The little yard has been emptied for a while now, with scattered branches clinging to each other. Just a snapshot of life.
A small window, painted with some heavy crimson paint, was rather chipped. It reveals aging under the paint scraps and looks like an open wound. It opens a shade of some old, blue color, left from some distant coating. The wooden frame divides the glass into four fixed windows, blurred by that antique pattern of rounded flowers, facing each other as if hugging. It is set low above the pavement; that is why every time I pass by the small green house, I think the room is dug into the ground and that it is always dark in there.
Over the small fence, a red rug is thrown onto to dry. One of those old-fashioned ones, woven on a loom, with a maroon or black rhombus in the middle, the kind that grandmothers used to have and lay on the floor only for special occasions. Freshly washed, it drips over the fence and spreads that heavy smell of old age that evaporates in the scarce sunlight.
I don’t know who lives in the little house. Occasionally, the old lady will appear in the cobbled yard, hunched over, gaunt, and silent. Our eyes will meet, I will smile, and she will return a bland, silent smile from behind the fence and quietly will sit in the rocking chair, positioned under the blooming tree in the yard. It’s a cherry tree, beautiful in that small space, especially in the spring when it makes me stop and look at it, stunned by its simple, pink bloom. Opposite is a fig tree, leaning against the fence, spread out and stretched out magnificently over it. I love it when its scent mixes with the washed cobblestones. It reminds me of the sea.
Today too, I stopped to catch my breath by the small fence. A tough day. The window is ajar, and a white crocheted curtain is flowing through it. The kind with grapes with a bird picking standing on them – two grapes on either side, and you think the birds might sing. They smell of starch, a familiar smell from my old home. My mother always starched, and, to this day, I carry that smell of stiff freshness in my nostrils.
And there it is. I stand holding on to the fence, attempting to get my breathing back to normal, and as in a movie, I create an image: In the small room, the old lady sits on the bed and knits. Around the head – a gray braid wrapped over the wrinkled forehead. The radio is playing some soft jazz. It smells like basil. The grandfather is sitting on the other bed reading a newspaper. Lunch is simmering on the stove.
– The children will come in a little while, and the lunch will be ready by then – she says.
– I bought everything you told me, should I set the table now? – he says, looking at her through the glasses lowered on his nose. – Or should I make you tea first if you want some? You went around all day; aren’t you tired?
– I do, put some. We can drink thyme tea together until they come.
He pours water into the white teapot with red dots, sits down next to her, and puts his arm around her shoulders. Her head with grey hair rests on his shoulder.
It smells of peace, of a small, quiet home that is waiting for those who left it long ago and now only occasionally and less and less return to it.
Behind me the sharp sound of a car siren. It pulled me out of my thoughts trapped in the white crocheted curtain. It seemed the grains from the grapes rolled onto the wet cobblestones.
You’re looking at yourself, Beti, – I said to myself. – Yes, you see yourself.
The smell of figs stayed in me, and the grapes from which the bird flew away settled in my eye.