“Drink water”, he tells me and holds me tightly by the arms seconds before he leaves me there, on the platform, alone waiting for the train that will take me away from his summer. He could have told me to take care, to write now and then, to think of him. Perhaps he could have told me that he loves me, that he will not forget me. “Drink water”: these are the last words I hear coming out of his mouth, and I feel them like an unexpected blow on my face. Inside the adored mouth that is forming those words I numbly see my panicking 6-year-old self drinking water, jerkily moving her little arms and trying to get back to the surface of the sea, as an older boy is having fun watching me drown while he, sadistically, presses me down.
I remember those lost breaths. I’m breathing them now. I’m breathing the anger and pain of that near drowning. “Drink water”, I hear and I automatically find myself at the bottom of the sea, I feel the seaweed touching my little feet, I see tiny bubbles coming out of my tension-filled swimsuit, I stir the water with the movements that my distress is causing.
“Drink water”, I hear and I automatically think of death, the end of life, of life without him. I look at those tender lips of his that gave me countless small deaths. I feel his hands holding my arms tightly; it was those hands that pulled me back to life every time I sank into non-existence. Ι take a few last short breaths on his neck, the smell of his sweat, cologne and beauty.
“Drink water”, I hear and the platform automatically turns into the bottom of the sea; the coming train takes the form of a school of fish; the stray dog lying on the floor becomes the slippery rock with the sea-urchins; the sweaty young soldiers smoking are now my group of friends; the plump lady in the terry cloth dress and the plump little girl at hand become my grandmother, who is absorbed in conversation with the neighbour and can’t see me, she can’t see me… Everything is the seabed of the 6-year-old girl drowning by the hands of the 10-year-old. Everything is the seabed of the 43-year-old woman drowning by the hands of the man who is holding my arms tightly for the last time. No one is moving. No one will move. No one will save the girl. No one will save the woman. I’m at the bottom and I’m drowning. I drink water.
His hands suddenly let go of my arms and move away from my body. I’m still drowning, though. He turns around and moves quickly towards the exit stairs, takes his eyes, lips, neck, smells and all the small deaths, and disappears. I drink more water. I hear the plump lady in the terry cloth dress call out to the plump little girl; the woken-up dog huff and puff in disgruntlement; the soldiers quickly saying their goodbyes. The train brakes squeal. It’s already here. He’s already gone.
I drink water.
Translation by Natassa Diamanti
photo by Andreas Theologitis