Editor: Katerina Tsitoura
Years have gone by and Stephen was returning home. His step was prolonged, his face sculpted in experience but those eyes of his, eternally capturing the flame shuffling the cards of life. I had not forgotten him no matter how many summers I’ve tallied the footsteps of his absence. Now he’s back with me, in the sunset of a story that could be yours, marked by betrayals and political conspiracies which blow up the foundations of a fictitious welfare. A generation that was raised in a bubble of perfection and was forced to land hard into the crisis’ desert, a desert that capsized the equilibrium and gauged the consciences.
In the summer of 2013 he was about to leave as an economic migrant to America, a country submerged into the vanity of its own choices. I’ll return soon, he whispered and wiped the tears from his eyes. And yet … It was a difficult time that changed us and separated us for ever. It’s been 40 years since then. I’m scratching old wounds I know. But that night, I saw him again in front of me, at the corner coffee shop at Plaka, and my heart was pounding with memories while Athens had just began finding her lost stability. We were 70 by then and – you knew it – nothing had remained the same. Yet, a funny feeling, people we loved always find a way to sneak into the depths of our soul and glances neutralize all that was scattered clumsily at separate points of the horizon. My granddaughter was curiously examining him, the stranger who for me remained so familiar. And then her natural curiosity, inherited by her grandma I must admit, brought to my ears the notes of a recurring tune that never accomplished its purpose.
Stephan was now getting a deep breath and a little later, his hoarse voice was dancing with ghosts from the past, with shadows that never arose into the light of our common lives.
Allow me to tell you a few words – he begun. Always anxious, that’s how I’d describe me. Anxious to control the parameters of the landmarks of my course, measuring the pros and cons but the remainder that doesn’t resonate with the beats of our hearts often fools us, remember that well.
The faces we meet in our path bring their own message, the one that if we decode correctly transforms us in a final manner as – think of it – we’re all teachers and students at the same time, we give and take, are discouraged and move ahead again, love and bid farewell.
A summer I would meet her and the sun of innocence, the intense flavour of wine which always intoxicates the palate, the salinity of a sea that at least that time, seemed eternal, the dreams that we didn’t have to make because the strength of the moment blanketed with its golden umbrella the profound need of the human species for plans, all these and much more, stacked inside the depressed suitcases of bitter-sweet nostalgia.
Then there was the tempting work offer, the balance between the people I loved and the only chance to break loose this vicious circle of a Greece that had forgotten how to breath freely. Your sensibility demanded you to get away and you, a typical rationalist, would do so. You set up your life from the beginning, in a new place, without any reference, to a castle elevated on unknown sand. You’re listening to your acquaintances and relatives’ blessings for the good fortune and the truth is that the salary is deemed satisfactory, the country that will host you, economically affluent.
Yet there are moments that you wonder if a magic button can wipe from the mind the pieces that defined the identity of your existence, if you’ll ever appreciate the idea that your friends and family keep on with the tunes of a mundane that is an ocean away from your, if you’ll ever one day manage to board a plane that will stray you from the scents, flavours and faces without the chick-soaking tears.
In time you will adjust, of course. You’re getting used to speak a language that is not the one in your heart, to meet all those you left behind at a computer screen, to return the nights to an empty house and to persuade yourself that you’re lucky therefore you’re happy.
What is happiness, I wonder? Maybe the ability to play your cards right, or possibly the realism to show your soul the benefit of your bank account. Each one is defining it differently I presume. But me-so that you know-I eventually understood that happiness resides probably in a life without second thoughts and an airport without tears.
I might have confused you, possibly I didn’t manage to convey to you all that I feel. I just had the desire tell you a little story, my own. Nothing more and nothing less. A story..
I watched him, that man that I didn’t get to know and yet, I knew so well. I was wondering that if our decisions demand courage or realism, if dreams can be entrapped in golden cages or survive in a state of constant uncertainty and I concluded that within our personal journey we owe to choose the destinations which inflame us and to keep at the back or our minds, that tickets some times are issued with a return option.