Κυριακή, 18 Ιανουαρίου 2015

THE GRAND ROQUE: THE RIDE


 She straightened her skirt nervously at her knees. Was it at the right length? She passed her fingers mechanically at the grey collar of her shirt and then her strict bun. What if she let her hair loose, there close to her chest? She just could not hide the tension. She had spent a lot of time in front of her small house’s mirror that afternoon. She had decided to point out only her eyes and avoid the lipstick and the rouge, but still she was not certain. She had managed to hide all her femininity in a suit and a face without a lot of makeup. She already felt her nervousness being transmitted to the taxi driver, who constantly looked at her as they were crossing the dark city. She had drawn his attention when she made a sign at him just before midnight at the big crossroad. She was a tiny girl in a woman’s body, trapped in the wrong image. She shut the taxi’s door forcefully and she coiled at a corner. It was as if the seat sucked her. She read him the address from an old, yellow envelope with a big cachet that looked like a doodle on the postage stamp. “Baladeva house”, Trizini region.  Her hands were shaking and her veins looked like small streams ready to overflow from her sudden storm of agony. He looked at her, fixing her clothes and hair all the time and he thought with a small, cunning smile that only a man could upset a woman in such a way.
 She had never met him before even though she knew him for the last thirteen years. In her hands, she held the first letter that he had sent to her when she was still at school. Back then, during her immature years of puberty, being madly in love with her Latin professor, she would do anything to draw his attention. She attended, with great interest, the chess classes that he organized every Sunday afternoon at the central city square. It was the best way to spend some time with him. She got stubborn and became a very good player just to win a glance of admiration from him. She got that good that she even took part in small chess tournaments that the professor organized with players from various ages and the cities nearby. At her first tournament, her heart was ready to burst. She felt like being watched by everyone and she didn’t give the best of her. She was more determined the following Sunday. Like another Alice in Wonderland, small but willing to protect her king at any cost, she played with such strength and wisdom that left the audience speechless. She won both her opponents, who were elder and clearly more experienced than her. It was not easy but in her magical world the only thing that mattered was to defend that black army of hers. A week had passed after that Sunday triumph and everyone in the city was still talking about her achievement. The tournaments went on for a bit longer with the same eagerness and then she stopped attending them. Studying for the first year of university didn’t leave her much time. Her puberty life was now student life with greater excitement and demands. She kept on playing chess at the university’s club but it was only to relax her from the study. She never managed to attract her professor’s attention in the way that she had imagined in her girlish mind, but she managed to attract His attention.
 One afternoon, she found an envelope in the mailbox. The name and the address were written in a peculiar handwriting with ornate, calligraphic ends in the consonants that also trapped the vowels within their curves. Eliza Peterson, apartment 5, Sibra area. They looked like branches of huge trees at the tropical rainforests of the Amazon, joined together so high off the ground forming a bizarre roof that looked more like a skein. There were only the initials E.X. at the sender's place and an address that the young lady knew that was at the edge of the city, in Trezini. It was a part that she had not visited, but again she had never gone out of her own large block that covered the university, the dorm and a small cafe that she used to hang out with her friends nearby. But she had heard stories from her parents that you should not go there if you didn't have a good reason. She opened the envelope after class. Two pages written in pen popped out, showing some kind of hesitation and shyness with letters bonded with each other, as if to take courage from each other. In those few rows of the first page, He expressed his admiration for the way she had played in that tournament about eight months ago and his own love for chess counting from his childhood up to that day. In order to satisfy that love he went to similar chess events with undiminished interest and he even travelled many miles to attend them. She stopped reading and tried to visualize the faces of that Sunday back then. It was fruitless. The square was crowded, it could be anyone. It had been so long and any images of certain faces that might have aroused her interest or curiosity had definitely faded out. But the most interesting part was that the misterious mister E.X. started a game of chess on the second page and he challenged- invited her to continue. As much as she was taken by surprise, she didn't hesitate to answer him. She took it as a game and after that first one, countless others followed. In many of these games, he would make a remark if she handled anything the wrong way or he would praise her if she surprised him with a movement of hers. The letters were not always sent with the same frequency. Her schedule was loaded with her degree exams, her adult life in her own house, her first duties as a teacher and her first love affairs. Her letters could be characterized of a greater freedom and would talk about her daily life or a good book that she had read. He, on the other hand, was tighter upon those spontaneous reactions. The weather was his favorite subject and it was only there that he let the vowels and consonants gracefully take a deep breath. He would talk about the fog that covered any fear and the way the soil smelled after the rain, and how he couldn't stand the heat during summer time. His greatest excess was a Christmas card that she would receive every Christmas Eve, from the second year on, written with the same black pen that he also used for their mail, filled with wishes for health and a happy new year. She didn't know a thing about his life and she never asked him. He cultivated, in every way he could, all that mystery hidden behind every word or move. His mail would make her smile every time and even though she could take a taxi and see his residence to tame her own flourishing curiosity, especially during the first years, she never went through it. Tonight was a special occasion. He had taken her by surprise. She was waiting for a new game to start, but when she opened the envelope, she saw a printed invitation. "It's high time we played face to face! Take a taxi just before midnight.”
 She had that old envelope in her hands, the beginning of a special chess and mail friendship. The taxi swallowed the kilometers and she gazed the night that would soak into her, with her heart beating like crazy and ready to tear her shirt. She was not certain if she was afraid as she approached Him. After all those years she had created an invisible tender bond with her unknown teammate. She had created an image of an older man in her mind, but apart from that, she could not draw any other characteristics. He had prohibited it in his own way. The city lights were gradually lost just like her confidence. She knew that after the small forest that they would cross now, they would enter his dark neighborhood. Apart from the silent driver's glances, she felt His eyes following her. A small inner voice whispered that she might be trapped  but she pretended not to hear it. A few kilometers were still between her and mister E.X. 

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