seriously, I had to
Green. Green. Startling, iridescent, wonderful green.
Sometimes you don’t realize you’ve inhaled until you’ve released so much breath, you wonder where your lungs kept all that air since the markets closed on Friday at 4:00 PM.
Yossi crawled over and yanked at my skirt. I threw a few toys on the floor to distract him. Then I sank into my swivel chair, rubbed my palms over the armrests and mechanically ignored the ringing phone.
Green up arrows. On my newest watchlist, the one including the AMD positions that had automatically become mine when my trades got executed on Friday — and then drastically dropped a moment before closing.
That’s how it had stayed — frozen red — all through Monday morning at 9:30. My brain had continued working frenetically — even if the market closes, strategizing never ends, off-market trading keeps the pulse thumping — but still, as long as the market was closed, I’d held my breath, not even daring to breathe a word about it to Shmuli over the entire nerve-rackingly long weekend.
I’d thought Monday would never come, but now it had, and my fears proved unfounded. I could’ve relaxed over Shabbos. I could’ve felt secure; I could’ve trusted my instinct.
9:33 – green – ↑7.78%
But at 9:37, as the phone rang again, two Greens on my watchlist suddenly turned Red.
I was more aware of my lungs sucking in air this time, even as my sister Nechama’s voice crackled on my answering machine. “Malks? You home? Where d’ya go so early in the morning? I wanted to—”
I reached for the handset on my desk. “Hi, good morning, what’s up?”
“Nothing, I have a two-hour pile of ironing here, I need company.”
“Oh, hmm. So sorry, I’d love to schmooze but I have some work here.”
“Ugh. You’re always working. What are you working on? Anything interesting?”
I couldn’t exactly describe what I was working on. Day trading? Nechama would never get it. Even if I wasn’t a market professional with four hanging screens and a smartphone, tablet, and smartwatch, I took my trading seriously, I had to.
Instead of explaining, I blabbered something about my client Stombler’s grant that I’d pretty much finished writing and had never cared about in the first place. Nechama blabbered back, something about something, probably a dress her neighbor’s daughter had worn to some simchah, while I refreshed the browser on my portfolio page and winced as AMD plummeted from a profit to a loss.
No, I couldn’t describe this “work.” Not to Nechama, hardly even to Shmuli, who would sometimes ask, at the end of the day, “So what did you do today?” and I would mutter something about laundry and supper, even though I hadn’t folded a single sock and supper was store-bought pizza, because how do you describe hours of staring at a screen, doing what appears to be nothing, but in actuality making decisions that weigh so many thousands of dollars?
Besides that, Shmuli dismissed my entire trading activity as my cute little baby, laughing it all off like it was one big joke. “As long as you’re only recycling your seed money, you can do whatever you want,” he’d respond if I ever did ask his opinion.
I went to put Yossi in for his nap and then returned to my desk. I opened my Stombler docs — a liar I was not — but I automatically minimized them and expanded my portfolio to full screen. When it came to stocks, changes happened every second. This needed my utmost concentration.
At 10:30, I was still sitting at my desk. An onlooker would think I’d wasted my whole morning. True, I hadn’t done anything, but the time I’d spent analyzing data and determining my next move wasn’t time wasted. With a certain sense of calm — if you could ever be calm about a trading decision — I updated my buying and selling limits. Then I rolled back my chair. It was time for breakfast.
In the kitchen, I hunted in the freezer for a bag of bread. I dashed back upstairs to my little office in the attic and quickly scanned the latest numbers as the bread toasted.
AMD had climbed again. A giddy feeling filled me. This hadn’t been a mistake. The stock was heading up.
I knew what I needed to do. The stock would rise, then it would fall before it headed up, a lot higher than where it was at now. If I sold at a small profit and bought it again after it dropped, it would be a tremendous gain when it rose again.
Quickly, I set a stop order at a number I was confident the stock would reach that day. When the shares sold, I would set a new limit order to buy them again at a lower rate. Turn a quick profit, then turn it again. And again. All in a day’s work.
