The Cost of Compassion

Sara Goldfarb essays

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Ring, ring. Ring, ring. 6am. 6am? Who calls at…

“Your father is leaving me. It's all your fault. You hold him on a pedestal. You think he can do no wrong. So he thinks it too. It's your fault he's leaving me, you little bitch. Have I ever told you about his fantasies?”

I've heard this before. She'll apologize tomorrow.

“I'm sorry. I'm just. You know how sick I am and how much pain I'm in. I was angry at him. And on a lot of medication. How's California?”

It's wonderful. I'm free. I should stay.

I move home to New York. My father is sick now too. I should be closer to them. To help.

She's smoking on the porch. Rocking. On a stationary bench.

“Your bastard father is moving out. Well he can rot if he thinks I'm giving up this house. Are you happy now? I'm sure whatever makes daddy happy will make you happy. You two were always a team against me. He always loved you more than me.”

Today is the day I should let go.

She is committed for a short stint. He takes her to new doctors. New medication adjustments.

She'll be less volatile now.

“I'm going to get you!”

She chases me around the wedding shower my friends organized.

She has a large piece of cake in her hand. She smears it on my cheek. Pink frosting compliments my red cheeks.

Icing on my shirt. I go to the bathroom to wash it off.

“I'm sorry. I was trying to be funny. I'm sorry it got out of hand. Don't be mad.”

No one laughs. She cries in the bathroom.

His family wants to talk about it. I can't.

Today is the day I should let go.

Her brother passes. Her own family is gone.

“Why do you hate me?”

“Why can't I walk you down the aisle too?”

“Why do you always take his side?”

We aren't speaking. I consider not inviting her to the wedding.

Today is the day I should let go. 

I invite her. It would crush her.

“He's having an affair. He moved his things out while I was gone. He's a fucking thief in the night. This is your father. Have I told you about his fantasies? You're all I have left in this world.”

I call. She has no one.

She screams.

I call. She has no one.

She screams.

I call. She has no one.

She cries. Then she screams.

I call. It's 9:35 pm on a Wednesday night. But I'm worried. And she has no one.

“Why am I screaming? Why am I screaming? Because I'm a sick bitch. That's why.” [click].

I go down to…

Ring, ring.

“Why don't you call him and ask him about stealing from me? Why don't you do that instead of asking why I'm screaming at you?!” [click].

10pm. 11pm. 12am. I stare at the ceiling. I'm too old for this shit.

I'm spent. I yell at the kids for not letting me apply suntan lotion on them.

It's trickling down.

Today is the day I should let go.

Today? Today.


She has no one.

Timing is Everything.


About the Author

Sara Goldfarb

Sara is an attorney, wife, mother, and writer. You can follow her at or on Twitter @sjgoldfarb.

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