- The Good Stuff
- Contact Us
Written by Panmi.
It’s a bit surprising to find that these are my tears, which are dripping furtively onto the sheets. I guess I am forever in the role of empathic listener, a trusty and solid shoulder to lean on, learning about heartbreak and dashed relationships and trying my best to understand.
I have it all now, the life we have worked so hard for, I have come a long way from the adolescent bride under the chuppah, pledging my troth to a strange boy child that I had known only from pictures. It was the piecing together of dreams, wistfully whispered of on cold winter mornings, thoughtfully and rationally planned and waited for; our marriage is stable and almost two decades along, we live now in a beautiful home in a modern orthodox out of town community where we are at home and where our family feels comfortable and connected, I have my graduate degree in a field I always wanted to practice in, my husband is earning the six figures that enable us to send our children to the best Jewish day schools.
So why is it that on this morning I am so far from here, with the tears unchecked, uncounted, continuing on their steady path onto the sheets? These riches, these joys, this existence belongs to my other self, the part of me that is perhaps more deserving of these fruits of labor, these lucky winnings in life’s fickle lottery. I who lay here pining over a love that has no name, for which no paradigm exists, for which there is no respite or holding space to keep these passions. I who dream incessantly and constantly of soft skin, swollen red lips, glistening green eyes, and nipples shaped like saucers dusky and creamy in the moonlight. I want, I want this so! I want her! Although my world, my life, my beautiful edifice of a marriage, my wonderful children, my religion, my community and my very soul functions to obliterate and make this love go away.
She tells me over the phone that she has found someone, a nice clean cut Italian Catholic man to date…. “Thank you my pet,” she cries to me, “For helping to open my heart so I can try again, so I can trust again.” My love, my worship of her, is the base from which she will plunge back into the dating scene and try to get down to the business of finding a long-term partner. So why am I in tears? My heart is breaking, every word she speaks is like its own separate shard of glass ripping into and cracking open the façade of my life and the sanctity of this carefully constructed world I live in. I want to run away back into her arms, I want to rant and rave and demand that she save herself for us alone! In the green haze of jealousy I can see only my pain and the torture that her words inflict.
Yet, am I not doing the same damage to her? I know she appreciates that I am a product of a long, contented and stable marriage, this generous and intuitive relationship that I have with my man, and the safety and protection it offered was the reason why I was able to reach out to her and love her uninhibitedly and recklessly, this beautiful voluptuous creature in the guise of a woman. “So why does it hurt so much?” she says to me: “When you leave here, when you go back home to him, to them, to your world, I want desperately to stop you. I want to parade you in front of my parents, show you off in my church for all the world to see, this is my lover my best friend and what we have together is the music that rises from my throat in praise, is the sound that moves you congregants to worship the way you do each Sunday.” But she cannot do this, she cannot claim me and I cannot claim her; it will destroy us both and everything that we are. She cries to me, “I want to make you my own, put a ring on you and call you mine, and I know I cannot so it hurts when you leave, baby, it hurts so much.”
She also wants for herself what she knows I found with my husband, “a man to have my back like you have,” but we both know that in the success of this search will be the seeds of our ending. This is why I yearn and my heart breaks silently and there is no help for it.
I tell my therapist, who is sworn to confidentiality, that my heart is slowly breaking and there has been no precedent for these strange and painful feelings in my entire existence. I, who am a partner in a pious Chasidic alliance, one that was sealed with a l’chaim, and a diamond bracelet on the very evening I had met my husband-to-be for the very first time. I who had had the luxury of living vicariously through others less sheltered, who adventured in short and disciplined bursts of impropriety from between the safe haven and rigidly set boundaries of my husband’s arms and my halachically compliant marriage.
This pain, this loss, this special grief, there are no words for in the construct of the Chasidic lifestyle, where one is expected to be a loyal and devoted wife and dedicated, caring, self-sacrificing mother as well as a quiet, pious and meticulously modest Jewess.
‘Breaking up is hard to do’ they say, and what would I ever know of that? My parents were good, well-behaved Chasidim, immigrants from the old world who sacrificed and scrimped only to lavish their every resource on their many children. They were parents first, loyal Jews second and partners third and last, with individuality and personal happiness, a foreign concept and never part of the equation to begin with. My siblings, all twelve of them are married, more or less happily and raising large families of their own – there would be no room in their carefully censored and limited relationship vocabulary for what exists between this Shiksa-goddess and me. This creature of my heart with whom I have found an extraordinary meeting of souls, minds and bodies and with whom I can finally be free, with no projection or artifice. Besides, none of my siblings would have guessed me capable of this kind of love, I was a paragon of well-behaved virtue and a poster child of a successful Chasidic union.
Now there is just me, my pillow, the therapist and the allotted hour of confession, my tears, the memories and a love that in its short span of life provided me with a glimpse into eternity and a transcendence the likes of which I fear I will never experience again in this time. I guess there is always that.