Going Home

The old man made the coffee. He took the copper briki from the shelf below the window that looked out over Acland Street. Just enough water and the correct amount of coffee. He placed it on the gas. He did not need to think. This was habit. Many, many years he had made the café tourkiko. He placed cakes on the plate with the coffee. The small white cakes cut in the shape of a crescent moon were called kourabiedes and many years ago I had asked him why the crescent moon. They were made in the shape of the cross but when the Ottomans came they were not to make them like that. They had to be in the shape of the Turkish Crescent moon. The young have no respect for tradition and now they make them any way. Nobody remembers tradition. They should make them as a crescent moon to never forget the Ottomans.

He took the plate of kourabiedes and the coffee on a tray and placed it on her table. Near her hand. A sound came from her mouth. Years before it was a thank you. “Ef̱charistó”. Now it was just a sound. He still loved her – but like a painting on the wall. There was nothing returned. He had no idea what she thought. The phone rang. It was their daughter and she spoke for ten minutes and the coffee got cold. He made her another coffee and gave it to her. The same sound. Nothing else. He did think of his daughter. And their son in Europe. He was important in something as a son should be. He rang them every Christmas and on his name day. He was a good boy.

He didn’t really know just how much the routine of their life had control over everything. In the summer he slept on the veranda in a small bed and he could listen to the young ones on the street. He was old and he woke early. At night he listened to the crowds in the coffee shops and sometimes he walked alone to Domenico’s and they shared a small Crème de Cassis. Domenico was Italian. But he was a good man. There’s nothing the matter with Italians. They know as the Greeks know.

She stayed up for hours and watched old movies. She never said goodnight and they never spoke. In the mornings she went to church at St Efstathios in Dorcas Street.  When she came home in the afternoon she lay on her couch and slept. He prepared her supper and left it on the small table by her side. They didn’t need to talk – it was habit.

As the pain in his heart grew he started to notice things. Nothing big. Nothing important. Just things. Things like the missing button on his coat that he had lost last year, or maybe the year before. He noticed the books he loved but never read. I must give them to Eugenia. His daughter.

He noticed the people in the street who had been there as long as he had. He knew their names from before but sometimes he had to stop and think. He asked Dominico the name of the Cassis but he forgot it again the next time.

As the pain in his heart grew even more he stopped noticing and became resigned. That night he prepared her supper as before. He was careful not to change anything. The routine was strict. When he was sure she was asleep he put on his coat and stepped quietly down the stairs and out onto the street. He walked slowly and as he passed the shops and the cafes he nodded and called their name. He remembered all their names. He stopped at Domenico’s and they drank Cassis.

“You seem peaceful tonight,” Domenico said.

“I will have one more and then I will walk down to the pier.”

“Goodnight, Old friend.”

“Goodnight.”

He put his arms around Domenico and hung there for a moment. Just a moment.

Then he walked slowly down Acland Street and turned left at Luna Park. He did not hear the squeals and laughter nor the rattle of the Roller Coaster. When he reached the foreshore he walked to the right until he came to the pier. It was dark and the pier was deserted. At the end of the pier he sat and looked down at the water. At the black. Most of his thoughts were of his youth and his dreams.

He thought of home – the old country. He came to Australia – Afstralos – when he was twenty two. He had been here for fifty four years. But he had never been home.

Then he stood and stepped to the edge. One more step. He fell and the cold shocked him. He slid under the water. There was no struggle.

She did not notice that he was not there until late in the morning.  In the evening did she worry when he didn’t bring the coffee and kourabiedes.

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