Sunday, February 02, 2014

10 Eggs

A large crowd had gathered in front of the one-story, low-slung reinforced concrete rectangle, fueled by a rumor that eggs might be available. I attempted in vain, to find the end of the line, asking, "Kto posledniy?" (Who is last?) An older woman who had taken it upon herself to organize the situation strode over and asked if I would wait in line for eggs. "Da," I assented. The scarf-clad woman gripped my hand in a powerful fist, spread it open, and scribbled the number, "921" on my palm with a ball point pen.

Standing in line for long periods of time afforded an opportunity for me to observe people. Middle aged or elderly women were in the majority. Each one had at least one large bag hanging off their arms, or draped over their shoulders: re-usable plastic bags with fading flower prints, dark, homemade fabric bags, bags crocheted by hand from rope, or heavy leather satchels.

The bags bulged with all manner of apples, potatoes, carrots, milk cartons, and freshly-washed bottles, waiting to be recycled. The women’s clothing was mostly drab: skirts and long wool coats in mature shades, but there were a few bright splashes of hair and lipstick--variations on the themes of henna and coral. Sedate scarves or hats finished off their attire. My own black wool scarf, smothered with roses, was more typical of the younger generation, or the gypsies. I wore it tied twice around my head, topped off with a green knit hat and a black wool coat.

There was a stir in the crowd ahead. A grey-haired matron was exclaiming, "You don’t know, ladies, what is going on. I have just returned from Ukraine, and I tell you it is evil, evil, what is happening, I do not know how it will end. This Rukh, this thing, it must stop!" A woman beside her took up the thread of the conversation, saying bluntly, "But the churches did belong to them, you know," and at that the matron exploded. "It is a terrible evil," she shouted, bending over so close, I thought she might hit the other woman. "My sister lives there, if this thing continues, I do not know what will happen to her. People are getting killed, blood is being spilled!"

Listening to this drama unfold, I nearly forgot why I was standing there, until I found myself at the front of the line, holding out my ration card. "Ten eggs into each pair of hands," pronounced the egg seller in an automatic voice, and exactly ten eggs were counted into my sack.

Moscow, 1991

5 comments:

Cheryl and Janet Snell said...

Wonderful visual details in this, great tension.

Iulia Flame said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Iulia Flame said...

Thank you, Cheryl/Janet. I appreciate the input. I am not a very experienced writer, therefore am glad that some of emotion of the memory was able to emerge through the murk.

bluestorm said...

wonderful write, Iulia. more that i can relate to the story with my own experiences. thank you.

Iulia Flame said...

Thank you dear friend. Yes, you might be able to relate.....

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