Τρίτη, 1 Νοεμβρίου 2016

ΤΗΕ VOLUNTEER 3: THE FIRST RETURN


  Two weeks had passed since the afternoon at Tamarinia. Harry gradually returned to his daily routine. He would go jogging in the afternoons, before going to work, he would eat lunch with Sylvia, if she was home and not in her garden, he would listen to his records on that worn turn table, he would sleep and make love with Branca when his shift would end, she would serve him his beer on his night off and then she would go find him in his room, and of course he would spend his night at Sierra, guarding an empty cold research center. As time passed by, he was almost convinced that that afternoon, at the abandoned metro station, was merely a delirium of his imagination, most likely coming from tiredness and sleepiness. He could not explain it with his logic and that was why he was utterly relieved with the quiet nights and days that had followed. It was too soon to rest assured. 
  His first return to the past occurred one afternoon while he was jogging at the park near the house. He had left Branca with the long face. She had started that talk again about living together. She was tired of staying indoors in a room waiting for him, she was tired of visiting him and not the opposite and she could not understand why he could not decide to live with her in a bigger room closer to the city center. Harry could not stand her whining. She was so sensual when she was in the mood but she was so pathetic with that talk. He explained to her that they were fine together the way they were, that everyone is alone deep down, and that living together would be catastrophic and would definitely not work. 
“But, Harry, I don’t understand you. I am telling you that I am tired with this way of living and what do you do about it?”
“I will go for a run in the park because I don’t want to fight with you”, he would usually answer and leave. He was not sure if he meant a single word. 
And today these thoughts were on his mind. He did not want to settle down like her. Weren’t they having a good time? What more did she want? He was certain that he wouldn’t find her in his room when he would go back. She would be cranky for a few days and she would then return to his bed. A procedure that was the same every time, rehearsed dialogues for each show. He stopped for a break at the trunk of a tree. He leaned on it and took deep breaths, as the afternoon sun burned his face. He suddenly felt the trunk pull away, as if there was a door, which Harry had not seen, that abruptly opened. He lost his balance and started rolling in a dark tunnel, without feeling its walls. It was as if he fell in a black hole, like another Alice in Wonderland. 
  He clumsily landed in a room. It was a living room with a big sofa with green velvet cushions, a table full of papers and markers, countless small cars on the floor. On the walls, there were frames with embroidered marquis and dukes in forests or in wagon beside idyllic bridges. Harry was lying in a corner by the front door, with a black marker in one hand and a paper in front of him. As much as he couldn’t believe it, it had happened. He had travelled back in time when least expected. He was not wearing his sneakers and his soaked from sweat t-shirt, but just one pair of blue shorts with Superman at the back pocket. He’s cooling that hot afternoon at his family’s house. He is feeling small again in his small body. He is looking at his smeared hands. Yes, they are children’s hands. He is feeling six years old again in this house with the green cushions that he detested and the relic frames that his grandmother had embroidered. He is six years old again and he is starting to remember clearly that afternoon, which was very well hidden somewhere at the back of his mind. He remembers that the next door lady, who drops by to feed him his mother’s food and to check on him, has just left. She is old and she is bored to play with him. Her name is Emilia, she has a moustache and she smells old. She always scolds him for not picking up his toys from the floor and he doesn’t love her. He remembers drawing a squirrel on a tree trunk in the forest. Now that he sees it again through his adult’s eyes, it looks like the biggest smudge in the world. 
  And suddenly, she enters. His mum gets in and his heart is about to break. It is his mother, young, below thirty years old. She is wearing that blue dress with the big flowers and the white collar round her neck. Her hair is not white at all and she has it in a bun. He gasps. She looks so beautiful! In his mind, he always had her image of the last years, when she was growing old and weary, when she was becoming like old Mrs. Emilia. Her white hair, her wrinkles, her difficulty in walking, her heavy body, everything shouted that his mother, just like himself, was growing old. He found her more tired on every visit, more tired from life actually and its spoilage. The last image of her stuck in his mind was in the hospital with so many cables and saline hanging over her head. And now, here she was, so young and beautiful and smelling so good and so fresh! He observes her as she enters, leaves her keys on the table and looks at him in the eyes with a huge disarming smile.
«Where is my little boy? Where is my Harry?” and she extends her arms for an embrace. 
Harry gets up and runs towards her. He is lost in her embrace, greedily sucking her kisses and her aroma. He had missed her so much and he had not confessed it even to himself all these years!
When she pulls back, she sees the small chaos around her.
“You haven’t picked up your toys again, Harry! How many times will I say it? Is it that difficult?” she says in a strict tone and she starts picking up the small cars and the markers.
  The better he observes her, the clearer he sees it. He sees that she is tired, he sees the small blue veins pop up behind her knees, he smells the coffee and the cigarettes in her hair and her breath, and he remembers that she is working overtime in the shop with the fabrics because there is the loan of the house, she is young but she has the stress of the woman that has to succeed. He observes her through the body of a child but with the eyes of an adult. 
Harry does not speak and he continues to play with his cars this time, before his mum puts them in the toy box. When she is through with them, she collects the markers and crumples the boy’s paper drawing. When Harry sees it, he starts crying. 
“Why did you crumple it? I had drawn it especially for you. It is a squirrel on a trunk”, he shouts between his sobbing. His tears roll down his face, his thin voice trembles and he feels that a huge complaint chokes him, as if all the injustice in the world has fallen on him and doesn’t let him catch his breath. His mum takes him in her arms and tries to calm him down. 
“Yes, baby, you are right. But how did I not see it? It is a playful squirrel on a tree trunk. I am so sorry for creasing it. Here is what we are going to go, though. We will put it underneath that big heavy dictionary to straighten it up a bit and then I will frame it, since it is a drawing just for me. Thank you so much, my Harry”, she says as she kisses him and he can now see it clearly that a tear is ready to roll from her eyes, something that he didn’t remember in the original version of the story. He finds it so strange to relive it all again, a memory that had been marked as a complaint. The drawing that was almost thrown away, a detail from his childhood that he held it against her, while he saw so many more important aspects this time. He squeezed her with his small hands and he cried like a stubborn and selfish giant full of moan, as a six year old small boy who wanted things done in his way while he never picked up his toys without making her upset.
  As he squeezed her, her hug was becoming more hard and rigid. Her perfume was fading away and her young skin was hiding beneath something that looked like wood. He opened his eyes and he saw himself embracing the trunk of that tree in the park. His eyes were wet from tears and a couple cycling that passed him by, looked at him in a strange way. Immediately, he wiped his eyes and moved away from the tree. The shock of that experience was inconceivable. He had returned to his childhood, he has sneaked into his six year old body and he totally lost it in front of his mother. He had lost his courage to tell her so many things that now, on his way back home, overflowed him. Now, it was not the tears that drowned him but all the words that had not been said to her. He had not found the courage to tell her how beautiful she was and that he knew that she was getting tired in that job that she detested which she did only to help the finance of the house, that he knew that she was trying so hard to have everything ready in the best possible way and that he was so sorry for making it too hard on her with his wildness. He didn’t tell her that for him, she was the best mum in the world. How much he regretted that he didn’t sneak in his past the way he wanted to change the heartbreaking scene. But he was taken by surprise by that big emotional wave which hit him without mercy. 

  His tears had dried by the time he reached his room. He was once more the strong, tough adult. He would like to share all this with Branca, but he knew that he wouldn’t find her in his room…

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