What was it about these numbers that made me feel so heady?
I analyzed my other positions to see if I could play the same game there. Then I opened my Stombler docs to make the few changes they’d requested, but I suddenly felt lightheaded and my stomach grumbled.
Breakfast. I’d forgotten. Oh wow, it was 11:45, how had this happened?
I returned to the kitchen, reheated my toast and spread some butter over it. I sliced some peppers next to it, sprinkled salt, and took my plate up to my office.
Distantly, I remembered the load in the washing machine that had beeped a long time ago. I had to go hang up the laundry. I also had to put together something for supper. The baby would wake up any minute and need to eat. The day was slipping away.
But first, a quick look: Had any of my positions closed out?
They hadn’t. Several times over the rest of the day, the numbers rose just below my order limits, and I waited, considered lowering the limits just a bit, but then the stocks started climbing again — almost, almost — and argh, drop.
Stombler’s secretary called to ask for a few more small changes. I jotted notes absently, never taking my eyes off those dancing numbers. It was going to work, this plan, I just had to be patient.
It worked. At 3:42, at the same moment that the doorbell rang, my shares sold.
That was Step 1. Now I needed to sit tight and wait for the stock to fall to my order limit and reclaim my shares at a much lower price.
And if it suddenly soars?
If it suddenly soared now, before it dropped, I had been a total idiot for selling.
The bell rang again and I ran downstairs to get the door.
It was Blima’s bus teacher, holding Blima’s hand.
“Whoops,” I said. “So sorry, I didn’t hear the bus honking.”
The bus monitor eyed me curiously then ran back to the waiting bus.
Just my luck, Blima had arrived home in one of her moods. Grr, this wasn’t the right time for a tantrum. I had to go make sure AMD was falling.
I told Blima she could take whatever — toy, snack, blankie — whatever she wanted, then dashed back upstairs.
No. It couldn’t be. AMD had soared in the last eight minutes.
The stock was at 12.5% above the amount at which I’d sold it.
It wasn’t a loss — I hadn’t sold for less than I’d purchased, I’d even made a few bucks on the transaction – but at 4:00 PM, as the market ground to its daily halt, the reality hit me in the face: I was left with nothing.
I was left with nothing but a sinking feeling and a weariness in my legs.
Tomorrow was another day, I knew that. The stock could plunge, my plan could still work. But as I stared at the still numbers on the screen, it was like something in me had gone still. This was it — although I could spend all night poring over the numbers, strategizing and trading and strategizing some more — the day was essentially over. It was time to close up shop.
It was a little surreal, turning my screen off and trekking down the stairs. Like I was leaving one planet and entering another. For the first time today, I noticed the breakfast dishes on the table, a bottle of milk I’d forgotten to put back in the fridge. Robotically, I spilled the three-quarter full bottle of warm milk down the drain.
The door opened and I heard Shani and Chaya come in. For the next half hour, as I greeted kids and hastily slapped chicken and potatoes on the grill pan, green and red numbers swam before my eyes.
A wave of exhaustion overwhelmed me as I stood over the stove. I transferred the ready food onto a plate, shut the flame and collapsed into the couch to close my eyes for a few minutes before calling the kids to the table.
But of course, there’s nothing that makes more noise than a mother quietly sitting down on a couch. Blima was the first to notice this latest development, and as I was just dozing off, she pounced on me and started singing her latest parshah song, off key.
My eyelids protested. I cracked half an eye open, tried smiling at her. Her startlingly green eyes glinted at me, and in my barely alert state, the green glimmered bizarrely, taking the shape of plusses and minuses, arrows and numbers, percentage symbols; flashing red for a moment, then green, red, green, redredgreengreengreenred.
I blinked, then pulled Blima close to me and hugged her tightly. “You’re such a yummy delicious cutie pie,” I said. “You have such beautiful eyes.”
Then, as Mindy stormed into the living room, livid about her unfair history test, I peeled myself off the couch and called everyone to the table.
In the Zevamyer family, any occasion was a cheesecake occasion.
