Nine

I was in my childhood home, the house seemed to breathe in the half-light. It was empty. I went to the window, and looked at the curtain. I used to spend a lot of time like that when I was a kid, staring at the light playing between the patterns… Then I was outside. We lived almost at the very end of the town, just a few houses and it was open fields… I started for the fields in the sunset. I saw some children ride their bicycles on the power lines above, rolling gleefully in the violet dusk, with great speed. I watched them and wished I was up there, too, on the cables, speeding away into the sunset… but I didn’t know how to go up, and didn’t have a bike, either.

I could feel a warm presence behind me. He put his hands under my arms and lifted me up, high, high, higher… and there I was, on the lines. I didn’t have a bike but I didn’t care, I started to run on the cables, above the road, above the fields, above the houses… the sky was a soft, purple embrace. I felt the wind on my face, my chest, in my hair… I opened my arms wide, and ran, ran, ran. Then I slowed down, and wanted that bike, after all. And a translucent man with long arms and soft hands brought me one and put it right in front of me. But I was worried that I would fall, I realized I didn’t know how to ride a bike. So he hugged me gently from behind to hold me straight, and off we went…

Suddenly I was in the parking lot of the factory nearby our house, it was Sunday evening, and my father was teaching me to ride a bike. “You’re doing great, you almost got it”, he said, and I could feel his warmth and his arms around me, smelling of tobacco. Then he lifted me up and let the bike fall, and we laughed, and lied down onto the grass, staring at the plum clouds, the power lines buzzing above our heads…

Next, I was sitting on the asphalt, and my father was running towards me. My knee was bleeding, and he came, stroked my face. He didn’t have a hankie on him, so he found me a big leaf to blow my nose. It was a clumsy business and we laughed. Then he held my knee and gently blew air on it, it would make it better. He took me in his arms, I sat on his left hip, and he grabbed the bike with his right hand, we were going home. We stopped in front of the neighbour’s house, he put me down so that my mother wouldn’t see us like this and get angry – he shouldn’t be carrying me, I was too big, I just started school. We took a big breath, getting ready for a scene about my knee and our dirty clothes. My father straightened his back, held his head up high and opened the gate…

Then I was back in the field, the sun had just set, the world was throbbing in all the shades of violet… I looked up at the sky, and saw bicycle wheels whirling, dancing above me… I knelt down, staring at the dark blue grass shivering in the wind… I missed my father, I missed him so much. I noticed there was a man beside me. He, too, was on his knees. His hair fell on his shoulders, dishevelled by the wind… turning grey… his eyes were small, almond shaped, very dark and very gentle… and I knew he understood it all. We didn’t say a word, just lied back onto the grass, holding hands, watching the sky turn dark, waiting for the stars.

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