I turned around.
"Ah," she said. "My favorite."
I have a photo on my wall of Darya and I before she left for Israel. I don't know what age I was exactly but I look five. I'm sitting in her lap with a big smile. I wouldn't see her again for years. I'd be twelve or something. Her hair was longer and she looked different. And I was shy and still reeling from divorce and separation and didn't feel quite close to anybody. So I couldn't really feel her when she came back. But I felt it when she left.
A few years back she came to stay for a few months. We'd sit on the porch and smoke cigarettes well into the night, gossiping, talking and laughing so loud that we could be heard in the house. Our laughter sometimes echoed down our quiet, small town street.
After she'd been home for a few days, she took me outside for a smoke and asked me, "Why don't you talk? Inside. You're so quiet." And I told her I didn't feel like anyone would want to hear what I had to say. She asked me questions. The kind that don't normally come up in casual conversation.
"If you were living on your own," she said. "What would you do?"
I thought hard. "I'd have dinners," I answered. "Lots of dinners. The kind where you don't absolutely have to clear the table as soon as everyone is done - because you're in the middle of a good conversation. I'd refill glasses of wine and if the night was going real well - I'd leave the dishes for later." She said she'd decorate. Create a place that looked like her own.
When my grandfather died, she'd found me in the basement sitting at a table with headphones on...listening to Counting Crows and crying. She cupped my face with her hand and smiled and brought me back upstairs. Comforted. When I'd dropped some weight and tanned my skin, she took me out shopping - getting me out of the boy clothes I'd grown up wearing. Confident-ed me. And when we were both drunk on wine - she even got me to dance.
"Oh, I missed you!" she says, hugging me tight. Her voice - and her accent - is soft, smooth and sweet on the tounge. Like frosting.
From across the room we'll catch each other's eye and I'm not just looking at an aunt who loves me dearly. She's my friend who I see all too little.
And when she says her trip is being shortened, leaving after only a few days, I tell myself that I would have been too busy to see her anyway. But the next day on the ride to school...I'll silently cry in the car.
Because my favorite is something you miss when it's not around.