My Friend in California is Dying

My friend fled New York to escape her abusive family. She tried to create a new life for herself in California, but it hasn’t quite gone as planned. She’s young, intelligent, and resourceful, but her life experiences and her current mental state won’t let her move forward.

She bleeds trauma. She’s been a victim of abuse. Physical, sexual, and psychological. She’s a bundle of raw nerves and sickening memories. She doesn’t realize that she’s funny and pretty and a super chill chick, because all she can feel is hands and belts and the stinging whip of harsh words.

We message on Facebook and the suicidality in her notes is louder than anything else she writes. She’s counting down to her death. She counts her pills and takes them in and out of her closet, desperate for relief, but still driven by the desire to expose those who have hurt her and prevent them from hurting again.

She’s running out of time. She’s running out of money. She’s running on one cup of coffee a day. I’m running out of ideas. I read her words and I swallow past the lump in my throat. I read her words and I want the people who hurt her to feel even a fraction of the pain she is experiencing.

She can’t stop talking about suicide. Her life is more painful than a brutal death. I believe her when she talks about the relief she’ll feel when she no longer exists. I don’t try to change her mind, I just tell her that I hope she chooses to live.

She shared a poem that she wrote, a love note to death. It’s hard to read.

Oh you sweet and bitter spell
The breath of heaven, the skin of hell
You’re courting me
And I’m waiting

You stand there smoking a black cigarette
Wait for me to slither up to you
And receive the kiss of death.

Oh, you speak of the honeymoon
Just over the end
The greatest pleasure
Is the banishing of burdens
The exorcism of the weary
The greatest pleasure is being bound
To nothing at all.

I’m not ready to leave with you yet
But you know that, don’t you
You’ve waited a long time
For this honeymoon.

Would you like to dance?
You always say yes
With a question in your eyes
Will this be the night?

Just before the crescendo
My back arches, every time
Away from your waiting lips
And into the loneliness of life.

Tonight we’ve been dancing in a dry riverbed
It was too dark to return home
It was time to move on, with you
You’ve always been here
And I’m tired of dancing.

There was nowhere left to go now
And nothing left to miss
And so I leaned in
And finally
We kissed.

She is the face of trauma. She is the face of abuse. She is every girl being raped, molested, taunted, exploited, gaslighted, beaten, and kicked. She is the outcome of institutional abuse that exists in too many Jewish communities. She is a product of a community of silent bystanders.

How can I ask her to live when I know that her future likely holds more of this intolerable pain? How can I ask her to exist in a world where too many supposedly-trustworthy people have used their authority and respectable appearance to tear apart those weaker than them?

She wants to expose those that have hurt her, both the individuals and the institutions, but if she did, would you even believe her? Would you open your ears and your heart to her truth or would you be one of the hundreds who are so quick to say, “No, he/she would NEVER do that”.

All she wants is that girls in the future won’t be hurt like she was. All she wants is justice and some peace of mind. She can’t afford therapy. She can’t afford a treatment facility. She can’t afford anything that she actually needs. But as she slowly starves to death, all she wants to do is save future girls like herself.

This can’t go on. The ultra-orthodox community is letting its children be savaged by those who have the right clothing, level of kashrut, and pedigree. The number of people speaking up about it is embarrassing. And the ex-orthodox who speak up about it, like myself, are written off as bitter, vengeful, or irrelevant

I don’t care if you think I write too much about sexual abuse. I don’t care if you think I’m presenting a one-sided view of the ultra-orthodox community. I only care about the fact that girls like her are fantasizing about suicide and are going to sleep every night wishing for death

My friend in California is dying, and she’s only one of many.

About the Author
Shoshana is an author and social worker living in South Jersey. She works primarily with teenagers and has mostly worked in urban environments. In her spare time, she can be found rock climbing and drinking iced coffee, occasionally at the same time.
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