The garden presented as visibly more neglected than during my previous visits. Here and there, a few wild flowers broke the hegemony of green within the lawn, a presumption that would not have been tolerated if the master of the house had been in possession of all his powers.
As I climbed the steps to the front door, I noticed that its rusty iron lacework with bits of peeling white paint was shrouded in cobwebs strewn with dead flies. It was a portal that hadn’t been opened to strangers in a long time.
“Come from behind,” cried the voice of the master of the house. “I’m in the garage.”
I wandered around the side of the house noting the half barrels that once held young fruit trees and a vast array of orchids. Now they were overgrown with stunted, stunted, yellow grass, as if they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to live or die. A pile of rotting firewood lay in one corner. And inside the little side door that led to the garage, I could make out a single light bulb hanging from a cord. There, sitting at an oilcloth-covered table that was in the kitchen when I was a child, he sat, reading Neos Cosmos. The paper was crumpled as if it had been folded and refolded a number of times and on the opposite page I saw a row of photographs. His index finger rested on one of them, while he articulated the name of the person photographed, a veritable litany of the dead.
“You’ll have to excuse my appearance,” the householder apologized, brushing bits of fabric, breadcrumbs and dandruff from his stained blue tracksuit. “I rarely go upstairs anymore. It’s too hard to climb the stairs and since my wife died, there are too many painful memories. There’s a picture of him and his wife hanging over the sink. This sink was also in the kitchen before the renovation in the 90s. At that time it was moved to the garage, where it continued to be used, leaving the right sink upstairs as a presentation sink, for visitors who more and more never came. The image is faded, but from the garish fashions and bouffant hairstyles, it can presumably be dated to the 1980s. The host is neat, dapper and charming. His wife is lively and imposing as only women who know their beauty is universally appreciated can be. They are both smiling, as if rejoicing in the knowledge that they are both at the peak of their physical and mental abilities. A spot in the lower left corner of the frame turns out to be a centipede, bleached white in death, hanging from a dead thread of a spider’s web.
“We had just gone to dinner with the Minister of National Education in Great Britain in Athens”, remembers with nostalgia the master of the house. “If I remember correctly, he gave me a book. Kazantzakis’ Christ re-crucified, I think it was. Let me see.” He slowly rose from his chair and hobbled over to a tarp covering a series of objects on the far side of the wall. He carefully lifted it to reveal row after row of boxes, all filled with books. .
“Those are the most important,” he said. “The ones you would have seen upstairs when you were a boy in the office are long gone. My eyes aren’t what they used to be and I can’t absorb information easily anymore. My daughter doesn’t take philosophy, history or theology, so she gets rid of it. We asked a few schools, but they showed no interest. It’s surprising how many people don’t read anymore. But these, they tell a story. This one, a biblical concordance, was given to me by Patriarch Athenagoras himself. See, for yourself, it’s listed. I was a student at the time. And that one, that one is my pride and my joy. It is dedicated by the great Yiannis Psycharis himself. No, of course I didn’t know him, but when I was little in Athens, my teacher used to kneel… Oh, there he is. I tell a lie. It’s not Christ re-crucified. He is The Fratricides. Watch the dedication here: ‘With great respect…’ Yes, I was a figure to be reckoned with at the time, let me tell you. I remember once on a trip to Greece, Yiannis Ritsos telling me…wait…this is it. Take a look at this. It is a pebble dedicated by the poet himself. There is a drawing on it that he executed. And here are his Lianotragouda, dedicated by him. I haven’t opened it for years.
I rummage through the boxes, exclaiming with delight when I find embedded in the pages of books, notes and memorabilia attesting to a relationship with important Greek literary and political figures of modern times, such as the master of house makes me coffee, emitting rhythmic moans every time he grabs the sugar.
Dragging towards me, he holds out the cup of coffee with a shaky hand, spilling the coffee in all directions.
“That’s luck,” I laugh and he looks at me with a pained expression. “This is the last cup of coffee I will make for anyone,” he whispers. I am admitted to the nursing home in two days.
I put my hand over his. It’s liver-stained but surprisingly soft compared to the hands of its contemporaries I’ve held in this country. It is a hand that has never known the factory. The calluses on his fingers betray the identity of someone who has lived his whole life with a pen in his hand, marking time through the rustle of the pages.
“That’s why I asked you to come here,” said the master of the house softly. “In a way that I cannot describe, our knowledge marked my life. I want you to have something to remember me by.
Reaching the table, he retrieved a reusable Woolworths bag. From within emerged a rather ragged Vostanzoglou. Anti-Lexiconthe object of my most ardent desires as a child.
“This is the first edition. I seem to remember you asking to borrow this when you were younger. Yes, and my request was refused for fear that I might damage it in some way. other.
“It is registered. Look.” There were two inscriptions on the front page. One with his signature and the date of purchase in 1967 and the other bearing the following dedication: “To Kostas Kalymnios. In memory of a friendship. Do not m ‘do not forget.
“May it serve you as a resource,” said the master of the house. “Though I dare say these days, you can most likely find all of this information on that damn internet. Yet many a night, when sleep eludes me, I’ve sat hunched over this tome. was my αγρυπνία. Do the same. You can sleep when you’re dead. I smile, trying to use the muscles in my cheeks to crush the tear that was rising above them, threatening to sink below.
“The house will be emptied now,” the householder informed me. “We have to let him out. I hope they will let me take these books with me. All the people who gave them to me are long gone, but I hope to be able to spend the rest of my life in their company. As long as I know how to read anyway.
At that moment, he laughed, a hoarse, hissing laugh that convulsed violently through his body. I jumped up from my chair and brought her a glass of water. He swallowed greedily, then fell back in his chair languidly.
” Do not worry. I’m doing well. I just remembered you telling me that time when we were in Sydney how, as a newlywed, your wife had complained about the amount of books you were hoarding and asked what what would happen to them after your death.
“And I said…”
“And you said, ‘Bury me in a big hole with all my books around me and my coffin open so I can reach them and turn the pages.’
“‘And then use empty spaces in bookcases to display designer shoes’.”
“It’s true!” he chuckled. “Farewell, my boy. Don’t let me hold you back. Remember me.”
When I got home late that night, I went up to the office and sat for a while looking at the books given to me by people who had an outsized influence on my life. I toyed with the idea of placing Post-its on the most poignant of them, explaining who had given them to me and why they were important. Then I sighed, pulling out a volume I was planning to give to a friend the next day, replacing the empty space with the Anti-Lexicon entrusted by the master of the house. Having had doubts, I walked to the library, I retrieved the Lexicon and took him down to the bedroom. At the beginning of my night vigil, I whispered a prayer to all the lost and sleeping books, dreaming of their masters, especially that of my Anti-Lexicon, which can be found complete on the Internet, in glorious pdf.