ITALY, SUMMER 2014
Ned was sitting on a wicker chair trying to eat clouds. That day the wind was fierce and angry. Ned didn’t mind it he learnt to embrace the power of it. The place’s scenery reminded him their summer house in Andalucía where the Atlantic Ocean produced the strongest and the most charming winds. Ned loved the wind, its gentle caress moving through his skin and the possibility of carrying a change. Taking the old, usual and worn out away while creating new spaces for something unknown not yet explored something exciting and sad making. He came to this place because there was nowhere else to go. When the desire and understanding loses its way, what else is there left? Hope? But what if you don’t want to hope for anything? What if you just don’t want to move anymore and let the wind do it instead? Ned signed deeply and looked at the pile of letters in his hands. He didn’t open them, he couldn’t. There was too much reality, too much life and memories. Memories were useless, they always managed to weaken him, upset his joints and disconsolate heart. He dropped the letters on the grass and intensely stared at the moving trees. Lola used to ask him so many questions. What do you like? How does rainbow smell to you? Where do you hide when the rain drops refuse to fall? Ned used to love things, the smell of fresh laundry, and the noise pencil made when touching a paper. When he was still a virgin he imagined that pencil falling on the paper would feel the same as making love to someone. That precise, erratic, unique and incoherent movement. Women moving to the rhythm of the city always marvelled him. How they perceived the world with their own pace, in their own time and space. People used to make him happy. Henry’s smile used to illuminate old rooms and peoples’ hearts. He cried over the memory of Henry. Suddenly he could feel him, he could touch his blond angelic hair and hear him chuckle. Ned’s cat Nietzsche announced herself by tucking on his sleeve. Ned picked her up, put her on his lap and stroked her beautiful blue fur. He was so far away from everything and he loved it immensely. Beseechingly he looked at the sky and hoped for not having to ever come back.
SPAIN, SUMMER 1989
The Sykes’ family was on the beach. It was a hot summer day with the warmest wind called ‘Levante’ in Andalucía’s summer town. Momma Sykes was lying on a colourful blanket- topless- embracing the heat and the sound of the sea so welcoming and irresistible that she couldn’t hear anything else anymore. Momma Sykes loved to be naked. She seduced any possibility to perform her favourite part. At home she would always wear see through clothes, silk and satin nightgowns were her favourite part of clothing. She never wore underwear. The touch of cold silk on her naked body was too irresistible to look decent. Constanza, her oldest daughter wasn’t particularly excited about it. She gave up on persuading her Momma to wear something appropriate years ago. There was nothing harder than put some common sense into Momma Sykes’ head. Henry, her youngest son was sitting next to her and staring somewhere to the infinite. Henry’s lips where moving and he was gently smiling at the strong waves loudly falling on the shore. Momma Sykes knew he was probably having a conversation with someone invisible to her eyes. Henry was talking and seeing things. He was an impossible dreamer and the kindness of the world. His imagination took him to the places where the tragedy was another kind of happiness. In the beginning Momma Sykes was jealous; she wanted to see what he saw when he was spaced out and looking so happy. Sometimes she would lie down with him, closing her eyes and somehow trying to connect with his thoughts but it never happened. She either gave up or fell asleep in his bed. Momma Sykes didn’t worry just yet about Henry’s future. The teachers were saying it will get difficult when he’s older that he never paid attention and seemed to talk to the space. She knew he was loved that there was an unconditional love for him from the whole family. They understood and thought it was cute and adorable how he came up with things. Once Henry brought a stone to his sister Lola and said it was from the moon and that if she put it underneath the pillow there would be a staircase full of flowers leading to the moon in the morning. How could you not love him for that? How could you not awe at his innocence and purity? The times when Momma Sykes got frustrated with him, when he forgot what he was supposed to do, when he just disappeared for a day not being able to remember where he had been, disappeared when Momma Sykes saw his dreamy eyes. She put a sun cream on his pale skin while he was catching the orange sky. Momma Sykes looked at her watch. It was almost a lunch time and she hadn’t prepared the tea. If it was up to her she would only feed her kids porridge and oat biscuits. But hey you ought to eat vegetables, proteins and vitamins Papa Sykes kept saying. Papa Sykes was in the house supposedly working on his fifth novel. He could also be just lying on the fresh cut grass with his eyes closed. Momma Sykes didn’t know if it helped to his creativity but she hated the look at the state of her grass destroyed underneath Papa Sykes heavy body. Constanza and Ned were loudly playing by the shore. They were jumping into the pesky waves intending not to fall in the water. Momma Sykes wished they would stay like that forever, so naive, amazingly amazed by everything and adorably fragile. Suddenly she felt like she couldn’t breathe. Like there was a huge lump in her heart getting bigger and burning her skin. Abruptly she turned around to look at Henry, with relief she found him where he was before. She took a deep breath and called Constanza and Ned out.
