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Burlap sack
by Katerina Charisi
2015-10-25 12:01:50
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Another rainy day. The sky is dark, a cement grey solid body; ready to fall down and swallow everything in its greyness. Large rain marks on my window, empty streets, silence inside, the radiator’s buzz, the rhythmical drops. All late autumn’s sounds. I go back and forth on my rocking chair, it creaks in every move. I stand up and put my palms on the window leaving a blurry imprint that fades out slowly.

I wish I could open that window and feel the thick rain drops on my face. Let it wash my face, run down my neck, soak my clothes, feel nature in me.  I want to put my hands out, feel the rain on my palms; close them and capture a handful of water. But windows are always firmly closed at “home”. There is only a small skylight that we can open, but then again it is too high and I can’t reach it anyway.

emily0001_400Is it winter already?

Emily comes and goes in my room, in my mind, like a salty wave, licking the shore and pulling back, revealing all kind of little ocean treasures on the golden sand. A seashell, a crab, shiny pebbles. All these precious little things, all so alive and so special to where they belong, so indifferent if taken home. We all rush to grab them and put them in jars; seashells start to crack, pebbles lose their shining and soon we throw them in the garbage.

Don’t we do the same with memories? Pictures, frozen smiles, feigned happiness, dry leaves between book pages. A lock of new-born baby hair, a torn train ticket, a piece of carved wood. All things you know too well. You know they are yours, but the moment has gone, the time has gone and the feelings faded away.  Why do we always try to capture the time?

Our life in a carton box. We store memories. What for? Life keeps going on, we barely have time to feel our present before it turns into past and we just seize what we can. Then we throw it in a box and that while the future is already here.

How can you remember when life goes by so fast?

That’s how I feel at times, grieving over memories lost in the past. Yeah, I have one of “these” days; After all, I’m an old and grumpy woman, surrounded by pictures in nice frames that don’t mean anything to me anymore. I walk around in my room touching all these things, the “personal” things, things that someone puts in a carton box when you’re gone. Stuff it from some attic, the far back of the garage, or under the bed and forget all about them …including you. All we have been in our lifetime can be squeezed in a box. Funny isn’t it?

 “Life goes on, you have to keep going! Don’t look back, you lose valuable time by expending yourself in something that’s gone. You have plenty of time to look back; when there’s no time left.” Oh, I remember these words. I remember that day.

It was a rainy day like this. I was walking home from the French Market when suddenly the sky got all dark and thick drops started falling, soaking the paper-bags with my grocery. I quickly got in Café Du Monde, feeling the bitter scent of fresh roasted dark coffee beans in my nostrils. Scorched sugar, cinnamon, milk, chocolate and the taste of fresh squeezed orange juice in my lips. I think I can feel these tastes and scents now. Is Café Du Monde still open?

The place was full, but there was a small round table stuck to the window, with a single chair. I thought I could squeeze myself back there. I dropped the paper bags on the table, leaving just a small space, but I changed my mind and put them under my chair. Since I was here waiting for the rain to stop, I would enjoy it and relax for once. At least I could try.

Sometimes my husband was right. I was always in a rush, like the whole world’s move was depending on me. Oh well. I ordered- oh I remember that very well, because it was always my favourite- beignets, the square French- style doughnuts, covered with powdered sugar and a black, sugarless coffee.

While waiting for my order I observed the people around me. Some workers at the bar, with their leg on the iron tube at the bottom, their berets on, smoking and drinking beer from the bottle. A few young couples at the tables closer to the windows, holding hands and having their legs tangled under the table, while cups of steaming hot chocolate got cold in front of them. Some students with their bag hanging on their shoulder, and businessmen in their fancy and serious suits, drinking fast their coffee with just a few quick sips.

All their voices reached my ears as a weak buzz at once. Every time the door opened a little bell rang from the top and a cool breeze got inside, recycling the stuffy air. Some broadcaster on the radio paused the music and made a funny comment about the rain, but I wasn’t paying much attention to get the joke. The waitress gave me a tray with my coffee and beignets, so I turned my attention outside and started watching the autumn’s colourful leaves swirling by the wind. At times their movements aligned with the blues rhythm from the radio. It was almost funny.

emily0002_400I don’t know for how long she had been there, but when I turned my head most of the people had gone. The rain had stopped. Life was back again in the streets. She stared at me with that familiar look behind her shades that were almost at the bottom of her nose; slightly lifting her eyebrow, having one leg on top of the other, arm behind the chair and a menthol cigarette on her long pale fingers. “Hello, love”, she said in an imperceptibly ironic tone of the person who doesn’t get impressed by anything anymore. “The seat wasn’t taken I hope”. There wasn’t a second chair when I got here. This table had a single chair. But for some reason I bet that she is capable to take someone else’s chair to put it here and sit with me.

I don’t know if it was the weather the season, or simply the particular day and time, but something inside me said that I had met this woman for a reason.

“Lost in the past?” How could she tell? Yes, I was lost in my past. Thinking of time, the life before coming to Louisiana, the life I try to get in order here. Sometimes I wonder if all this is just worth the effort. I am not that young anymore to explore new places, start new friendships, and walk at new narrow streets. I wanted to focus on my family, feel comfortable in familiar places, with familiar sounds and images, familiar unknown faces. All these mere details that we never pay attention at, but are always there and give us the feeling of safety in some way.

“You are too young to waste your time in the past. Past is always there. Present is only for a moment and future is closer than you think. Create memories, Jinny. When the clock starts ticking and time counts down, all that you have left will be a burlap sack, full of memories. You will know that your journey is almost over. You will feel the difference in the air when time is coming. A long journey will that be, can’t you tell? Full of surprises, wins and losses, unfair battles, stops and delays. Lost dreams, fulfilled dreams, tears of joy and sorrow. That’s what will fill your burlap life’s sack.”

“So, is this life? Just a burlap sack full of memories?” I asked her.

“No, not yet. But in the end, that’s what is going to be.”

“And what for? When you are gone, no one will remember you. Sooner or later life goes on for everyone.”

“For you, love. Only for you and no one else.”

Standing in front of the window now, with the thick drops of rain running down, with my open palm on it staring at the blurry outline, I think I hear Emily’s voice;

“It’s time to open your burlap sack, love. Put your hands in there, grab your memories and pull them out. Sit on your bed, array them on your discoloured blanket, look at them, smell them, touch them; remember, Jinny. Remember.”

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