Δευτέρα, 5 Οκτωβρίου 2009

Saving Jesus and the Apostles

Jesus and the apostles had to be saved. Rodoula was determined. The thick drops of rain burst on her scalp, amongst sparse gray hair, and ran down her temples and into the creases of her face. There, concealed behind a curtain of raindrops and vine leaves, with keen eyes and her old mouth crooked with anticipation, she watched and waited.

*

“Amartoli” hissed Rodoula, when Souzana first moved in the neighborhood, ten years ago. “You will burn in hell! Amartoli!”

She continued to call her a sinner to her face long after she had settled. “Amartoli,” she called upon her when they met face to face in the street; “Amartoli” when she saw her sitting in the semidarkness, under the thick doorframe, in her negligee and high heels, her brown plump thighs exposed to the world; “Amartoli” when she was referring to her during long discussions about ethics, and Jesus, and the church at the cafeneio.

“Remember that Jesus forgave Mary Magdalene,” one would tell her. “Let the one who has not sinned cast the first stone,” another would add, but Rodoula wouldn’t hear any of it.

The new arrivals in the area caught her unprepared. She owned the cafeneio on the corner since 1960 and the passing decades, brushing her drooping shoulders, gave her the right to have a say—or so she thought.

Within the walls there was no homogeneity any more. Nicosia within the walls, had become home to all breeds—Arab workers, Chinese students, Greek-Cypriot refugees, merchants, shop-owners, prostitutes. A new caste of people was being spawned.

Soon, bit-by-bit, Rodoula learnt to cope with the new state of affairs—she didn’t have a choice. She learnt to live next door to Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Indians, Philipinos and Pontians. She got used to their fights during the small hours of the day, their yelling dashing out of open windows at noon, their gatherings outside money exchange services and call centers, their fiestas in the public garden, the penetrating smells of their foods. They came at the cafeneio. They called “Mamma” and waved when they passed by. She liked that.

Prostitutes were a different story. They were nothing but plain filth. Whenever she passed by Souzana’s house, she would walk as fast as she could, as though sin would catch up with her, carrying her weight with difficulty, whizzing like an asthmatic, the fat in her arms and legs quaking to the rhythm of her steps. She walked fast as though the filth would rush behind her and drench her.

Souzana’s high door stood forever agape and the embroidery depicting the last supper hanging on the living room wall, in between the electrical wiring and that spot where plaster had chipped off, always caught her eye. “Blasfemy!” she would hiss and wonder what on earth Jesus and his apostles were doing in a prostitute’s temple of sin. She would cross herself three times and press her palm on the golden crucifix hanging on her bosom, making sure that Jesus was still there with her.

*

Souzana wasn’t her real name, but she had kept it anyway since “Souzana,” they told her, suited her better.

Her small house, within the walls of the Old City of Nicosia, previously belonged to an elderly woman who had passed on and her children cut her a deal, in their poor English, for 50 pounds a month—the house, with its worn out couch and the rest of its scrawny furniture. Who else wanted to live within the walls but whores and outcasts, they thought. They didn’t care that her skin had the color of night nor that she was making a living on their mother’s deathbed.

Even though she didn’t believe in God much nor in Jesus and the saints, Souzana didn’t find it proper to take down the embroidery of the last supper from the living-room wall. The old woman who put it there, most probably ages ago, had faith and she respected that.

Sometimes when she had time in between her customers, she would gaze upon the calm faces of Jesus and the apostles with scrutiny, wondering if any part of their tale was true at all. She would then light a cigarette and blow the smoke right into Jesus’ face, as though to stir some sort of reaction.

She also left the icons hanging on the bedroom wall—dark-skinned scrawny saints in colorful robes and halos stuck in their heads, stared at her while she worked. She tended to them—the icons that is. She dusted them, straightened them when they were crooked as though they were hers all along. She liked the smell of their waxy surface.

Her customers were young soldiers mostly—both from the National Guard and the United Nations. Cypriot middle-aged men came in once in a while. To some Cypriot friends from the neighborhood, like Pantelis the barber and Andreas the coffin maker she sometimes provided her services for free.

