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Guille

Stolen memories (parts I and II)

Some old record playing in the room interrupts the silent night, slow music fills the place with a melancholic touch of rhythm and peace. A small round table takes up the center of the room and a delicate figure of a slender woman sits on it. Courtains flow with the wind, the glass door that leads to the balcony is open and lets the voice of crickets and owls enter the room and mix with the music. On the wall to the left of the door, a sober couch with a blanket on top, next to it a stand with a lamp, a telephone and a book that awaits for a reader to sit again to continue the story. Opposite that wall, two old-styled chairs facing each other, a tea table with service for one, and a glass shelf with beautiful ornaments made of silver and a golden trophy make up the rest of furniture. No pictures can be seen, only naked walls that contrast with the familiar feeling that the music offers. The apartment on the second floor of a three-story building surrounded by trees and bushes is just the place for someone who looked for peace and quiet.

Suddenly, a dark figure breaks the inanimated state of the room, a masculine shape that opens its way through the courtains. Slowly, trying to figure out what his next move should be, a man appears and examines the sorroundings. Black pants and a black long-sleeved pullover help him comouflage with the night, sneakers conceive the sound of his steps, leather gloves cover his hands. His eyes move from right to left, it is hard to say if he is looking for something in particular or for anything at all, he seems to be around his late thirties, a three-day beard and the icy eyes give him an eerie look. Before he can walk any further, a scream and the noise of porcelain breaking as it hits the floor let him know he´s been seen. On the other side of the room, a woman stands with her hands over her mouth, as if trying to hide her own voice; her eyes wide open and her body stuck to the door… a door that, she will regret immediately, just closed as she tried to step back.

For a second neither of them moved. It seemed as if even the music had stopped. As soon as she could put her mind back together, she tried to turn around and open the door to escape, but her nerves kept her from succeeding. She faced the man again and while pointing at him with her shaking finger, she ordered him to leave or otherwise, she would call the police. Her trembling voice barely made it out of her mouth, thick walls made it improbable that any of the neighbors would hear her. Even though she had little to nothing to do with them, she hoped they´d hear and maybe arrive and help her, but the truth was, ever since she became a widow and moved in and left the house she had shared with her late husband, she had tried to keep her situation and story for herself, avoiding contact with the rest of the world as long as it was possible.

“Please, don´t be scared…” the calmed voice of the man contrasted with the moment, he didn´t seem to be nervous or scared, he didn´t react like a thief who had just been caught breaking into a house. “I beg you to forgive my careless actions, I understand that you are so scared, but please let me explain. I am just looking for my cat, Aki… he ran away again, it´s the second time this week.” The woman felt overwhelmed by her feelings: part of her just wanted to run away, part of her was intrigued by the man´s words and tone… and yet another big part of her mind was simply too confused and shocked to actually do anything other than stand and stare. “You see, even if you want to call the police, if your apartment is like mine, and I think it is, the only phone in these houses is the one in the living room… the one to your left. My name is Evan, I also live in this building, well, I just moved in a few days ago.” The woman´s face didn´t seem to convey a positive reaction, so the man went on: “If it makes you feel better, let me give you a tip, instead of dialling 145, you should try 555 333, that way you´ll reach our police station directly, instead of the central, it happens that I am a policeman myself. In any event, I will leave now, I don´t want to scare you. Please excuse me, I feel terrible for having caused trouble, but Aki is my only company and you know, I won´t forgive myself if he´s lost, my wife loved that cat.”

Evan was just leaving when he heard: “Why are you wearing gloves?” He turned around, the woman was still standing with her back against the door, but her body seemed to be a bit more relaxed, her voice also reflected more curiosity than fear: “I mean, if all the things you said are true, why are you wearing gloves?” Evan smiled, as if the answer was so simple and clear: “Well, it seems like Aki does not feel too comfortable with me yet, ” he took one glove off and showed some scratches. “He will fight, scream, scratch and run whenever he does not feel like accepting that now we only have each other. The thing is… he is not really mine, he is my wife´s cat… I mean, he was, or…  I don´t know… it´s just one more of those things that don´t make any sense. She would take care of him and he, in return, often followed her wherever she was. It´s not that I don´t like him, it´s just that maybe we are too alike and we both tried to gain her attention, and now that the link that made us kind of enemies… I´m sorry, I should really leave.” Once again he turned around, but as he tried to leave, the woman spoke, even taking a step forward: “I am Caroline, please, wait a minute.”

END OF PART I

 

 

Caroline came forward and extended her arm, Evan came also towards her and they shook hands slowly. „I am sorry, I should have thought better before just jumping inside, it has been a foolish mistake.“ Evan spoke while he held Caroline´s hand, she smiled timidly and agreed that the situation was less than appropriate, but added that they could maybe still make something good out of it. He thanked her, she picked up the broken pieces of cup and plate and put them next to the door. Meanwhile Evan looked at the shelf, amazed by the details carved on the trophy that held the place of honor among the other delicate pieces that Caroline kept there. „I am sorry, that you have lost your cat, I will look around, I guess I would have seen him already, but that does not mean that he isn´t here, you know how well they can hide.“ Evan turned around, took a deep breath and replied with saddened voice: „Seems like not even a cat can stand me nowadays.“ Caroline felt moved not only by what he said but also by the way he said it, she could see it was really hurting him, so she invited him to stay and have some tea… his cat would probably come back or be found the next days, in any event, it didn´t make much sense to go on looking during the night. Evan thanked her for her kindness and trust and said that he was actually quite tired and that would love to have a cup of tea, Caroline opened the lower part of the shelf where the trophy was and took a couple of cups and plates out, then she asked if was tired because of his looking for the cat… he replied that he didn´t mean phisically tired.

