Πιγκουίνοι έξω απ’ το λογιστήριο from Κάτι θα γίνει, θα δεις

Written in Greek by Christos Ikonomou

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Το πρωί ο πατέρας μου κατάπιε πέντε πρόκες. Ατσαλόπροκες—απ’ τις μεγάλες. Μόλις είδε τον Πέτρο με χειροπέδες και τους μπάτσους να τον τραβολογάνε έβγαλε τις πρόκες απ’ το τσεπάκι του πουκαμίσου και τις κατάπιε μια κι έξω όλες μαζί. Σα καραμέλες. Δίπλα μου καθότανε αλλά δεν πήρα χαμπάρι τίποτα. Τον είδα δηλαδή που σε μια δόση ψαχούλευε την τσέπη του αλλά πού να πάει ο νους μου. Νόμιζα ότι είχε κάνα χάπι. Πρόκες. Πού να πάει ο νους μου. Γιατί δεν είχε δώσει σημάδια. Αποβραδίς ήταν ήρεμος όταν γύρισε σπίτι—ούτε χριστοπαναγίες ούτε σπασίματα τίποτα. Ήρεμος. Δαρμένο σκυλί. Ήρεμος. Δεν κοιμήθηκε καθόλου βέβαια. Πέρασε όλη τη νύχτα στην κουζίνα στα σκοτεινά. Δυο φορές σηκώθηκα και τον βρήκα να κάθεται εκεί στα σκοτεινά και κοιτούσε απ’ το παράθυρο. Το ‘να χέρι στο μάγουλο και με τ’ άλλο στριφογύριζε το τσιγάρο στο τασάκι σα να ‘γραφε κάτι στις στάχτες. Ήρεμος. Μόνο που χτύπαγε το πόδι του στο πάτωμα. Ταπ. Ταπ. Ταπ. Ήτανε ξυπόλητος κι ήθελα να του πω να βάλει κάλτσες μην κρυώσει κι έχουμε άλλα αλλά δεν είπα τίποτα. Γύρισα στο κρεβάτι κι άκουγα για πολλή ώρα το πόδι του που χτύπαγε γυμνό το πάτωμα.

Ταπ. Ταπ. Ταπ.

Σα ν’ άκουγε μια μουσική που κανείς άλλος δεν μπορούσε ν’ ακούσει.

. . .

Και το πρωί στο δικαστήριο πάλι ήρεμος ήταν. Σκυφτός κι αμίλητος αλλά ήρεμος. Ώσπου φάνηκε ο Πέτρος με τις χειροπέδες και τους μπάτσους να τον τραβάνε απ’ τα μπράτσα. Πέντε πρόκες. Χαμπάρι δεν πήρα μα το χριστό. Σε μια στιγμή έγινε σε κλάσμα δευτερολέπτου που λένε—σα σ’ όνειρο. Έβγαλε τις πρόκες απ’ το τσεπάκι του και τις κατάπιε με πείσμα και με κόπο. Κι ύστερα γράπωσε το λαιμό του και σωριάστηκε χάμω και μπλάβισε ολόκληρος και μπορεί κάτι να ‘θελε να πει αλλά του βγήκε μόνο ένα χρρρ χρρρ κι έτρεμε με τα μάτια ορθάνοιχτα σα σκυλί που του ρίξανε φόλα.  Έπεσε ο κόσμος πάνω του, μπήξανε τις φωνές νομίζανε πως έπαθε έμφραγμα ή εγκεφαλικό—της πουτάνας. Έτρεξε κι ο Πέτρος αλλά πρόλαβαν οι μπάτσοι και τον άρπαξαν και τον πετάξαν κάτω. Ρε καριόλια, τους φώναξε. Άστε με ρε καριόλια ο πατέρας μου ρε. Αλλά αυτοί τίποτα, τον κρατάγανε κάτω με τα γόνατα στην πλάτη. Λες κι ήτανε ξέρω γω κάνας τρομοκράτης, ο Κουφοντίνας ο φαρμακοχέρης. Ύστερα δε θυμάμαι τι έγινε—άλλα έβλεπα άλλα νόμιζα ότι έβλεπα. Είχε γίνει μούσκεμα στον ιδρώτα, ζαλιζόμουνα, έτρεμε η πλάτη μου. Θυμάμαι μόνο που ‘ρθε το ασθενοφόρο και τον πήρε. Κι ύστερα ήρθε ένας κι έσκυψε μπροστά μου και με κοίταξε και ρώτησε κάποιον δίπλα:

Τούτος δω τι κατάπιε;  Κάνα κατσαβίδι;

. . .