In the beginning, after those minutes of gasping, heaving, and moaning on top of her, they felt they had a responsibility, since she was a foreigner, to teach her Cypriot history. They would tell her about the time the Englezoi were in Cyprus and about the rebellion against them. They would tell her about their heroes, about Afxentiou, and Grivas, and Makarios—whose portraits hang on the walls of their shops next to calendars with pictures of naked women. Then they would ask her about the heroes back in her country but they didn’t pay much attention to what she had to say.

They were good men who loved their wives, but loved their children even more. Andreas was bragging about his daughter who entered the Panepistemio, and talked about how he would take a loan so she could pursue her Masters in England. Pantelis talked about his sons a lot. One of them was a soldier.

“Andreas, what is amartoli?”
“Amartoli kori, you don’t know? A woman who make sin. Who tell you?”
“Me amartoli?”
“Nooo Kori!” Andreas’ flabby belly wobbled as he laughed. “You good girl! Who tell you?”
“Mamma!”
“Ouuu,” he would exclaim. “I told her, you good girl but she don’t believe. She woman of the church. She don’t understand.”

Sometimes, when she was alone with Jesus, and his apostles, and the saints she lit candles—despite the fact she didn’t believe much. Numerous flickering flames reverberated in the darkness, casting their light on the serene faces—hers and the holy ones’. She would sit amongst the shadows and ponder on Rodoula’s revulsion toward her. She would wonder whether under different circumstances she would call her “Mamma” just like the other foreigners in the neighborhood. She wished she could.

From her seat in the semidarkness many times did she study the features of Rodoula’s face when she rushed by. It reminded her that of her mother’s. Time was nestling in its folds and creases, weighing on the corners of her mouth making her look forever sad. Her arms were heavy, under layers of fat, resting on the sides of her sagging breasts.

She would then squeeze her eyes shut until she heard the whispers of the vast ocean back home. She would let the cleansing waves lean softly against her body and infiltrate through her skin, leaving the tingly sensation of their foam on a wished-for self of hers curled somewhere very deep inside her.

*

It was Sunday afternoon—God’s day—and the narrow alleys within the walls were empty. The gutters spat out murky water on the pavement and the air smelled of woodchips and mud-bricks. The raindrops evaporated as soon as they landed on the hot limestone, creating a thin veil of humidity, which hovered over the surface of the asphalt.

Rodoula squinted as though to get a better view. She could swear that Jesus and the apostles were gaping at her as though in anticipation. She pressed her palm on the golden crucifix nestling in between her breasts.

She watched Souzana as, unaware of her presence, stood barefoot on the threshold, her back leaning against the doorframe. Stray drops of rain fell on her shoulders. She watched her as she slowly, hesitantly, moved to the side and stuck her toe into the filthy water gashing out of the gutter—just a tiny brown toe into the filth.

Her stare wondered through the door and into the dark interior. Candles spread their modest light in the room, on the old furniture, on Jesus’ kind face. The room appeared warm and inviting like a church.

Now was the moment to run and save Jesus and the apostles but Rodoula’s weight suddenly became unbearable. The raindrops felt warm on her skin. “Now was the time!” a voice screamed from inside of her, but her limbs were unwilling to obey. The raindrops drenched her dress, her skin, they entered every pore of her massive existence.

Souzana extended her leg into the rain. She turned her small brown foot right and left letting the rain wash the filth from her toe. Moments later, as though on a second thought, she took a step forward. Raindrops now rolled down her forehead, onto her closed eyelids, into her palms. She opened her mouth and drunk and then sang a song in a language that Rodoula could not recognize. Souzana walked down the alley. Her figure evaporated in the mist. Her song was still heard in the distance.

“Now is the time to save Jesus and the apostles,” screamed the voice inside her.

Rodoula cautiously stepped out from behind the vine tree. Jesus and the apostles gazed upon her from behind the candle’s flickering light. Their faces were peaceful. The voice inside her was no longer heard. All she could hear was a girl’s song in the distance.

She raised her face to the sky, thick drops of rain landed on her eyelids and into her mouth as she smiled. Jesus and the apostles need not be saved. She knew it in her gut.

