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Monday, July 13, 2009

Bricks and Mortar

"So, what do you think of my plan?" B looks at me. She tries to calculate my response. "You think I'm crazy don't you?"

I shake my head. "I think your plan is crazy. But not you."

"You won't do it then?"

"I didn't say that." I take a sip of my coffee, and look out of the window. The sun seems to have gone back in amongst the clouds. "I don't want you to it. The B I know will sit here and face the world, she won't run away."

She passes the brownie on her plate to mine, and starts to cut it into little pieces for me. "Yeah well I say fuck the world."

I watch her fork move slowly, hesitantly, as though the brownie is made of stone. "The world is not ours to do that. We believe the world is, and that it should stop and wait for us. But it runs on ahead, B. You have to decide whether you're going to keep running with it, or sit down and watch the race. But running the other way isn't an option, honey B."

B gives a soft snort. "Metaphors from a passionate poet. Don't make it anything but avoiding."

"What am I avoiding?"

"The fucking issue. That's what!"

"My darling," I say softly, placing a hand on her hand, busy working away to break up the brownie on my plate. I hate myself for what I say next: "I think you're doing that."

Her hand goes still, but she doesn't move it from mine. I say, "Let's stay here and face whatever comes together."

B doesn't respond, but she doesn't have to. I can see what she is thinking from the look in her eyes. I'm scared, mister. I'm scared.

I want to keep eye contact; B looks away quickly. Her hand is still in mine, but it feels cold; I blow some air into her open palm and rub it between both of mine. I don't want you here any more than you do missy, but what other option do we have?

As though B has heard my thoughts, she turns back to look at me. Her lips pay their due for the allowance of a small smile. "I'm glad you're here," she says.

"With you like this where else would I be?"

Her smile tires quickly. "I guess I should get Dad to hire a whole clinic more often."

I take another sip of my coffee, and eye the decimated brownie on my plate. "I'm not surprised he did that. He's an all out guy."

B stands up slowly, with a grimace. "Yeah, it helps being one of the most richest businessmen on the island."

I hear the sudden bitterness in her voice, and question it. "B?"

She shrugs, and moves over to the window. She tries to open it. "I'm in one of the most expensive clinics on the island, he shipped all the family to the entire top floor of a hotel to be by me, but it's not what I need."

"Then why don't you tell him what you need?" I stand up and go to help her open the window.

She lets the window's latch drop back into its lock in frustration. "Because he doesn't ask me! And he doesn't listen when I do try to tell him! He thinks by all this spending of money somehow he's doing penance or something and everything's going to be right again."

I don't speak. I wait for her to finish. "He's a millionaire more than a few times over thanks to the concrete and mortar he has poured over most of the north of the island. But he can't pour his money over this."

I turn to look at her full in the face. "Maybe he feels like fate is punishing the innocent to frighten the guilty, B. Don't push your dad away now. At the best of times family is an anchor to life. Once you lose it, you're adrift. You need him more than ever now."

"I'm not a fine he's paying for having the good life. I need to be heard, mister."

I raise an eyebrow at her then, and place my hands on her shoulders. "Is this kidnapping thing in response to your dad, B?"

She gives a small laugh, but looks me straight in the eye. "No. It's for me. I feel I can't breathe here. I just want to go home, where people speak my language. I've had enough of hearing people speak Greek all day. Is that so bad? Wanting to go back to where I belong?"

Pulling her in to my chest for a hug, I place a soft kiss on her bald head. "No, honey B. It's not bad," I say, reaching over to the window with one hand to unfasten its latch. I give it a small push; the window gives way to open out on its hinges. A cooling air comes in.

The thoughts rush in with the breeze. I'm so sorry, B. I wish I could take this thing away from you. But if that's what you want, I'll take you home. I'll be your home, my friend, my honey B.

But all I say is: "I'll kidnap you, B. I'll take you wherever you want to go."

"Thanks," B says, and she scrummages in deeper as though she wants to bore a hole into my ribcage.

"Think nothing of it, missy." I put a hand into my pocket. "Before I forget, I brought something to give to you."

B looks up. "What?"

"We have the same phone right?"