This was my sister-in-law Tziporah’s seventh boy, and everyone was simultaneously congratulating her on her hard-earned entry to Gan Eden and comforting a resigned Miriam, her 12-year-old bas yechidah, about what great sisters-in-law she’d have one day.
The smell of overnight potato kugel overwhelmed the small shul, and the Zevamyer womenfolk waved the waiter away almost derisively. What was he thinking? Who ate kugel for breakfast?
Hard as it was to make it out to a bris on a school morning, it was fun to spend time with the Zs. They were the kind of people who wouldn’t recognize stress if it hit them in the face. Just being around them made me relax.
“I stopped putting sugar in my coffee,” Shmuli’s sister Gitty told me with the smuggest smile. I nodded with feigned respect as I watched her dig her fork into a three-inch slice of Oreo cheesecake.
I shaved a sliver of cake onto a plate for myself and glanced at my watch. It was 9:15. How was everyone sitting there so calmly? Didn’t they have jobs to run to?
The conversation turned to the war in Ukraine, to the crazy, crazy inflation, do you know how much I paid for a dozen eggs yesterday?
I didn’t care so much about the price of eggs, but I certainly agreed about crazy inflation. I didn’t want to think about it — what it had done to some of my investments. I tried not to think about it simply because the thought made me sick. Instead I tried to focus on a bear market strategy these days. It was the only way forward.
The minutes ticked by. The chatter and laughter garbled around me. When Gitty asked me to pass her a napkin, I gave her the cup I’d been drinking from.
“A napkin,” Gitty repeated sweetly.
“Whoops, sorry, what did you ask for?” My words came out slurred. It was 9:22. The market was opening in eight minutes. How much longer did I have to linger over this cheesecake?
It was 10:15 by the time I made it to my desk. I whispered a tefillah before opening my watchlist – Please, Hashem, Green everything but Red AMD.
My stomach dropped.
AMD was greener than green. The stock was climbing steadily, the plus symbol and up arrow almost smirking at me, muttering: Nice try. Sorry you missed the boat.
I clicked to expand the graph and carefully analyzed the 45 minutes of activity I’d missed. Okay, it wasn’t only going up, there were some valleys along the graph. The day was long, things could change.
“Hey, you’re back?”
“Shmuli! You scared me.”
Swiftly, I minimized my watchlist. There was nothing to hide, but this wasn’t my most glorious moment and I didn’t feel like talking about it.
“Sorry, I had no idea you were here,” Shmuli said. “I heard so much noise from the women’s side when I left, I was sure you’d be partying all day.”
“Um, yeah, I left a little early.”
He shrugged. I was about to ask why he was home — wasn’t he late enough to work? — when he casually said, “Pinchas got a job offer.”
Gitty’s husband Pinchas had been job hunting for months, ever since the car leasing company he’d worked for had closed down. You would never guess by the way Gitty enjoyed her cheesecake, but they were obviously going through a rough time.
“It’s an online kitchen supplies business,” Shmuli went on. “They want him to manage the inventory.”
“At minimum wage?”
“At whatever salary. Listen, it’s a job. It’s more than he earned last week and the week before.”
I completely disagreed — this job was going to hold him hostage and keep him from making any real money — but I was too anxious about what was happening with AMD to continue the conversation. Was Shmuli waiting for something? Could he leave my office so I could go check on those numbers?
“Whatever, he should be matzliach,” I said dutifully.
To my consternation, Shmuli powered on his laptop and sat down facing his screen. I watched him log in to various bank accounts, check balances. What was he doing?
I played around with my new Stombler files until he finally left. As soon as the door closed, I took a deep breath and checked the updated numbers.
The bris cheesecake soured in my stomach. AMD was having a party — a brightly green-lit party — and I had been left out.
The day moved along on this dejected note, as I watched the stock callously rise. I tried focusing on my other positions, I even pushed myself to throw together supper — a quick cream of zucchini soup that didn’t require too much chopping and a pan of chicken and potatoes. I made some phone calls and washed some laundry, stopping in to my office every few minutes to check what was happening.
