etel adnan

 

annunciation

 

He walked in slowly and he was stooping, not too much but just a bit, and he said abruptly and in his monotonous tone, don’t worry if I’m not walking straight I’m just a whiff tired, no, not too much but I have something to tell you, to ask you, it’s maybe not an important thing, but in fact it does matter to me that we discuss this thing together because you know Alissia, and she knows you, you may convince her, I have already told her but she didn’t listen, she never does, I never figured out in what kind of a world she lives, now suddenly she’s bizarre, not the Mom I always had, or that I thought I had, and it doesn’t matter, we’re going through a crisis, a serious crisis, the first huge happening between the two of us since my father died and God bless his soul.

I asked him to sit on my good armchair and he did and I went to make some coffee and he didn’t drink his and I drank mine and realized that I had forgotten to put in some sugar but that’s better for everybody’s health.

I noticed that his hair had blue-jay tints and that his squinting had gotten worse but there was nothing special in his general appearance to worry about and he began by saying, my mother, and quickly after he cleared his throat and a heavy silence fell on us. I did not urge him to continue, but he did, launching sentences as if they were bubbles and then he pulled his seat closer to mine and I started petting the top of the table and then I stopped.

This morning I announced it to her, he said, before looking intensely at the floor, and after a while he wandered deep into the past and his father returned to his mind and he told me since my father’s death you know she and I sleep in the same room, you must know you’re such good friends, the one for which Alissia crocheted the curtains in her maiden years as part of her trousseau, Grandma must have helped with that, who knows, I wasn’t born yet, I occupy the empty bed next to hers, these beds are pushed close together because she always feared ghosts angels and demons and I quite often hear her snoring or talking to herself, and I never know if she’s dreaming or awake, I pretend that I always fall asleep as soon as my ears touch a pillow, any pillow anywhere even on trains, and you can see I am still young, so to speak, the stooping is not serious, and I told her this morning and she fainted.

Silently, secretly, I was happy that at least he didn’t come to review world events with me as they were and still are awfully awful in such a steady way that sometimes it seems that aliens have descended from outer planets to make all the decisions that mess up our lives, and it turned out that I couldn’t linger on those thoughts because my visitor went on talking again telling me, this morning I told her the good news that I was going to bring new life to the house and she lay down on the floor, pale as a lemon and rigid as a plank, and I sat beside her and took her cold hand in mine and then after a while I helped her stand on her feet and she looked at me with terror, then went down on her knees embracing mine, beg- ging me not to utter another sound never do such a terrible thing, repeating that I was her only child light of her eyes the product of her belly flesh of her flesh and I agreed that I was all that, that I always have been all that, but now she had to listen because my resolve was in her interest too, but she wouldn’t stop crying and all she found the energy for was to declare that she will have to ask Father Anastasiou to perform an exorcism upon me and chase the evil spirit out of my body and my soul.

My train of thoughts was running on different lines than his, memories con- cerning my parents’ final years pressed on my mind but I easily dismissed them as they had been rehashed too many times and over the years had lost their poignancy. Listening to him became less of a strain while he was carrying his verbal journey further and was telling me I told her she will be good for you she’ll wash your clothes, bring you your pills with just the necessary amount of water, help you walk down the alley in your old age but she kept refusing to show any sign of life and I panicked, I didn’t want to have killed my mother a saintly woman beautiful even in her bad days, one must see how she glows under the moonlight on her way back from Vespers, and I was saved from hell, I thought at the moment, when she moved her hand and made me believe that she was crying and as everybody knows that I can’t stand the vision of a woman crying, it breaks my soft heart, and I picked my courage up again to explain in a clear voice that I was getting old and had to do something about the future, and then she rose out of what I had feared to be a coma and sat on the floor and asked for a fan and then threatened to stop eating and let herself die. I hurried to the kitchen and brought a piece of bread with some of her favorite cheese and a glass of raki supposed to bring back one’s strength and she pushed her plate away but drank the white liquor and, when she asked for more, I was saved, as I said, and convinced myself that she was going to agree to what was going to make me happy.

My visitor went to the bathroom where he must have washed his face as there were traces of water on his forehead when he returned. He stared at his cup of coffee which had lost all its luster, all its heat, with utter contempt, the poor little inanimate object not understanding what was going on in his mind, and after complaining that it felt too hot in my place, he inquired if I had known his mother long before his birth and if she married his father out of convenience or love and did not wait for an answer being sure that there was none, given that she was barely fifteen when the wedding took place in the village church on the main and only square and on probably the hottest day of that summer. I was, though, one of the children who crowded around that wedding. You see, he said, and went on with a flow of words, these last months I started looking at photographs recently taken of me and they glaringly showed that I was forty and more and they scared me stirred my guts my heart or guts, it’s all there between my belt and my knees and then I hurried to buy some books not too many just a couple or so and they had pictures oh boy, some pictures like in the movies but better, no not better but sadder with the dream taken away, they said a lot oh hell, were they blunt so explicit that I didn’t sleep ever since, at least I didn’t sleep well and I decided, oh I really wanted, wanted this thing we never mentioned at home all those insipid years in spite of the nightmare the pain the void and now this morning, this very morning, and despite the fact that in her despair she yelled and yelled I won’t let you go you are my baby my baby my own and only and if and when you leave this room it will be over my dead body, I mean it the sky will come down oh God what have you done to me! I shouted back, shouted at her for the first time in my life, Mother I have to announce to you, and it’s a one-way street, you have to get it in your head, tell the world the whole world and that includes my dead father, Mother I am going to get married.