Lubi Barre is a writer of non fiction short stories. She recently published her story “Goodbye” in the anthology book “My Old Man”. She is the co-host of the independent reading series AHAB, doing the English literature events. She is also a member of the Hamburg writing collective Found in Translation, which puts on one of the only international reading series in Germany, called Hafen Lesung. She is a member of the prestigious residency Writers Room and is currently working on a short story collection.
She lives in Hamburg with her family.
photo © Nico Scagliarini
It took her a while to find the exact pale blue nail polish to match the silk scarf. She wasn’t particularly fond of the scarf but he gave it to her on their first Christmas together, so she felt obliged to smile big in return.
It was two and a half months after they met. Madly in love in New England, she celebrated her first Christmas in his shared apartment, the wind howling outside. They were both living in a city they did not grow up in, in a country that was not theirs, although she held a passport. She wore a flower patterned dress she had bought in Vancouver, more snug on her body than usual from all the happiness. He insisted they open their gifts on the twenty-fourth, just like back in his home country and she followed suit, as it was all new to her anyways.
She does not remember the other gifts, just this scarf. He told her the back story after he saw her less enthusiastic face. How he visited Uzbekistan before he moved to America for his post doc. How he and his friend went to this factory and how he chose this scarf specifically, a metallic like color of pale blues, some yellow. She thanked him and put it amongst her other scarves. Eventually it became covered from sight and memory, slipping underneath cashmeres and cotton.
Almost one year later, she is holding hands with him in front of the clerk, taking vows of sickness and health, making things legal. He slips the matching ring on her finger, the pale blue varnish shining as his hands shake slightly. He wears a grey silk scarf to match her pale blue one, both cut and tailored from the same factory.
She had never understood why he treated this scarf with such reverence, making her fold it in wrapping paper, checking to see she had brought it with her when they moved in together. It didn’t go with her wardrobe of blazers and tights, so it lay cushioned in wrapping, suffocated from light.
It was not until an accidental slip of the tongue that she found the true story behind it. It was a week before their wedding and she was video recording him. They talked about their impending move across the Atlantic, their fears and dreams of the upcoming baby, the thought of a life together. She teased him about enjoying dating the variety of women America offersand his indifferent attitude about marriage. He protested that he had come to America to find his wife, subconsciously. That when he had bought this silk scarf, he had actually bought two. One grey for him and the blue one. He told himself that he would only gift this scarf to the woman he would marry.
She did the math. He gave it to her a mere nine weeks after they met. She knew he thought it was precious but only because he had bought it while traveling and that it was expensive. She realized that his compulsion to give her this scarf was much more than oxytocin and frequent love making.
For once she was speechless. She witnessed him as a newly acquired PhD graduate, traveling through a country with a visa stamp that would later give him some trouble, taking his time to find the perfect two scarves with this hope in mind. How he made sure to pack it amongst his favorite comforter and minimal belongings. How he unpacked it on foreign wood floors and folded it in second hand closets. How it lay sitting there as he worked on his computer each night, was still there after he entertained new friends and a few short-lived flings. How the scarf made it through almost two years before he took it out, wrapped it in Christmas paper, and gave it to the woman he would marry one year later.
She wore that scarf that whole day, the raw silk tingling around her neck, thinking of the young man who had tucked a dream from Uzbekistan in his suitcase with the hope of making it a reality.