In our old house, was a window. A window that steals children at night. That is what my grandfather used to tell us. Us little kids running around in the house barefoot on a hot summer day.
Grandpa rarely visited, but whenever he did, he used to stare out of the window just like I'm doing now. Wearing a smile and enjoying a cup of tea, he would sit on a chair facing the window situated in our kitchen just next to our green refrigerator. For hours, long into the night, where sounds and emotions went quiet and then dead.
I remember him sometimes. Whenever I sit at night on the same chair staring out at the darkness, examining the night shades of the sky, searching for stars and guessing their constellations’ name.
I always thought that we came from space. Our family, I mean. Or even the entire human race. That we somehow ended up here in this planet, stuck with nowhere else to go, but ourselves. Our precious little selves, running around barefoot on a hot summer day.
From the window, I can see the sea. The Mediterranean.
From the window, I can see an old railway. Rusted and unused since the civil war. Maybe people didn’t need to commute that much, during the war, I often said to myself. The truth was that many regions where cut off from each other. People were cut off as well. That is what wars do. Cut off things, limbs and souls, families and destinies, states and minorities.
It was a chilly night, but I kept the window fully open, to receive the night air as a decent guest, as a grandfather long gone.
Our grandpa used to visit, because we could not go. The complications of the war prohibited my father from returning to his natal town up north for several years.
Sometimes, when I was thirsty at night after a long day at the beach, I would come go to the kitchen to drink, and there he was. Sitting, facing the window enjoying the cooler wind, looking through the emptiness, looking at the north.
Our flat was on the second floor, right above a gas station. That’s right. A gas station, no kidding. Well at least, we never ran out of gas. But who would ever think of building such a 5 story building above a gas station in the middle of a crowded city. Well I would not know, but I can tell you who rent such an apartment, well you’ve guested it, my parents.
I can blame the war, the currency depreciation, the economic crisis. I can blame every factor of the situation, but the truth is that it was a dangerous thing to do. However not as half dangerous as rising your children in a war. For that I still don’t know how they made it. I still don’t know how they remain sane. But I know that our grandpa was here, with his histories to add a sense of normality to our perilous existence.
Our grandpa stories would usually start something like this:
“The window is really a beast. An enormous beast, disguised as a simple window”
- But you’re not serious grandpa. My little sister would response.
- I am serious, racha. See how big his mouth is. He would reply pointing to the edges.
- But where is the rest? I would ask.
- Invisible of course.
- He stays invisible? I ask.
- Most of the time. Don’t you hear it rage sometimes at night?
- True, sometimes we hear big sounds at night.
- And after that where would you go?
- To the shelter. I responded.
- Where you’re safe from this window beast. No one should ever approach it. Especially at night. Especially when he roar. He would add.
- But I see you sitting next to the window sometimes. I see you grandpa.
- That is right. All beasts should be watched.
- And you’re not afraid when you close or open the window. You’re not afraid it will take your hand?
- Of course I am, but I wait till there is no more sound. When he’s asleep.
- Do beast sleep?
- Sometimes they even die.
- I hope the window beast dies soon.
But he didn’t. After a couple of months the window beast ate one of the children in the neighborhood. That’s when I knew that every house had a window beast. I knew him, he was called mike and we rarely played football together at the church yard on Saturdays. I didn’t know his house had a window monster too.
- Grandpa, did you know that the window beast took mike as well.
- Very very sad. One should always be careful of these windows. As I told you before. He looked worried and depressed.
- Where did mike go?
- I don’t know, child. I would like to think to a place where one can play all day long.
- And go to the beach?
- And eat ice cream?
My grandpa smiled. His was tired he said. And went to bed early that night. We all did. Without electricity, and TV, the night seemed like a time hole where entering it was an unnecessary risk.
After 3 years, the window beast left. There was no sounds at night. No shelter visits and no lights exploding in the sky. The window was finally tranquil, plain and boring, like any other window. I could touch it, stare at it, cross my hands on its edge without any fear.
As I stare from my window tonight, I remember everything. Although I was only 5 when the events took place, I still recall the words, the colors, and the fears. The heartbeats of a child descending the stairs to reach a shelter. The sound that woke me first and the broken glass of the window when we came back to our house the morning after.
We were able visit the north with dad, and get to know his coastal town. We were able to sit and stare from our grandpa’s window even when he was not here no more, when his window beast, came at night and took him, to the sea or to space where he always belonged.