CIRCLES IN THE WATER
“Hey, did you are making circles in the water?” Muriel’s voice rang ( sounded) shrill behind her. Miriam just turned her head, squeezing her legs tighter in her arms. She was sitting on the ground in front of the pond in her garden. Muriel’s words, they had evoked ( her) a line of a song , which had been well known when she was young. “ They are all circles in the water…” and “ “They never stop, your circles in the water” the verses of that song said. Miriam wasn’t making circles in the water, but it was precisely the water that she was thinking about. She had just read an article on the memory of the water. She was about to ask Muriel what she thought about the capability of the water to preserve memory of what had been immersed in the water, of what had passed through it. But she had not made in time, since Muriel had started to talk to her of her parents. Muriel had met them in the laundry that morning. “ Since from didn’t you go to visit them? They told me they haven’t seen you since days.” “ Oh, but I called them on the phone every day” Miriam said, rather annoyed. Muriel than pointed out to her that , yet ,visiting them often wouldn’t cost her much, since they, her parents, lived a stone’s throw from her. But why she didn’t visit them more often?They were old, she was their only daughter. “ Ah, you know, every time I see them, I have to put up the usual complaint….they start to repeat that they are old, that when they die, I am left alone…..and then …instead , if I were married, they would not have this hard concern to leave me alone. Look, every time they repeat the same old story to me, and I cannot stand it” Miriam said, snorting. “ Oh, I can understand you…Eh, it would be better for you not to be an only child, to have , at least, one sister, or one brother” Muriel said, standing behind Miriam, who had remained sitting on the ground, her eyes on the surface of the pond.” It would be better, yes, I think so many times too. But, unfortunately I am an only child “ Miriam replied, with a streak of sadness in her voice. “ But you had a sister who died as a child, hadn’t you? Sometimes you told me about her” Muriel said. “ Yes, a sister I never knew. She died before I was born” “ Was your sister very young when she died, wasn’t she?” Muriel asked. “Ah, they, my parents always told me she was very young, but do you know? I never managed to find out at what age she died. My parents never said me her age. So I only know that she was very young when she died, but if she was a few months or a few years old I don’t know.” Miriam never had seen a photo of her little sister who had died before she was born, but she had never told Muriel about it(this). She couldn’t tell her even now. Otherwise Muriel would have started asking. What? Was there not a photo of the child even on her tombstone? And wasn’t there the date of her birth and death? Questions that Miriam preferred to avoid. She couldn’t answer. She had never seen her sister’s grave. But she knew that her name had been Miriam, like hers. Oh, this had made a strange effect when she had known it…..” Then if she hadn’t died , I wouldn’t have been born” she had come to think spontaneously. Her parents never spoke ( had spoken) of their first child. What Miriam knew about her, she had learned asking them, but also her grandparents, even her uncles, aunts, as all her relatives who must have known the little girl , that other Miriam. From her parents she had never been able to find out exactly at what age the child had died. Whenever Miriam had asked them, they had said: “ Oh, she was very young. We can say she was just born , when she died” . Instead her maternal grandmother had told her that the child was nearly a year old when she died. Everyone had told Miriam that her little sister had died of a fulminating illness. Her parents had moved to another city after their child had died. Since then they had lived hundreds of miles away from their relatives whom she, Miriam, had therefore rarely seen. Her relatives….she had always felt them distant, as though they belonged to another time than hers. It was an odd feeling , that she couldn’t explain, the feeling that her relatives were part of her parents time, not of the time she had lived.
One evening Miriam went to visit her parents, who were happy to have her for dinner . It was during dinner, while she was sitting at the table with them, that she suddenly felt that she had to stay ( remain) with her parents that night. She didn’t know why, but she felt she had to spend the night in that house, in their house. Since she didn’t feel like sleeping in what had been her bed room, Miriam preferred to stay on the couch in the living room. As soon as she closed her eyes she heard a voice calling : “Miriam…Miriam… I didn’t want to” That voice might be it was her mother’s voice, but it had a deep, scraping tone which wasn’t what she knew. Miriam thought of getting up to look out ( to go to see) in her parents room, but she was overcome by sleep before getting up. In the middle of the night she was awakened by an insistent sound that she could not understand what sound it was. It sounded as beats alternating with sighs, with sobs….it had to be someone who was crying. She got up and the first thing she spontaneously did was go and open the window. That kind of cry she seemed to come from outside. It came to her to think about cats, that sometimes their meowing sounded like a cry.
She had just opened the window, she had just looked out, that she heard a nearby voice calling her: “ Miriam! Miriam! Where are you, my child?”She turned her head. Her mother, in her nightgown, her white hair tousled, barefoot, she stood at the door of the room. With one hand the old woman was leaning against the door jamb, in the other she was holding something small and red. “ Mom, what is happening? Are you feeling bad?” Miriam asked, moving towards her. “Miriam! Miriam! Where are you my little one?” Her mother kept on screaming. “ I’m here, Mom. But what is the matter with you?” she asked. Approaching her, Miriam saw that the little red thing her mother was holding by one hand, it was a very small shoe, a shoe for a small foot, a child’s foot. “ No! You are not Miriam! You’re not my little girl!” Her mother cried, when she tried to hug her. Miriam thought that her mother, who perhaps was sleepwalking or was having a nightmare, when she called MIRIAM! she meant the other Miriam, her firstborn daughter who had died as a child. Awakened by her mother cries, her father arrived. He said Miriam that there was nothing to worry about. It was one of her mother’s fits. “ Why she is holding that red little shoe in her hand?” Miriam asked, pointing at the little red shoe in the hand of her mother.
