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￭ Escape Gates
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2013-07-09 | |
”Roxana! Roxana! Come quickly to me! Come, I say!”
Roxana arose out from nowhere, maybe not having to give a response to such cries.
”Roxana! For God's sake! Come on here!”
But Roxana has never appeared at such a cry. She was hiding, I knew it for sure, beyond a door shadow. If she could, she would have hidden deeper, in herself.
The whole house was overthrown by Aunt Matilda’s cry.
”Roxana, baby, leave those books and come ’cause Aunt Matilda wanna tell you something!”
Her low voice, cut down, was kneeling in front of the girl. Oh, if she finally were to come! For Roxana liked being asked to come, asked up to Aunt Matilda’s known God. But even after Aunt Matilda brought all the ritual sacrifices of her voice , she did not come, though.
I suspected Roxana to be hidden behind any of the house doors.
Eventually, with her patience burst into pieces, Aunt Matilda was snapping at me:
”Hey you, see what's up with this girl, before I myself will start looking for her!”
I knew then that I had to embark on a bitter journey through the huge rooms of the house.
”Hey you, my dear, go and see where Roxana is, I have some business with her. Bring her quickly to me, girl”, Aunt Matilda was repeating, turning around on her heels, beside her drawers filled with buttons and small sticks.
And I have to start, I was thinking. It always smelt of cinnamon around Aunt Matilda. I was smelling the air when I was near her. Or whenever I was around her things. But it was hard for me when she was addressing me without calling my name. She never could, or she did not want to call me on my name when she addressed me.
”Hey you, move to bring Roxana!”
I was leaving eventually.
If I had known who had built such a huge house in which I had my feet and my soul tortured , I would have hit his forehead with clods, as I had seen that some people were doing when aiming birds, as if they wanted to run away from ghosts.
Aunt Matilda lived in my right ear. She was clinging to my ear since morning, when she was sneaking into the corners where I was sleeping and when, pulling suddenly the blanket off me, she was yelling "Bring the water, you, girl." And at midday. And in the evenings. When I was pouring water for her to wash her hands before meals. And before prayers. And the rest of the day, when I was given a maddening run to find Roxana, after having heard her order, unchanged, monotonous "Hey you, go and get Roxana."
When I made my own living and I wanted to know what Aunt Matilda meant to me all those years of childish mystery, I could not understand how a so harsh voice and such sharp eyes could carry with them such a gentle cinnamon wave.
The one who lived there in my left ear was Roxana, the girl due to which I lost, while running, my shoes and my braided hair let loose. She made me swear every night – with my nose hidden in the pillow - "Roxana, I will find you and beat you." My left ear was picking Roxana’s voice shadows as an eye was opened to some touches of light.
It wasn’t always in my destiny to catch a glimpse of Roxana. I often only felt her being here and there. I felt her in the evenings, when I was overthrown by sleep and when she whispered from somewhere, in my dreams, "Sleep peacefully, Linda ... A new day begins tomorrow ... " I really could feel her, she was there in my sleep, where the wars were going on. I was crying in my sleep:
”I will find you, Roxana, you can’t make a fool of me, I will find you and...”
My old times stubbornness was amazing. The promise I made every night affected the person I most felt I was linked to. And whom I adored when I wasn’t sent to look for her. Roxana, as she was standing in the half-light of things, was suggesting me a spread of light. It was like her soul was forcing the things to revive, to part with the silent stilness and breathe.
Finding Roxana was rather difficult. I do not know when and how she was able to move all that pile of books in the most unexplored corners of the house. Even today I cannot understand why her position of immersion in reading made me imagine that Roxana was the most vivid creature in our house and the most talkative of them.
