“Are you making another scarf?” Aunt Toni asked. She’s the server at The Cafe on the Corner. I was recently promoted from Preferred Customer to Customer Who Sits at Auntie Toni’s Table. My friendship with Toni was sealed when I introduced her to my Nana and my Actual Aunt Judith. Toni is a grandmother herself, raising her grandsons while their parents work abroad. She felt as much as anyone the importance of their visit, and the honor of meeting my Baba. Toni was already dear to me for her butch demeanor, delicious cafe, and for finding my phone one time. Apparently, it fell out of my bag while I was eating. She picked it up, called my school, who called my friend Nataliya, who called my next-door neighbor, Dolya, who rang my buzzer holding her cordless telephone.
“You have a phone call!” Dolya said when I answered the door.
Usually I miss the lunch rush, so Toni gets me a chicken leg and some cabbage and sits with me to watch The Slavi Show while I knit scarves and eat. Christmas is coming. Scarves don’t take much yarn, it’s easy to make them varied and attractive, and they’ll fit anyone.
“Oooh!” Toni leaned in, “What about the scarf you made for your friend?” The word “friend” is gendered, and with an ever-so-slight fluttering of eyelids can be used for “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.”
“I finished it! I think he likes it a lot. And look, he gave me a scarf too,” I passed her the scarf hanging on my chair. Toni gave all the appropriate exclamations while examining it carefully, praising its color and softness, and speculating as to its warmth (“много„).
Camcheto bought me a red and purple scarf in Athens with tiny threads of rainbow tinsel. It couldn’t have come at a better time since I lost a similar scarf about a month ago. Okay, not really similar; it’s cotton and rayon instead of silk and cashmere, and pale blue with butterflies. And I was hardly destitute without it, since my scarf collection still hovered in the high teens, but the blue scarf was one of my favorites. I hoped the new one, being of a similar size and texture, would fill the void it left behind when it blew off my laundry line, or thoughtlessly decided to stay on a train after I got off.
It did fill the void, and so thoroughly that when a strange woman stopped me on the street to ask me if I’d lost a blue scarf I almost said ‘no.’ Then I remembered the shiny aqua butterflies that look so good with a tan.
“Yes! Where did you find it?”
“In my store. In the center.”
“Мале…I’m so sorry! What a fool I am for leaving my things everywhere. Where is it now?”
“Nothing бе! It’s still in my store. It will wait for you there.”
“Thank you so much!”
But the blue scarf did not wait for me there. A few hours ago the buzzer rang, and at the door was another strange woman.
“Excuse me, miss, but didn’t you leave a scarf at my friend’s store?” In her hand, the blue scarf had been neatly folded and slid into a plastic bag. She and I both live and work in the same two buildings, it turns out. How she and her friend determined their mutual connection to the mysterious scarf-dropper I can easily guess. П________ has a population of over 12,000 people, of whom exactly 1 is American and leaves her shit everywhere.
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that scarf-aquisition is not a zero sum game, and blue butterflies can hang next to purple flowers (okay, not “next to,” since my scarves are organized by color). I’m thankful for the delicate web of gossip and goodwill that delivers people and goods to their destinations every day in this great big village. Looks like I have two more scarves to knit.