Πάει ένας μήνας τώρα. Σίγουρα άρχισε πιο νωρίς αλλά εγώ πάει κάνας μήνας που το ‘μαθα. Μόλις τέλειωνε απ’ τη δουλειά ο Πέτρος έβγαινε με το Καντέτ στη Θηβών και περίμενε. Δούλευε στις αποθήκες του Γκρέκα πίσω απ’ τον Πλάτωνα και μόλις σχόλαγε τ’ απογέματα έβγαινε με το Καντέτ στη Θηβών και παραφύλαγε τ’ αμάξια που περνούσαν. Άναβε αλάρμ κι άναβε τσιγάρο κι έβαζε στο κασετόφωνο καμιά κασέτα από κείνες που του ‘χα δώσει και κατέβαζε το παράθυρο και κοίταζε τ’ αμάξια που περνούσαν. Και μόλις σταμπάριζε κανένα ακριβό—κάνα τζιπ θηρίο κάνα γκάμπριο κομπρέσορα—έβαζε μπρος κι έφευγε και το ακολουθούσε. Πειραιά Καστέλα Φάληρο και πιο μακριά ακόμα. Γλυφάδα Βούλα Ηλιούπολη—και πού δεν πήγε. Έπαιρνε από πίσω τ’ ακριβά αμάξια γιατί ήθελε λέει να δει πού μένουνε ή πού δουλεύουνε αυτοί που τα οδηγούσαν. Ώρες ολόκληρες γύριζε σαν άδικη κατάρα. Και τη νύχτα που μου τα ‘πε όλα αυτά ήρθε σπίτι σουρωμένος κι έπεσε με τα ρούχα στο κρεβάτι κι άναψε τσιγάρο και τραγούδησε ένα τραγούδι του Robert Johnson—τα λόγια δεν τα ‘ξερε μόνο το σκοπό ήξερε να πιάσει—κι ύστερα είπε πως είναι παράξενο να ‘σαι φτωχός, είναι παράξενο να ‘σαι φτωχός, μου ‘πε ο Πέτρος, είναι σα να ‘σαι σαν εκείνους τους πιγκουίνους που δείχνουν στην τηλεόραση που βλέπουνε τους πάγους γύρω τους να λιώνουνε και δεν ξέρουν από πού να πιαστούν και πώς να γλιτώσουν και από την τρέλα την πολλή κι από το φόβο που ‘χουν ορμάνε να φάει ο ένας τον άλλον—έτσι είναι, είπε ο Πέτρος.

Κι ύστερα σηκώθηκε όρθιος και κόλλησε τα χέρια στα πλευρά κι άρχισε να φέρνει βόλτες μες στο δωμάτιο και κουνιόταν δεξιά αριστερά κι έβγαζε κάτι παράξενους ήχους και σηκώθηκα κι εγώ απ’ το κρεβάτι κι άναψα ένα φως και του ‘πα κομμάτια έγινες πάλι ρε μαλακισμένο άμα ξυπνήσει ο άλλος και σε δει θα τρως κλωτσιές μέχρι να ξημερώσει κι ο Πέτρος είπε άσε με ρε εγώ τώρα πιγκουινάρω και μετά σταμάτησε και με κοίταξε και είπε οι πιγκουίνοι είναι είδος υπό εξαφάνιση κι απαγορεύεται να τους δέρνεις κι όποιος απλώσει χέρι πάνω μου θα τον καταγγείλω στους οικολόγους. Κι όταν έσβησα το φως σταμάτησε τα πέρα δώθε κι άναψε τσιγάρο και κοίταξε απ’ το παράθυρο τα φώτα των καραβιών που τρεμόπαιζαν κάτω στο λιμάνι κι είπε ότι είχε περάσει κι αυτή η Παρασκευή και πάλι ο Γκρέκας δεν τους είχε πληρώσει.

Δυο μήνες μέσα μας έχει βάλει, είπε ο Πέτρος. Μαζευτήκαμε απ’ τις τέσσερις έξω απ’ το λογιστήριο και περιμέναμε. Δεκαπέντε είκοσι άτομα. Πρόλαβαν πληρώθηκαν πέντ’ έξι κι οι άλλοι μείναμε πάλι ρέστοι. Εγώ ήμουνα όγδοος. Φωνάξαμε βρίσαμε τίποτα. Την άλλη βδομάδα λέει. Ήταν εκεί κι ένας μπαρμπακώστας που δουλεύει το κλαρκ μόλις τ’ άκουσε πάρτονα κάτω. Τρέχαμε να τον συνεφέρουμε. Δεν υπάρχει όμως πιο. Πώς το λένε. Πιο ταπεινωτικό πράγμα απ’ αυτό. Να ‘σαι δυο μήνες απλήρωτος να περιμένεις στην ουρά να πληρωθείς και πριν έρθει η σειρά σου να σου λένε τέρμα τελειώσανε τα λεφτά από βδομάδα πάλι. Αρρώστια. Αρρώστια. Σου τσακίζει τη ψυχή πώς το λένε. Έπρεπε να μας έβλεπες όμως. Σαν πιγκουίνοι ήμασταν. Έτσι που περιμέναμε στην ουρά ο ένας πίσω απ’ τον άλλον και προχωράγαμε βήμα βήμα και τεντώναμε το κεφάλι για να δούμε τι γίνεται στο λογιστήριο κι αν πήρε τα λεφτά αυτός που ‘χε μπει μέσα. Σαν πιγκουίνοι μοιάζαμε στ’ αλήθεια. Κι όση ώρα περιμέναμε εκεί ήμουνα έτοιμος να χιμήξω σ’ αυτόν που στεκότανε μπροστά μου κι ήξερα πως αυτός που στεκότανε πίσω μου ήταν έτοιμος να χιμήξει σε μένα. Γιατί το ξέραμε πως τα λεφτά δεν έφταναν για όλους. Θα σου σηκωνότανε η τρίχα έτσι και μας έβλεπες. Σαν πιγκουίνοι σου λέω.

. . .

