by Maria Olympiou
As published in Volume 8, NO 4, Dec. 2011
I had several butterflies keeping me company in my stomach since morning. The afternoon was getting closer. What would I tell her?
I bought her a thick book to color Snow White and the seven dwarfs, cats, dogs, flowers, houses, castles, jungle animals.
I wore a white dress with light blue dots, white sandals. I washed my face and stared at myself in the mirror. I only understood a few things. What they told me and what they didn’t.
Georgia had been staying in a wing of the old hospital for months. Until she gets better, my aunt would tell me. Therefore she was not well. But she was a grown up. She was twice my age. And for me grown ups had to be well to look after the little ones that were usually not well. Their nose would break, they had fever, chicken pox, pimples, girls had their first period and were confused… Georgia had to be well. But she was alone in a room, in a wing of the old hospital.
– Ready? asked my aunt who had come to take me with her.
-Yes…let me take my gift. At the very last minute I thought of taking my colored pencils to Georgia. Maybe she didn’t have any of her own. Yes, she was a grown woman and grown women don’t usually have colored pencils. They have colored eye shadows, lipsticks in vivid colors, nail polish. Colored pencils don’t make you beautiful for boys to like you more.
My aunt would take with her a large bag with clean nightgowns, clean underwear, a lot of apples. She would not take a clean dress, a clean coat in case Georgia would want to return home. In case she was feeling well. But miracles can take place within a day.
– Aunt what’s wrong with Georgia?
– The doctors don’t know.
– Is she in pain?
– In her soul…
We reached a yellow wing of the old hospital. We climbed a stone staircase. We entered a long, dark hallway that led us to Georgia’s room. A small, dark room with an iron bed with white sheets. Georgia stood at the window. She was wearing a dirty nightgown. No slippers, no socks.
– My love, you do have slippers, don’t you?
Georgia turned around and there was an empty look in her eyes.
– Yes, I do, she said and put on two slippers that had the head of a bear at their tip.
– I’ve brought you a thick book to color.
– I want an elephant, the girl muttered.
She grabbed the book from my hands and started browsing through it with fury. She wanted an elephant. As soon as she found one her face shone.
– I will color him. I will then cut the page out, and put it over my bed. I will have him here forever…
Was Georgia planning to stay in this sad room forever?
A grown woman with a paper elephant over her bed…
I went to see her so that we could become friends. I went to see her to tell her to return home, to bake cakes with my aunt, water the flowers in the garden, go out with boys for coffee and hamburgers.
– I didn’t bring any. I brought you apples and clean nightgowns.
A doctor with corvine eyes put his head inside the room and pulled it away right after.
The time had passed. My aunt had to return home to cook dinner.
– Can I stay? In the back of my mind I believed that had I stayed alone with Georgia we would talk a lot. We would break the wall that existed between us. We would become friends. Georgia would get well right away.
– No, my aunt said. Some other time.
But there was never another time. Years passed by. I was in my small world, agonizing over the stupid future…amid life concerns…amid the importance of the infinitely insignificant.
And in the depths of the soul and the heights of the mind the years went by. I had forgotten about Georgia. I thought she had returned home, got herself a routine, a daily life.
Yesterday my aunt called me after years.
– I have some bad news…and was interrupted by her crying drowned in despair.
– My uncle?
– No… Georgia died.
I immediately remembered her, her and her colored elephant, a black elephant with red eyes. That was how she had colored him back then.
– Did she die at home?
– In the room she was staying at when we visited her?
– No. In the madhouse.
Oh why Georgia, didn’t you manage to calm your thoughts and feelings? You let them drown you…like snakes. Do you even know that they have knocked down the dark room of the old wing of the hospital? They have basically knocked down the entire hospital. Maybe they will turn it into an elephant park in your memory.