When I finally could find Roxana, out of breath because of that tiring running through the large rooms of the house, followed by the echo dwelling in Aunt Matilda’s cry, I almost forgot why I had come. Then I was browsing, burning with curiosity, the books lost on tables and chairs, on window sills. I was casting a furtive glance at the lost in reading Roxana, hoping she would reach out her hand to comfort me. But I was just hearing:
”Linda, why doesn’t Aunt Matilda understand I have no time for her trifles?”
I finally ventured to say:
”Aunt Matilda asks you to come because she has some business with you.”
I was leaving immediately, followed by the wave of her hand, quiet like a yellow leaf falling from a tree:
”Leave me alone... Go away, Linda ... I am busy, really...”
I was leaving, shy and unhappy, always shortening against my will my staying with her. Because I had to return, to give explanations. Once back, I was saying:
”Aunt Matilda, Roxana is asking you to forgive her for she cannot come downstairs, but she's very busy, really ...”
When I was pronouncing the word "really" I was trying to imitate Roxana’s tone, but I could only humble those words, and soak their substance in my entreating eyes that were rather saying:
”Aunt Matilda, I will do anything, just do not start yelling, anything!”
Curiously, apart from my daily response, always the same, that Roxana cannot come downstairs, nothing else mattered for Aunt Matilda as far as I was concerned.
Sometimes, that’s true, after telling Aunt Matilda about Roxana’s request, sobs were shaking her frame.
”Hey you, open that window!”
And astonished, I was replying:
”But it's open, Aunt Matilda!”
”Is it? It’s all right then, you, girl ...”
She was sitting for a few seconds on a chair, like an old woman, keeping hands in her lap, looking at the open window, and then, as if awakened from a deep sleep, she was getting up and continuing her petty work, something that has never really started or finished in her hands ...
When I was coming back from seekings, I enjoyed nothing anylonger. Then, and I cannot remember the number of days I did it, I was squatting beside the full of water bucket, I was watching the water mirror and could see my wide eyes perishing in the waves born by my fingers while drawing circles. When the water was still again, I was leaning more upon it. My hair braids were falling forward and making a "splash" which was disturbing that mirror again. Sometimes my eye sight swallowed that little and clear space of the water and the unusual power built the oddest pictures. I saw a snowy field over which I went barefoot. My feet hurt and I reluctantly stood up. I became, unexpectedly, impatient and as soon as I was hearing Aunt Matilda hitting drawers again, I was sneaking out into the street.
I was a lonely child and I thought I did not need anything.
I was getting out from the house yard sometimes. My body and soul were meeting the warm air. The restlessness and curiosity that sprang up seemed incomprehensible to me. I was starting to walk, rushing through the streets, just looking like I had to reach a certain place. At first I was walking thickly, sure on my ground. Then my steps became more and more uncertain . Finally, cheered with the courage of leaving home without anyone’s approval, I was hastening my pace and beginning to whistle and run, high-spirited.
An old lady used to live a few blocks away from our house. I liked to visit her. She was blind and I never knew how she could recognize me. Maybe I was revealing my presence by my gait and by the way I always opened the gate, tormenting myself to get to the bolt, or by the way I was greeting her from the threshold towards the corner where I thought she was staying, "My respects to you. Do you have any nuts left? ". She was coming by dragging her feet and she always felt where I was. I mean she knew exactly where I was standing. She was running her dry hand so easily through my hair that it thrilled me with pleasure. Roxana was comforting me, too, but she – the old lady - was removing my loneliness, while Roxana’s gesture deepened my anxiety and loneliness.
I always heard:
”My Linda, again you have not told anyone that you left and I cannot take you home.”
When she was uttering "my Linda" I was shuddering. I had not any sense of belonging to someone, I could be anyone’s, I presumed. And replied:
”I am not your Linda! I am my own Linda!”
The old lady was laughing, indulgently, sitting down beside me and asking:
”Then why are you here?”
”Because I want you to give me some nuts. Will you give me some?” She was becoming silent. Watching her face, I could see something moving in the bottom of her eyes. There were some dark spots that worried me. I was getting closer to her old woman-like- sunken cheeks and touching her hurriedly with my lips.