Φεύγω απ’ το Τζάνειο με τα πόδια γιατί δεν έχω λεφτά για ταξί αλλά και γιατί θέλω να περπατήσω. Πέντε πρόκες. Οι γιατροί είπανε πως δυο έχουν καρφωθεί στον οισοφάγο κι οι άλλες κατέβηκαν στο στομάχι. Ζόρικη περίπτωση. Γιατί είναι κι εβδομήντα φεύγα κι έχει και την καρδιά του. Κάτι θα κάνουνε λέει αλλά δεν μου ‘πανε τι. Μπορεί και να μην ξέρουν τι να κάνουν. Μπορεί να μη θέλουν κιόλας να κάνουν κάτι—ποιος ξέρει. Με στείλανε σπίτι να φέρω τα φάρμακά του να τα δουν και τίποτα πιτζάμες εσώρουχα και παντόφλες. Μόνο με τις κλωτσιές που δε με διώξανε κι αυτό όσο να ‘ναι με βάζει σε σκέψεις.

Δεκέμβρης μήνας κι έχει πανσέληνο και ξαστεριά κι από μέσα μου το χνώτο βγαίνει σαν ομίχλη. Παρασκευή απόγευμα. Ο Πέτρος θα μείνει μέσα το σαββατοκύριακο—θα τον ξαναπάνε τη Δευτέρα στο δικαστήριο. Τηλεφώνησα απ’ το νοσοκομείο στο δικηγόρο και μου το ‘πε. Χούντα ρε παιδί μου χούντα, μου ‘πε. Ξαναζούμε μέρες χούντας. Δεν τον αφήνουν γιατί είναι λέει ύποπτος φυγής. Ανήκουστα πράγματα. Αλλά κι αυτός ο αδερφός σου. Μ’ όλο το θάρρος δηλαδή. Είναι σοβαρά πράγματα αυτά;  Νέο παιδί. Τέλος πάντων τη Δευτέρα θα τον βγάλουμε έξω δεν τίθεται θέμα. Υπομονή ρε λεβεντιά. Δυο μέρες είναι θα περάσουν.

Στρίβω αριστερά στη Δευτέρας Μεραρχίας, δεξιά στην Ηρώων και βγαίνω στο Δημοτικό Θέατρο και λέω να πάρω λεωφορείο αλλά συνεχίζω με τα πόδια για το λιμάνι. Χριστούγεννα. Έρχονται Χριστούγεννα κι οι δρόμοι είναι στολισμένοι με γιρλάντες και στις κολόνες αναβοσβήνουνε μεγάλα ψεύτικα κεριά κι έλατα πράσινα κι αγιοβασίληδες και ελαφάκια. Εκεί ψηλά είναι Χριστούγεννα κι εδώ κάτω είναι Μεγάλη Παρασκευή—το πεζοδρόμιο είναι γεμάτο κηλίδες που μοιάζουν μ’ αίμα λες και πέρασε από δω χτυπημένος άνθρωπος ή ζώο πληγωμένο κι άφησε πίσω του μια μακριά γραμμή αίμα. Ξεραμένο μαύρο αίμα.

Χτες βράδυ τον πιάσανε στη Γλυφάδα. Τον Πέτρο. Χτες βράδυ τον πιάσανε στη Γλυφάδα. Παραμόνευε πάλι στη Θηβών και πήρε από πίσω ένα τζιπ με μια γυναίκα μόνη μέσα. Και φτάσανε στη Γλυφάδα και το τζιπ μπήκε σ’ ένα γκαράζ κι ο Πέτρος βγήκε απ’ το Καντέτ και πήγε κοντά και κοίταξε πάνω απ’ το φράχτη και τότε είδε λέει το πιο όμορφο σπίτι που ‘χε δει ποτέ στη ζωή του—μια βίλα θεόρατη σαν κάστρο που είχε κήπο με γκαζόν και δέντρα και παράξενα φώτα και στη μέση ένα χριστουγεννιάτικο έλατο που έμοιαζε φτιαγμένο από πάγο. Κι ύστερα, πριν η γυναίκα κλείσει την γκαραζόπορτα ο Πέτρος πρόλαβε και μπήκε μέσα και δεν ήθελε με τίποτα να φύγει από κει. Δεν ήθελε να κάνει τίποτα δεν ήθελε να πειράξει κανέναν. Ήθελε μόνο να τον άφηναν να περάσει τη νύχτα εκεί έξω στον κήπο και να κοιτάζει το σπίτι και το γκαζόν και κείνο το παράξενο έλατο που έμοιαζε να ‘ταν φτιαγμένο από πάγο. Τίποτα άλλο δεν ήθελε να κάνει.

Αλλά η γυναίκα και το σπίτι ήταν ενός δικαστή, εισαγγελέα ή κάτι τέτοιο.

Απ’ το δικηγόρο τα μάθαμε αυτά—ο Πέτρος ούτε τηλέφωνο δεν πήρε.

. . .

Γωνία Γεωργίου κι Αντιστάσεως με πιάνει το φανάρι. Θερίζει ο αέρας κι απ’ το λιμάνι έρχεται μια πάχνη κίτρινη που θολώνει τα φώτα στις κολώνες και στο δρόμο. Κι οι κηλίδες στο πεζοδρόμιο είναι πιο πολλές τώρα, σα να πέρασε από δω όχι ένας μα στρατιά ματωμένων.

Ανάβει κόκκινο και περνάω απέναντι με το βλέμμα κάτω στην άσφαλτο.

Κάτι φώναζε για πιγκουίνους, είπε ο δικηγόρος. Είδαν και πάθανε να τον κάνουνε καλά. Θηρίο ανήμερο. Έσκισε κι ενός αστυφύλακα το πουκάμισο. Πολύ πιωμένος.

. . .

