Από τα παλιά
Της Ιωάννας Καρατζαφέρη
Στης Αθήνας τα παρτέρια
Φώλιασαν άσπρα περιστέρια
Στα σκοτεινά της τα μπαλκόνια
Άνθισε μια κόκκινη μπιγκόνια
Στα καπνισμένα της σκαλιά
Ξεφύτρωσε μια πασχαλιά
Πίσω από τα κλειστά παράθυρά της
Τραγουδούν παλιά τραγούδια τα παιδιά της
Μπρος στις πόρτες με τα πολλά ονόματα
Στέκονται άνθρωποι με γελαστά τα στόματα
Ψηλά από τις ταράτσες οι κεραίες
Πετούν τα χελιδόνια και φαίνονται ωραίες.
ΔΟΘΗΚΕ Η ΕΝΤΟΛΗ
Της Ιωάννας Καρατζαφέρη
Το κόκκινο φωτάκι μου έκλεισε το μάτι
κι η λευκή σελίδα γλίστρησε
στην πλατιά εγκοπή
και η απάντηση
Ήταν χαράματα μιας φθινοπωρινής μέρας
που μόλις άρχιζε
να σκάει ο ήλιος τις πρώτες του αχτίδες
στ’ απέναντι τζάμια
που μου έκρυβαν τον ορίζοντα
ΣΗΜ. Τα δύο ανέκδοτα ποιήματα γράφτηκαν από την Ιωάννα Καρατζαφέρη πριν πολλά χρόνια.
This short story is one of nine that compose Ioanna Karatzaferi’s last book of short stories. It was published by Kastaniotis Editions, one of the leading Publishing Houses, in Athens, Greece, mid – June, 2007.
The book’s title is:
The full moon is female,
There was not any Egyptian girt. That is just fiction.
A RED FULL MOON
I had stood exactly across her. I knew exactly the spot from where she would rise, as well as I knew the date, my first look at the calendar every first of the next month.
First week in August, over ninety degrees Fahrenheit and the sun to set at 8.03: the full moon was just an expectation.
For years now at this time of the season, close to my return to Greece, I was captured by nostalgia, of which the largest part touched the faces and the objects or the ways of living that I was to leave behind me.
My usual exit from this feeling was to take a walk in the neighboring Water Plaza, circled by four skyscrapers, inhabited by the familiar mixture of the people of New York, facing the East River.
The last several years most of them were Indians, Pakistanis, all kind of Arabs and others who had come from Africa, Asia, the former Democracies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
I had lived willingly thirty three days and nights locked in my apartment, watching on television the war between Israel and Lebanon, the events in Middle East with the predictions that in Iraq the everyday attacks, deaths and wounded people and collateral damage will lead to a civil war, and this short walk with the view of the East River, the lights that fell on the slow-moving waters, the lit skyscrapers farther than the United Nations Building, in the North, the sense of the breeze, that blew through green bushes and tussled the fringes on my forehead, brought me back to reality, as I was entering into the night.
The sun would set at 8:03 and at that moment I was stepping out of my door.
It was the night of the full moon of August and I wouldn’t miss an inch of its coming up over the skyline of the opposite bank of the River.
At the Plaza there were wooden chairs, benches and easy chairs to be used by the residents, some of whom were watching their children play protected by the security men or simply enjoying the cool landscape, the horizon, the small boats cruising up and down the river, or listening to strains of popular songs and ethnic tunes, as they gazed at east side.
Finding an empty bench for three, I sat at one end, across from the moon rise, and waited not only for the full moon, but for anyone to come sit or perhaps two more people, and start talking, to ask them what Arabic they spoke, if the language differed from one state to the other, from Sunnites to Shiites, or if the Koran united them all, at least, linguistically.
Many came, women dressed in the Indian fashion, others with silk shawls, men having short black beards, thick black brows, knit caps on their skulls, carrying bags, pulling chairs around the tables, setting dishes with rich smells, bottles of water with visible brands on, so that nobody could think wrongly of alcohol, and starting to eat along with loud conversation.
As I was phrasing my questions in my head, although I knew from previous occasions, I would never receive no answers, I saw the horizon becoming reddish.
The full moon, I exclaimed within me, and indeed it was!
A huge scarlet red round burning baking tin was slowly rising. I was willingly falling into captivity, as it was a real, but not approachable adored beloved, who did not know about my existence.
An all red full moon, as if painted with blood. Rising, she was gradually losing her color, which turned paler, until she started turning yellow.
If at that time, I was slaughtered what color my blood would be? Would it be red or yellow?
The full moon which gradually was getting smaller on her rising and she was now reaching the fourteenth floor of the southwest skyscraper had exiled me from this world.
And I would remain in exile for an indeterminate time, if a voice close to me had not asked me if the seat next to me was available. It was. Actually two seats were free.
The woman, chubby, a little dark, her features visible by the moon light, had not any special characteristics, so that I could remember her later.
From the first words that we exchanged, I understood that she had not come for the moon, of which she did not know the phase and had not even noticed her, but for a little natural coolness.
She resided in one of these skyscrapers for a year now, she had not made any acquaintance with other residents and she rarely came down to the Plaza. At work air conditioning, at home the same, she felt she needed some fresh air.
“Me, too”, I said without mentioning that I had not gone to work for thirty three days and perhaps I was already fired.
I didn’t know it because I didn’t answer the telephone calls I was receiving. I didn’t feel talking with anyone.
“Which building you live at”? She asked me.