B shakes her head, and laughs at me. "You keep one phone until it breaks, mister. You're too faithful to stuff. I change mine every month."

Now I laugh. "I just get used to something, and don't want to give it up. But it's still a Samsung right?"

"Always mister. Just like you."

"Cool. Then this will still work." I take the small Samsung memory card out of my pocket. "Put it into your phone's external memory."

She takes it from me curiously. "What's in it?"

"I filled it with songs and inspirational messages. For you to listen to."

She walks over to her bedside table and takes her phone.

"Don't listen to it now," I say.

"I'm curious." She lifts open the small hatch on one side of her phone. "I know they'll be special." She slips the memory card into the empty slot, and closes the hatch to lock it in. I can't help noticing how B's fingers tremble during what should have been an easy process for her.

I turn away and return to the table and the brownie on my plate. Picking up my fork, I sit down to try and make sense of the dark brown mess B has left for me. Out from the corner of one eye, I watch B plug the scart-jack of the headphones into the phone after her fourth attempt.

I fight the familiar rising urge to sling her over my shoulder and run out of the room as fast as I can.

She looks at me, as she places the ear pieces into her ears. "Only you would have thought of something like this."

"Some might call it cheap, B."

"Nothing you ever do is cheap, mister. You put too much thought into everything. That's your downfall, too, y'know."

I somehow sense she is talking about the blog, and I play for time. "Now should I ask you what you mean by that remark, or should I let you listen to the playlist?"

"Oh, I can do both, I'm not an imbecile."

"I know that, but don't start on my critics now. You don't know how small you make them just by being in the world, B."

"Later then." I watch B smile, as she listens to the playlist. "A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow," she quotes. "William Shakespeare. Your favourite." She gives me a wink. "Who else?"

I wink back. Who else, indeed?

She listens out to what comes next: "The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart," she repeats. "Elizabeth Foley. Who's she?"

"Just someone who believes in angels," I smile, happy to see her glow.

"Hey, there's a song now. But it sounds old." B says, but I wait for the lyrics to start before I say anything. She looks at me surprised. "Cem Karaca?"

I nod. "I bet you didn't expect a 1970s soft rock piece did you? It's the re-telling of an even older folk song called 'Odam Kireç Tutmuyor', an ode to some girl called Lümüne. There's some clever stereo play at the beginning even for its time."

B nods her head, listening intently. "What's he mean about the walls of his room?"

"A metaphor. In plain English - a house is bricks and mortar, and he is just bricks without his mortar, his woman, he is no home."

B nods again, coming over to sit down by the table. "Oh mister, I love it," she breathes, and tears spring up in her eyes.

I reach out across the table to catch a fugitive tear making its escape down her cheek. I say, "Though the kick in the teeth is that nothing is set in concrete, even if you're someone's mortar."

B still looks set to cry, and I wonder if I made the right choice in song. "It's so haunting somehow," she says softly.

Why, when we are sad, do we cling to our own roots in music? I revert to Turkish to explain to B a few minor points about the track. Then I say, "I dug up the original 45rpm on an auction site, then I digitalised it."

B presses the back button. "I want to hear it again."

"You've got lots of others on the playlist to go through."

"You don't like it?"

"I like it very much. It was on constant rotation when I discovered it, honey B."

Her lips curve into a grin reminiscent of the old B, in the way things used to be. "Come on buddy, get out that 'but' you got stuck in your teeth."

I make a 'thumbs-up' sign. "But I don't agree about love without a woman being like a room with incomplete walls. Love should be like life, a room without walls."

"Then you'd freeze your ass off come winter, Mr Metaphor."

There's the B I know and love. "No. That's where the woman comes in," I retort.

B picks up her fork and pretends to fling it at me. I pretend-dodge, but I can see that she is starting to tire again. I rise to leave.

"Had enough already, huh?"

"You've worn me out, honey B. I'll leave you to listen to my gift in peace."

"Wait. There's a bit of paper on my bed. Take it."

"What is it?"

"A number you'll need to call."

"What for?"

She looks at me as though I'm a child constantly being reminded not to pinch the cookies from the cookie jar. "What else? For the 'Great Greek Escape' of course."

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