As they sat together conversation flowed easily, as if they had known each other for long. They discovered that their stories were fairly similar: both had lost their beloved ones in car accidents, neither of them had kids, and both had decided that a new, smaller house would have to do, since the bigger one felt just too big. „They say that it is a matter of time, that even though pain will never stop, it will eventually subside“ said Caroline, „ that you learn to deal with it, that it is just the way it happens to be. Some people learn quickly to face the truth, some take a while and some just don´t do it at all. I still don´t know where exactly I am.“ Her eyes were fixed on an empty space of the wall as she spoke and held the cup of tea between her hands. „I guess that is still a set of questions I will have to ask myself too.“ Evan replied and also found it hard to look at the person across the table. After a moment of silence, he tried to go on with a different subject: „I have to ask about the trophy and the other things on the shelf, are they all prizes you won?“ Caroline poured tea again and asked Evan with a sign if he also wanted, to what he nodded. „The silver figures are just something I bought for reasons I cannot understand. I saw them in an ad and thought I could start collecting something… don´t ask me why I chose silver, maybe I thought they looked gorgeous, maybe I imagined that that would be something to invest my money and time on… truth is, after the fourth piece I realized I hated them, and the fact that they cost quite a bit didn´t seem to make me proud of having them nor dumm for having paid those prices. As for the trophy, well, that is a different story. It belongs to Jack, but it is not a prize he got in a competence or so… he rather earned it; he wasn´t a man who loved sports or competitions, so it just makes sense that he got it because of his great heart. He used to try to help every person he could do something for and it happened that one of those persons was our former neighbor, Mr. Rose, an elderly man who had nobody but his old dog, Santi, with whom he used to walk around the streets in our block, we got used to seeing them before the Sun went down.

We saw them year after year, side by side, slowly going by the sidewalks and corners, the scene was as common as the sunset and there was something both melancholic and poetic about such love at such age. But as it happens with everything in life, it changed when the poor old dog got sick and wasn´t able to walk anymore. His owner didn´t know what to do, he didn´t want to just see his dog lay there until death came. We wondered whatever happened, why they weren´t there for a while, so my husband visited them and once he knew what was happening, he took them to the veterinary, where they heard that the dog was too old and sick to walk more than a few steps per day. Jack couldn´t accept that as the last alternative, so he bought a wheelchair and modified it so that he could put the dog on it and walk with him and Mr. Rose. They did that for over two months, faithful to the usual ritual, Jack was there for both of them…until the day when the dog died. It was a heartbreaking experience, but also a beautiful one.

A few days after that Mr. Rose got the trophy, had it covered in gold and the words ´real hero´ engraved for Jack. He said that Jack gave him hope when it all went downhill, when he himself couldn´t do much for his little friend, it brought Jack and me to the edge of teary eyes, Mr. Rose followed Santi not long after this.

Well, that was jack, a real hero… I wish I were as brave and fearless now, when I have no idea what to do with the things I feel, when I am in the middle of nowhere.“ Caroline spoke, and even though her voice was loud and clear, somehow it sounded very far away, Evan heard in absolute silence and only dared let a sigh escape once she made a pause. „That is a beautiful story,“ said Evan, who seemed to be really touched. „I can only imagine how satisfied you are with the way your husband acted, and even though I can´t say that I understand what you are going through, I feel your pain… by that I do not mean that I know how you are feeling, but that I can tell you are hurt. I guess nothing can ease your pain, just know that amid all the darkness, there´s some light whenever you decide you want to move on… and that is a feeling that will come at the right moment. I suppose it is hard to believe now, but I also think that deep inside, something tells you that you can try.“

Evan´s words came out as if he really felt them, and even though they were practically two strangers, Caroline did find some comfort after hearing what he said. „I am not the right person to give you advice, we barely know each other and I cannot say that I am the most righteous person, but what I mean is… I have learned that sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, even if that doesn´t seem right at the moment, it is a thing about living and surviving… I really don´t know what I am saying anymore.“ Evan seemed a bit uneasy, „Is that Don Maclean singing now?“ he asked, maybe to change the conversation and with that, the mood. „Yes, it is. I´m glad you know it! I love oldies… The Beatles, The Foundations, Everly Brothers, you name the band. I just don´t feel like all these new singers and bands fit in well with the atmosphere my oldies create, actually I have a lot of discs around and that I am proud of!“ she said as she smiled to emphasize her statement. The plate she had put on the table was empty, so she stood up: „I will be back in a moment, I think I still have some cookies left… maybe you want some? I mean, if you want to stay a little more…“ Evan smiled and nodded. Caroline took the plate and the tea pot and left the room.

She returned a few minutes later with a shelf on which a plate full of cookies and a steaming pot tinkled rhythmically. Once she entered, she simply put the shelf on the table and felt how her body was too heavy to hold itself together… the glass door was open and the courtains floated with the soft breeze again… Evan was gone.

A thought, sudden and fast like lightining, crossed Caroline´s mind and she quickly looked at the shelf where the silver figures and the trophy were… she feared that her inicial fears when she saw Evan inside her house had just come true. A mixture of disappointment and relief ran through her as she saw that the trophy was still there… but the silver figures were gone. She put her left arm around her waist, as if hugging herself, the right hand over her left shoulder completed the hug. Was she really disappointed or was she rather sad? She didn´t know, she didn´t feel like thinking about it. She knew that, for whatever reason, she wasn´t mad… it was something else, something that had to do with the trophy being there while her collection of silver figures was gone.

She looked at the broken pieces of porcelain that were still on the floor and a bittersweet smile came to her face. She walked towards the door to close it, telling herself that she would try to remember to do it every night. Before closing it, however, Caroline walked into the balcony and took a look around, where she knew she would see nothing… she only went back inside the room when the music stopped.

END

 

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