Στο σπίτι βάζω σε μια τσάντα πιτζάμες και φανέλες και σώβρακα και κάλτσες. Βάζω σε μια σακούλα όσα φάρμακα βρίσκω. Βάζω να πιω ένα τσίπουρο να ζεσταθώ—ξύλιασαν τα χέρια μου απ’ το κρύο, τα πόδια μου τρέμουνε ακόμα απ’ το περπάτημα. Κι ύστερα κάνω κάτι που ‘χω πολλά χρόνια να κάνω. Χώνομαι ο μισός μες στην ντουλάπα και μυρίζω. Μικροί το κάναμε πολύ συχνά αυτό με τον Πέτρο. Τον χειμώνα. Βγαίναμε τις νύχτες στο διάδρομο κι ανοίγαμε την ντουλάπα και μπαίναμε μέσα και μυρίζαμε τα ρούχα—τα δικά μας, του πατέρα, της μάνας. Της μάνας μύριζαν πιο δυνατά απ’ όλα. Στα μπαμπακάκια να πατήσεις να μη σε νιώσει ου γάτους, ψιθύριζε ο Πέτρος. Πού του ‘χε κολλήσει αυτό δεν ξέρω. Στα μπαμπακάκια να πατήσεις να μη σε νιώσει ου γάτους. Πώς γελάγαμε και πώς μυρίζαμε κείνες τις νύχτες. Και μετά γυρίζαμε στο κρεβάτι κι είχαμε ακόμα τη μυρωδιά των ρούχων στο στόμα και μ’ αυτή τη γλύκα στο στόμα κοιμόμασταν αγκαλιασμένοι.

Αλλά τώρα τα πράγματα είναι αλλιώς. Άλλα χρόνια, άλλο σπίτι, άλλα ρούχα—χάθηκε κι η μυρωδιά στην ντουλάπα.

Μου φαίνεται πως όλα πια έχασαν τη μυρωδιά τους. Ή έχασα εγώ τις μυρωδιές ποιος ξέρει.

Τα καλοριφέρ είναι σβηστά κι απ’ το παράθυρο της κουζίνας μπαίνει κρύο. Βάζω χαρτοπετσέτες στις χαραμάδες, τις πατικώνω. Κι ύστερα βλέπω πάνω στο τραπέζι το κουτί με τις πρόκες.

Βάζω κι άλλο τσίπουρο κι ύστερα ανοίγω το κουτί και βγάζω μια πρόκα και τη βάζω στο στόμα μου. Πικρίζει.

Δεκέμβρης μήνας με πανσέληνο και ξαστεριά. Θυμάμαι που ο Πέτρος μου ‘πε κάποτε πως τα παλιά χρόνια κάπου, στο Περού νομίζω ή στο Μεξικό, πίστευαν πως οι άνθρωποι είχαν γεννηθεί από τ’ αστέρια. Οι πλούσιοι λέει είχαν γεννηθεί από ένα χρυσό αστέρι και οι φτωχοί από ένα χάλκινο αστέρι. Γι’ αυτό και θα μπορούσαν ποτέ να είναι ίσοι. Γιατί είχαν γεννηθεί σε άλλους κόσμους.

Στ’ αλήθεια είναι παράξενο να ‘σαι φτωχός.

Ο αέρας σφυρίζει ακόμα μέσα από τις χαραμάδες. Κοιτάω τ’ αστέρια που από δω κάτω μοιάζουνε όλα ίδια—ούτε   χρυσά ούτε χάλκινα, όλα ίδια. Η πρόκα παγώνει στο στόμα μου.

Θα ‘χει κρύο εκεί που είναι απόψε ο Πέτρος.

Published December 19, 2016
Excerpted from Kάτι θα γίνει, θα δεις, Polis Publishers, 2010
© 2010 Christos Ikonomou and Polis Publishers

Penguins Outside the Accounting Office from Something Will Happen, You'll See

Written in Greek by Christos Ikonomou


Translated into English by Karen Emmerich

This morning my father swallowed five tacks. Metal tacks – the big kind. As soon as he saw Petros coming through the door in handcuffs with a cop on either side he took the tacks out of his shirt pocket and swallowed them all at once. Like candies. He was sitting right next to me but I had no idea it was happening. I mean at some point I saw him fishing around in his pocket but how could I have imagined. I thought he had a pill in there or something. How could I have imagined. Because he hadn’t given any sign. Last night when he came home he was calm – no shouting no breaking plates no nothing. Calm. Like a beaten dog. Calm. Of course he didn’t sleep at all. He spent the whole night sitting in the dark in the kitchen. I got up twice and found him sitting there in the dark, staring out the window. One hand propped against his cheek the other messing around in the ashtray with his cigarette as if he were writing something in the ashes. Calm. Except for his foot tapping on the floor. Tap. Tap. Tap. He was barefoot and I wanted to tell him to put on socks since the last thing we needed was for him to catch cold but I didn’t say anything. I just went back to bed and listened for a long time to his bare foot tapping on the floor.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

As if he was listening to some music no one else could hear.

. . .