Moments

I am eight.
I have outgrown my Sunday dress and my wrists are exposed to the Autumn breeze. I have my favorite summer sandals on, with white knee-length stockings to protect my feet from the coldness. My restless hair is tied in a ponytail stemming from the back of my neck.
As the church is crowded, Mom decides that we stay outside in the churchyard. I like it better there. The garden smells of raindrops. Mom silently prays—the features of her face forever stony. I, on the other hand, carefully observe. I like watching people. I enjoy their happiness as though it is mine.
I spot a girl my age. She has her Sunday dress on too. She too is with her mom.
“Mommy, Mommy look at me!” she cries her lungs out, but her mom doesn’t appear at all upset by her unfit behavior.
The girl lets go of her mom’s hand and runs, and jumps, and swirls around, and gently lifts the sides of her dress when she bows. It must be a new dress, because I like to do that hopping, and swirling, and dancing in a new dress—when nobody is watching.
Her mom tries to look austere when she places her index finger on her lips, but she fails miserably and cannot help smiling back at her. She guiltily excuses herself for her daughter’s behavior, but she still can’t conceal her smile.
I am still standing next to Mom. I lift my chin high so as to get a clear view of her face. She glances at the little girl and her mom, very briefly, and then turns to her front, she sighs and lowers her head. She continues her prayer. Am I in it?
I look at her hand hanging loosely on her side. Age spots litter the wrinkled skin.
I fit my own hand snuggly into her papery palm. It feels rough; almost lifeless. She glances at me, surprised by my deed, but avoids eye contact as though she is afraid. She squeezes my hand lightly just for a brief moment.
*
I am twelve, with thick black eyebrows, tangled strands of hair gushing down my shoulders, fuzz over my upper lip, and the like. I am a flat-chested scrawny kid and I haven’t had my period just yet. I have boyish legs—scars, dirt, hair and everything.
The girls in my class, those with ribbons in their silky smooth hair, boyfriends and the first signs of what is going to evolve to an actual bosom, surround me in the schoolyard like I am some sort of strange animal. Their faces reveal a pastiche of feelings toward my person—pity, bewilderment, contempt.
I lean against a pine-tree’s trunk—my face serious under the circumstances and my jaw clenched.
“You won’t be able to make babies,” they tell me.
I don’t know how babies are made—all I hear are some ridiculous stories of boys sticking their thing inside you but I am absolutely sure that none of it is true.
They tell me that when I get it, if I get it—my period that is—I should ask my mom to slap me in the face.
Why on earth would a sane person ask someone else to slap them in the face? Shouldn’t the pain, and the bleeding, and the embarrassment be enough?
As though they can read my mind—those know-it-alls—put their adult faces on, and explain that, this way, the horror from the sight of blood on my underwear will go away; it will just vanish in thin air
“You will no longer be a girl, you will become a woman,” one says with the self-assurance of a grown up, and her gaze lingers for a while on my legs.
Confidence is a concept unknown to me. I was never been told of it, never been taught of it.
The things they say hover in my thoughts during breaks and while in class. They haunt my dreams at night. In my prayers, I ask Jesus to send me a sign, to help me understand. I cry myself to sleep wondering what is that horrible thing I have done to deserve such a punishment.
I want to tell my mom but I’m too shy, too embarrassed to admit my incompleteness. I want to ask her, what is the big deal about getting your panties all bloody and having your face smacked really hard because of that. I want to press my face against the soft dome of her belly and cry warm tears at the prospect of a childless life—her papery palm on the back of my head; soft caress. I know for a fact Mom loves me, even though she has never put ribbons in my hair.
There they are again. Small palms hiding their mouths as they talk with their stare fixed on me. Their silken ribbons fly in the wind.
I am running home from school. My limbs feel strangely strong, resistant to the harsh toil they are under. My heart is pounding and my cheeks burn with distress. Tears run down the sides of my face and I wipe my nose on my sleeve as I run. I am sobbing—really loud—I know I must sound ridiculously comic.
Mom is standing by the sink washing the dishes meticulously. They have already had lunch, Mom and Dad that is, and my plate is waiting for me on the table, covered with a checked kitchen towel.
“What has happened to you?” she asks.
Her face, as though made of wax, appears to have melted by the passing of time. Its characteristics—tall forehead, judging eyes, small condescending mouth with big lips, protruding cheekbones—resembles mine in so many different ways. There must have been beauty there once but I guess nobody has ever told her.
“What’s wrong?”
“I want to shave my legs,” I blurt out. I wipe my nose on my wet sleeve and I unwittingly snort. Perspiration and tears run down my thumping temples. “I want to shave my legs,” I scream. My voice comes from a strange unexplored place, deep inside me, and it sounds as though it is not mine anymore.
*
I am twenty-one.
Ghosts have no features.
