«Mount of olives» by Elias Venezis

«Mount of olives» by Elias Venezis

«Mount of Olives» by Elias Venezis When the sun begun to bend, the scarce wind that blew during the day had ceased. Clouds were not travelling on the sky, and the leaves on the trees were not moving in the olive forest that covered the entire mountain, on the east side of Lesvos island. The night of the Resurrection was advancing calm and clean. Vasilis Varkas is the only soul tonight on the mountain. He worked all day pruning the trees. When he finished he withdrew to his hut. He cleaned the small yard, then he washed his hands and his face. When this was done as well, he went and she sat under an old tree. He raised his eyes slowly, he turned them around to the east and to the west, then he placed them on the horizon, towards the sea that was not moving. He is now very old. He doesn't remember, but he must have passed the seventies. He came in the island from his fatherland, the Anatolia (Asia Minor), when they occurred the persecutions of the christians, in 1922. Some lord took him as a guard in his lands, and since then lives peacefully on the mountain. From his own people, his family, there is no one alive. One boy, that he had, the war took it. He got lost in Anatolia. His days now on the mountain with the olive trees are quiet, same as ever, one day or the other. During winter, when it rains, he doesn't ever leave his hut. He burns dry logs on the fireplace and looks during many hours at the fire that becomes slowly ashes. When it gets better the weather he use to go down to the river that flows to the sea. He listens to the roar the waters make and recalls the life he lived, the big forests and the rivers of Anatolia. So once the end will come. He says now it 'll come soon. They will bury him in the small yard. There he has dug the soil and has planted a cypress that grows day after day. There he says he will rest, when it comes the end. The night of the Resurrection is clean. The stars are trembling. They have passed many hours. Tio Vasilis calculates that down there, in the village, the people must have gone to the church. It's very quiet. Suddenly the old man thinks he is listening a light noise, human steps that approaches. He distanced from his thoughts and fixed his eyes in the night. In a while a figure started to appear. And ever was coming, it appeared now clearly. -Akif, is that you? says the old man. - I, replies the other voice. - Why did you come up to here? The road is long. - I came through the pathway. I thought that tonight also you 'll be all alone. An insignificant blow passed and touched the leaves. Silence again. - Have a seat, said tio Vasilis to Akif. He sat silently. Akif must have the same years with tio Vasilis. He is Turk, born in this part of the island. The most days of his life he passed as field guard, guarding the lands in these mountains. He knows the land step by step. When it happened the interchange of the turkish populations of Greece with the christians of Anatolia, the Greeks kept Akif in order for him to show them the lands the native Turks were leaving. Therefore he stayed in the island, himself alone from all of his own people who lost their homeland. In the beginning it was terrible, his life was unbearable. The place was filled up with refugees from Anatolia who came with the disaster of 1922. Everyone cursed him when he passed by, and used to spit the place that he stepped in order to demonstrate how much their hate was for his kind of people. The children followed him from behind and teased him shouting: - The snake Akif! The snake! The snake! Akif, by listening to that, would run like hunted animal that seeks to hide in it's cave. This story about the snake of Akif was like a myth that was said by the christians of the land. The story was saying that when Akif was young, while trying one day to unclog a tube that was downstreaming water, he saw coming out from the tube a huge beast with black scales and eyes big as of an ox. They came face to face, the snake and Akif, but the Turk managed to hit it with a shovel before it could get the whole out from the tube. The snake launched towards him and, with it's strength that had left, frothing, it fighted to put him down. They fighted. But the snake, injured as it was, couldn't endure much. Akif the same night fall with fever. He stayed in bed one entire year. He talked nonsense, and in his dreams he saw all nights the black scales and the eyes of the snake that lurked him. He moaned, the sweat was running from his body and it watered it. Nobody would say that he would last till the end. Nevertheless his strong health won. But from the old Akif didn't remain other than a poor frightened animal that feared its own shadow. Since then nobody dared to talk in his presense about the snake. Only the mothers were saying to their babies the story, as a myth. But, when the Turks left from the island and he remained alone, the kids took courage. By seeing also the older ones to curse on him, they run behind him shouting: - The snake Akif! The snake! The snake! An then they were laughing as they saw him all frightened running to disappear from their sight. Who will help Akif now? Who shall fear him? Where will he find protection? He is alone and desolate. How nice would