In the morning at the courthouse he was still calm. Hunched over and silent but calm. Until Petros appeared in handcuffs with the cops pulling him along. Five tacks. I didn’t notice a thing. It all happened so fast in the blink of an eye as they say – like in a dream. He took the tacks from his pocket and swallowed them and it wasn’t easy but he forced them down. And then he clutched his neck and crumpled to the floor and turned blue all over and might have been trying to say something but all that came out was a hrrrrr hrrrr and he was shaking all over with his eyes wide open like a dog that’s been poisoned. Everyone ran over to him, people were shouting, they thought he’d had a heart attack or a stroke – all hell broke loose. Petros tried to run over, too, but the cops grabbed him and threw him down. You cocksuckers, he shouted at them. Let me go you motherfuckers that’s my father. But they just held him pinned down with their knees on his back. Like he was some kind of terrorist, like Koufodinas from November 17th. I don’t remember what happened next – I wasn’t really seeing things too clearly at that point. I was drenched in sweat, dizzy, trembling. All I remember is the ambulance coming to take him away. And then someone came and leaned over and gave me a good look and asked the guy next to me:

What did this guy swallow? A screwdriver or something?

. . .

It’s been about a month now. I’m sure it started earlier but it’s been a month since I found out. When Petros got off work he would take the Cadet and park on Thebes Street and wait. He worked at Grekas’s warehouses behind Plato’s Academy and as soon as he got off work he would park the Cadet on Thebes Street and watch the cars go by. He would put on his hazards and smoke a cigarette and listen to one of the cassettes I had given him and roll down the window and watch the cars go by. When he caught sight of an expensive one – some convertible or huge jeep – he would start the engine and pull out and follow it. Piraeus Kastela Faliro however far they went. Glyfada Voula Ilioupoli, all those fancy suburbs down the coast. He followed the expensive cars because he wanted to see where the people driving them lived or worked. He would drive around for hours like an aimless curse. The night he told me about it he’d come home drunk and collapsed onto his bed with all his clothes on and lit a cigarette and sang a song by Robert Johnson – he didn’t know the words so he could only sing the tune – and then he said it’s strange to be poor, it’s so strange to be poor, you’re like one of those penguins they show on TV watching the ice melt all around them and they have no idea what to hold onto or how to keep themselves from going crazy and so they start attacking one another out of fear – that’s what it’s like, Petros said.

Then he stood up put his hands on his hips and started waddling through the room making strange noises and I got out of bed and switched on the light and said you’re wasted again you idiot if he wakes up and sees you like this he’ll kick you from here to tomorrow and Petros said leave me alone I’m doing my penguin routine and then he stopped and looked at me and said penguins are an endangered species you’re not allowed to hit them so if anyone dares raise a hand against me I’ll report him to the ecologists. When I turned off the light he stopped moving and lit a cigarette and looked out the window at the flickering lights of the ships down at the port and said that another Friday had come and gone and Grekas still hadn’t paid them their wages.

He owes us two months of back pay, he said. We all lined up at four in the afternoon outside the accounting of ce, wait- ing. Fifteen or twenty of us. They paid the first five or six and the rest of us went home empty-handed again. I was eighth in line. We shouted and swore but we can’t change the facts. Next week, he says. This old guy barba-Kostas who works the backhoe fainted when he heard. We ran over to try and help. There’s nothing in the world more – what’s the word. More humiliating than that. To not get paid for two months and to wait in line for your wages and when your turn comes they say sorry we ran out of money come back next week. It’s sick. A sickness. Soul-destroying. You should have seen us. We were just like penguins. Waiting in line inching forward and stretching our necks out to see what was happening in the office and if the next guy to go in was getting paid or not. We were just like penguins, really. And the whole time we were waiting there it wouldn’t have taken much for me to tear into the guy in front of me and I knew perfectly well that the guy behind me would have torn into me too. Because we all knew there wasn’t enough money to go around. It would have made your blood freeze to see us like that. Like penguins, I swear.

. . .

I leave the hospital on foot because I don’t have money for a cab but also because I feel like walking. Five tacks. The doctors say two of them are stuck in his esophagus and the others went down into his stomach. It’s not going to be an easy case. He’s over seventy and he’s got heart problems. They’re going to do something but they didn’t tell me what. They might not even know themselves. They might not even want to do anything – who knows. They sent me home to get his pills so they’ll know what he’s taking and I’m also supposed to bring his pajamas and slippers. They practically chased me out of the place and that makes me wonder, too.

It’s December and there’s a full moon and a clear sky and the breath comes out of my mouth like fog. Friday evening. They’re going to keep Petros in jail all weekend – they’ll bring him back to the courthouse on Monday. I called the lawyer from the hospital and he told me. It’s like the junta, he said. We’re living through another junta. They won’t let him out on bail because he’s a flight risk, they say. I never heard such a thing. Of course that brother of yours isn’t an easy one. He’s got guts, that’s for sure. What was he thinking? A young kid like that. At any rate on Monday we’ll get him out, no question. Patience, that’s all I can say. It’s only two days.

I turn left on Second Division, right on Heroes and end up out in front of the public theater where I think about taking a bus but keep on walking towards the port. Christmas. It’s nearly Christmas and there are big fake candles flickering on the utility poles and garlands hanging over the street with fir trees and Saint Vassilises and reindeer. Up there it’s Christmas but down here it’s Good Friday – the sidewalk spattered with spots that look like blood as if someone came this way who’d been shot or some wounded animal left a long trail of blood behind. Dried black blood.

Last night they caught him in Glyfada. Petros. They caught him down in Glyfada. He’d waited again at Thebes Street and followed a jeep with a woman inside who was by herself. When they got to Glyfada and the jeep pulled into a garage Petros got out of the Cadet and went and looked over the fence and saw the most beautiful house he’d ever seen in his life – a huge villa as big as a castle and a yard with grass and trees and strange lights and in the middle a Christmas tree that seemed to be made of ice. Then, before the woman could close the garage door, Petros slipped inside and refused to leave. He didn’t want to do anything didn’t want to bother anyone. He just wanted to spend the night out there in the yard and look at the house and the grass and that strange tree that seemed to be made of ice. That’s all he wanted.