Papa Sykes’ heart was cracked from watching the news. He wiped his face drenched with tears. What happened to the world? Why do people want to fight? What was there to fight for anyways? Love was an inner battle and if they didn’t want to fight for love, what then? What was more important? Ned told him that they only starved for power and wanted to muster something they had lost. Sometimes Ned scared Papa Sykes. Ned was too much in the world; he tried to understand the reality and followed the facts. He loved arguing and winning which was something so distant to Poppa Sykes. He knew Ned needed him to understand why he wanted to be part of this world. Perhaps he needed it because everyone else in the family had created their own worlds. Ned didn’t understand why would you want to create something what was already there? He believed world was beautiful in its perverted way. Papa Sykes couldn’t stand that idea. He despised the world, its cruelty, vanity and sour taste for big dreams that couldn’t possibly make one happy. No one wanted to get naked and dance in the rain anymore. Once he saw Lola in the garden smelling flowers, spinning around happily in a splendid intoxication of the nature’s smell and he fell on his knees and thanked to the spirits for her giving him a little mystical experience. Sometimes he was in awe with his children especially with Lola and Henry, who were beyond the words, wild creatures who only listen to the Gods of love and sadness. And then there were the times like when he watched the news and thought he made a mistake to bring them to life. Papa Sykes already knew how difficult the life will get for them, to accept its rules and inexhaustible aloofness. Once he took Henry to the park where they found a nest full of little birds on the grass. The birds were dying and Papa Sykes didn’t know how to explain Henry that they’ll cease to exist soon. How do you explain that something what’s here won’t be in a little while? That a world could be unbearably ephemeral. Henry somehow understood and his dreamy eyes filled with tears. Papa Sykes cried too, he knew he shouldn’t have cried that he should have tried to calm Henry down and tell him something like it was ok and that it was a course of life, that every living being had his own time. But what was the point of telling him if Papa Sykes already knew that it wouldn’t make him feel any better? Words were so useless sometimes. After a while Henry decided to take the nest to the beach and throw it to the sea. He believed the baby birds will turn into sea animals. Maybe the water could balsam their sad souls when the air couldn’t. Papa Sykes decided to lie on the grass, looking at the infinite sky somehow helped him to feel better. He didn’t want his family to come back. He wanted to be left alone. He knew it was probably a wrong thing to wish for but they made him sad. They were still full of life and joy that his tired and lonely body couldn’t process. They made him nervous and wrong and somehow aloof. Papa Sykes was rarely present when they were around and it made him miserable because he felt how much they thought they needed him and that he should have been there for them. After all it was his decision once to have children and become a father. What did it mean to be a father? How could he tell them what to do, what to believe in and how to behave if he himself had no idea whatsoever? Papa Sykes closed his tired eyes and let the sun send warmness on his old skin. He started to dream about sunflower crops and the white sheets covering the world, the world that got very sad and old and didn’t want to see or breathe anymore. ‘Papa, papa we’re home!’ Henry cried and jumped on him. Papa Sykes looked at him and for few brief seconds he couldn’t remember who he was.