I step out of the bathtub. Droplets of lukewarm water hang on my skin. The hotel towel smells of chlorine. I stare at the sweating tiles and I can almost see through them—him waiting at the other side of the wall.
He is not nervous with anticipation—sitting on the edge of the bed, his head lowered, hands tied together in a prayer-like position, staring at the floor; his heart bounding; cheeks flushing; breathing inconspicuously as though not to disturb the sacredness of the moment. Nothing like that.
In the dark pathways of my mind, I try to retrieve his face as though it has been years since I last saw him. I find it extremely difficult, as though I have no recollection. My mind creates a reproduction of his face—a collage of features that do not necessarily blend together in a harmonious union. Grotesque!
I glance at my own face in the mirror. It is hiding from me behind a hazy layer of humidity. I run my finger on the wet surface drawing the outline of my head, and my shoulders, and torso; I also draw a smile in the circle that is my face. My traits are obscure—just like my thoughts, and my dreams, and the things that I wish for.
I think of Mom’s face—so carefully carved upon the walls of my memory—condescending and austere as though she is unable to experience any sort of feeling.
I wish I could see me through Mom’s eyes but I can’t; my face is lost in a sea of faces in the murky vastness of the world.
She is dead. It’s been two years she is dead.
The bathroom tiles feel cold and dirty underneath my soles. I could vomit. Particles of dust and hair disturb the longed for cleanliness.
I place my palm on the mirror, on what is the reflection of my chest. I press hard, and it almost feels as though my fingertips will submerge into the secret trails of my heart.
I squeeze my eyes shut until I hear the whispers of the seas rushing out of the coiled tube of a seashell. I am submerged in the blueness. Cleansing waves in slow motion lean softly against my body and infiltrate through my skin leaving the tingly sensation of their foam on a wished-for self of mine curled somewhere deep inside me like an embryo.
I wish I could run away into the night. I wish I could be swallowed in its sheltered world of unanimity. I wish I were a ghost hovering over the city, resting on the warm limestone walls overhearing the words of secret lovers, long lost into time, echoing through the centuries.
Choice is a concept unknown to me. I was never been told of it, never been taught of it.
His lovemaking is clumsy. I am not being kissed. I am not being loved nor am I able to love.
His rubbery penis pokes me. It brushes against my thighs; craving, searching, failing. My thoughts run wild far away from that hotel-room; they escape on the seashore and into the quietness of the underwater, where I can be lost—lost forever into the reassuring, cool abyss.
Minutes after fast sex, I am left with disgust nestling in the pit of my stomach. I am suffocating under his weight. His penis hangs limp between my legs and the inside of my thigh feels wet and dirty from his secretions.
*
I am thirty.
My hands are tied—literally—like a crucifix’s on the cross. I am stark naked but, strangely enough, I do not feel at all exposed. The overblown dome, which is what has become of my belly over the past nine months, is the center of attention.
In the operating theater the air is cold and sanitized. The anesthetic creates a comforting, warm, tingly sensation down my spine, which spreads allover my back. It neutralizes any sort of feeling from the waist down. The nurses, the doctors, the anesthesiologist, carry out some mundane conversation. They laugh and tease one another as they go about what is for them their everyday routine.
My husband cannot hold my hand as all sorts of tiny tubes and cables stem out of its back. He holds my index finger instead. He gives it a reassuring squeeze once in a while.
My teeth are clattering as though I am a skeleton in a cartoon movie. I find it extremely difficult to stop. I tell them “it’s freaking cold in here!” but they tell me it’s normal and they carry on. My husband gives my index finger another reassuring squeeze. The features of his face, carefully aligned, maintain the balance of my world.
My hands are still tied when the doctor cuts me open, when he submerges his hands inside me, into the guts and the blood and the organs. I can feel the intense pressure reaching the small of my back, then receding, then returning again and I almost find it difficult to breathe. Feeling his way into the uterus he is searching, wanting, persisting, achieving—I hear my son’s cry as he is plugged out of me. He is so clean. His skin has the whiteness of snow.
Cleansing waves, in slow motion, lean softly against my naked body and brush against the walls of my open uterus. For some reason Mom’s stony face emerges in my stream of thoughts. Her remembrance almost aches as her body is rotting away, buried in the wet soil.
I press my palms on the mirror of my memory and fervently wipe away the circle that is my face that so much resembles hers. The waves suddenly gush down on me in all their might, awakening me from lethargy—shaking that long lost wished-for self of mine alive. It feels as though I am suddenly and unexpectedly granted the ability to love.
I, somehow manage to liberate myself from bondage. I can bring my hands, with their catheters and their thin tubes and cables hanging, to touch him when they bring him to me but I remain still; in the crucifix’s position. I don’t touch him, as though not to disturb the whiteness. His face is near mine. I kiss him softly, right above the lips near his tiny nose.