At 2:05 — maybe because of some Putin announcement but more likely because of my repeated tefillos — the color finally changed.
It changed — and it held.
The red was fierce, bold, and promising. Hope thrummed in my chest.
It took more than a week, with an endlessly long Shabbos in between, but by Wednesday, I knew it was time to act. I didn’t remember seeing AMD this low ever, and a quick algorithm analysis determined a more-or-less steady height before this plunge.
I would wait a little longer. I would start with a very low order limit, keep a close eye, and adjust the limit accordingly. But there was no doubt at all — this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for.
Almost absently, I logged in to my TD Ameritrade trading scope to check the margins available to trade.
There was hardly anything there. I could maybe buy six shares with the available funds.
I thought frantically. I could sell other positions, but that didn’t make sense. Not when the market looked the way it did, it would mean taking a huge loss.
But, AMD! If I made a proper investment now, this could take us far. It could allow us to pay off our mortgage, it could literally marry off our kids.
I couldn’t lose this opportunity.
I needed funds.
It was Shmuli’s idea to take the family to Toms River for Shabbos Chanukah. “There’s one of these mansions available, with a pool and everything; they rent it out for weekends. It’ll be just us and the kids, no laptops, no stress, complete disconnection.”
Something in my chest shuddered. No laptop, no access. Complete disconnection.
My voice was a little shaky as I responded, “What good is a pool in December?”
“It’s just the idea, the style of the house, you know what I mean. There’s also a fireplace, that’s more seasonal.”
“The kids are off until Tuesday. We can stay until Monday night — I can take off from work. Maybe we’ll take them snow tubing one day… You’re not in the mood?”
“Um. Maybe. I mean, it would for sure be nice. Once we’re there, I mean. It would be a lot of work, cooking and packing and everything, but maybe…”
We decided to leave Thursday night, because, as Shmuli reasoned, “Why not wake up there already, we’re not paying more for it.”
I couldn’t come up with a valid objection — the house would be clean; the food would be ready. The kids didn’t have school on Friday. What should I tell him? That I had to stay glued to my watchlist to make sure AMD stayed put?
Thursday afternoon, throughout the packing frenzy, I compulsively ran up to my office to check on the market. Not only AMD; this was going to be extended time off, I needed to do something, how was I going to survive being in the dark for so long? Just us, no laptop.
The anxiety would kill me — I’d have no peace of mind. This wasn’t going to be a vacation.
At around 3:00, I gave up. The food for Shabbos was done. Mindy, Shani, and Chaya would help with the packing when they came home from school. There was one hour left; I had to absorb every stitch of market development.
AMD had plummeted some more. My heart plummeted along with the numbers. I had to get in. I had to buy a truckload of shares. The war in Ukraine would end one day, along with inflation. However long it took, they would end. And then AMD would climb again and I would regret every last share I hadn’t bought.
I checked my available funds again. No, the margins hadn’t miraculously increased since the last time I’d checked, less than an hour earlier.
Mechanically, I opened a new tab. We had various checking and savings accounts. Shmuli and I managed our finances together, I was familiar with the balances.
I logged right out of our checking account. There was nothing to work with there; that account was for our day-to-day budget.
We had two savings accounts. One held smaller savings, whatever we managed to put away every month. The money in that account usually went to large expenses — car repairs, a new fridge, camp.
The other account was our “untouchable” savings account. Bonuses, tax refunds, and any unanticipated income was deposited there. Shmuli regularly talked about making a “real investment” with that money. “One day, when a really good opportunity comes up, we gotta do it,” he repeatedly told me. “The value of money in the bank only depreciates over time. We just have to look out for the right opportunity.”
I dragged the window to scale it and make room for my watchlist. With the two windows aligned side by side, my eyes flitted from one to the other.
As time moved along, slowly nearing 4:00, AMD dropped again.
It’s the right opportunity, Shmuli. I am so sure about this.
I refreshed my watchlist. Once, again, again. The numbers jumped every few seconds, sometimes a little upward, but mostly yet a bit more down.