”Just give me the nuts, that’s all!”
”My Linda ...”
”I am not your Linda, I told you before”, I was replying, seriously.
I was watching her gray hair and neat clothes. I was asking her:
”Who combs you?”
”I myself do that , Linda.”
She had a special way to say my name. When I was playing in the dust of the road, treading it, flocks of sparrows were chirping on wires. My hearing was catching the calling of my name coming from all sides, friendly. Then I I was rolling on the ground with swift movements, laughing, full of sunshine:
”Linda is here ... Lin-da ... Lin-da ...”
She was uttering my name the same way, as a murmur of a soft and sleepy bird.
I always left the old lady’s yard without greeting her. I always felt a lump in my throat and tried not to look around, lest I come and talk nonsense, as it usually happened to me when I played in the road dust.
I stopped at the gate of our house, a large, sunburnt arched in wall gate. As I passed my hand over my forehead to overcome my fatigue, I felt like my eardrums bursting because of the ringing cicadas that were lost in the grass in front of the gate. I quickly entered the house, headed to the water bucket, grabbed its handle and walked out before Aunt Matilda had time to turn on her heels towards me and drop some words:
”Hey you, that bucket is missing you!”
People said I was a nice kid, but without any luck. I tried to find the meaning of the word "luck" by watching my wrists and my feet or by looking at my round face in the mirror. I felt I oughtn’t ask anyone about what I was lacking, but I strove to know my contours eagerly.
I couldn’t find myself guilty at all about any lack, I finally decided.
If women came to Aunt Matilda, talkative women who wove their words tingling around me, and if any of them asked, "Hey, Matilda, but whose is this girl?" Aunt Matilda frowned as if they had caught her making a bad thing and avoided giving a clear answer:
”Never mind, dear, you have found a very improper moment to ask a question like that!”
She was looking immediately at me, in an old kindness way, taken from her soured by time soul . She was looking as if she apologized because she could not say too much, trying to buy my confidence with a smile. Though she shouldn’t have done it. Because I have never asked Aunt Matilda any questions. My soul has never lived in that house at all. My alienation, my stay among strangers were added to a debilitating state of weakness: the inability to enjoy each others’s presence. It seemed sometimes that between us rose some glass walls. We all could see through them what happened beyond ourselves, but we never dared to tear down those walls, or to melt them with the warmth of our souls. I did not know what a soul meant. But sometimes something pressed me right on my heart because of some sadness, or suddenly tears ran down my cheek, while spending mornings lain on the road kerb, facing the sky. Those moments I felt pushed inside me, forced to curb my breath and acknowledge that something hurts. Then, without anyone telling me, I knew that my soul was that one which yearned for liberation.
Some nights were unbearable. The human beings came around me only to bless my sleep (Roxana), or to trouble it (Aunt Matilda). Therefore I started looking for my inside being. And to rebel. But rebellion began in earnest when I realized that I was not fulfilled with myself. That, sharing togetherness with myself only, joys lacked luster because I couldn’t share them with the others.
And questions yeasted, became huge, crashing me down because I did not know who to address them. I began to let myself overwhelmed by anxiety and fascination of love for beings and things. But they did not speak to me, had no power to approach, the same with me, I did not know how to approach them because of shyness. Silence was streching over all this world, it was an unbearable mystery.
Sometimes when the rain was beating strongly on windows, it was dark in the whole house and I could not feel any breath anywhere. Lain on my wooden bed covered with scraps of cloth, wrapped in a blanket, I was sticking to the window. I wasn’t afraid. If I hadn’t fallen asleep, I could have guarded the rainfall for a long time . Its secret signs left on the window glass called me constantly and deciphered me. I believed that when rain comes all beings on the earth disappear, giving way to a devouring wilderness. That was my thought, the thought with which I carried my mind when I fell asleep , full of cold and discontent. But have I ever known what a thought was? My need for affection was disturbing me. I was growing up and felt I was falling in despair.
