The wind comes knocking. It comes from the sea. I remember the taste of it, salt on my lips, as together we walked the cliff path, I and Dimitris. How it would tear its fingers through my hair. I won’t let it in. It catches hold of the shutters, slams them against the wall, they bang and bang until my head aches. I close the shutters tight. My room is cool and dark and silent like a cave under the sea. But the wind is sly, it comes back at night. Skittering across the roof, fretting and pulling at the tiles, it finds cracks. First the dust seeps through, falling like fine rain. Then the mouths come, stuffed with scorpions, swarming whispers that sting. And I can’t sleep for the pain of it.
My mother is there every morning sweeping up the carcasses. They are hollow and light and when the breeze lifts them they rustle across the courtyard. With her stiff broom she flails the flagstones, harrowing leaves, fallen petals, the tiny shells of insects, driving them into a corner with the dust, where the wind cannot find them.
as my mother carries the broom across the churchyard. Keeper of the church. She has the keys. She cleans the churchyard every morning. Begins by the sea wall, sweeps up the ice cream wrappers, the empty crisp and cigarette packets, stoops to pick up tins, drops them into a plastic bag. Sometimes she’ll pause to greet someone. Tiny, determined to hold their gaze, she looks up into the deceitful faces. Old Nikos slowly taking the steps up from the harbour, leaning on his stick; Michaelis on his way to the taverna, hair slicked back, just married, impatient, keys jangling in his pocket; the children running, bags bumping against their shoulders, late for school. They never look up, they don’t even sneak a glance at the shutters. They’ll be thinking their thoughts no matter how closed their faces, they’ll know I’m watching them, feel my eyes on their backs burning.
When I walk through the village the bodies part like a wave. I wear black; a silk blouse I bought in Athens, the kind you can see through, with an open back, straps crossing. My shoulders are bare. I try to hold them straight, to walk in a straight line, not to falter, as I turn into the full sun, into the square. I don’t look to either side of me, but I know what they’ll be doing. The men in the shade of the mulberry tree outside the cafenion, grouped around two tables, sticks propped against the chairs. A lull in the conversation as I appear, their heads turning to follow my passing, and then, folding their newspapers, they’ll be clustered over their coffee, intent now, the talk charged with drugs, black arts and couplings and each one offering exact and salacious knowledge of when and where, as if I were one of their goats being mounted, over and over. The women, cardigans draped over their shoulders, clustered on the steps of the post office, faces hardening as I approach, they turn their backs. I pass my father’s grocery shop, the windows plastered with old newspaper, the paint peeling and cracked. This morning my mother screamed, ‘Your father’s better off where he is now, safe in his grave. The shame would have destroyed him’ Now the butcher’s shop. He’s hauling a lamb’s carcass off its hook, head drooping, the eyes glazed. His sharp cleaver descends fracturing the bone, slices through flesh.
Flesh and blood of Dimitris. Neither by birth, nor by way of consecration in the village church. Our bond greater than anything this tight community could contain. The moment his head hit the rock, blood oozing through his thick, black hair – our flight arrested, dreams shattered – I became all they’d imagined, ever wanted me to be: seductress, whore, murderer. I am no longer one of them, Every tie severed. They are butchers all of them.
They have taken his body, imprisoned it in the family tomb; with their sanctimonious scrawl on the marble headstone have claimed him back as their own ‘for eternity’. But for the dead of this village, there is no sleep. The wind is on the prowl always. It sweeps in from the sea, ticks upon the windows that shelter the fading photographs, the flickering flames. Fingers probing, it loosens the glass panes. A continuous tick, tick, like the click of bones.
I feel its breath through the slats of the shutters, gentle now, whispering of that wild, open space within sight and sound of the sea, its vast horizon, where I stood so often with Dimitris.
I close my eyes and am back there on the high cliff, close to the cry of seagulls. Only now I’m alone. At the very edge. A dizzying drop to the black huddle of rocks, the restless sea below. I look down, sway, lose my balance. The wind comes, rushing over the bare highland, scoops me up, thrusts me forward.
I’m flying. Free.