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Broken hearted
by Katerina Charisi
2015-12-13 14:08:00
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“One night, while playing with the pool balls in that filthy place with my eyes sleepily closing, the rusty bell above the door rang and a man came in… holding a little boy’s hand. The boy seemed lost in the creepy room with the dim light of the hanging fluorescent lamps and all those men gathered around the table, all serious, unshaved, sweating and stinking, drinking, fighting with a cloud of smoke filling the place.

I stared at the boy, his old man left his hand - just like mine did every time to sit around the green table and forget about him - while the boy was standing in the middle of everything looking around without knowing what to do or where to go. The owner approached him and asked him something; I guess he asked him the same things he asked me. The boy shook his head no, but the man brought him after a while a French toast and a glass of orange juice.

mil01_400_01He barely touched them, but he seemed to be hungry, because he was throwing quick glances at the tray and then at the green table where the gamblers where. I was sitting under the table trying to decide what to do with him; I knew very well how he felt. My father read my thoughts. “Em, look, now you have a friend. So why don’t you play with little Pauli over there?”

“And maybe you would stop nagging, it’s time to go”, said after and then all of them laughed. I got so angry. I called the boy and he joined me under the pool table. Since that night, everything seemed to get so much better. Time wasn’t passing by so slowly anymore, and the hours I spent in there were the best part of my days.”

Emily and Paul in their most tender years of childhood, became something more than friends. They were brother and sister. Their loneliness, lack of love and attention brought them so close. They spent endless hours in that place, playing pool, flipper, hide and seek, laughing and talking and they even hid toys in their pockets from home and brought them there to make their nights even more fun.

Emily hadn’t felt this way before. It was magic. She could talk about everything, she could laugh, play, run, she could be who she was without being judged, without having to think twice before she talk or act, she had finally a friend; she had someone who liked her for just who she was. Paul felt the same way. They both knew who they were and they both knew who their parents there. They both just wanted to be normal; to have a normal family.

Soon they started calling themselves partners; Affiliates. Not only they managed to make their fathers know each other better, not only their fathers became friends, they even managed to get them home. That was the best part of all. The sad reality through the innocent eyes of two small children, who all they wanted was to be noticed and loved. The only thing that had changed, was that her father stopped going to that place; He went every single night to Paul’s house and played card with his father. He didn’t have a job anymore, he was fired, couple of months earlier. Her mother thought it was better than nothing, at least she wouldn’t have to stay home alone looking after Emily, she could watch him and she could make a friend; Marianne, Jordan’s wife. Her husband’s new best friend.

“Their house was just a common place, but it somehow looked better than ours. Maybe it was just the fact it was a place other than home. Our parents were always in the living room, sitting around the table with our fathers playing cards and our mothers chatting and laughing. In the summer they took the table out in the small terrace and they could stay there all night. We weren’t allowed to leave Paul’s room of course, but we spent two whole years in this place and every summer when they were out and we were left alone in the house, we would come out of Paul’s room and ran around the whole place.

I was so happy Jinny. There’s no way to describe that feeling. For the first time I was free to play, to laugh, to talk; for the first time ever I felt free; I was free. No one cared what I did; what we did. No one ever told me to shut up, to stop making noise, to stay in my room and don’t come out, I wasn’t in my room anymore, I wasn’t at home anymore and my parents were like totally different people; they had fun, they laughed, they had a good time together. We were a normal family; that’s what I thought. That’s what I saw. I guess it was just what I needed to see.”

Emily was too young to understand that nothing of it was normal or healthy for her. They stayed at Paul’s place every night, for the whole night. She and Paul stayed awake all night playing around while they should be sleeping. Both of their fathers where addicted in gambling; it didn’t matter if it was just between them two. They were playing cards every single night, all night, all for money. It was just that they were only two so they didn’t lose for real, because they spent everything together anyway, in pizza or beers in every round.

Eventually the wives got tired by all this. They thought it would be nice to have their men back home, to have a friend, to keep their kids occupied, but it had all gone too much; it had gone too far. Subtle comments about spend some time separately started being told by both of them. Occasionally at first, more persistent after a while. In the end it was just a demanding. “This has to stop!”

