The room held an almost awesome power of peace. I was here, and I was not alone, and I didn’t have to fear anyone or anything. I could sit here forever, aloft in this moment, content to be, in the ticking silence of peace.
He must have been really tired. Exhausted. How much had he slept the night before? The little I knew told me that during the week he barely slept. There were always things… people… to take care of. I was one of those people. I wondered how sleep-deprived he had come into Shabbos.
This was my answer, louder than words or explanations.
This was a person of iron control, who dictated his own actions and emotions. He would not just fall asleep.
If a person holds his breath long enough, he will fall unconscious, and his lungs will begin to breathe for him. If a person does not sleep long enough, his body will shut down for him. And sleep.
But he had not gone to take a Shabbos nap. No, he had wanted to give me time.
And he had. This sleep, then, was not his choice; sleep had overpowered him.
It did not matter that we didn’t talk. It did not matter that I didn’t get to say the things that were hard for me or hear his response. Yes, those things were difficult for me, and maybe now they would continue to be difficult. Part of me was waiting, just a bit anxious, hoping I would still get… something.
But it didn’t matter, not so much. Much more important than the words I’d have said, or the words he’d have said, was…
The time. And he was giving me time.
And now I knew, in a way more sure than words could ever have expressed, that this was time he did not have.
Every moment was a gift. I held each one, savoring.
As long as the time would last, I was here, and things were okay. There could be no bad, no danger, no difficulties, the silence a suspension between one moment of reality and the next. If I could stay on that bridge forever, maybe I would.
And then, eventually, his head came up. He opened his eyes, and stretched, and looked at me.
“My goodness,” he said, “did I fall asleep?”
I smiled in assent.
He closed his eyes and shook his head to clear it. “I see I can’t do this. I figured I would just skip the sleep but… I guess it doesn’t work.”
He grimaced as he tried to stand. “Ouch… foot went to sleep.” He looked up at me. “Was I sleeping for a long time?” I laughed softly in response.
“And you waited here the whole time?”
“Yeah,” I said.
He finally stood up, looking rueful. “I’m sorry… I’m going to have to go to shul now. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.” He walked tiredly towards the door, regaining his brisk gait as he went. As he pulled open the heavy door, he turned back, and asked, “Why did you wait? You didn’t have to wait here.”
I hesitated for a fraction of a second. “I didn’t want to disturb,” I said.
An almost imperceptible nod, an almost imperceptible smile. Then I followed out of the room.
True, I had not wanted to disturb.
But that was the reason I had not left. It was not the reason that I had stayed.