Τρίτη, 1 Οκτωβρίου 2013

THE STAIRCASE ΤΟ NOWHERE


He had spent the last fifty-eight years of his life in these spaces. A small flat with two bedrooms, a kitchen in the colour of mustard, with a small balcony viewing the open space. A bathroom in pink tiles that he detested as a colour, with a tiny window and a hallway that united these small squares with doors that creaked. He could walk in it with his eyes closed. Four steps from the bed to the door, five more and you reach the refrigerator, nine more and you water the plant on the living room table. He knew from memory where the crack in the kitchen tile above the sink was, what shapes the damp on the hall ceiling had gradually taken, with how much strength the bedroom door closed. He knew every corner of it, every hiding place. It was as familiar to him as his own body, as every wrinkle, as every wear he saw and felt. This house languished as much as he did, got old and produced needs like his body did, got darker little by little  just like his life.
They had just got married and everything seemed new. Time had another sense and duration. She was a typist and he was a plumber. They bought this flat on Patision Street on the sixth floor because it was on a central city street, near the shops that she liked so much, near Pedion Areos where they had their Sunday walks, because it was a penthouse. It was a new house back then. You could still smell the paint and they let it open for the air to come in. They were young back then. They let their minds open for the new to come in. Α whole life on the walls of the house , growing old with them.
He is thinking of those days many times. He looks back, he closes his eyes, he mentally returns to that new that hasn’t shown the signs of wear and death yet. He feels safe in his past. He is fulfilled that there are still people he loves in there. He does it often. Nowadays, even more. But today, everything is going to change.
He is in the kitchen, making his coffee. It’s dawn. He doesn’t see properly and he opens the light. He fixes his glasses that slip all the time on his nose. He stares at the closed windows opposite of him at the open space. Every now and then he can hear the toilet flush, the noise that the elevator makes while the first tenants leave for their work, the door downstairs shutting down. He stirs the coffee with trembling fingers. The day before yesterday newspaper on the table. He finds it tiring to read but he tries, not to get rusty. He gives up in a few lines but he feels good with himself. The boy from the mini market brings it every third day. The coffee is bubbling. He pours it in her cup, the orange one with the flowers. He drinks his coffee or his milk at night only in that cup the last few years. With a dragging step, he leaves the coffee pot on the marble sink. And then it draws his attention.
A metal staircase out of his balcony in the kitchen. Hooked at the edge next to the garbage bin. A downward staircase that he had never seen in his life. Is it possible? It wasn’t there. He opens the door in fear and steps out. He looks down. He wasn’t mistaken. A spiral staircase with a rusted handrail and narrow steps that remind him of a labyrinth. He feels dizzy. His heart is beating like a drum. He must check if it reaches the ground and then ask the other tenants if they have used it. But above all, he must discover it for himself. An intruder in a familiar body.
He goes out in his rubbed pajamas and he stands. He will go for it. He grabs the handrail, still cool from the night chill.  He catches his breath and he starts descending. And then it all comes to him. The house is getting back to life. A picture of her during the first months of their marriage in the house is in his mind. She is so young, her skin is almost transparent. He feels on his lips the kisses she gave him in every room. He hears her night love sighs. He keeps on going down with a slow, careful pace. There she is in their bed with their baby son, tired but happy. He hears her gurgling laugh. Every step is an image. His whole life is passing in front of him, frame by frame. His life in this house. Back then when the boy hit himself at the corner of the bed and they rushed him for stitches at the head, the night when his father died and he drank himself out for consolation, the endless boring weekends at his parents’ in-law for dinner. When the boy, in the army, returned home with days off and entered the house in his uniform. In every step there is emotion. He is reliving everything. It passes through his eyes. He has to stand in every step, hold his breath and get some strength.  The further down he goes, the more the steps become. He is descending but still remains at the same spot. He is watching the nights when he takes a look at her body on their bed. It has grown large, not seductive any more. It has become the body of habit. The caresses are mechanical, silent. Their son comes for dinner after his marriage, every now and then at the weekends. He feels his young bride’s awkwardness who is trying to speak in Greek. His wife’s medical tests are not good. Attacking cancer. He is now trying to go up. He doesn’t care anymore to see the end of the staircase. He already knows. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Only back in time, in nostalgia and remembrance. 
He clenches his hands on the bars. They come back home after the hospital treatment. They don’t talk about it too much but it is there. At nights, he caresses her aged hands, he returns to this body that he loves and he knows that it will be with him just for a while. He returns to that morning when he finds her with her eyes open staring at the ceiling that needs painting. That too is old, just like everything else in the house. He sits on a step. His son is leaving for England for some kind of future, far away from here. Tears are rolling from his eyes. He takes off his glasses. He sees all those nights that he is alone, thinking of his life, how he spent it, how it was given to him and what there is left of it. A silent, pointless cry.





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