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  • Experts on Pain
  • Hanna Halperin Goldstein (bio)

When I walked in and found my husband dead on the floor, the first thing I wanted to do was to kick the crap out of him. I didn’t. I called 911 and held him in my arms until the paramedics came. I whispered into his ear that I loved him, buried my face into his chest, and inhaled his smell—which was still there—thick and rousing. I stroked his cheeks, his forehead, his hair. His hands were cool and soft. I brought one palm up and held it to my face, cupped it against my cheek.

When I heard the ambulance approaching, I shook his shoulders and yelled his name. “Wake up,” I wheezed, my breath fast and shallow—we were running out of time. I shook him so forcefully that his chin whipped backward and his teeth clicked together. Then something came over me. I thrust my palms into his chest, pummeled my fists into the soft expanse of his belly. “I hate you,” I cried out loud.

When they carried him out, that’s when I became hysterical. That’s the word I used when I described it to my friends, the ones who asked for the gory details: hysterical. I told them what it looked like to see Frank’s face, slick with my own tears, the way he just lay there, unresponsive. I didn’t tell them about beating him. They would have been too disturbed by this detail, too curious to let it go without a fight.

In the months after the funeral, I couldn’t sleep at night, so I took Frank’s sleeping pills, which would knock me out for five numbing hours. I’d wake up startled and terrified around 4:00 a.m., then lie in bed until light seeped through the blinds. During the day, I’d nod off for brief, agitated spells, the sun a pounding fever. Sometimes I fell asleep in my office between sessions. I’d move over to the couch, then jump awake minutes later to the sound of the buzzer, my next patient. I kept waiting for Frank to show up in my dreams so that I could ask him what the hell had happened, but every time he did show up, he was always as dead as that day I found him.

The only person to whom I told the truth about Frank was my [End Page 23] therapist. After thirty years of therapy with the woman, she knew my husband almost as well as I did. It wasn’t my place to tell anyone else. I wasn’t sure that I ever would.


A year later, my friend Marsha became intent on setting me up. “It’ll take your mind off things,” she urged. “This Friday,” she called me up to tell me, “we’re having people for dinner. It’ll be small, relaxed.”

She’d tried this before, several times, and each time I’d shot her down. “Who is he?” I asked.

“Larry,” she said brightly. “Larry Silverstein.”

“Marsha, I don’t want to date another Jewish shrink.”

“I’d set you up with a Christian one, but I don’t know any.”

“Emphasis on shrink.”

“He’s cute, Sharon. Hairy, but cute. You’ll like him.”

“Hairy Larry.” The idea of finding someone cute, after Frank, after everything, seemed next to impossible, but I decided to let her talk me into it. “Divorced?” I asked.

“Widowed.” She said it the way some women might say rich.


“Two. Grown. And they’re normal.” She paused. “I showed him your picture.”

“Oh, God.”

“He thinks you’re beautiful.”

“Did you tell him I’m depressed?”

“It goes without saying. Come on. Just dinner.”


The nice thing about New York is no one knows when you’re in mourning, so you can linger there, in your own bubble of gloom, as long as you’d like. You can dress head to toe in black, look miserable—hell, be wailing like a baby—and no one will look twice. That’s also, I suppose, the lonely thing about New York. I...


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