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Distorted mirror
by Katerina Charisi
2015-12-06 12:12:33
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There were times when her mother was able to enforce herself to her husband. Sometimes she seemed to be another person; strong and resolute even organized, having everything under her control. Those days her father had to stay home with Emily instead of leaving her alone.

What her mother didn’t know, was that very few times they actually stayed home. Her father couldn’t resist on a good game of cards for too long. Soon his anxiety and desire to bet, to feel the throwing of the crumbled banknotes with a blow of his fist on the green table with ash from his cigarette hanging on his lips fell on his shirt, caused him some kind of itching. Those times he took little Emily by hand and walked to his hangout.

emiii01_400Funny they looked. A massive figure with wide chest and square shoulders, huge arms going back and forth as he walked that never touched his ribs and short heavy legs; all that having a tiny little girl by his side, her hand lost in his palm, running to catch his steps.

“I know these places very well, Jinny. I grew up in them.”

Emily is standing up, looking out of the large window in my room at Home. I still can’t understand why time hasn’t left any marks on her. Other than looking a little older since the day I met her- so many years ago - she hasn’t changed at all. And it’s not exactly “older”. I can see the same faint wrinkles on her eyes, same as they were decades ago. Something else time has left on her. Something like a completion, maturation, a calm wisdom and an ability to deal with everything by looking them from above, without really getting involved.

She looked like a leaf in a running stream. She was just going with the flow and let things happen; she had the power to align with all. And I still can’t understand how she gets in here. I still can’t understand when she comes in my mind as a reminder and when she really just stands there. But deep inside me I know she can’t really be there. I think I just don’t want to accept it. Nevertheless, I know what I see; and I see her.

I look at me, my pathetic me. Comparing me with Emily, I almost look like her older aunty. I’m sitting on my rocking chair next to the window and I feel weaker and smaller than I really am when I look at the liveliness she carries along with herself. I don’t talk. She doesn’t talk that much very often, so every time I catch her in the talking mood, I let her do the whole thing. Plus I love her stories.

“The place was a shabby ground floor den. With a sick yellow on the dirty walls, blackish mosaic with small potholes where the tables and chair were, and cracks here and there from where cockroaches were coming out at times. A permanent thick cloud of smoke that made my eyes burn was hovering low. Sometimes I was pretending to play under the pool tables, just to breathe some clean air.

My father would let my hand right after we went in, and the rusty bell rang above our heads. He would just forget all about me, walk and take his place on the green table. There were also two pool tables and a couple of flippers in the place. The owner was a nice guy, at least that’s how I remember him. Now that I think about it, I guess he had seen too much. He always came to me asking if I needed anything, I always shook my head no; he would  notice the look I gave to my father while waving that “no” and then he would go. After a while, he would come with a French toast, a glass of orange juice and the pool balls; every single time.

emiii02_400Most of the times I spent hours in that place, playing with the pool balls, trying to put them in the holes, sticking my fingers in the blue chalk and painting on a small, unseen part of the filthy wall. I was invisible.

When I got too tired, I kept asking my father to go home and sleep. He would just say yes without taking his eyes from his cards and then ignored me again. In the end, I took two chairs, stick one face the other and slept on them. By the time he was ready to go and opened my eyes, I had the owner’s old stinking jacket on me and the night was almost gone.

It was a routine. Nothing changed, every single time. Except one night when my mother burst inside the place, frantic with anger and furious, grabbed me like it was all my fault, yelled something at the men playing cards which made them laugh and took me home. I was always hoping for her to come; yet, when she did it really frightened me. But then again I felt better at home under my bed. And that after dragging me hard as she walked fast, murmuring and swearing at me and in the end dropping me in my room screaming to stay there and don’t even dare to make a sound while she was crying and breaking things.

It teared me down because I was not just a little girl between grown up men; not because it was the total wrong place for a child and not because I was afraid of them or something. While my father totally ignored my existence and never gave me a second look, they all treated me like a pet. They asked me if I was hungry, thirsty or bored; they gave me money for the flippers, they smiled and waved hello. But for him, I wasn’t even there. And that made me feel worse. I was unwanted or invisible at home, but it was home. Being invisible at an unfamiliar place having no special place to hide, was too much. It made me feel ashamed of myself. At least at home I could hide.

You see Jinny, most of the times children see the world through a distorted mirror. Thankfully, I spent too many years in that place with my father, and too many years after him, to realize that nothing of it was my fault. It did a major difference when I had that knowledge in me. It changed the way I saw everything. But it was too late for my childhood anyway; it didn’t matter what I knew afterwards. When I actually lived it, as a child, I wished I could die. As a teen, I wished I could kill them. As you can see, none of the two ever happened.”

Thank God for that Emily, I would have never met you if things had evaluated differently, I said to myself.

“Oh you would have met me anyway, love. Either dead or imprisoned.”

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