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The Night I Lost the Hard Salami

A chapter for the middle of my unwritten memoir

By Judey Kalchik Published 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 6 min read

"I don't know what to say," I blurted nervously. "I don't know what Real People do in therapy."

Hearing the echoes of my words I winced. What a stupid way to start things. I only had three sessions as part of my Employee Assistance Program and here I am wasting time already. AND revealing something that I was sure made no sense and that I didn't want to talk about: my concern that I do things 'correctly', the way Real People do them. I was here to DO Therapy correctly.

My verbal stumble didn't seem to phase her at all, and she asked me why I decided to get counseling. I opened my mouth to answer then closed it tight before any words could escape. How, I wondered to my self- how am I going to explain this in just a few sentences? I gave it a try.

"I'm here because my husband has said he doesn't love me anymore and I'm afraid I'm going to gain weight." There. That pretty much sums it up. I sat back, suddenly exhausted, and waited for the next step of the process of fixing me to begin. I could do this.

Except. Except she just looked at me like she was expecting more. Evidently therapy isn't about summing things up?

"Umm. Is something wrong?", I asked. She asked me to explain a bit, and perhaps tell her the moment I decided I wanted to speak to a therapist. I remember shutting my eyes before I answered. Not to remember better, but to brace myself as I shared my shame. Nonetheless- the memories of that moment, that day, that humiliation came flooding back.


I'd worked long past closing at the bookstore that day. It doesn't matter why: it could have been registers that didn't balance, trouble closing the kiosk we also ran in the mall, or a late night pulling returns because I was the only one salaried and I didn't have any payroll that week to spare on that essential task. We had to balance our hours every week- it was a nonnegotiable. The why of working a 19 hour day- working until after 2 AM- didn't matter, didn't matter because those whys would always be there.

Whatever the reason, I was late completing a nighttime grocery run. My husband left for work at 4 AM and he took a packed lunch. I was the one that made the packed lunch, and there were strict expectations as to what it would contain. On the menu for the next day was hard salami with mustard on a bun, lettuce tomato and pickle in a baggie, and fresh veggies on the side. I had no hard salami at home so needed to dash to the deli counter before it closed, since prepackaged lunch meat was not acceptable for his lunch.

I made it just in time, doing the retail speed-walk to the back of the store just as they were covering the lunchmeat with that mysterious white paper for the night. I gave the deli clerk an apologetic smile as I asked for a half pound of hard salami cut thin, and she smiled back doubtlessly recognizing a fellow journeyer in the land of never-enough-time. I grabbed some other foodstuffs for the girls as I rushed to the front of the store and exchanged a few words with my favorite overnight checkout person. (when you work retail management it's not unusual to know the folks that work through the night.)

I grabbed the bags and ran up the steps to the house, unlocking the door as quietly as possible and moving into the kitchen. It was just after 3 AM, so I had time to make the lunch and creep quietly into the quarter of the bed that was mine before he woke up. This was going to work.

Except. Except there was no package of hard salami. Had I put it in the refrigerator by mistake? I opened the door and peered inside- no. It must have fallen out of the bag in the car. I ran down the steps and searched the back seat. Searched under the front seats. Checked in the door wells. No package.

Running back up the steps I grabbed the receipt, needing proof that I'd bought it. I was so, so, so tired; maybe I'm remembering another night? Another late dash for lunch supplies? No. There it was- I'd bought it.

I grabbed our flashlight and shone it as I retraced my steps to the car, checking the grass along the way, shining the light under the car, scanning the porch. Nothing. It MUST be in the refrigerator. I ran back into the kitchen. HOW had it gotten to be 3:43? I was running out of time.

By the light of the open door of the refrigerator I took everything off of the shelves, out of the crispers, from inside the bins. It simply had to be there. I was frantic, the receipt with my proof of being the wife he expected next to me on the linoleum.

And then I heard it. The alarm made its shrill call and I froze. I heard the rustling as he got out of bed. Heard the soft murmur as he greeted the dog a good morning and told him to go back to sleep. Heard the rasp of the bedroom door on the hall carpet as it opened, then the floor creaking as he walked towards the kitchen.

Then silence. He took it in: me sitting on the floor, tears now coursing down my face, an island surrounded by the jetsam of all that was intended to feed my family. Our eyes met, then as he turned to take a shower and start his new day he spoke to me over his shoulder saying "Why can't you do anything right?"


In the therapist's office- my therapist, the one that I was trusting to put me back together, repair my life, make me a better wife, help me keep off the weight I'd been starving off of my undeserving body, make my husband love me, get me ready to someday be alone/alone/alone/forever- I opened my eyes and said "I need help."


This was written in response to a Vocal Challenge to write a chapter from the middle of my memoir. The instructions read:

Sink into the reservoirs of your memory in honor of the launch of the Chapters community. Instead of beginning at the start, focus on a core moment, turning point, or meaningful experience that would ideally sit at the center of your life's narrative. This chapter does not necessarily need to be the climax of your story (as it is continuously unfolding!), but should capture the essence of your journey — resonating with emotion, insight, and authenticity.

In those three sessions with a therapist, whose name I don't remember, I began to prepare myself for a life that was not likely to proceed in the way I'd always understood it would be.

Perhaps someday I'll write the chapters that led to that moment and start documenting the rest of the journey.


Please share your thoughts and comment: Have I succeeded in writing a chapter of a memoir? Is this relatable?

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About the Creator

Judey Kalchik

It's my time to find and use my voice.

Poetry, short stories, memories, and a lot of things I think and wish I'd known a long time ago.

You can also find me on Medium

And please follow me on Threads, too!

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Comments (8)

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  • Test9 months ago

    I've done a lot of therapy like a lot a lot. It's always so scary. It's also so brave. Good for you for asking for help, this was so beautifully expressed. I felt the line about closing your eyes to brace yourself.

  • ThatWriterWoman10 months ago

    This had me feeling so many emotions. A brilliantly written, emotional piece. Well done! The biggest thing I felt was that 'Why can't you do anything right?' BOMBSHELL. When someone falsely validates how awful you feel about yourself instead of comforting you. What a shocking moment!

  • That's rough. What gets me is thinking about all those things that led up to you feeling that way in those moments of necessity & panic before the alarm went off. That's one high-maintenance unwilling to take responsibility for himself spouse.

  • Mariann Carroll10 months ago

    Thanks for sharing , That’s what I love about your stories/ memoir , you don’t sugarcoat your emotions or feelings . 💗A lot of people can relate to your stories .

  • Mackenzie Davis10 months ago

    I have no words. You capture this turning point so perfectly, the emotions are stark and raw, and I feel like part of heart just broke. I sure hope this places. Amazing work. 💕

  • Cathy holmes10 months ago

    Wow. Definitely a defining moment - two actually, the event the opening up about it. I'm glad you got away from there.

  • Rachel Deeming10 months ago

    So you go out of your way to get it right and that's the response you got? Mmm. Heavy in my gut, this one. Feel for you.

  • Scott Christenson10 months ago

    I feel for you in this story. Trying to make a sandwich at 4am and then being told you failed. I've also had some very bad experiences with controlling people.

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