Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Hikikomori - Excerpt
They found his foot floating close to the Pafos coast and I got upset; really upset. Bitter memories came rushing back into my soul from a past not so long gone, a past I was trying hard to forget, but could not just yet do so. They are going to find me, I’d think, and the tears would start flowing one after the other, a slow quiet stream, out of my eyes and into the world, scaring the wits out of me. They were going to find me, and then what?
It was late at night and I was sitting on an old wooden bench, under an almost ancient tree in Faneromeni square in Nicosia, Cyprus and I was crying; as quietly as I possibly could. Every now and then some people, with faces unknown in an estranged world, would pass by, take a good look at me and leave. No one stood there for more than a moment, nobody dared to talk to me. People are so afraid of sorrow that they’d rather hide behind fake smiles than show to the others how they really feel. But I’m not like them, even though I have my secrets; my own horrible secrets; secrets that up to now I have never dared share with anyone, or almost anyone.
As I was swimming deep into the dark waters of my soul I heard footsteps approaching from somewhere I could not see. My head was down and through the veil of my tears I could only watch the pale shadows cast by the buildings, the tree and the lights, on the paved walking street. The birds of the night were probably flying over the buildings and the great steeple of St. Mary’s church at that very moment, chasing their shadows, like phantoms, all the way to the moon, as they usually did. Somebody sat next to me. I didn’t lift my head up, I didn’t have to. I knew who it was. I felt him. Him! The Different One; that’s what I called him. He was different because he didn’t belong there; he never did, he never will. He spoke not a word. He touched me not. He just let me run out of tears and when he finally heard a desperate sigh escape my breast, he simply lifted himself off the bench and said, let’s go.
I got up. I didn’t have to dry my tears since they were lost somewhere deep within me and buried into the arms of the big night. We started wandering aimlessly and in the quiet, in the narrow ill-lit streets of the old town. An unsettling peace and quiet seemed to have settled over every single neighborhood, apart from the ones taken over during the past few years, slowly and painlessly, by the immigrants. There one could still smell the aromas of the day and see couples sitting on benches speaking in whispers, smiling, thinking maybe about yesterday, and surely making plans for tomorrow. I really liked it there, especially during the day, when the immigrants’ kids filled the streets, playing and laughing and shouting at each other, happier in their poverty than we ever were in our wealth. We kept walking. We reached the red light district if there ever was one in this city. Girls, or rather middle-aged to old women, were sitting inside ancient houses or out in the street, waiting for customers to come by, inviting every lonesome soul in to have a good time. Every time I saw them I felt like I was living in a fairytale, in another land and some different times.
Cyprus is my curse; I used to complain every now and then, no matter how much I loved her. A land divided, not only geographically, but also mentally. Everyone seems to be honest, but dishonesty is the norm. They all say that they are faithful, but most of them go to church just once or twice a year. And they all know what’s the right thing to do, they point it out, but most of the time they don’t even follow their own advice. Every now and then I find myself feeling desperate, a bitter taste fills my psyche, I mourn about the way things are, but then I cry and get over it, before it starts all over again. Why am I like this? Why are the girls of my generation like this? Are we only phantoms wandering into a world not made for us? Are we only bad imitations of other people, of our parents or of somebody else? And why do we cry? Why do we cry so much? We cry at school, at home and on a bench under a tree, we cry everywhere, even when there are no tears in our eyes. This world is not our own. We are trying to change it, to make it ours, but obviously it has the upper hand. Nobody ever changed the world by wearing colorful clothes, smoking weed and creating revolutions by saying words that are soon to dissolve into thin air. Yes, that’s exactly what my friends do, and that’s what I do too; ours is a rebellion in words and hearsay, a safe revolution, destined to survive as long as our fathers keep providing for us. This is a cheap revolution. Ok, maybe I myself have no money and no father, but nevertheless…
Anyway, we arrived at his home. It was an old house with walls raveled from chronic moisture. He’d let me stay there now and again, since I had nowhere else to go, I didn’t have a place of my own; not for a year now. At the time I used to stay wherever I found myself, in friends’ homes, but more often than not in an old ravaged building, which we, the modern outcasts have taken over, from nobody. There we could do whatever we ever wanted. And we did everything, or just about everything. The only thing we never made was love. It was as if even the idea of erotic traction could never be; as if no one would ever want to feel somebody else so close to him or her; like sex was really a sin. We met and hugged each other, we kissed, but we didn’t make love, fuck, we didn’t even feel love; perhaps because everybody knew that love hurts, it really does. We couldn’t fall in love, me and my friends, the only things we were capable of were to wander and to talk, to speak big words, even though I prefer the silence.
The Silent One or Silence; that’s how Giannis calls me, the friend that picked up my pieces that time. Goodnight Silence, he said, when we entered his home, and headed for his bedroom. I followed his example and headed for the spare one, where I would spend the night. Thank God or Buddha or whomever that it was him who’s found me, I thought. I didn’t want to meet anybody else; sometimes people drive me mad, them and all their questions.
The room was almost empty. It contained only an old mattress thrown on the white but not so clean marbled floor, with a couple of flowery sheets and a pillow on top, and a small library. I really liked that; the library I mean. I liked picking up its books that were full with fairytales and let myself drift like smoke into the worlds of fantasy. No, I did not believe in fairytales, I can even say that I hated them, but at the same time I really, really needed them. When I read them I tended to forget about all that was going on in my world and that night that’s exactly what I needed the most. I picked up a book. The Giving Tree. Quite childish but well-written and beautifully illustrated. It reminded me of the tree at the square, my tree. I’ve read it in a few minutes. And I smiled. And then I stayed still for quite a while staring at the ceiling; a high ceiling like in most houses in the old town. Every now and then I would close my eyes and see the picture; the same picture over and over again; the picture that was drifting like dead wood into the currents of my thought; the picture of his leg. Could things go wrong yet again, I wondered. Could they?
Things Gone Wrong; that could be the title of my autobiography if I ever got to write it. Because if they didn’t go wrong, I wouldn’t have done what I did, I wouldn’t be so sad, Giannis would not call me Silence but probably scream, or even Smile; Giannis, who was fast asleep next door, the man who knew all my secrets. The only man I ever trusted and trust still. The guy who said to me: It was a good thing you did, killing that bastard. Yes, I have killed a man. The one whose leg they found today in the sea; the man that for years without end abused me; who did not allow me to learn how to smile; that made me at the tender age of seven lose my faith in men; who years later would make me render justice; the man who gave me life; the man that stole it from me; the one who repeatedly raped me; my father.
My name is Chara, which ironically in Greek means Joy, and this is my story.
To be continued
Image taken from here