“Spoon sweets are the best. Have you ever had spoon sweets?” She looks at her customer with such intensity from behind the counter that I am surprised to hear the woman find the strength to answer.
“Pardon, spoon sweets?” she replies in her phrasebook Greek.
The shop owner reaches for a jar from a bulging shelf – the cherries preserved in syrup clearly visible.
“Here, this is it; this is a cherry spoon sweet. Here, present for you,” she says, sliding the jar across the counter.
The woman receives it with both hands and a big smile.
I try to decipher the patisserie owner’s expression. She is not smiling, her face pulled into what I read as contempt. I could be wrong, of course. So many years away from this country, I can no longer claim insider knowledge. Still, witnessing the scene the day after my return home, I shudder from shame and envy, in equal measure. The directness of the shop owner embarrasses me; she shows the worst of herself to a stranger: the impetuousness, the loud, gestural arrogance that goes with this kind of self-assurance. I blush on her behalf. At the same time, I envy her unselfconscious manner of being. She’ll never know how she comes across, while I am forever stepping back for fear of appearing wrong, or appearing confident about the wrong things. Something inside me snaps,
“I hate spoon sweets!” I say, “hate them!” Both women turn, their eyes wide.
“Mind your business, Kyria,” the proprietor says. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
I know she will. But I have made up my mind, and turning swiftly, I walk out. In my head, the lines of a haiku appear:
……………………………spoon sweets / tangy taste of a song / long forgotten