Over all this it was grief!
”Roxana! If I find you, I won’t leave from you.”
Was I coming out from childhood? I was wondering, without understanding that longing for someone still meant childhood. To stay a bit longer, I allowed, throwing my worries far away.
I dwell in my own memories as a miracle spirit in an old house. When I look back I understand why my way from me to true peace was so hard to accomplish. But I miraculously survived by stepping on some air bridges linking my inner world to the outside world. I sometimes enticed that so fragile being of childhood, just to rest a bit longer on an air bridge. I still know how to do it: Carefully place one foot on the transparent glass of expectations, then step with the other one, while keeping your hands close to the bridge parapet. While your soul goes further earlier.
I wonder if I owe Roxana the courage to cross the air bridges. In my lonely child life Roxana was my luck. I felt that we were equally necessary to each other, even when she seemed detached from me and from what was happening to me.
One afternoon I walked into the kitchen. It was a time to ask Aunt Matilda to let me leave the house.
”Aunt Matilda, am I allowed to go to the gate? Aunt Matilda, do you hear me? Aunt Matilda!”
She turned to me, absent- minded, having some huge scissors in her hand.
”What do you want, hey you?”
She seemed she did not ask anything, but spoke to herself. My feet froze. I could not move, I felt.
”What’s the matter with you, Aunt Matilda? Aunt Matilda ...?”
She sat down on the stool next to me and grabbed me close to her, calling me, as if I had been somewhere far away.
”Come on, come next to me, you, come and let me watch you.”
I bowed my forehead. My hair slid forward, crushing the air. Aunt Matilda touched my neck with her left hand and then the cod of her old fingers covered me. For a few seconds she regained her normal look, while walking over my head crown.
Then a wry smile covered her face. She began to repeat fervently:
“Hey you, I gonna cut this! I gonna cut this to you!”
She was pointing to my hair and gently trotting her shoes, bursting into laughter, flashed through her mind.
”I gonna cut your mane, hey you, you! Dark brown - haired, dark brown - haired, down with your mane!
My head was bent even more. For the first time I knew that people could separate from themselves even so, as I was leaving my hair, without opposing. When I heard scissors cutting, I felt that a cold wind went throughout my head freezing my thoughts. Aunt Matilda was punishing me. I could not move, she paralyzed me with her drained of life eyes. After she was cutting a little hair on one side she was turning me towards the window and staring at me, like I were a painting. And then she was cutting again and my black strands of hair were falling like raven feathers around me, circling me. She was cutting randomly. Sometimes she was prickling my scalp. My fists gathered stronger and stronger. I didn’t cry until, deciding to finish the haircut, Aunt Matilda pulled me by my collar right next the window and began to look at me, again, attentively. Her eyes seemed tingled. She stood leaning slightly towards me and her wet lips stuttered something I did not understand. Suddenly she went a couple of steps back. Then she started laughing and pointing to me.
”Ha ha! Ha ha! Ha Ha!”
Then I put my hands on my temples. I felt frighteningly helpless. I began to shout:
”Aunt Matilda! Shut up, please, Aunt Matilda! I will take Roxana here if you do not stop!”
But she continued to laugh:
”Ha ha! Ha ha! Ha Ha!”
I walked towards the door, as if a great injustice had defeated me. I went with quiet, large steps. I was not rushing anywhere anymore. Aunt Matilda’s laughter put me to the blush. Aunt Matilda defeated me without any resistance on my side.
When I got to the door, I pulled aside the curtain which kept far the flies from the kitchen. I found Roxana wearing a thin shirt, with some books in her arms, watching, standing still.
Matilda was laughing, dummy, behind me, dancing lamely and crying:
”Ha ha! The dark brown haired, the nasty-looking girl! The dark brown haired, the nasty-looking girl!”
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