the clerk at the post office gives H and F's letter back to me; there's no point in stamping it with the meter, since there's no postal service from america to israel. i carry the letter back to their apartment, where a little purple bag hangs on the front door's knob: it's a bottle of DKNY perfume, a gift. they have asked me to knock instead of dematerializing when i drop off their groceries so that they can give me 'the little something' in person, and i thank them profusely. they ask if i'm going home to work, what do i do, and i tell them i'm a writer. "do you write for the times?" just once. "you must live in my father's apartment!" F's family was among the original tenants when our apartments were built in the late '50s; the woman who purchased his father's place from him loved their immigration story so much that she was going to pitch it, per H. not me, i live in the building right across the street, but it is a wonderful story. i congratulated them on their six children, 30 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

the cashiers at trader joe's are always fascinated by what the neighbors request, as am i. H and F have (mostly) pumped the brakes on chocolate-covered macaroons and are now enamored with raw fermented sauerkraut (five large jars in the last two weeks). they also wanted six large onions; "they're really up to something," the cashier noted. "and so are you! what are you making?" minestrone. "what is minestrone?" it's— "is it italian peasant soup?" yeah, pretty much.

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