“We will let you know…”
He picked up his briefcase, hung his coat over his forearm, in a way that the frayed part will be covered, and nodded in agreement.
He came out in the street and walked with bowed head, drowned inside an ocean of thoughts. People around him was buzzing like a beehive. They were laughing, talking loudly, having coffee in cafés, driving and yelling at other drivers, coming out of supermarkets carrying plastic bags full of unnecessary things. They were all happy, tidy, and safe.
He passed outside the corner café and hovered at its door for a moment. How he longed for a cup of coffee! Hot, fresh and frothy. He searched his pockets hoping to find forgotten coins. Inside pockets and outside pockets. Nothing. Only a hole in his jacket’s lining. He took his wallet out of his briefcase. It was made of fine leather, bought in another life, in another parallel universe. When he discovered a two-euro coin he had to stop himself from shrieking with joy. He eagerly ran in line and waited for his turn to come. The café employee welcomed him with a professional smile and accepted his order. He was about to ask him if people for hiring were needed, but he noticed that none of the young gentlemen and ladies working there was over thirty years old, so he decided to wait for his coffee in silence. Through the speakers, the famous lyrics of the “I will survive” song were bursting out. Unwittingly, he started tapping his foot and felt the illusion of optimism giving him chills. Could this be some kind of a sign? He wondered and wanted to smile but realized that he had forgotten how.
He gazed the cloudy day outside the big glass door. A lonely collared dove stood between his eyes and heaven. Its color matched the grey dome so perfectly. It gave the impression that the bird was a piece of the gloomy celestial puzzle that had fallen out of the sky and got stuck in the telephone wires.
“Sir? Are you listening?”
The employee was not smiling anymore and was staring at him, seeming especially impatient and nervous.
“Excuse me. Could you please repeat what you said?”
“Would like some cinnamon or chocolate powder to your cappuccino?”
He asked for chocolate and later, after uttering a farewell for which he never got a response, he came out, once more, into the coldness of the day. The first sip managed to sweeten his heart’s bitterness. Chocolate was always a good choice. Its flavor mixed perfectly with those of the coffee and the milk foam, and for some reason this made him feel so privileged. He began walking home but soon he changed his destination. There was nothing waiting for him there. He headed to the Square. He wanted to mingle with the crowd for a while, to stop feeling so unbearably alone.
In the Square, there were, indeed, a lot of people. Mostly, babies in strollers, worn-out mothers and groups of elderly men. He sat on a bench under the shade of a feeble orange tree and left his briefcase next to him. At the opposite bench, there was a bunch of old men chattering about the terrible mess of the country’s economy and suggesting solutions that, if the Minister of Finance took into consideration- they were so certain about that-, Greece would be saved.
The giggles of the infants and the sound of the music pouring out of the cafés that surrounded the Square calmed his soul somehow. He was drinking his coffee in small sips. Never before had he appreciated this taste, such as now. How people change… he thought bitterly. A colorful ball came to his feet and a moppet came after it in a hurry. He looked no more than three years old. He was wearing a blue jacket and gel in his hair.
“Hey there, little fella. What’s your name?” he asked, trying to sound friendly.
The toddler stood there looking baffled. He lifted the ball from the ground and offered it to the child. The kid reached out for the ball, dubiously, and after grabbing it, ran off.
The old guys on the opposite bench raised their voices. The quarrel was still raging among them like a storm made of different arguments and contradictions.
Suddenly, the gray veil of the sky split open and a few comforting sunrays landed on his face. He felt them as a blessing and for a while, his heart got warmer. He closed his eyes, shutting out the whole world. In his mind came a very old memory. Forgotten for decades inside the drawers of his subconscious.
It was an autumn day, just like this one, in his father’s village. A tiny village which in the old days was full of life, but now only a few families were still living there. He was barely ten years old at the time. He and his aunt Melpo, his most favourite of all of his father’s sisters, were visiting the grandfather’s grave. Grandpa was buried in the churchyard, next to his wife and his first daughter. Aunt Melpo set out to paint the rusty tomb railings.
He was only five when Grandpa Leonidas died. He hadn’t had the chance to truly meet him. He could remember, though, singing for him a song. A song he was taught in the kindergarten. Grandpa was lying in his bed, sick. He was clapping his hands and laughing as he listened to his grandson sing. When the child finished singing, Grandpa Leonidas kissed his cheeks and filled his pockets with money and chocolate bars.
After he took a stroll inside the little church, he contemplated the faded murals of the Saints. He thought they were a bit frightening. He placed a pale candle in the candelabra – there were no matches to light it- and said the prayer his mother had taught him.
Then he came out again. It was a pretty hot day for the middle of autumn. Aunt Melpo was still painting, singing a song about death, wiping tears from her eyes from time to time. She was wearing a brown cardigan, beige knee-length skirt, and long socks.
He sat on the temple’s stairs and gazed at the horizon. The mountain his father was born, houses made of stone-built on its slopes, and a sky immense and painfully blue. The sun warmed him tenderly like a mother’s hug and felt his eyelids close. He could remember that sleep on the church’s stairs as one of the happiest moments of his childhood.
He opened his eyes and looked around. The elderly were still conversing in a loud voice, but now the subject was different. They were commenting on the disrespectful youth which was lazing around in cafeterias, having no interest in real life and responsibilities. He felt genuinely disgusted with himself and of everyone else. He stood up and headed to the stairs of the temple on the corner of the Square. He thought of lighting a candle, but he immediately recalled that he had spent his last euros on the cappuccino. He sat on the first step and hid his face in his palms feeling utterly discouraged.
A lady dressed in a dark suit came down the stairs of the temple, but, just before passing him by, she looked at him with compassion and left a coin next to him. He was taken aback by this gesture and felt extremely embarrassed. They have mistaken him for a beggar. He tormented himself over that thought for a while and then after he had carefully checked around him and was certain that no one was watching, he picked up the coin and put it in his pocket.
I was born on a very cold December in Thessaloniki, Greece. I live in Thessaloniki with my family and I am working as a freelance translator. I speak Greek, English and Italian. I am a member of the literary fellowship «Time of Writing» and am obsessed with all kinds of literature. My first romantic novel “Love at first… battle” was published by the Greek Publishing House “Oceanos”. I also took part in the Short Stories Collection “12, Sin Street” with my Fantasy story “The wager”. The collection was published by the Greek Publishing House “Anatypo”.