But the woman and the house happened to belong to a judge, or a public prosecutor or something.

We heard it all from the lawyer – Petros didn’t even call.

. . .

On the corner of Georgiou and Resistance I have to wait for the light to change. The wind is fierce and a thick yellow frost coming from the port obscures the streetlights and the lights in shop windows. There seem to be even more stains on the sidewalk now, as if not just one wounded person but a whole army passed by.

The light turns red and I cross the street with my eyes on the asphalt.

He was yelling something about penguins, the lawyer said. It took them ages to calm him down. He was pretty wild, even tore one of the policemen’s shirts. Completely wasted.

. . .

I stuff pajamas shirts underwear and socks into an overnight bag. I put whatever medicine I can find in a plastic bag. I pour myself a tsipouro to get warm – my hands are wooden with cold, my legs still shaking from the walk. And then I do something I haven’t done in years: I stick the whole top half of my body into the hall closet and smell. When we were kids Petros and I used to do it all the time. In winter. We would sneak out into the hall at night and open the closet and slip inside to smell the clothes – ours, our father’s, our mother’s. Hers had a stronger smell than the rest. Walk on cotton so the cat won’t catch you, Petros would whisper. I have no idea where he learned that saying. Walk on cotton so the cat won’t catch you. We laughed so hard on those nights. And then we would go back to bed with the smell of the clothes lingering in our mouths and with that sweetness on our tongues we would fall asleep, arm in arm.

Things are different now. Other times, another house, other clothes – even the smell in the closet is gone. It seems to me that everything has lost its smell. Or maybe it’s just me who lost those smells, who knows.

The heat is off and there’s cold air coming in around the kitchen window. I stuff paper napkins into the cracks and push them down hard. Then I see the box of tacks sitting on the kitchen table.

I pour out another tsipouro and then open the box, take out a tack and put it in my mouth. It tastes bitter.

It’s December and there’s a full moon and a clear sky full of stars. I remember Petros telling me once that somewhere way back when, in Peru or maybe Mexico, people believed that humans were born from stars. Rich people had descended from a golden star and poor people from a bronze one. That’s why they can’t ever be equal. Because they were born into different worlds.

It really is strange, to be poor.

The wind is still whistling through the cracks. I look at the stars which from here all look the same – exactly the same, not gold and not bronze either. The tack feels cold in my mouth.

It must be cold where Petros is tonight.

Published December 19, 2016
Excerpted from Something Will Happen, You’ll See, Archipelago Books, Brooklyn, NY 2016
© 2010 Christos Ikonomou and Polis Publishers
© 2016 Archipelago Books

I pinguini fuori dall’ufficio contabilità from Qualcosa capiterà, vedrai

Written in Greek by Christos Ikonomou


Tradotto in italiano da Alberto Gabrieli

Il mattino mio padre ha inghiottito cinque chiodi. Chiodi di acciaio – di quelli grandi. Appena ha visto Petros in manette e con gli sbirri che lo strattonavano ha estratto i chiodi dal taschino della camicia e in un baleno li ha inghiottiti tutti insieme. Come caramelle. Stava accanto a me ma non mi sono accorto di niente. Cioè a un certo punto l’ho visto che frugava nella tasca ma chi s’immaginava una cosa del genere. Credevo che ci fosse qualche pillola. Chiodi. E chi ci pensava. Perché non c’era stato nessun segno premonitore. La sera prima era tranquillo quando era tornato a casa – niente cristi e madonne non aveva sfasciato niente, niente. Tranquillo. Un cane bastonato. Tranquillo. Certo non aveva chiuso occhio. Aveva passato tutta la notte in cucina al buio. Due volte mi ero alzato e l’avevo trovato seduto lì al buio a guardare dalla finestra. Una mano sulla guancia e con l’altra rigirava la sigaretta nel portacenere come se scrivesse qualcosa con la cenere. Tranquillo. Solo che batteva il piede sul pavimento. Tap. Tap. Tap. Era scalzo e volevo dirgli di mettersi le calze per non prendere freddo che già abbiamo altri problemi ma non gli ho detto niente. Sono tornato a letto e per parecchio tempo sentivo il suo piede che batteva nudo sul pavimento.

Tap. Tap. Tap. 

Come se sentisse una musica che nessun altro poteva sentire.

. . .

E la mattina in tribunale era ancora tranquillo. Ricurvo e silenzioso ma tranquillo. Finché apparve Petros in manette e gli sbirri che lo tiravano per le braccia. Cinque chiodi. Non me ne sono reso conto. A un certo punto avvenne in una frazione di secondo come si suol dire come in un sogno. Estrasse i chiodi dal taschino e li inghiottì con caparbietà e con fatica. E poi si afferrò il collo e crollò a terra e diventò tutto blu e forse voleva dire qualcosa ma gli uscì solo un crr crr e tremava con gli occhi sbarrati come un cane al quale abbiano lanciato dei bocconi avvelenati. La gente si precipitò su di lui, si mise a urlare, credevano che avesse avuto un infarto o un ictus – un casino. Si precipitò anche Petros ma gli sbirri fecero in tempo ad afferrarlo e a buttarlo per terra. Brutti stronzi, gli gridò. Lasciatemi stronzi mio padre cazzo. Ma quelli niente – lo trattenevano a terra con le ginocchia puntate sulla schiena. Neanche fosse che so un terrorista, un Kufondinas dalla pistola facile. Poi non ricordo che cosa successe… Vedevo una cosa e credevo di vederne un’altra. Ero fradicio di sudore, mi girava la testa, mi tremava la schiena. Mi ricordo solo che venne l’ambulanza e lo portò via. E poi venne un tizio e si chinò su di me e mi guardò ben bene e chiese a qualcuno lì accanto:

Quello lì che cosa ha inghiottito? Un cacciavite?