be if they would let him go as well to the foreign land, on the other side, on Anatolia, where the others fled from his nation. It was the only happiness, the last one, he could expect from life. They didn't allow it the humans, neither this one. When he saw some christian that from his appearance he guessed him to be a man of good will, he would fall to his knees, over the soil, and begged him: - Help me, and Allah is great and shall pay you back. Help me go where they went my own people. He was telling him that in the east his brother is buried, that the big war took. He will ask where is the strait of Çanakkale (Dardanelles). And certainly they will tell him. He will go to the strait of Çanakkale and of cource he will find the tomb of his brother. There to pacify, on the same soil, with him. That's what he was saying, and the tears run from his innocent eyes, they tangled on his white beard. But, no matter how much he pleaded, it resulted impossible to let him go. So little by little he made the decision that his 'kismet' (destiny) was to die alone and abandoned in his land of birth. And, as one can be accustomed to everything in this world, he got accustomed to this as well. On the other side also the christians little by little got used to it, they ceased to molest Akif and to spit on the ground he had stepped. Over time actually they went even further: they started to understand him and to feel compassion for him. Joy is a sharp tone which extends like a neuron in the air, a rare tone within the generic symphony - provokes the humans like a conceited voice. With the sadness it's another - so much they are accustomed the humans to listen to the symphony of the sadness and to feel it. Day by day the christians of the land, poor people of the earth and of the sea, and the christian refugees that came from the east started to approach the misfortune of Akif, to understand it. They got together, they were speaking their troubles one to the other, and weeped over their fate. Once Akif made an error calculating the moon and fasted two times for the ramadan. When this became known no christian thought of laughing. Some christian said: - His prophet has forgotten Akif. What matters if also Akif forgets during which moon to worship him? The prophets forgot of the humans. On the mountain of Lesvos, full of olives, tonight, during the clean night of the Resurrection, the two men - the christian Vasilis Varkas and Akif the Turk - deserted have come together, they sit one next to the other and they don't speak. Above them are the stars. And the leafs that don't move. One after the other start to come the things they have lived, to pass by and to disappear. In a gorge of Anatolia there is a hut. At such hour, as tonight, the door knocked. One notified the other, the shepherds, in all the huts, that it's time to come down for the Resurrection. They wend down all together to the nearest village, and if it was a very dark night they illuminated the path with lit torches that they were holding in their hands. At that time yet there was no war, and within the hut of Vasilis Varkas there was a kid with black hard hair and face with the color of the wheat. Old Varkas watches tonight for long time this pair of eyes filling the night. He sees them on the path of the gorge, on the light of the lit torches. One moment. One moment more. Then, slowly, the shine begins shutting down. There is no more gorge, there is no hut, - neither from the child face remains anything that exists. Everything is desolate. - What was our blame?... - What was our blame?... mambles slowly the old man from Anatolia, and the tears wet his face. What was their blame? By side, in another old heart, another child face tries to remain one moment, the way the lighting passes and disappears. He was no more than twenty years old when he left and diappeared for ever from his life. Just when his facial was growing on his face. - What was our blame?... mumbles now Akif as well - What was our blame?... And the tears are ever running from their eyes, a protest profound and sacred as of the children that don't understand why they have embittered them. Time passed. The two old men on the mount of olives little by little begin to calm down. - Look down, said Akif. Down, on the plain where the village is, there appear now many small lights. They must be the christians that came out for the Resurrection. Tio Vasilis kneels to the ground, makes a penance, kisses the ground, and then he remains like that praying. Akif looks in the middle of the night the dark volume of his friend that tries to find the peace by talking with his God. One moment. One more moment. And Akif, for not being alone, little by little, without thinking he kneels as well and begins to pray, the night of the Resurrection, to his own God. For quite some time on this moutain with the olives there is nothing more than this silent conversation with the two distant Gods that turned their face away from the humans. The night had come a long way. The morning mist started to fall. - I am cold, said Akif. - In a while the day will break, said the old christian. We need to sleep. He gets up. Akif also raises. He makes a step towards the hut. Uncertain. His knees are shaking. - Lean on me, said the christian to the Turk. END