36. Fixing the bicycle in the cold
Watching people around me, or just those walking on the streets, has always been something I like doing. Sometimes I wish there was a kind of camera, a small and good one that could take really good photos; a camera that I could always carry with me and photograph some of those interesting-looking faces. They carry so much passion and pain in their dark lines. I have the feeling that most people are really sad deep inside, despite all the laughs and smiles. The only way to see this is if you look at the shadows in their faces. Unfortunately for me, I seem to have a talent for seeing beyond the smiles and the makeup, I see the shadow behind.
Perhaps the way I try to describe this sound very poetic, but it’s the only way I can describe it. Then there are other people with hard faces, vicious somehow, and full of hate. You get the feeling that no feeling has ever gone through them. Or if they have feelings, they are not good news for anybody around them. I have a neighbour who has exactly this type of face. He is German, married with a Russian, and despite the fact that he has often mentioned his name, I can never remember it. Whenever I think about him or talk about him, the only word that comes to mind is …the creep!
Perhaps he is a nice man when you get to know him, and as another neighbour said, he is always very friendly and willing to help, but to me he is just …the creep. Like I said, he is married with a Russian girl and they have a child, a young, very sweet daughter. What often fascinates me is that the mother also gives me the creeps. There is something icy about her, seriously every time I meet them I feel a cold wind going through my body. And here he was, outside in the small common yard where the neighbourhood children play, fixing his daughter’s bicycle and helping her, a group of small kids watching. You see that’s what I mean by saying that there is something creepy about them: the weather was bad, it looked like it was going to snow soon, there was ice everywhere, and he is outside with his daughter and her bicycle!
He doesn’t speak English, and I stubbornly don’t practice my German with him. I think that has to do with the first time we met, when I said I don’t speak Finnish. He looked at me like I was a strange animal or something. Amazingly, my neighbour who knows him and thinks that he is a nice person, has said that most of the time he doesn’t understand his Finnish, but lets him talk if that makes him happy. Of course the family uses Finnish as main language and the little girl also speaks Russian and German. But this is not everything. It is like that moment he was fixing the bicycle, there was something creepy about the way he was looking at the other children and with that I mean nothing good, it was like watching a wolf ready to eat them all.
I walked near, saying hello. He nodded with his usual smile and I said that the weather obviously was not for bicycling. “Yes, but bicycle needs fixing, yea?” he answered with his eyes on the bicycle. A bit cold day today, it’s probably going to snow later tonight, I added to make some kind of conversation. “Jo!” he answered, using the Finnish yes without saying anything else. I could see that he wasn’t really doing anything; he just tested the screws around the breaks. And saying goodbye, I left them there. The little girl was watching me for a bit and then she turned to her dad. The man was in his late fifties, obviously he’d had a late start in life and as I had heard he was trying to make his dreams come true through his little girl. He piled all kind of extra lessons on her, including piano, ballet and French, leaving very little free time for the six-year-old. And if all their personal time was spent fixing the bicycle in the cold, God… they all needed help in this family.
Again I sat on the patio lighting a cigarette watching them. I had met him a couple of times in the city. He was drinking alone in small pubs, never with anybody, always alone. Every time I found myself in the same place as him, I noticed that he was watching what I did, what I drank and with who I was talking; once I even had the feeling that he was following me, but he soon disappeared in a smaller street. Leena was watching as well from her glass windows. I could see her red eyes even from this distance, and I could tell she was still crying. In the end this woman was going to blame me for everything that had happened in her relationship with Juha.
The bicycle was fixed or whatever the creep was doing there in the cold, and they moved inside. The little girl looked at the other kids in the common area, who were playing with the snow, some of them trying to make a snowman. I could see the envy in her eyes, but they had to go inside and get ready for the next round of lessons, with the creep giving her orders with small nods. Oh yes, I had seen him doing that, he was making small, slow nods that obviously hid some kind of code orders, and the small girl would obey straight away; go inside, move faster or whatever else the creep ordered. Leena hadn’t moved from the window and suddenly I felt I had enough of all of them for the day! So I decided to give myself a break and called Marc!
All characters and events depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to persons living, dead, or fictional or situations past, present, or fictional is purely and completely coincidental.
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