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Helsinginkatu 10, The Medium - 01
by Thanos Kalamidas
2018-12-28 11:41:19
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“Pick an egg” she said and her eyes shined in the dim light of the strangely dark kitchen. There was also this smell, a mixture of familiar herbs with unknown spices. A small house, with narrow spaces full of little and big things randomly put here and there, like a storage place.

On the table were two cups of coffee, an old piece of bread, a basket with eggs, perhaps four might five. Her hands, one in the older woman’s hand and one trying to keep away from the basket with the eggs. All that on a very old and I suspect very dirty deep red cloth, pretending to be tablecloth. Her other hand was under the table and she could not see it. Strange but she thought that she could feel it.

“Pick an egg,” she said again and her voice sounded hoarse, thorns and metal. She tried not to look in her eyes but her hand moved towards the basket. Then she picked one but it felt too heavy, the next felt too wet in her sweating hand and the third was the one she pulled out from the basket.

“That’s it? Are you sure? Do you feel it?” She asked while her other hand appeared on the table holding a small white towel, one of those you use to clean dishes.

“Are you scared?” The older woman asked and she nodded yes.

“Don’t be, I’m here,” The hoarse voice said reassuringly.

And then she takes the egg from her hand, wrapped it slowly inside the white towel and hit it hard with her fist. Blood everywhere. The towel, her hand, even her face has traces of bright red blood.

Why blood is so bright in this dark? She wondered but soon fear covered every other question.

“You are cursed.” The older woman said louder. “You, your baby, your mother. You are all cursed.”

“My baby,” the younger woman cried holding her belly.

“There will be no baby.”

1. Second-hand smoking

I looked bored at the snow falling heavily outside the double glass windows. Nothing special about it, especially if you had spent your last two decades in Helsinki Finland. No charm, no magic anymore. White heavy snow, freezing cold air, cold fingers, slippery streets. Eventually you learn to adjust your expectations.

Leena and I were sitting in that small café on the side of the “Sausage House” cross the road from the Central Railway Station. A faint smell of cigarette, despite the fact that smoking inside was forbidden the last ten years at least, frustrated me a bit while Leena kept moving on her chair trying to prove how uncomfortable it was.

“Why do we have to come here all the time?” she complained moving once more.

“Because they make good coffee.”

“Your definition for good?”

“Strong!” I snapped with a bitter smile.

cafe“It is not handicapped friendly,” Leena has multiple sclerosis and most of the time, especially during autumn and winter, she moves with an automated wheelchair. She also has an evil black cat but this is a different issue, a flaw of character. Her MS is painful and dramatic especially for a woman barely in her fifties with a lot of talents and very expressive blue eyes.

I nodded, she was right. This is not a handicap friendly café but this old tobacco smell worked well with my handicap. Sixteen months without a smoke and counting. There have been days I felt like screaming in the middle of the street when I saw somebody puffing away. Or beg for one puff. There were days I stood next to people who smoked just to steal a bit of smoke. I was second-hand smoking.

Didn’t work very well. Never does when you are a one-eighty-two sixty years-old man with Einstein-style white hair, a Santa-thick cotton beard and a twelve-pack beer belly. But I don’t think it had to do with the belly or the height, it was the look. The look of hunger and desperation that scared people.

The second time I was warned with a call to the police I decided that time had come to quit second-hand smoking. So I second-hand smoke in cafes that used to allow smoking and the taste has stuck on the old wallpaper.

“Do you want half of my …pulla?” Leena asked pushing her plate with the half eaten cinnamon roll. Always the same when you are with Finns. You must know basic Finnish words to survive a conversation, even the simplest one, and pulla, the cinnamon roll, was one of them.

“No thanks, not really in the mood for something sweet and too early for me for something salty.” I don’t know why I had to give all this explanation but here we were, me missing a cigarette and talking my way to denial.

The very few people walking outside seemed distress to avoid the snow and the cold. Cars waiting the green light and a young couple ready to cross the road. Dark. And it was only three o’clock in the afternoon. November is the wrong month to visit Helsinki and we lived here.

A young, obviously Middle Eastern guy was whipping the table next to us and he gave us a friendly smile after hearing me speaking in English. The unity between the foreigners in this country, the unspoken communication. You are not alone.

Then he moved and Leena moved again. We had left her wheel chair in the entrance and this was something Leena didn’t like. She liked to hover in her table with her chair and now she had to stand, walk slowly and sit in an uncomfortable thing dressed in red unidentified material that could be plastic. She touched the chair next to her with disgust on her face.

“Do you want to go?” I asked and she nodded. No smile.

“Can you wait for another five minutes?” she looked at me with wonder in her blue eyes.

“Peka might come from here.” And she sighed.

“I knew it. I knew there was a reason you brought me here and it was not your stupid second-hand smoking.” I smiled and said nothing.

“And what time komisario Peka will honour us with his presence?” Leena hissed a bit angry.

“Ylikomisario; he was promoted.”

“Wow! When did it happen?”

“Last week. It was his turn he said, no biggy. His words.”

“Oh the down to earth Finn, humble Ylikomisario Peka,” she was becoming sarcastic. I didn’t say anything.

Leena always liked Peka but this moment she hated the café and this was enough to surface her evil twine she hides under layers of wool jumpers and cardigans.

Then like a thought crossed her mind she asked, “Something going on?”

“Not really sure. I met him last night outside the house we live and he said something about a disappearance and that was it. Too late, too cold to talk”

Peka was my neighbour, two floors up and that how I knew him. A nice family man with two wonderful teenage kids, a boy and a girl and a very religious wife just to prove that nobody’s life can be perfect. She rarely talked to me and I’m sure that a foreigner was not exactly considered a god’s gift in her surroundings.

“What the hell were you doing out last night? Checking for the ice vampires?” She gave me a toothy smile knowing the answer. I didn’t want to answer and her smile widened even more.

“Does it really help you?”

“What?” I answered angrily.

“Going out and pretend that you smoke.”

I was ready to tell her something about her ancestors but Peka’s always quiet voice stopped me.

“Moi, what’s the matter again, are you two arguing for the traffic again?”


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