Once David was settled in his new bedroom in my dira, he started to calm down. The PTSD episodes were down to maybe a half a dozen each day. We spent many hours having hot tea together, sitting across from each other at my giant, wooden, diningroom table. I could turn my cellphone into a wireless hotspot, so he surfed on his Macbook while I surfed on my Toshiba Thrive tablet. It was very peaceful.
I think he had been with me for two days, and it had been less than two weeks since he tried to cut open his forearms. He was just starting to pretend to act relaxed. He didn’t feel safe in unfamiliar surroundings, but no warriors had attacked him yet. Sometimes that’s the best you can hope for with PTSD. In the morning, at around 1100 hours, we were sitting across from each other, reading our emails on our separate computers, sharing interesting tidbits with each other. My sister had written me that she was very upset about something that was not working out the way she wanted it to. David said she should donate $3000 to charity. I asked him why $3000, and he said that tzedakah overturns a harsh decree. Then David says to me, “Oh, Doctor so-and-so from Toronto wrote me an email. I wonder how he’s doing?” The next thing I know, David stands up, pushes his chair away from the table, it hits the floor. He’s cussing and waving his arms about. “How can he say that? How can he write that to me? I want to die.” David storms out of the apartment, and I have no idea what just happened.
He doesn’t come back. I’m freaking out. In about six hours, I have to go to Canaan to set-up for a wedding. I am The Wedding Planner. I have a staff of six people coming to do what I say. I am responsible for replacing all the sofas with banquet tables, setting up the actual chuppah area outside, cleaning the patio and making seating areas, decorating, arranging the buffet stations, cleaning the tile floors, ironing the bridal gown and kittel. I was in charge of everything except the food. The bride’s son was handling all the cooking because he had been to culinary school. All day, I wrung my hands worrying about where David was. After six hours or so, I opened his Macbook to see what had upset him. I knew that if he came home, he would just leave again unless I had some idea of what had upset him. I read his email because I was trying to save his life. His friend, Doctor so-and-so in Toronto, had written to him that Israel was the best place to be and David should just trust Hashem that everything was fine. I wrote back to the Doctor. I identified myself, explained who I was and why I was using David’s email account, and asked the Doctor to call me on my cellphone. I asked him that if Israel was so great, why wasn’t he here with us? I told him that David’s life was in danger because he had been evicted. I asked the Doctor to collect $3000 at shul for David. I demanded it of him kind of like a blackmailer. I said it was such a small amount of money for Canadians but would save David’s life in Israel. Then I archived the conversation so that David would never know about it. I actually thought that the Doctor would phone me like I asked him to.
By late afternoon, David had still not returned and I had to leave. I had obligated myself and it was for a wedding. Poor David did not even have a key to my house. I hid my keys in the heshmal box and hoped that he would find them. I went to the bride’s house and the group of us workers left for Canaan to set up the house where the wedding and reception would be held. I was very professional. I figured that no-one would want me to rain on the festivities, so I kept my mouth shut and did my job. My team whipped that venue into shaped. It looked good. They all went home and I was left alone to start the ironing. I can say that ironing the kallah’s wedding dresses and the groom’s kittel was the strangest mitzvah that Hashem ever allowed me to do. I was so happy for that. In fact, here is a picture of me ironing the kallah’s robe in Tzfat:
Okay, so there goes my anonymity. At this point, around 2100 hours, my Vaad Bayit calls me on my cellphone. Moshe is shouting at me in ivrit and I can’t understand him. “What’s the matter?!” A drunk man is in my apartment building, stumbling from dira to dira, throwing open the doors and calling for ‘Rivka’. Oh my god. What can I do? I’m on the other side of town. I tell the Vaad Bayit to call the police on him, but he is already gone. Israelis. By the time I get home, David is nowhere to be found and my housekeys are still where I had left them. I walked up and down the neighborhood calling for him like a runaway dog, but he doesn’t answer. I went home and went to bed.
Around 2300 hours, my cellphone rings. It is the wife of David’s former landlady. She speaks a little English. She tells me that David is sleeping outside his apartment on the stairwell, that he is crying, and the neighbors are frightened. She doesn’t know what to do, but knows that I am helping him. Tzfat is a small town. Everybody in town knew what had happened and that David was living with me now. Grateful for the news that he had been sighted, I thanked her, told her I would ‘take care of it’, threw on my clothes, and ran to David’s former dira.
Oh my god, there he was laying on the floor in front of his dira! I thought he was dead. I started crying and reciting Tehillim. A rabbi in Miami had told me once that all the Tehillim are the same when you need to talk to Hashem. He told me to say whichever ones I knew. Well, I only knew #23 by heart, because of all the funerals I had directed. Between my sobs, I recited Tehillim #23 over and over again. I never stopped. I tried to wake David, but I could not. He wasn’t dead because occasionally he would snore or cry out, but I couldn’t wake him. Also his breath would become shallow and I knew he might die.
I saw that the neighbors had put some food out for him, some raw carrots and some apples. I sat on the steps in the dark stairwell and prayed. I could never lift David. He was way bigger than me. I stroked his ankles with my bare hands and just kept on reciting Tehillim. After nearly an hour, which seemed like an eternity, he came to enough to realize I was with him. I got him to stand up and drape his arms across my shoulders. Together we staggered down the three flights of stairs. If he fell, there would be nothing I could do. He was too heavy for me to lift. On the street, I realized that I was in big trouble. He could barely walk and my building had three flights of stairs that he had to climb. I don’t know how we did it. He bumped into all the railings. I thought he was going to tumble down the three flights of stairs. At last we reached the top floor and I put him in his bed. I prayed to Hashem that he would not die in his sleep as his breathing was still so irregular.
Thank Hashem that I was off the next day because I would never have agreed to leave him. In the morning when David awoke, he was furious. He wanted to know why he was in my dira. I think the only reason he didn’t just leave immediately was because of my lack of reaction to his fury. I was just broken. I couldn’t muster the energy to battle him. I told him he had been unconscious so I brought him to his bed. He didn’t say any more to me.
The epilogue is in part three of Betrayal.
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