Sitting in the armchair next to mine, my husband ran his fingers under the words in his open gemara. How can he concentrate on anything? I thought to myself, feeling jealous. I watched the clock and played with a loose thread on my throw blanket. Through the sounds of nighttime in the city—cars driving past, wind whistling through the trees—I kept an ear open for a key turning in the lock. When would my son Chaim come home?
It was only the third date, and so far he’d been gone for five hours. Surely it was going well. After two years of trying to find a wife, it seemed as if he might have found her.
I got up to putter around the kitchen. Maybe there was something else I could do in there, a chore I’d missed the last time I’d checked only 15 minutes ago.
Chaim came home just as I was wiping down the door of the fridge. I only knew he’d returned when I heard my husband’s chair creak when he got up. Our son hadn’t greeted us with his usual thunderous hello when he came back from a date. Was that good or bad? I poked my head through the doorway to the living room.
Chaim’s shy smile, the way his eyes flitted downward when my husband spoke with him in soft tones… He’d never come home looking like this after a date, and he’d gone out on plenty of them. Chaim was happy.
Was that my heart fluttering? Oh, Hashem, how thankful we are to You!
It therefore came as no surprise when the shadchan called back the next day to say that the girl also wanted to go out again.
The anticipation of a possible mazel tov followed me through the day. I hummed wedding tunes as I drove to do some errands. I smiled to myself as I pushed the shopping cart through the aisles of the grocery store. As the checkout line inched forward, I pictured the conversations I would have with my siblings when I called them to say that Chaim was engaged.
“I was here first,” a girl elbowed her way in front of me just as I was starting to unload my cart. She plopped her carton of eggs on the conveyor belt before I had a chance to respond.
The elderly woman in line behind me spoke up. “Actually, we were both here before you.” The girl looked fazed, but only for a moment. “Well, I have only one item, so it’ll take less than a minute,” she said, planting her feet firmly on the ground.
Aside from the sympathetic glance that I shared with the woman, I didn’t react. The minute or so that it would take for the cashier to ring her up wasn’t worth the hassle.
A week ago, in another lifetime, I would have wondered what the girl’s name was so I could make sure that she never went out with my son. Now, though, who she was and what she did were of no concern to me.
Until she told the cashier to add the eggs to her family’s account. “Steinman on 54th Street,” she said. (All names have been changed.)
The muscles in my stomach tightened. I knew she looked familiar. The Steinmans had only one girl, and I’d studied the photo attached to her shidduch résumé while speaking on the phone to her friends and coworkers, the ones who had so many nice things to say about her.
I watched the cashier pack the eggs into a bag. How had we managed to miss this?
My shopping cart filled with bags rattled on the uneven pavement in the parking lot as I searched for my car. It’s hard to remember where you parked after finding out that the girl your son wants to marry has terrible middos.
On the way home I weighed my options. At the next red light, I pulled the résumé up on my phone. I was certain that it was the same girl. I stared at her picture until the cars behind me started honking.
My husband wasn’t answering my calls, and after reaching his voicemail for the third time I gave up trying. Instead, I dialed the first number on the girl’s résumé, the same one I’d called a few weeks before.