Τετάρτη, 1 Μαρτίου 2017

THE VOLUNTEER 7: A STROLL WITH DANGER

“I can’t believe it! I‘ve been living in Bowieville for so long and I didn’t know there was a library” Harry cried out when, during a casual chat with the twins in the garden, he found out there was a small library on the eighth floor of an old block of flats. The twins didn’t often visit it but they gave him useful information. 
“Don’t expect something grand, it’s just two big rooms with shelves and elementary filing, but the lady who is in charge is very sweet and discreet”.
Harry went on the first day of his week off. His personnel officer had given him a week off and it was perfect timing. Now, more than ever, he needed time. Time to roll, time to arrange his thoughts and his past, his present and his future. Time away from Sierra and the daily routine. Since this adventure with the “journey of his life” started, he didn’t have the chance to put the events in order. He felt that everything was running so fast and to the wrong direction. He confronted his own wounds which, even though he thought they had closed, they remained wide open. His personal path with all the options and the price for every one of them had been put under the microscope and he needed the time to arrange them appropriately inside him. Being in a the retreat of a library was the ideal place to re-examine his life and try not to get lost into the pages of the books, but to try to find the space to reconcile with the one that haunted him. Himself. 
There was a half-erased B on the bell. He took the dirty elevator to the eighth floor. He found the door open at the end of the dark corridor.
“Come in” he heard a mature female voice. He walked into a bright foyer with white walls and a large wooden table in the center with an old-fashioned lamp with tedious yellow light. He walked past the table and he entered the main room with dexion shelves that reached the ceiling loaded with books. The shelves continued in the second room, with the elderly lady sitting behind a small desk with various papers spread out before her. 
“Good morning, I haven’t seen you before in our library”, she welcomed him taking her glasses off and placing them on her white hair.
“Yes, even though I live in town long enough, I didn’t know about this place”, Harry answered.
“Fine, you will be enlisted and you will be able to come and read as often as you wish. You cannot take the books with you”, she said in a strict way and she took the pen in her hands to write down Harry’s personal data in the rather small list of members. 
“Yes, it is a great misfortune that we don’t have many members but it is reasonable. Who reads now days?” she apologized discreetly watching Harry’s look gazing the list. ‘I am at your disposal whatever you need. You can call me Vionni.”
He shared his data and he started wandering through the narrow corridors. Yes, it certainly was not a big library but, after a long time, he wandered among books that smelled paper, the turning of pages and dust. Art books, classical literature, a few essays, several novels and crime stories with the weariest spines. Yes, he felt wonderful, almost happy to touch them without knowing which to browse first at the large table. He had the illusion of complete protection, as if he were in his mother’s womb. You could not hear anything from the street and the surrounding apartments. It was as if he were into a concentration cocoon. He stood by the shelf with the art books and caressed the spines of the hard covers. He was where he should be. His past was coming and it was filling him. He wanted to find a glimmer of compassion and forgiveness for himself. He wanted to find the strength not to be such a harsh judge of himself and, above all, he wanted to put his life in order. What had happened after that miserable fight with his father? How did his life continue? Which path hid he choose?
The growl made him shake. The book with Kokoschka’s work fell off his hands. A growl in the library where there were only himself and Mrs. Vionni? The growl became a barking and made Harry shake even more. It sounded right behind him. He turned in fear to see what was going on. He grabbed the shelves to avoid fainting. In front of him there was no room with countless books. He himself was not on the eighth floor of the old and dirty block of flats. In front of him he saw Danger, the black dog of his neighborhood. In front of him he saw the crossroad of his old street. It was where he had rented his first flat. He was once again in a crossroad of decisions and dilemmas. A remaining last hope inside him was lost concerning the outcome of the events. Now he knew that, after everything that had happened with his father, he never made it to complete his revolution and he worked by his side, under his shadow, hating what he did but himself as well for every single day he spent in his office. Now he was about twenty- five years old. His favorite part of the day was when he closed the office door, with his name printed in gold, behind him and returned to his apartment. He shut his own door and left behind him another lost day with life insurance contracts. The house was not something special but it was his refuge. The last three months in the afternoons he saw a big black dog wandering in the small alleys. It was friendly and he had noticed that the neighbors fed it. It liked the caresses and sometimes when Harry found it on the crossroad, he whistled so that it approached him and they would walk together around the block before Harry went home. It was like a psychotherapy for him. The contact with this four legged companion turned away the accumulated anger inside him. This short walk became a part of his routine which he was looking forward to. When it approached him, the dog was rather careless and at first it escaped the car miraculously. 
“You are pure danger”, Harry had said so the dog stuck with the name. He smiled at the thought that he walked with Danger, automatically that made him feel fearless. They usually made a stop at the small park behind the school, where Danger usually smelled and pissed all the bushes and Harry would smoke a cigarette and afterwards they would return, crossing the avenue. Sometimes they would share bacon slices which Harry bought from the neighborhood’s convenience store and they would eat them at the block of flat’s entrance stairs. Without being his owner, he felt close to him.
He was not sure why he had returned to this specific moment of his life. One might think that it was not so important. This thought crossed his own mind as well. Still it truly was. He remembered that afternoon. A difficult day at the office had passed with a lot of pressure and another fight with his father. It was Friday and longing for the weekend was extremely comforting. He had found Danger waiting for him at the crossroad and when he saw him he ran towards him, wagging his tail. Harry was glad to see him but he was not in the mood for their usual walk. He patted his head, gave him a cookie and walked past him. He wanted to go home and lay down on the couch. Maybe later, he would arrange to meet his friends for a beer. Maybe. For now, he walked by the sociability and headed to the house. Danger barked at his male friend who didn’t pay attention to him. He barked wagging his tail. Harry was heading to his house. Harry started growling with complaint. Harry unlocked the door and sneaked in his block of flats. That was the last time he saw Danger. Days went by. He asked the neighbors who fed him if he was all right. They hadn’t seen him for days. Someone might have taken him, he might be hit by a car, he might be poisoned, and he might have just left. Nobody ever found out what happened to Danger. Time passed and they never saw him again in the neighborhood. Harry had felt bad back then because he never actually had the chance to spend that last afternoon with his innocent friend. Of course, who knew that he would disappear? 
And now he saw him in front of him growling for that walk of theirs. He wagged his tail, he was there in full energy and life. Harry, being again a twenty-five year-old young man, found it the ideal moment to make amends. He patted him on the head again and on the belly. He spontaneously laughed out loud and the mood for a walk returned. They crossed the avenue and took their favorite route. They stayed a little bit longer in the park this time. When they came to their usual point where they departed, Harry gave him his cookie and kissed him on the head, something he had never done before. He saw him follow Mrs. Emerson’s female dog, who lived in the apartment next door. 
«Please don’t throw the books on the floor, Mr. Stilton”, he heard the clearly irritated Mrs. Vionni’s voice at the back of the room. 
He had suddenly, as always, returned to the library of the eighth floor. He actually saw two art books on the floor. They clearly must had fallen from his hands out of surprise. He was embarrassed because he would never do such a thing.

Nor this time he would find out the truth about Danger, but he started to understand why this event appeared. Now he knew where he was standing. His past actually had not changed at all. The path was the one he remembered and this was something that terrified him. The men with the masks in suits prepared him for the event that had stigmatized his life and maybe offered him a second chance. Only the thought of that possibility made him sweat. Time was ahead and he wished it proved him wrong. 

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