Κυριακή, 4 Οκτωβρίου 2009

All Kinds of Strange Animals

Mother makes the decision for me as I am in no position to do this myself, ever. They fling me onto a hospital bed and as the drug works in my blood they plug it out of me; from underneath me. She is there, watching over me as they eat away my flesh, as they suck my second soul out of me. I hate her for that.
*
Mother is odd. There is no subtle way to put it. Honestly and bluntly: odd. They say that character runs in the blood; it is carved deeply in every single cell, pasted in the innermost and secret corners of our bodies. All traits, every single characteristic are predetermined in the DNA. There is no escape. I’ve never had a father, never been told of one. “Never needed one,” Mother said.
Sometimes, when my mind drifts off, and this happens quite a lot lately, I allow myself to theorize that Mother and I are just amnesiac extraterrestrials spurted by the universe on this small blue planet. My husband never realized. He doesn’t even suspect. He doesn’t understand.
Light flashing from passing cars delineates the corners of his face for brief moments in time, making him handsome, and then it’s darkness again. Animal, our cat, is busy with his toy-mouse in his kennel-cab. In the back-seat, next to him, Mother is finally dozing off. This is a scene that repeats itself on our every monthly trip to the bungalow by the sea. The bungalow has been roach-infested since the last time we were there.
The voice on the radio is just a solemn lull which suddenly breaks and trembles and shrivels away into the silence of the car. We don’t usually talk. We used to. Now we speak different languages and whatever has once connected us is now lost in translation.
He struggles to tune into another station since the lull has now evaporated and the shroud of silence enveloping the two of us is ornamented with the fragments of voices, and utterances, and confusion.
“What the hell’s happened? We can’t reach a single fucking station,” he hisses, battling with the tuner still.
His stare, though, is firmly fixed on the grey lane in front of us. No, we are not going to have an accident. He is always too careful. Always!
I cannot be bothered.
Careful when he drives, careful when he cooks, careful when he fucks. Careful when he checks our gooey condoms right after fast sex for any possible impairments. He never wanted to have kids. I, somehow, went along with it.
The radio emits a cacophony of sounds like untamable electric current penetrating my bones. I tell him to shut it up, open the sunroof, and he does so. A subtle buzz tares open a neat square on top of me. Dots of light are scattered haphazardly in the dark blue. I look up, melancholically, awaiting for something—anything! We are being swallowed into this strange, almost eerie night. But again, all nights can be strange and mysterious if you really want them to be.
I think of the cockroaches swarming the bungalow, their flat mucilaginous bodies moving fast on the kitchen tiles and in the cabinets, their antennae rubbing against the labels of dusty cans and jars of Mom-made preserves. I run my sweaty palms up and down my arms vigorously till my skin burns.
“Do you want me to close the window?” he asks.
After five years of marriage he still cares, I think to myself. Once, there was love.
“I am not cold,” I say to him, “I don’t want to go to the bungalow . . . the roaches . . . I want to stay outside on the beach. The water will be so clear and invigorating.”
“Hmmm!” he says.
I take in a big breath and the quantity of oxygen relaxes my brain making it malleable. I light a cigarette and lean back. The warm night glides among the pine-trees and onto my shoulders like a fragrant velvety shawl. One hand, holding the cigarette is daggling out the window and the other is rubbing my husband’s thigh. He acknowledges my caress with a faint smile and a slight rise of the brow. I miss him. I want to give him that mesmerizing feeling. I want him to want me so I let the tips of my fingers glide softly back and forth on his thigh. I can almost feel that he is getting a sensation in his groin. I suddenly wish he would stop the car, park among the tree-trunks on the side of the road and make love to me on the hood of the car—like we used to, then, when there was passion—no condom-checking is understood. Oh! What the heck? Not even condom use.
Mother snorts loudly, and stares at the two of us. Her eyes appear larger than usual, they are big and phosphorescent just like Animal’s. She swipes the drool from her chin with the back of her hand, mutters something incomprehensible, and goes back to uneasy sleep.
