Saudade, pronounced saw-dadi, is a Portuguese term with no English equivalent, meaning an intimate, constant but vague desire, feeling, mood, longing, or nostalgia for something absent that is being missed.
Her fingertips lingered over the fractured color spectrum of hangers. Each shirt glimmered a mental note as her hand passed over the sleeve, her feet knowing the rhythm of the fado dance down the aisles. Saudade could almost feel some of the people who wore the clothing before like flashes of lives gone by: a girl by the pool in the purple sweater, a mom holding a newborn in a rocker in the aqua skirt, an old lady with silvery-blue permed hair smiling at birds flying overhead in the apple green button-down dress.
Saudade came to the Goodwill for these rows and rows of forgotten moments to feed her soul and fill in some for a bit of the friendship she couldn’t quite find in her adopted seaside hometown. She found comfort in these glimpses, like seeing old friends now on the other side of the country. On the aisles of this simple store of now-fashionably upcycled goods, she found happiness that got her through a week or two, three if she went on vacation.
Saudade stopped by a sunny yellow shirt in the long-sleeved section. The fabric was thin, delicate and felt cool in her hand. The silky fibers like poofs of clouds barely passing over her skin calling to be stroked. She was struck by the emotion in the fabric of the blouse rubbing the embroidered swirling pattern along the trim. Normally Saudade saw an image of a person, but with this one she felt an outpouring of love. It was as if compassion was sewn in with each thread.
“How did this beautiful shirt get here? Who would ever get rid of something that feels like this? Why donate it, of all the things in your closet? What would bring you to do that,” she thought.
Saudade took the shirt from the rack and let her face sink into the softness. A slight hint of jasmine filled her nose. She breathed in deep and closed her eyes, trying to stay inside this feeling as long as she could, wondering if she might see an image of its last owner. But Saudade couldn’t see anything but soft light. When she regained her sense of place and opened her eyes to the fluorescents, Saudade headed straight to the checkout, grabbed a ten-dollar bill from her pocket, dropped it on the counter and told the clerk to keep the change. She didn’t want to put the shirt down, even for a minute, or stop to explain. She jumped in her car, slunk down and did the magical changing act that women learn to do around age ten when they become aware of people looking at their bodies but they still need to get on with whatever they are doing. The feeling of luxurious light cotton traced down her arms, over her head, past her face, onto her breasts and abdomen as the shirt came to rest on her chest, electrifying her skin like the touch of a secret lover. Saudade sat in her car letting this feeling wrap around her like the hug she desperately needed, the cool, sweet ocean breeze helping her enjoy the moment of serenity.