“ It is the shoe Miriam had on when she died” Her father said, looking at the ground. “ What? My very little sister was wearing shoes when she died? Didn’t she die of illness? You all always told me she died of illness, yes, a fulminating illness, but….” She was really disconcerted. Her father didn’t answer, he remained silent for a moment, while he kept on avoiding looking at her. It even seemed that he would want she, Miriam couldn’t see him. “ Your sister didn’t die of illness” he said , in a voice that was a sigh. “ It was a misfortune, an accident , that caused her death “ he also said, in an hesitant, uncertain tone. Then he took the little red shoe from her mother’s hand and, looking at it, which he had put on his palm, in a trembling voice said: “ When she died in….in that accident little Miriam wore this shoe” “ And what accident was it?” She asked. Her father, after looking at her with a breathless sigh( sighing), that it was evident that it was a considerable
effort for him to talk about it ( the accident), that he would have preferred not to talk about it, he told her , speaking with broken sentences____and while her mother kept on screaming: “ Miriam! Miriam! Where are you my child?”______that her little sister had drowned in the swan pond in Axie, where they lived then. “ But Miriam was a child….she won’t have gone alone to the swan pond” she had come to say. “ No, of course, she didn’t go alone” her father said, looking with apprehension at her mother , who kept on shouting: “ Miriam! Miriam!......” Only after having hesitated not for a little he told her that their child had gone to the swan pond with her mother. “But how? ( What?) How was it possible that the child drowned if she was in the company of her mother?” Miriam could not help but shout. Now, more than incredulous, she was upset. She felt the fear advancing, it was invading her like a tide. Meanwhile her mother too continue to shout: “Miriam! Miriam! I didn’t want to!” Her father merely repeated that it had been an accident, a terrible, frightening misfortune. From him Miriam was unable to find out how deep was the pound in which the child had drowned, nor if, once she had fallen in the pond, her mother, but also others who had to be present____the swan pond was ( was located) in the public park of Axie, the city where they lived then_____had rushed to Miriam’s rescue, if someone had intervened to try to prevent her from drowning. Since from her father, as well as her mother, she was not able to get the information she needed, to try to understand how that terrible misfortune had been possible, Miriam decided to go to Axie, where first she contacted her relatives who still lived there. But soon she had to realize that she would not have known anything from them too. In fact, among them there were also those who kept on repeating that the little Miriam had died of illness, that they had never known that the child had drowned.
The accident in which Miriam had died, had happened over fifty years earlier, so it was difficult to find people who had lived in Axie at the time when the accident had happened. It was more than difficult to find someone who could have been in the park when the fatal accident happened. When she was in front of the swan pond where, despite the name, there were no swans_____but might be then, when the little Miriam had drowned, they there had been____she was amazed at how small it was, and it also seemed shallow. She asked how deep it was to the people in the park, which was quite frequented , especially by families with children. And, although she didn’t get precise answers, everyone agreed it was shallow, it was certainly less than a meter deep. Moreover the pond was also fenced, at least now. But had it been fenced then, when Miriam had fallen into it? However, come on, how could a one year old child, like Miriam was, end up drowned in a such pond, which was little more than a puddle of water? Ah, but when she had fallen into the swan pond, was Miriam already able to walk? She started wondering. She asked her relatives, those few who at least remembered the little girl had died of a tragic accident, and she phoned her parents to ask them too____damnation, why hadn’t she thought of asking them earlier if the child was already able to walk when she had ended up drowned in the swan pond? Since it was a crucial information to understand how the accident had happened.
They all she had asked, said that , of course, Miriam was already able to walk. Otherwise, how could she have come so close to the pond that she fell into it? Ah, there was something that did not convinced her at all in what her parents, and even her relatives, had told her about the death of her little sister. Miriam had the feeling, indeed the conviction that all they were still lying to her, as they had been doing all her life telling her that her little sister had death of illness. Moreover she felt, she was certain that they were hiding something terrible from her, something frightening that had to have happened . She took the trouble to look in the newspapers of more than fifty years ago for the chronicle of the accident in which the little Miriam had lost her life. With the result of finding only a few lines that reported the drowning of a one year child in the park pond, without even mentioning her sister name, without any photos. Yeah, wasn’t it strange, Miriam wondered, that there didn’t even seem to be a photo of her sister? Meanwhile she had anguished dreams every night. She dreamed her mother who, with a scary, terrible look, was screaming “ Miriam! Miriam!”, as she ran away chased by ferocious dogs, mastiffs and dobermann.
It was only months later, when she had returned home, after trying in vain to find out the truth about her sister’s death, that Muriel showed her the page of a newspaper from August 1969 reporting the news of a one year child drowned in the swan pond in Axie. The little girl, Miriam D., who had only one leg, was in her mother’s arms when she had fallen into the pond. It was thought that it had been her mother who had thrown the child into the pond to drown her.