. . .

È passato un mese da allora. Di sicuro aveva cominciato prima ma io sarà un mese che l’ho saputo. Appena staccava dal lavoro Petros usciva con la Kadett su viale Tebe e aspettava. Lavorava nei magazzini di Grekas nel quartiere Akdimìas Plàtonos e il pomeriggio appena finiva usciva con la Kadett in viale Tebe e faceva la posta alle macchine che passavano. Accendeva le luci d’emergenza e accendeva una sigaretta e metteva nel mangianastri una delle cassette che gli avevo dato e abbassava il finestrino e guardava le macchine che passavano. E appena ne adocchiava una cara – un SUV mostruoso una mercedes cabrio compressor – metteva in moto e partiva e li seguiva. Pireo Kastela Fàliro e più lontano ancora. Glyfada Vula Iliùpoli – e tanti posti ancora. Si metteva alle costole di macchine care perché voleva vedere dove abitano o dove lavorano quelli che le guidano. Girava per ore e ore come un’anima in pena. E la notte in cui mi raccontò tutto questo era venuto a casa brillo e si era gettato vestito sul letto e aveva acceso una sigaretta e cantato una canzone di Robert Johnson – non ne conosceva le parole solo il motivo sapeva intonare – e poi disse che è strano essere poveri, è strano essere poveri, mi disse Petros, è essere come quei pinguini che mostrano alla televisione che vedono sciogliersi i ghiacci intorno a sé e non sanno a che cosa aggrapparsi e come sfuggire a una smisurata follia e per la paura si scagliano l’uno contro l’altro per mangiarsi – è così, disse Petros.

E poi si alzò in piedi e avvicinò le mani ai fianchi e cominciò a girare in mezzo alla camera e ondeggiava a destra e a sinistra ed emetteva degli strani suoni e mi alzai anch’io dal letto e accesi una luce e gli dissi sei di nuovo a pezzi brutto coglione se si sveglia quell’altro e ti vede così ti prende a calci fino all’alba e Petros disse lasciami in pace io adesso pinguineggio e poi si fermò e mi guardò e disse i pinguini sono una specie in via d’estinzione ed è proibito bastonarli e chiunque mi metta le mani addosso lo denuncerò agli ecologisti. E quando spensi la luce smise il suo andirivieni e accese una sigaretta e guardò dalla finestra le luci delle navi che tremolavano giù al porto e disse che anche questo venerdì era passato e di nuovo Grekas non li aveva pagati.

Ci doveva due mesi, disse. Ci siamo radunati fuori dall’ufficio contabilità e abbiamo aspettato. Quindici venti persone. Hanno fatto in tempo a farsi pagare in cinque o sei io e tutti gli altri siamo rimasti ancora a bocca asciutta. Io ero l’ottavo. Abbiamo urlato abbiamo insultato niente. La settimana prossima hanno detto. C’era anche un barba Kostas che lavora con il carrello appena ha sentito è crollato a terra. Siamo corsi per farlo rinvenire. Ma non c’è niente di più… come dire di più umiliante di questo. Non essere pagati per due mesi aspettare in coda di essere pagato e prima che arrivi il tuo turno ti dicono stop sono finiti i soldi torna tra una settimana. Una malattia. Una malattia. Ti spezza l’anima come si suol dire. Ma bisognava vederci. Eravamo come dei pinguini. Mentre aspettavamo in coda una dietro l’altro e avanzavamo un passo alla volta e allungavamo il collo per vedere che cosa succedeva nell’ufficio contabilità e se aveva preso i soldi quello che era entrato dentro. Assomigliavamo davvero a dei pinguini. E mentre aspettavamo lì ero pronto ad avventarmi contro quello che stava davanti a me e sapevo che quello che stava dietro di me era pronto ad avventarsi su di me. Perché lo sapevamo che i soldi non bastavano per tutti. Ti si sarebbero rizzati i capelli in testa a vederci così. Come pinguini ti dico.

. . .

Me ne vado dall’ospedale a piedi perché non ho i soldi per un taxi ma anche perché voglio camminare. Cinque chiodi. I medici hanno detto che due si sono conficcati nell’esofago e gli altri sono scesi nello stomaco. Un caso difficile. Perché ha settanta e passa anni e poi c’è anche il cuore. Qualcosa faranno dicono ma non mi hanno detto che cosa. Può anche darsi che non sappiano che cosa fare. Può anche darsi addirittura che non vogliano fare niente – chissà. Mi hanno mandato a casa a prendere le sue medicine per fargliele vedere e qualche pigiama un po’ di biancheria e pantofole. Poco ci mancava che mi cacciassero a calci e questo comunque mi preoccupa.