I couldn’t set an order limit without any cash available.
But I could transfer funds from our savings account and make cash available.
3:58. Refresh, refresh. 3:59.
AMD had frozen at the most recent low. The market was going to reopen the next morning at 9:30, but I wouldn’t be around to see what was happening. I wouldn’t be around on Monday either. Traders were going to trade heavily, but I wouldn’t see the numbers again until Tuesday morning at 9:30.
We planned to leave the house at 9:00 that night. The market was closed, but I could still transfer funds and set my order limit for when it reopened.
I could ask Shmuli, point blank, if I should do it. Better, should we do it?
But I couldn’t ask him, because I knew he would never agree. The reason the money was still sitting in the bank account in the first place was because Shmuli was so risk averse; he could never actually bring himself to invest, even when the safest opportunity walked right into his lap.
But he would be very happy when our savings would triple. A few months, a year, however long it took. We would wait it out, and then he would thank me. Profusely.
There were five hours to go.
Five hours to decide.
Everyone was screaming. The house was flying. My head was spinning. Why had I agreed to this ridiculous vacation?
“Please put all toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste in a bag,” I ordered Shani. “And bring it to me. Also mouthwash.”
I put Mindy in charge of shoes. “Everyone’s in one huge bag, and bring it to me.”
I threw the baby into Chaya’s arms. “Take him, play with him. He’s crying nonstop, I can’t get a thing done.”
I was for sure forgetting something, and I would only find out what that something was when we got off the Verrazano Bridge.
Shabbos clothes, weekday clothes, tights.
Mortgage payoff. Wedding plan.
I continued packing.
Pajamas, hairbrushes, Sherpa hoodies.
New car, summer home. Oh, forget luxuries — a retirement fund.
I could just leave it. Do nothing. Wait until Tuesday.
(Talk to Shmuli?)
But what if the stock future rose while I was away? It would go up; it couldn’t possibly stay this low. The question was only how soon and by how much.
Shmuli walked into the room. “Is the suitcase ready? Can I start loading the car?”
“A few more minutes. I’ll just… let me see… whoa, diapers! I almost forgot!”
I pulled a package out of my closet and stuffed it into the suitcase. Then I glanced at Shmuli.
He was rummaging in a drawer for something, completely oblivious. I was so tense, I could almost feel the air exploding.
I picked up my lens solution from the night table, sat down at the edge of my bed and clicked the cap open and shut.
“Shmuli…” I started.
Click click click.
“You packed socks for me?” he asked.
“Thanks. Is there room for my tallis and tefillin in the suitcase?”
He was still rummaging in that drawer. What was he looking for and why wouldn’t he turn around?
“Shmuli, I wanted to ask you…”
The door burst open. “Ma!” Chaya yelled. “All my Shabbos tights have holes! Every single pair!”
I plunked the lens solution back down.
“Take a pair from Shani.”
“But we’re not the same size! They’ll be huge on me!”
Really, not this. Not now. “What should I do, sweetie? The stores are closed now. You’ll have to choose between torn tights and big tights.”
“I could take you to a store in Lakewood tomorrow to buy new tights, Chaya,” Shmuli said. “We’re not going to a midbar.”
Right, why hadn’t I thought of that?
I couldn’t think. I couldn’t focus.
How had another whole hour passed so quickly?
I threw my cosmetics bag into the suitcase and arranged Shmuli’s shirts on top. Zip, closed, done. The hundred random things we’d remember later would go into a separate bag.
“Here, this is ready to go in the car,” I told Shmuli.
When he left, I ran up to my office again. Both windows were still open on my screen, although I’d been automatically logged out of the bank account. I logged back in.
It could happen as quickly as Tuesday. Not the long term gain, but if I set up the order now and the stock future rose by even 2% while we were away, that would be huge. And of course, if I left it for a long-term gain… Wow. Just wow.
I heard loud noise from downstairs. I turned off my screen and hurried back down to the chaos.
