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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Suicide (Αυτοκτονία)

Yani was about my age. I'd known him for about 16 or so years. I should really say that I had known of him, as if we were aware of each other's presence. He was strange and I was careful. Our houses stood next to each other, but I always made sure to go to that side of my garden when I knew no one would be there to perve.

I knew his dad better as I usually relate to older people. Panagos didn't have an easy time raising his family. His wife died of cancer, leaving behind a baby girl with Down's syndrome. Yani and his older brother practically raised her. The windows of Panagos' house were permanently closed. I don't think I ever saw them open, except perhaps once when a lady had come to do an annual cleaning of the house. The yard was full of carpentry equipment, scrap metal and all sorts of other junk that often looked as though it had lain there untouched for at least a decade.

Panagos wasn't a great talker, understandably with what he had to put up with in his daily life. But even though he bore many crosses, he always managed a smile when a situation merited it. Not much more than a smile, but this showed that he hadn't forgotten that there is somethign about life that can make you happy. I was always amazed that he never remarried - he was such a good looking man, with typical Cretan looks. But I guess he had too good a heart to do that - how could he when he knew what kind of house he'd be bringing a new woman into.

Panagos must have seen some joy out of his elder son's wedding, and the birth of his grandchildren, but he was also witnessing the opposite extreme of happiness: the depression, the madness and finally the detachment of Yani who he could no longer encourage. How could he explain to Yani to remain strong when there was little to hope for in Yani's life? The middle child feels a sens of not knowing where it belongs, and Yani was not an exception.

Panagos' roots came from higher ground and he has struggled throughout his life to overcome daily difficulties and psychological issues. Even retirement has been a struggle for him, what with having to watch the degeneration of his middle child. And now he has to live with the sight of his dead son who he found in that dark bedroom that never saw any light for years. Yani's roots were firmly planted in urban life, and urban life is just not what it used to be any more, not even in this sun-filled resort town.

I'm glad I visited Panagos today. He was happy to see me. In fact, I could tell that he was glad to see me. But I was shocked to see how much my old neighbourhood had degenerated. People who were always curious to see what was going on in each other's hosues were now sitting cooped up inside their homes, while Panagos was surrounded by only a few old age pensioners like himself. And there was also Maria,
bringing a tray in and out of the kitchen with glasses of water and orange juice. Suddenly they were too busy.

In Greece, it's not true to say that we don't know what is going on inside somebody else's home. It's often teh case that we do know. We can't always stop it, but we do know. And it's not just an economic crisis.

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