Constanza was setting the table up for the dinner. She was wearing a light white dress and had her hair in plaids. She was a stunning beauty even at age of twelve. Constanza couldn’t wait to grow older, to be even more beautiful and felt loved and admired by everyone. She already recognized the power she had. People couldn’t and didn’t want to look elsewhere when she was around. Constanza had an ability to make people moan and awe over her electric face and body. The older men felt uncomfortable in her presence because they found themselves staring at her blossoming breasts and full lips. Teenage boys had unbearable dreams about her long legs, curvy hips and bottom. Constanza knew it and enjoyed the audience, maybe too much, but she learnt how to not care. She had learnt to ignore her Momma’s strict voice not to look at the men like she could give them all the pleasures of the world. Constanza wanted to be free and make love all the time. She loved the tale about the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. She remembered the story with an obsessive precision. Never had there been such sensual beauty and impeccable taste, born of the sea foam. A goddess so beautiful and divine, flowers sprang upon her every footstep. Beauty meant too much for her. She imagined her beauty being immortal in a painting where she’d be surrounded with gold and flowers like the paintings of Gustave Klimt. She had never wanted to fall in love. She understood that love was too complex and it could mess things up. Constanza was the only mistress of her heart and never cared giving it away for smashing. As putting the plates thoroughly on the table she gazed at Papa Sykes sitting in front of the TV watching the news. He was silently crying. Constanza abruptly turned away and tried to resist crying too. Looking at her Papa so deeply sad about the world made her dizzy. Since she was a little girl she always tried to cheer him up but after years of endless effort she knew she couldn’t and doubted if anyone could. It made her feel angry with Momma because she just sat there and didn’t seem to pay attention when he cried, easily carrying on everyday conversation while his fragile face was filling up with tears. And if this was love, the most precious thing, something to die for, well Constanza couldn’t care less. She saw the love in their living room and kitchen table and chose lust and pleasure instead.
Ned never stopped being shocked by how different his parents were. He wasn’t sure if their entire and spotless strangeness drawn them together or if it was caused by a warm spring inexplicable encounter. He was lying in his bed rereading The Little Prince. Ned knew the book by heart yet the new hidden wisdom of the book surprised him each time he reread it. He didn’t have to imagine how Little Prince might have looked like, Ned had him at home. Henry was playing on his bedroom floor with the tissues. He was taking them out one by one and piling them up on the floor. Henry had one on his head. Ned just shook his head when looking at him and returned to his book. The pilot reminded him of his Paps. Suddenly so very broken by world’s destroying and tortured by the fact he couldn’t do a thing about it and even he could he wouldn’t know how to. Sometimes Poppa found it hard to stand up as if he was a baby only now learning the very first steps. Most of the time Ned felt an intensive and uncontrollable rage and umbrage towards Papa Sykes. He blamed him for not being there when he had so many questions and for not being able to lie and pretend that life was beautiful and that there was always love left. To look at him every time he collapsed on his armchair after any bad news made Ned wanting to beat him up. Constanza tried to explain him that he gave up on trying to find the hope. Constanza had all the understanding for broken hearts yet she never seemed to be affected by them. Ned was also angry with Momma Sykes for doing absolutely nothing. Momma Sykes didn’t notice there was anything wrong in the family. She loved talking to the taxi drivers and complete strangers about her cheerful and successful husband and their bright four children. Moreover she never forgot to add how rich they were and how many mansions they owned. They all knew she was making it up yet they never stopped her lies. They just sat there and listen to every single fairy tale she invented in a quiet amazement on what a big imagination she had. Her cheerfulness didn’t have borders and somehow she managed to turn every tragedy into something gorgeous.
‘Henry what are you doing down there?’ Ned asked him suddenly. Henry looked at him as if remembering who he was and when he did, he smiled at him with big beautiful eyes. ‘I’m building a pyramid.’
‘Well, I need to bury my friends like they did in Egypt.’
‘Sammy and Max and Lexie.’
‘Right.’ Ned let the conversation die and wondered if Henry will end up as Little Prince.