Somebody Else's Life
A freak accident may have put her out of commission for a while, but it also opened her eyes to the blessings that surrounded her.
By Daniel Kessel, New York, New York
There are days when we can feel as if we have woken up in somebody else’s life, when our surest assumptions, assumptions we may have come to take for granted, are suddenly upended, our personal verities swept away. It is shocking and almost always painful. And sometimes it is transformative.
Heidi Siefkas thought she had it all—a devoted husband, a marketing job that gave her the opportunity to travel the world, a lifestyle she always wanted. She and A.J. made their home in Florida, but with all her traveling and with A.J. studying at the famed Culinary Institute of America in New York’s Hudson Valley, it was hard to be together.
Heidi did everything she could to connect around his schedule. Maybe that’s when the doubts first seeped into her subconscious—not really thoughts at all, just something that nagged at her. More often now, A.J. fended off her visits with excuses: His brother was visiting for the weekend from Boston; he had a major project due at the institute. After all, the institute was the door to his future.
Heidi and A.J. had met and fallen madly in love years before, when they both worked in a restaurant. Heidi knew how important A.J.’s career was to him. They dreamed of someday opening a restaurant together. But Heidi’s greatest dream in life was to see A.J.’s dreams come true.
This time Heidi had arranged to stay with A.J. for a week, planning to work remotely from his apartment in Poughkeepsie while he attended classes. Alone in his place she couldn’t get settled. She had a feeling that something wasn’t right. A.J. seemed distracted, distant.
And there were little things, like the bottle of barbecue sauce in the fridge. A.J. made his own marinade. He’d never buy bottled sauce. Heidi decided she was being silly. She and A.J. were in love. “We always have been,” she heard herself say.
The fall sun had painted the Hudson Valley in brilliant hues. She decided to take a hike through the Shawangunk Mountains to clear her head and to shake off the guilt she was feeling for doubting her husband. A.J. was her whole world. Wasn’t she his? Already she was feeling better, her old self again, in the sharp autumnal air.
Yet as soon as she set foot in that apartment again everything fell apart. She fell apart.