This morning my husband left for synagogue and did not return. He should have been home by 11:00., 11:15 if he’d stayed to exchange words with the rabbi. But by 11:45, there was no sign of him.
I’d laid the table with a white cloth, silver wine goblet, two plaited rolls, and two place settings. Fish and potatoes warmed on the hot plate, and a bowl of salad dressed in vinaigrette stood on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t unusual for the two of us to eat Sabbath meals alone together. Our adult children rarely visited. And we’d fallen out of the habit of inviting friends.
I stepped outside and looked down the road to the bend. The noon sun shone so brightly that the sidewalks glittered. Squinting, I recognized members of the synagogue walking towards me—two men in white dress shirts carrying velvet pouches. I asked them if they’d seen my husband at morning prayers. They had but, whether he’d left the synagogue or lingered, they couldn’t say.
Calling my husband was out of the question as he didn’t have his phone. I might have walked the short block to the synagogue to find him, but I didn’t. Should I have been alarmed? I wasn’t.
At 1 p.m., our usual mealtime, I sat down at the table, slid the wine goblet and rolls from my husband’s place setting to mine, and recited the blessings. I couldn’t recall a Sabbath meal alone, but the experience felt oddly familiar. I kept looking at my husband’s chair, conjuring scraps of a conversation we might have had about our aging parents or the children or the weather. Then I ate dessert and recited grace, imagining his baritone voice chiming in with mine.
After lunch, I moved to the living room and lay on the couch. I visualized my husband next to me, tipped back in his recliner, book propped on his belly, glasses pushed on top of his head. Ordinarily, we read, doze, and the day passes. It’s quiet in the house; we don’t talk a lot. After all these years, we’ve covered the important topics.
The time for afternoon prayers came and went. I looked through the kitchen window as men walked by the house talking and gesticulating with fervent hand motions. Women pushing strollers chatted animatedly with friends. Children shouted from one side of the street to the other. The world was raucous with conversation. Even through the window pane, the sound was deafening.
By now, six hours had passed since my husband’s disappearance, and I hadn’t begun to investigate his whereabouts. I would have made inquiries had anything seemed amiss, but the day resembled any other. Nothing in my experience indicated that he was missing. I felt no particular lack, worry, or longing. Lonely, yes, but no more so than when he was here with me.
I wondered if my husband had disappeared, not this morning, but long ago, and I hadn’t noticed.
The sun set; the Sabbath ended. If I didn’t alert the authorities now, I would be a prime suspect in his disappearance. I drove to the police station to file a report. An officer received me in a small, drafty room where he typed my details on an ancient desktop computer. When I told him my name and address, he straightened in his seat and fixed his eyes on mine. He said my husband had just left the precinct. He’d come in to file a missing person report.
MIRIAM MANDEL LEVI — Miriam’s work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction’s anthology “Same Time Next Week,” Brain, Child, Literary Mama, Under the Sun, Poetica, bioStories, Sleet, Tablet, Blue Lyra, Chautauqua, Random Sample, Sky Island, JMWW, MoonPark, Sunlight Press, and Persimmon Tree.
Art by KATE SULLIVAN — Kate likes to play around with words, music and pictures. She has written and illustrated children’s books, On Linden Square and What Do You Hear?, sung chansons at NYC Mme Tussaud’s Wax Museum and her fugue-ish ‘Fugitum est’ was performed at Carnegie Hall by The Kremlin Chamber Orchestra as part of their tribute to Mozart. She also likes to paint ostriches and plays the musical saw to impress people. www.sullyarts.com; sullyarts.substack.com; for artwork, go to shop.sullyarts.com.