Τρίτη, 1 Σεπτεμβρίου 2015

EVERY SUMMER


           Johan put the map, the notebook with his lucky pencil, an older Mickey Mouse issue and a thermos with coffee in a backpack. He estimated that the route wouldn’t take him more than three hours. He tightened his shoelaces, put on his hat, since the first September days were still very hot and locked the door of his house. The forest began where the big road ended. They had placed signs for security reasons that had faded away with time and now they looked like paintings. Even though it was very close to the small city of Easynoise, very few people visited it. Children, who still went to school, entered with their bikes and explored it for many hours. The grownups though would not get in but still they wouldn’t forbid their children to do so. Everyone knew that the forest was there but none of his friends or his post office colleagues had gone there for a walk or a picnic for many years. It was as if it lost its existence as soon as the adulthood came. 
      Lately, the forest came to his dreams in the form of images of his own explanatory travels when he was still a kid with his friends. So many years had passed since he last remembered this period of his life and now that he saw it again, the carefree feeling that he had then also came along. They would take fruits and their water bottles and disappear all day long with his buddies, Axel with the red hair, chubby Bertel, tall Eric, Hendrik with the crooked teeth and Larsson who would say the most hilarious jokes. They were trying to build a tree house that was never finished, they would climb up the trees, play war and football and when the sun went down they would tell each other ghost stories. Now, half of these friends from school had left town or they were family men with bellies and grey hair. They say that the age of forty is a peculiar state of awareness and maturity for most of the people, when some life goals have been achieved and some new ones have been decided. Or, none of these is true and it is when you only remember what you haven’t done yet. He had no lost touch with some of his childhood friends and he was really pleased to bump into others in the street but now topics such as work, money, family, parents’ health would monopolize such conversations. 
      But he was also in the same situation more or less. He worked in the post office overtime, he had taken a loan to buy a small flat in the city, his father’s health had deteriorated and he spent several hours in the hospital in order to take care of him as much as he could. That is why, when these dreams came, Johan would welcome them and go back to the childhood of his own generation. These dreams were like escape from the difficult daily life, a sort of parallel universe and he really enjoyed the fact that they got more and more frequent. He often saw a building in a part of the forest that he had never visited as a child. It must have been after the glade and after the small bridge. He wondered if that part really existed or it was just a game of the mind. The more he thought of that, the more he wanted to find out in person. And today, on his forty- third birthday, he took a day off and escaped with his old issue of Mickey Mouse that he found in his father’s house, while arranging the cupboards.
  
      The route was harder than he thought. His physical condition was not at its best. He made several stops and he swore that he always promised to quit smoking but never did. He drank his coffee under the old plane tree by the river. The forest covered him, hid him with its thoughts and took away all his inhibitions. He became nine years old again close to it, a sweaty boy full of dirt and scratches on his knees. And then, surrendered in his past that almost ached him like an old scar on the body that you see and the memory of the trauma is awakened, he noticed it standing there over the bridge, the huge stone building that he had seen in his dreams. He shivered when he realized that they walked through this path when they were kids, but they had never noticed it. With his Mickey Mouse in hand, he rolled up his sleeves and took the onward path that led to the stone strict building with the small half-ruined, square windows and the imposing arched door. As he approached it, something pumped inside him, like the relief that you feel when you get home after a long day. It was as if he returned to an old piece of himself, forgotten in the route of his life.
     
      He opened the wooden door which resisted with a hissing squeak. The place was a huge high-ceilinged room with several openings where there used to be doors many years ago. He took a breath and stood still. The thick smell of humidity got him dizzy for a second but he got used to it immediately. Light footsteps and synchronized giggling were heard from the back. By the time he realized who was with him and where they came from, he saw a group of children sticking out of the closest opening in the wall to him. Mickey Mouse fell off his hands and he grabbed the wall in order not to faint. The group of six children with the dirty pants, the scratched knees and the sweaty, flushed cheeks approached him, whispering words that Johan could not make out. His gaze met the child’s who was ahead of the group and his blood froze inside him. The boy with the loose shoe laces and the protruding ears which could not be hidden then behind his long hair like now looked him in the eyes and approached him decisively. When he reached a distance where he could touch the man, the boy leaned over and grabbed the comic. The other kids were behind him and were giggling. It was not possible. It could not be true. It was Axel. Bertel, Eric, Hendrik and Larsson, his best friends from school and the kid in front of him was his nine year-old self!
    The boy examined the comic and then rolled it in his pant’s pocket. “I thought that I had lost it. This is mine and you know it”, he said and it was so eerie to hear his own voice from the past. The man was not able to say a word but in his mind the case unraveled. If he was not mad, he had reached the house where his childhood lived, and apparently not only his own. And if that was the case and this paranoid thought was correct, then he had reached a point in his life where he secretly, without even admitting it to himself, longed for that childhood. But now, seeing himself as a kid grabbing the comic and the rest of the gang giggling with the heroism of their buddy, he couldn’t do anything else but smile. A smile that, without his will, became a gargling laughter that echoed in the cool, stone room. A weight that had stayed for too many years deep inside him got lifted. When he stopped laughing, he looked at his young self who stared at him in a baffling way.  
“So, what do you say, shall we go home now?” he asked him. 
“Yea, sure.” the kid replied enthusiastically. “But how about my friends?” 
“They will take them when time comes.”

He took his hand and went of to the forest together. 

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