The story is true (some details omitted for privacy); the names are fake.
Content Warning: Suicide
Ours was an unlikely friendship. You were 20+ years older than me and we had a crush on the same guy. It was That Guy who invited me to the informal Torah study group [Let’s be honest – I’m not really learning-driven. I came to flirt (unsuccessfully) with That Guy.] where I met you. But ultimately, it was you who became my friend, my confidant.
We had email and instant message conversations. We hung out for Sunday brunches and random weeknights. We shared clothing, poetry, secrets. Really, you did more of the sharing; I did more of the taking. You hosted my Shabbat guests because I didn’t have the space and I was bad at hosting; it worked out well because you became fast friends with my out-of-town friends and they all had an amazing time staying over at your place.
I started spending Yom Kippur at your place. Once it was so I wouldn’t have to walk back and forth from my place, which was a mile from the synagogue, on a fast day for the mincha (afternoon service), as your place was much closer. One year, I was cat-sitting while you were in Israel for the holidays and your cat chewed up my bra because I left all my clothes laying out. I wasn’t mad; it was a cheap bra and I loved your cat too.
Then there was the year I managed to lock myself out of my apartment on erev Yom Kippur because I am an idiot. I drove back and forth from the office desperately searching for the keys without success and finally showed up at your doorstep a half hour before the holiday with nothing but a granola bar from my office and the clothes on my back. I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.
And you just made up the spare bedroom, loaned me an outfit [actually, you had fun finding me the perfect white outfit (it’s traditional to wear white on Yom Kippur) from your closet], and shared some of your dinner. You weren’t fasting for medical reasons, but it was still your dinner. Half of one person’s dinner isn’t much to go into a 25 hour fast day on, but it’s a lot better than a single, sad granola bar. I actually remember Yom Kippur that year as one of the easiest fasts I’ve ever had. And the impromptu “Yom Kippur Sleepover party” of sorts (sans food, music, or any actual sleepover party activity other than talking) wound up being a lot of fun!
After that, we formalized Yom Kippur afternoon together as a proper yearly tradition, coordinating what to bring for the potluck communal break fast. The year we brought ice-cream was a hit!
We talked. You told me about your failed relationship with, and lingering feelings for That Guy, your family drama, your bisexuality. You told me about your short-lived fling with the guy in Israel, the start and the end of it, because you knew I wouldn’t judge. (I’d later be the one you’d trust to pick up and take back your sexy lingerie you’d left with him on one of my trips to Israel). You told me first about moving in with “Ezra”, before you were ready to tell your more religious friends.
I told you things I couldn’t tell anyone else. I told you about my many insecurities. I confessed to you about the crush-turned-emotional affair I was having with another guy. And without shaming or judgment, you just said:
You should stop. This is not something you want. This is not ultimately going to make you happy.-“Joyce”
And then there were the things I didn’t have to say. When my childhood Rabbi died, you just held me while I cried.
I never told you how depressed I really was, but you saw through the façade I put on for everyone. You recommended therapy. Multiple times. You were well-versed in this.
You told me at a high level about your struggle with clinical depression. I listened, or so I thought. But I wasn’t smart enough or sensitive enough to really listen properly.