The next hour was a mad rush of last-minute packing, bathing, and dressing kids — another one of Shmuli’s ideas: “The little ones will for sure fall asleep in the car, this way we can just transfer them right into their beds when we arrive.”
And he was right, of course, I should’ve thought of it myself, but I couldn’t think of anything, we were almost leaving…
I tried cornering Shmuli one more time, but when he asked me what I wanted, I just gave him a blank look and mumbled something about buying challah for Shabbos, I thought we had some in the freezer but I didn’t see any now.
Everyone was in the car, the house was locked up, we were all set to hit the road when I unstrapped my seatbelt. “Just a sec,” I told Shmuli. “I forgot something, I’ll be right back.”
Nobody asked any questions. This was so normal, it happened every time, usually more than once.
I dashed back inside, flicked on the hallway light.
A minute later, I was sitting in front of my computer again. With trembling fingers, I logged into our savings account.
I made the transfer.
I set the order limit.
I logged out.
As I collapsed back into my seat in the car, my pulse raced but my mind was totally, totally blank.
The “something” I’d forgotten turned out to be my lens solution, and I only discovered it was missing well past midnight, when my eyes burned and I wanted to get my contacts out.
“I for sure took it out to pack, but I think I left it on the night table,” I grumbled to Shmuli.
“Can you just like use water for one night?”
I shook my head and popped a contact lens out of one eye. “Useless,” I declared. “I’ll just have to wear glasses the next few days. Good thing I remembered to pack those.”
Shmuli went over to the window and pulled the shades open. “Wow. Did you take a look outside yet? This place is a dream. Imagine living here. Imagine summer in this place. Aren’t we idiots for buying in Brooklyn?”
I rubbed my eyes and gave a vague hum in response.
“Hey, how about taking a walk? It’s cold but not terrible, we’ll bundle up.”
The calm in Shmuli’s voice gave me the chills. It was only natural; that’s what usually happened. You arrive at a vacation place and your whole body shifts into a peaceful, disconnected mode. You forget everything.
This was the magic Shmuli had envisioned.
My head hurt.
“Honestly,” I said, “I’m so tired; let’s leave it for tomorrow. We’ll have plenty of time for walks over the weekend, right?”
“Uh, yeah, sure. Go to sleep, totally. That’s also part of vacation, ha ha.”
I tried chuckling but a strangled sigh left my throat instead.
This was the magic. And I’d killed it for myself.
How many minutes until Tuesday?
The sun filtered through the shades of the enormous window in our room on Friday morning, and I blinked.
Shmuli had left for Shacharis a while ago. I’d heard him leave, not because he’d woken me but because I was awake — and had been all night.
I didn’t even feel tired.
I lingered in bed. The house was quiet, either because everyone was still sleeping or because the place was so big that even if the kids were making a ruckus in the playroom, I couldn’t hear it.
Shmuli returned from shul all rosy-cheeked and chirpy. “Slept well?” he asked.
I muttered something about an unfamiliar bed, takes time to adjust, whatever.
“I once saw a quote, ‘If you want breakfast in bed, sleep in the kitchen,’ ” he said. “But guess what — this is vacation, how does breakfast in bed sound?”
“Oh!” I spluttered as he presented me with a bag from the bagel store. There was a 24 oz cup of coffee, a bagel with cheese, eggs, and hash browns, sliced vegetables and a muffin.
“Wow, thank you!” I offered him a huge smile. “I’ll wash up quickly and say birchos hashachar. Yum, this looks heaven.”
I changed into a comfortable robe, then paused. Shmuli was waiting — when was the last time we’d enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together, not rushing anywhere, without any kids around?
It was so… special.
It made me sick.
Shmuli was sitting on a chaise in the corner of the room when I returned, with his own breakfast on the perfectly placed end table nearby.
As I sat down and reached for my coffee, my eyes fell on the alarm clock on the night table.
I looked down at my vacation breakfast and gagged.
It was only on Sunday night that I realized that Shmuli was serious.