The kids had no idea of this sudden wind of change. They were too absorbed in their games. Little they cared about missing school too often because of their lack of sleep.

mil02_400_01“We can’t spend the rest of our lives this way! Every single night the same thing!” Marianne said. “I work, God damn it! I need to sleep! Paul needs to sleep!”

“I work too, so what? And when I don’t work, I want to have FUN!” Emily’s father said that laughing out loud ironically at his friend’s face, making him laugh too.

“No one said you had to join us! You could stay at home, taking care of your damn kid!” said Jordan to my mother. “You could stay inside and take care of our kid!” said to his wife. “The kids are your business, not ours!”

We stepped out Paul’s room and hid behind the door frame, stuck on the wall, listening. We didn’t exactly understand what had happened and what where they talking about. We were just curious to listen. I can’t remember what else I heard. But I remember that I stood on my tiptoes and I hit the painting that was hanging above my head on the wall, that it got off its hook and fell on the floor, breaking its glass. And it was a big frame.

Next thing I remember is Paul’s aghast face and Marianne running inside to see what happened and when I saw her look I got thousands of times more scared than when I had to deal with my mother.  She slapped Paul so hard at the back of his head that he fell on his knees and on the glass shards. He cut both his knees and his hands, but he closed quickly his fists and didn’t make a sound. A single drop of blood managed to escape his tight fist and fell on the floor. Marianne was screaming and swearing at him, I wanted so badly to say something, to do something, but I was so stunned that I had even forgotten I was the one who dropped that painting. I just couldn’t believe in my eyes.

She rushed in his room and like a mad dog she waved her hands and kicked, throwing everything down from their selves, breaking all of the childish frames on the walls, ripping Paul’s drawings, and calling him useless piece of shit every time she broke something.

She took the toy castle that was almost one meter long, with hundreds of little pieces inside it, knights, horses, canons and plastic flags, she lifted it up and then with a loud moo she smashed it on the floor, catapulting thousands of little plastic pieces in the air. Tthen she grabbed Paul by his collar, she lifted him up and stuck her face on his “Did you like thaaaaat?” she howled and dropped him down. She continued this madness until she had broken everything. And when she couldn’t brake something- like paul’s metal model cars, she pulled her clothes in rage and jumped on them until she smashed them too.

She left the room and when I decided to dare and make a step close to him, she came back with a big garbage bag and started throwing everything inside. I nailed myself right where I was and closed my eyes. I didn’t even breathe. I was only listening to the sound of her heavy breath, the broken glasses and the broken toys getting in the bag. I forced my mind to stop thinking; my ears to stop listening. After two whole years, I called Silence again.

When I opened my eyes, there was nothing left in Paul’s room except from the furniture. The drawers were thrown down empty, the shelves too, she had even thrown away his clothes. The closet’s door was gawping open; totally empty. Paul was still sitting there; his fists closed tight, the dry blood on his knees, the empty eyes, out of tears. I took one step and he turned his head and looked at me, and I knew he didn’t want me to get close. He was ashamed. As I did; every time I survived my mother’s rage. I left the room and saw my mother on the door holding her purse. My father and Paul’s father were mumbling something outside.

We left. We never came back. I never saw Paul again.”

I stand up and walk upset around my room by this story. Emily’s figure faded out. She is gone again.

I stand still staring at nowhere, when suddenly the skylight opens and the cold wind bursts inside, carrying away papers, dropping the cup of water on the floor, flapping the pages of the book on the small table, scaring the hell out of me. I closed the skylight trying the handle twice to make sure it won’t open again during the night, I picked up the plastic cup and ignored the spilled water, I decided to get some sleep but something in the other side of the room caught my attention. Another Polaroid’s instant picture. My hands started shaking even before I took it; I knew it came from the skylight.

The picture shakes too as I hold it. I hold my breath to make my hands steady. It shows a boy and a girl not older than 8-9 years old, the girl is smiling and winks, having her arm around the boy’s shoulders, the boy has a biscuit on his mouth and has his arms on his sides, like pretending the duck. They shine in happiness. It brings tears in my eyes. I know that Emily sent me this picture. And I know that I don’t remember things I should remember and I don’t know when and why I started to forget.

But that little girl is not Emily. That girl in the picture… is me.

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