“I don’t live in this Plaza. I live at the South Plaza, two blocks down”.
“Do you come here often”?
“At least once a month”, I answered.
“I come for the full moon”.
Her face was round, her eyes colorless, her lips pale, her hair just hair.
“An old acquaintance”
There was silence.
When the moon passed behind the back of the skyscraper B, she would follow the west line. Then she would pass out of my windows and would light the floor of my room. She would keep me company.
“When did you come here? It’s so hard to rent a place” I said.
“I work for the United Nations and there is, I think, a policy for us, because we are not permanent employees and therefore permanent residents”.
I knew about it, and it was of no interest to me, but I was listening.
“I saw these buildings being built”.
“When was that?” She asked.
“Many years ago”, I answered.
“The wind shakes them a little”.
“The rivers and the sea ports are always windy and the tall buildings should have some suppleness”.
“You look a little depressed”.
“Do you live alone?”
“Where are yours?”
“I’m afraid of wars because they can be extended”.
“The ones going on in Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and the Greater Area”.
I didn’t mention Egypt, although I had in my mind the world map and I knew the adjacent countries, I didn’t want to scare her.
I didn’t say anything about the deportation of the Greeks from Egypt at Nasser’s time. She would know about it, at least as a chapter of history”.
“Don’t be afraid”, she appeased me.
She might know something. For the United Nations, she worked… I thought.
“I cannot see fathers holding in their arms killed children and cry Allah is great. Not rabbis carrying guns”.
“Where do you see all this?”
“I don’t watch it”.
Was she fooling me?
“I am not concerned about the gender, the ethnicity, or the religion of the people that are killed, get wounded or their houses being demolished”, I continued.
“For some people religion is more powerful that their own life”.
“I cannot compromise with this way of thinking”.
“It’s not necessary”.
For an Egyptian woman, I found her rather cold.
“We the Greeks”, I said declaring thus my origin, “have another stand towards the Arab world”.
“Although, we are no Moslems…”
“I’m Coptic”, she interrupted me.
“And I am an atheist”, I said, and I rose first.
Whatever she said behind my back, I didn’t hear it.
I left Water Plaza, walked towards First Avenue and instead of turning right to go home, I turned left to the Eighteenth Street, where the Montgomery restaurant was situated, its doors and windows painted deep blue, like the Corinthian sea.
The stools at the bar, from one end to the other, were taken. The television screen had almost the same length, and the customers, holding a glass of beer or any other liquor in their hands, were watching a baseball game.
There was not a seat available for me.
I asked the head waiter if there was any available seat in the dining room. There were booths, which I favor, separated by cut glass representing life scenes.
He took me to a booth for two and I sat.
My back was turned to the main door, a rashness of the moment, which meant that I couldn’t see who was going out, mainly who was coming in and what he was carrying in his hands, to have the time to run out in case of a terrorist act, while I was watching at another smaller television set moving images of a movie, and I couldn’t realize if it was in the South Pacific, made in Hollywood, where in the battles only Japs were killed, or if they were scenes from the war in Iraq or somewhere else in the Middle East, where plains dropped bombs.
Hurrah! We killed them dead.
Both television sets were playing in full sound, but I didn’t care because I was not talking with anyone and actually I gave the waiter my order by pointing out with my finger on the menu.
He nodded his head, indicating that he understood, and left.
He came back in a short while with the dishes.
I looked down the plates, the mixed salad’s colors, the medium cooked hamburger, the French fries, the beer glass with the white head and I wanted to kick them all up high to the air.
I bit my lower lip –something I used to do when I wanted to get more patience from within me, and tightened my fists.
The booths are not for lonely people, for them is the bar.
There you have the chance to speak with the one at your left or right, standing or sitting, even with any other who stands behind you.
I forked the half baked mince, between the horizontal pieces of the roll, I picked on some fries and green leaves, I drank non stop my beer, left the tip on the table, paid the cashier and left.
The pedestrians on the sidewalks under the full moon, we were a little or more crazy. It was shown in our expression, stride, stoppage before the benches of the vegetable and fruit benches of the 24 hour Korean stores, rash words we exchanged with the passers bye, but I didn’t care at all.
I stopped in one of the stores, bought two mangos, a tall sun flower and continued my way home.
I have loved Van Gogh from my first high school years.
I opened my door slowly and entered my apartment tiptoeing, like I was careful not to awake someone sleeping.
I took off my shoes in the entrance and got into my room. The full moon light was falling on my pillow with a design of iron bars and I counted them, light or dark.
I went to the kitchen to see if any roach was crawling on the walls, or any other was hiding in the sponge with which I washed the dishes, if any mouse was caught in the glue trap, turned to the living room to see if the pillows on the coach were in their place, if the television was shut off, although I didn’t hear any noise and its light didn’t reflect on the opposite wall.
Back to the kitchen I opened the refrigerator and stood for a few minutes in front of the open door. It was empty.
I remembered Aristides, with his blue eyes, was not alive any more.
“If any mouse falls from one shelf to the other in your refrigerator, it will be a suicide headlong”, I heard him saying as he opened it for a bottle water.
Some die alive and some die crazy.
I turned to my room. I lied down on my bed and put my head on the pillow.
I felt the light of the full moon on my face, a dried plain, on my eyes, two ponds where no idol was reflected, a mouth closed like a safe of secret white documents and on my jaw, that time has flattened its small cliff.
I had broken the bars on my pillow.
Golden bars, golden cage.