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10 Helsinginkatu: Chapter 40 10 Helsinginkatu: Chapter 40
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-09-14 09:17:05
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40. The exhibition wall

Juha had managed to wake up everybody’s monsters, and as I found out very soon, he had also woken up his own monster. When I stepped out on my patio early in the morning for my first cigarette, Leena was waiting with a hot cup of coffee in her hands. “Good morning!” she said quietly, waiting for me to light my cigarette.


The morning wasn’t exactly a good morning. The sun was somewhere behind the dark clouds and it was obvious that it would start snowing soon. The temperature was somewhere between minus ten and minus fifteen degrees Celsius and I was definitely not in the mood for talking before my morning cigarette. Actually I wasn’t in the mood for talking at all, the night before I had had one of my usual nightmares, the one that torture me from time to time. The only thing I wanted was a quiet day, perhaps some reading and listening music. Probably the weather added to my mood, but Leena was definitely not what I was expecting to see first thing in the morning.

“I just need some fresh air!” she said, obviously reading my thoughts. Finnish people do weird things like that, like have an early morning coffee outside in the snow. But not Helsinki people. Helsinki people are a totally different breed from the rest; this also goes for the people who moved to Helsinki only years ago. Suddenly the city drags them into a life of hot apartments and thick quilts. Even if they would do something like this, they would do it when the sky was clean and no snow clouds on the horizon.

So seeing Leena waiting for me on my patio early in the morning with a cup of steaming coffee in her hands, was definitely weird. After all she had her own garden if she wanted to enjoy the clean air. Leena wanted to talk, and she didn’t know where to start. I must admit that my morning face, especially before my first cigarette and after a difficult night, didn’t help much! “What’s wrong?” Was the only thing that managed to come out of my mouth, accompanied with a thick cloud of smoke. She stood there, holding her cup and looking at the clouds, “Do you want to come to my house? It’s warm in there!”

That definitely woke me up straight away. Something was going on, there was no reason at all for this invitation, and my warm house was just behind me, behind the patio door; still she was inviting me to her house? I put a second cigarette in my mouth and I nodded yes without a second thought. Before I finished she had already left, walking towards her garden. I noticed for the first time that her balcony door was open. Getting closer to her house, I could feel that something was not right and from her balcony door you have a view of the room, which suddenly looked not normal!

The balcony door leads to her sitting room, and the first thing you see entering from the balcony is her exhibition wall – or at least that’s what I call it in my mind. Her sitting room is a nice room and I have described before the sofa and the table in the middle. What I didn’t mention was the wall next to the balcony door, leading to a hallway. The wall is full of small and big frames, with a variety of pictures. There are family photos, pictures from Finland and small paintings in different sizes and in different frames. It sounds like a real mess, but it isn’t. Actually it makes a very nice site, this mixture of black and white old photos, with pictures of a sunset near the big cathedral in the centre of Helsinki, then next to it a small reindeer somewhere in Lapland.

The frames reach the ceiling and it is like colourful and very alive wallpaper. Obviously it carries a lot of very personal memories for Leena and I never really dared to ask about it. There were photos of her young, some with an older man; I presumed it was her father, and some with two girls, perhaps school friends. Then there was a photo of a man on skis, somewhere in Lapland, I recognized the place since I’ve been there a couple of times; then more photos of Helsinki, Tampere and some places I didn’t recognize, but I was sure they were from Finland.

But all that was in the past, because when I entered the room, there were only a few frames here and there on the wall. The rest of them were in pieces all around the room. It was like a storm had entered; pictures, broken frames and glass were everywhere. Some of the photos were in pieces! I was in shock and it took a while before my mind realized what I was looking at. I turned around and looked at Leena and I saw her on her knees in front the door, still holding the cup of coffee and crying quietly. I felt like screaming, but I just stood there looking at her, looking at the snow that just had started to fall outside and feeling the pieces of glass under my feet. I put a cigarette to my mouth. I do respect other people’s houses and I would have normally never done what anything like that, but it was some kind of shock reaction.

Of course I knew who had done it, but I still had to ask. She didn’t answer; she just looked at me with tears running down her face. Her silence was louder than any words. I took one more step inside, hearing the glass make funny noises under my shoes. I wanted to run outside, find him and break every single bone in his body – the same way he had broken every single frame on the exhibition wall.


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