Mother and I, have always had a peculiar relation to animals, that is, any living breathing, usually edible creature. She is not to be trusted.
*
“Mommy are you going to let me keep him?
I am four. A bunny is suffocating in my loving arms. His breathing is quick and rhythmic making its long, silky ears quake.
Mother quits whatever she is doing, dries her hands on a towel, lowers her head and squints behind her glasses to have a better view. She stares straight into his pink eyes as though weighing an ambiguous situation. “Oh! Well, sure honey,” Mother says, “as long as you take goooood care of him.” She grabs little Bucks by the ears and raises him right in front of her face. She examines him meticulously, rotating him slowly from one side to the other. His plumb body hangs limp from its nape.
The little fellow finds a home with us. I feed him crisp lettuce and celery, carrots and water-melon for a couple of weeks and then I get bored—like every kid does. After all, the little one was just a rabbit who showed no signs of affection whatsoever to raise any maternal instincts from the depths of my girly soul.
A few weeks later, my rabbit became rounder and plumber; and then we had it for dinner—not invited for dinner. Of course, I was never told, but when I reached adulthood I somehow understood.
*
I dump my cigarette butt out of the window and I know this is not the right thing to do but I cannot resist—I like watching it fly like a comet, like a shooting star, tumbling and falling from the darkness onto the earth. I lower my head for a better perspective from the rear-view mirror, and—
My head clashes violently against the glove-compartment as he hits the breaks—a powerful jab right in the face—tires screech on the asphalt, a cloud of dust rises as the car slithers on the gravel by the side of the road; a thud is heard against the bumper—“Good Lord!”—and we stop.
Before I’m sent crashing into the back of my seat, breathing fast, rubbing my throbbing face, my brain, which should have been pulverized by the collision, is processing different kinds of hypotheses. One: He hit the brakes because he is suddenly a fanatic environmentalist. Two: He has read my thoughts and he is just delighted with the idea of fucking me on the hood of the car—the chances are slim. Three, and most possible: a stray dog, deer, cow, a kid, I think with terror, is crashed under the wheels of our car.
I press my cheekbone as though this would ease the pain. My heart is pumping blood fast into every single petrified molecule of my body.
“Jesus Christ—”, is all I can hear him articulate, the rest of what he says is muffled behind the door as he slams it shut. He vanishes into the cloud of dust which has not yet set.
Mother and Animal are fine. Their humongous phosphorescent eyes are fixed on me expecting an explanation. Mother opens her mouth in an attempt to say something, but her jaw remains hanging.
I somehow make it to the front of the car. There is some sort of creature standing in front of the bumper. It seems to be in one piece. Painfully small and vulnerable—the size of a toddler—it stands casually in the headlights—a glowing, diaphanous being, as though made of jelly. I am amazed by my apathy. It feels just like when a relative knocks on your door one night unexpectedly. You can’t say that you are very happy to see him, nor are you annoyed. You merely accept the fact.
My husband, kneels on the asphalt, stares at the creature, clutches the sides of his pelvis as though checking if someone has stolen his wallet. He looks frightened and ridiculous.
The creature turns its back at him and looks at me. It’s got two humongous almond-shaped eyes. Maybe that’s why I am not surprised—I’ve seen those eyes a billion times. Black eyeballs, with no pupils to indicate the direction of the stare, but I still know that it is looking at me. I observe the creature carefully as there is plenty of time. It doesn’t seem to have a nose, but I detect a small lump where the nose is supposed to be. No nostrils, though. No mouth. Just eyes swallowing gluttonously every new image, processing vigorously every bit of new information.
I wonder how it would be like to touch it. Silken. Like a dolphin.
My husband’s body is making convulsive movements as though he is about to throw-up. I carefully step around the diaphanous creature, making sure that I won’t scare it away. I don’t want it to leave—not just yet. I reach for my husband’s quaking shoulder hoping that my touch will bring the ease and comfort he seeks. He gasps as though the air has thickened, as though it has turned into liquid and he is choking.