We’d done it, we’d really done it. We’d taken the kids snow tubing, then ended up at a pizza shop for supper. Now, with Mindy and Shani supervising marshmallow roasting in the house and the weather a surprising 45 degrees, Shmuli and I went out for a brisk walk.
“Have we ever done anything like this with the kids before?” Shmuli mused.
“It really was incredible,” I said.
The kids had lived it up; they were going to go home with unforgettable memories. I’d even managed to take my mind off Wall Street options for several pockets of time. I had to admit, this trip had been the healthiest thing for me. Call it abstinence, but I really hadn’t thought it would be possible to disengage like this.
I was so happy Shmuli’s idea had worked out. For him, for the kids, and yes, even for me.
“This house,” Shmuli said, slowing his pace in front of a magnificent structure with a sprawling lawn. “I would do something like this.”
“You must’ve bought off all of Toms River over our stay,” I joked.
But Shmuli wasn’t joking.
“I have such chaishek to do this,” he said. “I feel like it’s the right step for us to take at this point in our lives.”
His tone of voice was earnest. Shmuli wasn’t the type to get hooked on every new idea. He meant what he was telling me. And that made me feel uneasy.
“I spoke to some guys in shul. There are so many opportunities in the neighborhood. We’d start it off as an investment, just rent it out for a reasonable return. And we could always decide what we want to do with it in the future. Sell if the market goes up enough to make it worth it. Or maybe even… move?”
I wanted to respond with some snarky comment, but the glow in Shmuli’s eyes made me bite my tongue.
Shmuli continued walking. “Look,” he said, “the money is sitting in the bank. The value of money in a bank only depreciates over time, right? We’ve been waiting for an opportunity to invest for so many years. What should I tell you? My heart is pulling me here. I really want to do it.”
I shivered in my jacket. The pleasantly cool evening had suddenly turned bitterly cold.
The trip home Monday night felt like the last hour before breaking a fast.
The nausea was definitely comparable. I was quiet throughout the ride, incapable of following any conversation.
It took unbearable restraint to stay away from my office as the kids stumbled into the house, half asleep. Shmuli chatted happily as he helped unpack our luggage, and I just wanted everyone to go to sleep already, the suspense was making me sick.
Finally, almost an hour after we’d arrived home, I snuck away and quietly hurried upstairs.
My order had been placed. I saw the email confirmation as well as the trade order in my account.
Heart in hand, I opened the bookmark to my watchlist to check how the market had behaved since the purchase.
My breath escaped like a balloon that had been punctured.
AMD had risen to my expectations.
I couldn’t contain the relief. The excitement. Before even logging into my portfolio to check the exact gain, the calculator in my brain did all the feverish work.
Distantly, I heard Yossi cry. I bounded downstairs to prepare him a bottle. I was grinning like an idiot as I handed it to him, and if the baby thought I was nuts, so be it. Impulsively, I scooped him out of his crib and hugged him with the most bizarre jubilance.
As I settled him back in for the night, Shmuli walked into the room.
“Malkie,” he said.
I looked up. His face was white. He looked like he was going to faint.
“Our savings account,” he whispered. “It’s empty.”
Shmuli’s expression was dazed when I showed him my screen.
“See? Our savings increased by nearly two-and-half percent. Over two days, Friday and Monday. While we did nothing, while we were on vacation.”
“I see. Very clearly.”
His voice was cold. Old.
“I can sell it right now,” I said quickly. “While you’re sitting here. I can transfer it all back. Up to you, totally up to you.”
He didn’t say a word.
“Or we could leave it; it’s going to rise a lot over time. It might drop a bit first; it’ll go up and down for a while, but eventually, we’re going to triple or quadruple or quintuple our savings. So really, like I said, it’s totally up to you.”
Shmuli turned to stare at me. His gaze was fierce and I couldn’t take it; I couldn’t make eye contact.
“I don’t care what you do with it now, Malkie.”
“What do you mean? Of course you care! How could you not care? This is a major decision! Maybe you want to think it over first, that makes sense, but you can’t not care.”
He stood up. I dared to look at his face.
It wasn’t cold. It was pained.
