Δευτέρα, 1 Ιουνίου 2015

THE BOOK WITH THE GREEN SPINE

   
“Return to grandma’s house. Look for the book with the green spine. Best regards, aunt Cortesa.”
    He hadn’t heard from her for a long time and now he held her strict letter and read it many times in the narrow train seat, as he returned to Prosidia, his hometown. Every word seemed to have its own gravity. Ηe completely trusted that special woman’s instinct who took care of him after his parents’ death when he was a young boy. People would call her moonstruck and moody but he knew that no such thing was true. She would tell him the most peculiar fairy tales when he went to bed and they would have the greatest walks with ice tea and sandwiches. Even now, that he was no longer a small boy and had moved away, she would mail him her news and occasionally send him pictures of her energetic cat. She had also left. She couldn’t live all by herself in an empty house and she had moved to her sister’s house behind the lake. It must have been important to ask him to return in order to search for a book with a green spine. He quit everything in his office and took the first train that was about to stop in his town that he hadn’t visited for at least twenty seven years. He had in his backpack a map to remember his town, a small dot with streets and alleys like a maze, his memories and a touch of anxiety that he tried hard to hide in a small, extra pocket. 
     He arrived just before eleven o’ clock. Prosidia seemed smaller and quieter, or he had just grown up and it was now up to his measures. With the map in his hand, like a traveler coming from afar, he took the road to grandma’s house. He crossed the main road with the post office being the only building left just like he faintly remembered it. There were toneless stores and a few residents who looked at him with curiosity as the newcomer. The house was at a dead end. He had a hard time finding it. Ηe faced an aged, small house with tiles and a garden at the back.
Aunt Cortesa had planted there some weird trees that during the summer nights he sometimes heard her whisper to them. When he asked her what kind of trees they were and what kind of words she whispered, the answer was unexpected. “They are not trees, they are my friends. They are not words but promises.”
    The key was under the worn front door’s mat. He was relieved to find it there because otherwise he would have to break the door. As soon as he turned the rusted key to the key hole, the memories hit him like a huge wave. All the scattered pictures, words, dialogues, smells, the microcosm of a space that creates a home. In this house he had spent his childhood and the loss had fallen on it like a heavy curtain from the very start. Aunt Cortesa did whatever she could to support him but he still remembered how fear had sneaked inside him in a tricky way. He had never been afraid of the dark but, shortly after his parents’ death in a car accident, he couldn’t sleep without the door being ajar to let the light of the corridor in. And when he finally fell asleep, they were too many nightmares, a general feeling of threat which he carried along the next day at school and all of his activities. Darkness was the gate to a secret world where evil was dominant. This fight within him and the struggle to restrain it lasted for a long time. The years passed since then and adult life had already entered through the half opened door of the corridor. Studies, moving to the big city, work, love, marriage, the kid, a new chapter in his life where darkness had simply no time to sneak in. Only six months ago it found a small crack. Insomnias were back and a general feeling of anxiety for the future, for the time passing by and all of its signs that, no matter how hard you try to hide them, they are always there, in a crack that let darkness sneak in. In his last letter to aunt Cortesa, he was open about it. He had written to her about that weight he felt, about his inability to feel the joys of life anymore and about his wish to have the door half open at night. The letter that he received was the one he was holding right now in his hands, urging him telegraphically to go back to the old, empty house. 
    