I know how he feels.
I know exactly.

The diaphanous extraterrestrial is standing between us.
“What is it? An alien?” he whispers.
“What do you think it is? An alien,” I answer naturally in the same way one would say: “An American,” or “A European.”
“An alien kid,” I add.
The alien kid walks toward me. Its steps are small and quick. It raises its arms as it walks, like a toddler—to keep balance, I assume. Unwittingly, I squad and spread my arms toward it. It is as though everything inside me that was meant to turn me into a mother rushed out in a split second.
It places its palms softly against mine and it feels like touching a warm balloon. It takes another daring step and passes its arms around my head. It catches me by surprise but I boldly abandon myself to it. It cuddles me! I am being cuddled by an alien! It sinks its face in my hair as it rests its head on my shoulder and I feel my soul sinking into a warm sea. I almost want to cry. I stand up, and it’s still holding me tight, its legs wrapped around my waist.
He is almost weightless.
He speaks to me in ways I never thought possible. In ways nobody understands. His glow melts on my skin like drops of golden tenderness. He touches me on my surface and on the depths of my vacant soul. He finds that long forgotten dark place in my heart and brings light to it—warm yellow light, which, slowly turns white making me squint. The dark place becomes lighted and clean. I can hear the echoes of my heart against its walls. The dark place in my heart is now bright, clean, and dry. And there are songs, and happy voices, and laughter. In there, I can cuddle my little alien all I want and the light is so powerful and brilliant, and the laughter vivid—darkness and silence are banished forever. Where all this love’s come from?
It all comes naturally to me—instinctively. I never held a baby before, but somehow I now know how to do it. I place one palm under its small behind and the other holds it snuggly by the side of its tiny ribcage. I can feel its heartbeat against my fingertips. Its warm hand is now on my cheek
“We are taking him with us,” I declare.
“What are you doing?” Mother says, clutching her chest. “You cannot bring this thing with us. It can hurt us! It could be contaminated with radioactive material. Look how it glows!”
We are already in the car—my husband and I and the glowing creature. Mother’s voice sounds as if it’s coming from a place far away from me—from a place where there are no drugs which can make me powerless and no devices to devour my own flesh, to suck it out of me.
Animal is hissing in his kennel-cab and Mother is still mumbling something. My small glowing alien is making dolphin like noises in my ear.
How has he managed to locate me in the vast universe? How did he know how much I needed him?
When we reach the bungalow, Mother—with Animal in her arms—rushes inside. Vanishes behind the creaking door. I kind of want her to stay outside with us, I kind of already miss her, but she chooses to disappear into the roach-infested, God-forsaken place. I step outside the car. My little alien is still pressing his chest against mine so tightly.
My husband, with our luggage dangling by the sides of his legs follows Mother toward the house. I remain there, staring at his back. If it weren’t for my little alien, I would feel cold. But his steps become uncertain. He stops and turns towards me.
For a long moment we merely look at each other. And then we speak. We speak without voices. Words have become one with the sea and they caress the shores of our beings with every wave. They swivel and foam and are swallowed by the sand. They become salty with tears we’ve shed without knowing. But they are words with meaning, pieces from the puzzle of a mysterious dialogue which should have taken place long ago.
My small alien spreads his arms inviting my husband towards us, luring him into our brightness, into our warmth. He dumps the luggage on the ground and walks towards us—slowly at first, as though hypnotized. Then his steps become certain, firm and fast. We are together, at last.
We sit on the cool wet sand next to each other. Our shoulders brush. The breeze is dense with fragrances and joy. We dig our tows and fingers into the moist, salty coolness. As our small alien squeaks like a dolphin and splashes in the water, his fingers clumsily stumble on mine. His caress has a sandpapery feel to it. He looks at our little alien and smiles a genuine smile. I do the same.