Dicembre e c’è la luna piena e il cielo stellato e il fiato mi esce che sembra nebbia. Venerdì pomeriggio. Petros rimarrà dentro il fine settimana – lunedì lo riporteranno in tribunale. Ho telefonato dall’ospedale all’avvocato che me l’ha detto. Fascisti accidenti fascisti, mi ha detto. Riviviamo i giorni dei colonnelli. Non lo lasciano andare perché dicono che c’è pericolo di fuga. Cose dell’altro mondo. Ma anche tuo fratello. Scusami se te lo dico. Sono cose da farsi queste? Un ragazzo così giovane. Comunque lunedì lo tireremo fuori non se ne discute neanche. Portate pazienza ragazzi. Due giorni passano presto.

Giro a sinistra alla via della Seconda divisione, a destra in via degli Eroi e arrivo al Teatro comunale e penso di prendere un autobus ma continuo a piedi verso il porto. Natale. Arriva Natale e le strade sono decorate con ghirlande e sui pali della luce lampeggiano grosse candele false e abeti verdi e babbi natale e cerbiatti. Là in alto è Natale e quaggiù è venerdì santo – il marciapiede è pieno di macchie che sembrano di sangue come se di qua fossero passati una persona o un animale feriti lasciandosi dietro una lunga striscia di sangue. Di sangue nero e secco.

Ieri sera l’hanno preso a Glyfada. Petros. Ieri sera l’hanno preso a Glyfada. Era di nuovo appostato in viale Tebe e si era messo a seguire un fuoristrada con dentro una donna sola. E sono arrivati a Glyfada e il fuoristrada è entrato in un garage e Petros è uscito dalla Kadett e si è avvicinato e ha guardato al di là della recinzione e allora ha visto la più bella casa che avesse mai visto in vita sua – una villa immensa come un castello che aveva un giardino con prato e alberi e strane luci e in mezzo un albero di Natale che sembrava fatto di ghiaccio. E poi, prima che la donna avesse chiuso la porta del garage Petros aveva fatto in tempo a entrare dentro e non ne voleva sapere di uscire da lì. Non voleva fare niente non voleva fare del male a nessuno. Voleva solo che gli permettessero di passare la notte lì fuori nel giardino e di guardare la casa il prato e quello strano abete che sembrava fatto di ghiaccio. Non voleva fare nient’altro.

Ma la donna e la casa erano di un giudice, un pubblico ministero o qualcosa del genere.

Tutto questo siamo venuti a saperlo dall’avvocato… Petros non ci aveva neanche telefonato.

. . .

All’angolo tra via Gherghìou e via della Resistenza mi blocca il semaforo. Il vento è micidiale e dal porto viene una foschia gialla che offusca le luci sui pali e in strada. E le macchie sul marciapiede sono molto più numerose adesso, come se da qui fosse passata non una persona ma un esercito di persone sanguinanti.

Si accende il rosso e passo di fronte con gli occhi bassi verso l’asfalto.

Gridava qualcosa a proposito di pinguini, ha detto l’avvocato. Hanno sudato sette camicie per tenerlo a freno. Una belva feroce. Ha anche strappato la camicia di un poliziotto. Molto sbronzo.

. . .

A casa metto in una borsa pigiami canottiere e mutande e calze. In un sacchetto di plastica metto tutte le medicine che trovo. Mi verso da bere dell’acquavite per scaldarmi – mi si sono ghiacciate le mani per il freddo, le gambe mi tremano ancora per il gran camminare. E poi faccio qualcosa che non faccio da anni. M’infilo a metà nell’armadio e annuso. Da piccoli io e Petros lo facevamo molto spesso. D’inverno. Uscivamo di notte nel corridoio e aprivamo l’armadio e ci entravamo dentro e annusavamo i vestiti – i nostri, di nostro padre, di nostra madre. Quelli di nostra madre odoravano più di tutti. Se sulla bambagia camminerai neanche il gatto se ne accorgerà, bisbigliava Petros. Non so proprio dove l’avesse scovata questa cosa qui. Se sulla bambagia camminerai neanche il gatto se ne accorgerà. Come ridevamo e come annusavamo in quelle notti. E poi tornavamo a letto e avevamo ancora in bocca l’odore di quei vestiti e con questo sapore dolce in bocca dormivamo abbracciati.

Ma ora le cose sono diverse. Altri tempi, altra casa, altri vestiti si è perso quell’odore nell’armadio. Mi sembra che ormai tutto ha perso il suo odore. O sono io che ho perso gli odori chi lo sa.

I caloriferi sono spenti e dalla finestra della cucina entra freddo. Metto dei tovaglioli di carta nelle fessure, li pigio. E poi vedo sul tavolo la scatola con i chiodi.

Mi verso altra acquavite e poi apro la scatola e tolgo un chiodo e me lo metto in bocca. È amaro.

Dicembre con luna piena e cielo stellato. Ricordo che una volta Petros mi aveva detto che nei tempi andati da qualche parte, credo in Perù o in Messico, credevano che gli uomini fossero nati dalle stelle. I ricchi sarebbero nati da una stella d’oro e i poveri da una stella di bronzo. Anche per questo non avrebbero mai potuto essere uguali. Perché erano nati in mondi diversi.

È strano davvero essere poveri.

Il vento sibila ancora attraverso le fessure. Guardo le stelle che da quaggiù sembrano tutte uguali – né d’oro né di bronzo, tutte uguali. Il chiodo si ghiaccia nella mia bocca.

Farà freddo là dove Petros è stasera.

Published December 19, 2016
Tratto da Qualcosa capiterà vedrai, Elliot Edizioni, Roma 2016
© 2010 Christos Ikonomou
Italian language rights handled by Silvia Donzelli Agency, Milano, Italy, in cooperation with Ersilia Literary Agency


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