“We went on a vacation,” he said in a monotone. “But you weren’t there. You thought I didn’t notice? Your body was there but your mind and heart were… on this screen. You were tense and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. But I get it now. Now I see why.”
I sat frozen.
“You made this decision without me. You didn’t breathe a word.”
“I—I couldn’t have told you. You would never have agreed. You would never have taken the risk, and we would never have made this gain.”
“Right,” he said.
A flash of intense sadness crossed his face. “That’s right,” he repeated.
He left the room.
The reds and the greens blurred on my screen, numbers flickering, changing, moving.
It was Tuesday, 10:00 in the morning. AMD rose a notch. I waited for that rush of ecstasy, for the exhilaration that nobody but a day trader could understand.
But I didn’t feel much of anything as I sold every last AMD share. I didn’t even put a stop order to give the stock a chance to go up just a bit more before selling. The incoming amount on our savings account was quite a bit higher than the amount I’d transferred out on Thursday, but instead of rejoicing at my success, the sour taste of failure filled my mouth.
The gain glared, whispering a slew of ugly truths.
Trading has taken over my life.
I am a slave to the market.
I betrayed my husband.
And then a different truth surfaced. A strange and unfamiliar thought, something that had never occurred to me before.
I betrayed myself.
I turned off the computer.
The baby was due for a nap. I bundled him up and strapped him into the stroller, reclining the seat and zipping up the bunting. I didn’t bother applying makeup or changing into a sheitel. I didn’t even take my bag or cellphone along. I slipped on my boots, left the house, and shut the door behind me.
I walked and walked, long, fast strides.
Crisp, cold air filled my lungs. I walked past quiet houses and bare trees, past flashes of red and green. The faces of my children swam before my eyes; Mindy and Shani and Chaya and Blima and my angelic little baby Yossi. Shmuli’s green eyes, the eyes Shani and Blima had inherited, shone in my mind, mixed with the sun’s pale rays.
There were so many blessings in my life, but most of my days I wasn’t alert enough to appreciate them. And Shmuli — he wasn’t interested in my trading activity, but he was interested in me. Very, very interested.
I’d been half-blind to it all. Half dead, shut out from the real world. Even my sleep was consumed by rising and falling numbers, so I was never there, not in the noise of day, not in the silence of night.
Shmuli had every right to be hurt about what I’d done with our savings, the decision I’d made all on my own. But he was even more hurt by my absence, my disconnect from life.
It was like waking up from a foggy, induced slumber and suddenly snapping into the present. I filled my lungs with air, huge gulps of life, of here and now; of existence.
I slowed my pace, surveyed my surroundings. I’d walked to the upper avenues, I was only a couple of blocks from where my sister Nechama lived.
On a whim, I swerved Yossi’s stroller around and walked the two blocks to her house.
“No. No way, I must be hallucinating,” Nechama said when she saw me at the door. “My so-busy-I-can’t-breathe grant writer sister is here? At my house, during work hours? Did you have a power outage or something?”
I smirked. “No power outage. Just a power walk.”
“I might just have to request that you show me your ID. Malkie Zevamyer, you’re sure it’s you?”
I parked Yossi’s stroller in a corner and carefully unzipped his bunting so he wouldn’t wake up.
“I was craving your very special hazelnut coffee. With a fat slice of that babka you baked with your kids on vacation.”
Nechama was making all kinds of astonished faces. I draped my jacket over a dining room chair.
“How?” she demanded as we headed into her kitchen. “How were you able to break away from work and come visit me? How is the world going to hold up if you’re not sitting at your desk?”
I sat down on a barstool, leaned over her island and rubbed my face. Her questions echoed in my ears, raw and accusing.
It was true, but it didn’t have to be that way. It wouldn’t be that way anymore, I wouldn’t allow it. I wanted my life back, I wanted my family.
“Hmm?” Nechama prodded. “How did you manage to do this?”
I raised my eyes and squinted at my sister. “That,” I told her, my eyes piercing her face, “is apparently the trick of the trade.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 931)
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