He pushed hard to open it and it looked like there was something behind it and held a resistance. As his eyes gradually got used to the twilight of the room, the surprise he felt made him numb. What prevented the door from opening was a huge pile of books. They were actually everywhere. Half opened, one on top of the other, they formed a body that had spread all over the room with a rich powder of dust above them. It covered the entire floor that reached up to the corridor leading to the small kitchen and the bedrooms and the bathroom. The walls were completely empty and there were no furniture except an old, wooden armchair on which the books had climbed and seemed comfortable at her arms. He stayed there for a while to get used to this image and he took a deep breath as he entered. He never remembered to have so many books in the house. But what happened to all the furniture? He tried to push them to get in the room but he found it hard. He switched on the light but never responded. The living room had no windows so he let the door open to let the daylight in. He stepped on them as carefully as he could. The strange feeling that he was stepping on a body and not on scattered books was getting stronger within him. He had a look at the ones that were on top. Some were illustrated books of Jules Verne whom he often read when he was a kid, some were travel books with old engravings that he didn’t remember at all, others were leather bound and others were so old that they were about to dissolve. In such a stock of books and in this form, it would take him at least a day to find a book with a green spine. What on earth was aunt Cortesa thinking? He sat on the huge stack of books and tried to separate them. They looked as if they were glued between them and every one that he managed to pull out of the pile it was as if he unstuck a living piece from a rotten ensemble that he was not capable of interpreting. Most of the books had illustrations. At first he couldn’t take his eyes off them and he struggled to remember if they were the same ones from his childhood. Too many shadows, too much darkness, nothing was clear, the threat and the danger existed in every single one of them like an insinuation that covered them. He had never faced the sea as dark as in that Moby Dick he touched, he had never felt that pain in the stomach as the one he felt when he saw that image of Robinson Crusoe in the desert island. He placed the books, that he made sure had no green spine, in piles near the wall and in that way he tried to make a path, a small corridor that would lead him to the back of the house. He used the light coming from the door and estimated to finish as fast as he could to get some rest in the garden with aunt Cortesa’s strange trees. A small bet with himself that he had to win. 
     When he looked at his watch again five hours had already passed. The midday sun had somewhat warmed up the place but not his thoughts. He felt more confused than ever. He riffled   through the pages of the books, he had made a vestigial path, he stacked the books which most of them had black or brown spine and with them he riffled through the pages of his life. The memories turned in his mind like the pages of the books and were entangled in a bittersweet sense of loss. He strongly felt that afternoon time to be relentless and terrifying that passes by and leaves behind traces and fragments of insecurities, right choices or not, and a lot of “ifs” that have been left without an answer. Within these five hours he had started doubting about everything he felt that was certain in his life like the relationship with his parents, his job, and his family but above all the relationship with himself that he found so difficult to deal with as an adult. A sense of fear and frustration had gradually grown inside him and as time went by, the more pointless he found the whole thing. Where was he to find this book among so many others? What was the meaning of all this?
    Noon became afternoon and, just before the daylight completely disappeared, something strange began to happen in the already strange set. The book entitled “The secrets of the Black Sea” started dripping.
No, I mean it, literally. He felt on his fingers small, black drops and they went through the pages. These small drops became a stream that rolled on the pages of the other books that were almost glued to one another. It instantly became a black river that filled the room, without a drop spilled through the open door, an impetuous torrent whose level dangerously raised that carried him away with its strength. It pushed him to the corridor and the more the waves grew taller, the more desperately he tried to hold on to something from a bare house with thousands of books that were also swept away in this raging sea. How hopeless was it for him to try to make a path for so long, when in less than a minute, everything had become a black vortex that pushed him to the top. A few centimeters were now between him and the ceiling. It seemed impossible that he was about to drown himself in the house he grew up by some small black drops that became a furious sea. He struck with his hands and feet the worn ceiling that seemed to be the only solution breathlessly. He wildly hit it crying like a beast trapped in the weirdest cage ever existed.  Eventually a hole opened in the roof and he immediately grabbed the edge of it. The water began to recede with a noise that resembled a sob, but then again he might have imagined it.
He was hanging from that hole on the ceiling whose size was scarcely big enough for him to climb on the rooftop. His body ached everywhere but he managed to get to the roof tiles and lie down in a corner that seemed solid without a breath and feeling terrified. To fall off the tiles was the least that he wanted right now. 
   His heart found its calm pulses and he sat up. The garden at the back of the house looked the way he remembered it, only now it was more like a jungle, since no one took care of it anymore. Dried brushwood was tangled in between aunt Cortesa’s strange trees. The city looked so small and distant from the roof. The anxiety he had so far seemed so insignificant in front of this adventure he had just experienced. Every fear was meaningless in front of the threatening black waters that nearly drowned him. He turned his head and saw a dusty book at the edge of the roof. He reached it with very careful moves and took it in his hands. He blew it first to make the dust and the two dried leaves that had stuck go away. The cover was dark and the letters from the title had been erased. He opened it and he browsed it. Some pages were torn and a bit yellow from the passing time but they were all blank. Not a single word had been written. It was a worn, empty from words book. He cunningly smiled. He was certain that if he turned it sideways to have a look at the spine, it would be green. He turned it. He laughed out loud. The leather, worn spine was khaki. His laughter came out without an effort and was carried by the wind into the city that he would leave in a while to catch the train. He would return to his adult life, to whatever he was afraid of and thought that kept him behind. He would take the sudden, black sea to remind him that great fears and restrains are only there so that he can dive into them like he did today. Time would bring so much along its way. It would be better to reconcile as much as he could. The first thing that he would do the minute he would step his foot on his house, would be to send the book to aunt Cortesa, without of course explaining anything to her. He would follow her rules. But his major concern right now was how on earth he would come down from the roof and that thought made him laugh even harder.  






Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια:

Δημοσίευση σχολίου