Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On Scarves

Weather is a funny thing.  If this were Toronto, we’d be in mid-Febuary and sliding across heaps of old, frozen snow, but all this week the weather has been divine - warm, softly breezy and spring-like, instead of deepest winter.  The skies were clear, snow-caps glittered on the mountains - which was itself a marvel. Normally the smoggy soup that we live in here stops you seeing past the end of the street, but this week our eyes stretched out and we saw horizons.  Yesterday I threw open the windows of our apartment to let the warm breezes through and sat in the sun in my shirtsleeves. 
            Today then, came as a bit of a shock.  Today the skies were low and lowering.  Clouds hunkered just above head-height and a mean little drizzle… drizzled, the drops absurdly large and round and settled in our hair and collars like water with a plan.  Then the wind came – an icy wind, fresh from the snow-tops.  It coursed through the streets and avenues and drove the under-dressed Santiagueños - and expecting more of yesterday, we were all under-dressed - down the streets before it.  It was the sort of wind that drives humans into huddles, especially on exposed corners and in the lee of traffic lights, and causes perfect strangers to engage in warming conversation –
             “¡Ay!  ¡Que frio está!” 
            “Y yo sin suetér – sólo esta chaqueta de algodón.”
            A suck of air, a pursing of the lips. “¡Pucha!  ¡Cuidese!  ¡Get yourself indoors!”

(“How cold it is!” “And poor me without a sweater – only this thin cotton jacket.”  “Owtch!  Take care of yourself!”)

And then the rain began.  The drizzle quit thinking about things and turned to a solid driving rain.  I burrowed deep beneath my thin shirt and totally inadequate spring jacket and tried vainly to hail a taxi and thought very hard about gloves and umbrellas and scarves. 
            Specifically, the sort of scarf I would be wearing if this were Toronto in mid-February.
            I wore it with my black, fleece-lined winter boots – up to my knees- and my long black down coat – down to my ankles, like a sleeping bag with sleeves, and my pink merino beret that pulled tight way down over my ears, and my Australian shearling gloves – gauntlets that ran halfway up to my elbows.
            But that still left a lot of acreage uncovered, you know?  Nose to chin, all exposed, and when you turn your head in Toronto in November, the wind chill slides under your collar and down your neck – so.
            And in a shop on Bloor Street, I found it – six and a half feet of neon pink rabbit fur.   Thick fur, deep fur, to nuzzle a nose – and bright.  That color did everything but glow in the dark.  It was colorfast, too.  Mr Tabubil discovered that when he accidentally dropped it in the bathtub one night and slipped on the hot-water tap.  (Okay, I lie.  It wasn’t the bathtub.  It was the kitchen sink.)
            Instructions: Anchor one end at the nape of your neck, hold the other out to the side as far as you can reach and begin to turn – anticlockwise, twisting it upward over the bridge of your nose until only your eyes are visible.  Secure it about your ears with the pink hat, and you are ready for November – and even Febuary, when the winds are sharpest.
            But you go out alone.  For the first month, Mr Tabubil refused to step outside of the apartment with me when I went –
            “Muppet Slayer.” 
            “You Christmas ornament shopping-channel special, you!”
            So I went out and bought a pair of pink gloves and traded in my sensible winter boots for neon-pink snakeskin with a heel.  My toes froze and I slipped on the ice, but I was six times as embarrassing to an embryo engineer in an old university parka.  Mr Tabubil bowed to the blackmail and we went out – together. He only six steps ahead and not exactly holding my hand.
            But familiarity breeds…familiarity.  Two weeks ago, before the warm snap, I tossed on my Santiago-weight equivalent – two meters of rainbow alpaca wool, and Mr Tabubil looked at me and sighed and developed a fond and faintly goopy smile. 
            “I was just thinking” he said. “How nice you look, all bright like that.”
I smiled and went back to the closet for the pink hat.  He tucked his arm under mine and together we went out.

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