Issue 128, Fall 1993
That day we saw three Jews in full-length black coats and black hats standing on identical stools looking into the funnel of a pasta machine. One stepped down from his little stool and went to the front where the pasta was stretching out in orange strands. He took two strands and held them up high so that they dropped against his coat. He looked like he’d been decorated with medal ribbon. They bought the machine. The Italian boys in T-shirts carried it to the truck.
They bought the machine because they wanted to make pasta like ringlets to sell in their shop. Their shop sold sacred food and the blinds were always half drawn. The floor was just floorboard, not polished, and the glass counter stood chest high. They served together in their hats and coats. They wrapped things in greaseproof paper. They did this every day except Saturday and after the machine came they made pasta too. They lined the top of the glass counter with wooden trays and they lined the wooden trays with greaseproof paper. Then they laid out the ringlets of fusilli in colors they liked, liking orange best in memory of the first day. The shop was dark but for the pasta that glowed and sang from the machine.
It is true that on bright days we are happy. This is true because the sun on the eyelids effects a chemical change in the body. The sun also diminishes the pupils to pinpricks, letting the light in less. When we can hardly see we are most likely to fall in love. Nothing is commoner in summer than love and I hesitate to tell you of the commonplace but I have only one story and this is it.
In the shop where the Jews stood in stone relief like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace there was a woman who liked to do her shopping in 4 ozs. Even the pasta that fell from the scales in flaming waterfalls trickled into her bag. I was always behind her, coming in from the hot streets to the cool dark that hit like a church. What did she do with her tiny parcels laid in lines on the glass top? Before she paid for them, she always counted them, if there were not sixteen she asked for something else, and if there were more than sixteen she had a thing taken away.
I began following her. To begin with I followed just a little way, then, as my obsession grew, I followed in ever-increasing circles from the shop to her home, through the park past the hospital. I lost all sense of time and space and sometimes it seemed to me that I was in the desert or the jungle and still following. Sometimes we were aboriginal in our arcane pathways and other times we walked one street.
I say we. She was oblivious to me. To begin with I kept a respectful distance. I walked on the other side of the road. Then because she never noticed, I got closer and closer, close enough to see that she colored her hair. The shade was not constant. One day her skin had a hanging thread and I cut it off without disturbing her. At last I started to walk beside her. We fell in step without the least difficulty. And still she gave no sign of my presence. I began to wonder about myself and took to carrying a mirror to see if I was still there. So far we had walked side by side in silence. Eventually I said, “Did you know that parrots are left-handed? This is very rare in the animal kingdom. Most creatures are right-handed like us.”
She said nothing and I dredged my mind for things that might please her.