Visited brother Friedman
with brother Stern
This was a terrible weather
night, deep slush rain
and snow a biting wind.
A bad night to be out visiting, indeed. Temperatures were just above freezing and New York had gotten over an inch of precipitation, half of which was rain and half snow. Plus, "the worst gale in 20 years," according to the Times, hit the East Coast that day, delaying the arrival of the Aquitania in New York and resulting in the deaths of several people (two were hit by cars when their umbrellas obscured their views of oncoming traffic, one slipped and fell under a freight train, and one was killed by a toppled billboard).
Of course, "Brother Freidman" (so called because he was a member of Papa's fraternal order Sons of Zion) probably wasn't too concerned with the weather, as he was as in mourning for his wife who had died less than a week ago. Papa, and presumably "brother Stern," had attended her funeral two days earlier, and were now paying a shiva call. According to Jewish tradition, Brother Freidman would have been unshaven, seated on a box to deny himself comfort, and wearing torn clothing. All the mirrors in his apartment would have been covered to relieve him of vanity, and his rooms were likely filled with friends and family, his table set with food brought by visitors to make sure he could focus on mourning.
Papa had found himself depressed at the funeral, and probably felt even more out of sorts at the shiva call. He idealized marriage and desperately wanted to experience it for himself. Under other circumstances, a married friend's home might have filled him with quiet longing. But what about now? Brother Freidman had already known, and already lost, exactly what Papa wanted for himself. Where did such a jarring variation fit into Papa's view of domestic life? Did he think, on this bleak and miserable March night, that he would have preferred even the pain of lost companionship to his own unending loneliness? Would he have traded places with Brother Freidman?