The letters (Scene 1)
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 02/02/2024Back to Blog
ZENOVIA: Finally! The little devils are asleep. Time for me to rest a bit too.
PETROS: Come, sit with me on the terrace. It’s cool tonight. I’ll bring us something to drink. Don’t tire yourself out further.
ZENOVIA: You’re right. It’s so beautiful here! Thank you for the orangeade. I’m very tired today. I had to chase after our little devils – who were causing havoc all over – and at the same time, clean the house. A very exhausting day!
PETROS: We need to find someone to help you. You’ve taken on too much lately.
ZENOVIA: That’s true, but at the same time, perhaps it would be better for me to find a job. Constantly dealing with the same things and the lack of creativity aren’t good for me. Don’t get me wrong, taking care of your children, your husband, and your home is nice, but there’s that part of a person’s soul that wants to produce and create.
PETROS: I understand, but after the depression you went through with the loss of your parents, we decided you needed some rest. But you’re right. It’s time to leave everything behind and become strong again.
ZENOVIA: Definitely. But today, I had a completely unexpected visitor, and I’d like to talk to you about it. It took me out of the daily routine and brought back unresolved questions from the past.
PETROS: What do you mean? Who came?
ZENOVIA: It’s not someone we know. It was a very unexpected meeting.
PETROS: Tell me. You’ve piqued my interest.
ZENOVIA: It was around 10 in the morning. I was in the living room dusting when I noticed someone walking on the sidewalk, outside our house, looking in this direction, hesitating, walking back and forth, looking again, and not daring to come in. It caught my curiosity, and I watched him from behind the curtain. He couldn’t see me, of course.
PETROS: Who was it finally? Did he knock on the door?
ZENOVIA: He was a man around seventy, tall, straight posture, with gray hair and a very dignified appearance. At some point, he gathered the courage and approached the entrance. He stood for a few seconds at the door, then rang the doorbell. For a moment, I thought about not opening – with all we hear every day – but his appearance was so dignified that I opened the small door window and asked him what he wanted.
PETROS: I hope you didn’t let him in!
ZENOVIA: Don’t jump to conclusions, Petros! We agreed; he seemed very dignified. He looked at me a bit strangely at first, and then he asked if Eurydice Ioannou still lived here. I told him that was my mother, and she passed away in a car accident about a year ago. His eyes filled with tears, and he held back from falling. I was scared when I saw him like that, so I opened the door and gave him a chair to sit. I brought him water and asked how he knew my mother. He told me his name was Orestis Demetriadis and that he knew my mother from school. A bell rang at that moment. The name reminded me of something. Suddenly, my mind started making connections, and I remembered. My mother had mentioned him several times. At that moment, I couldn’t remember why. Do you remember?
PETROS: Not at all! And how did he remember her so suddenly?
ZENOVIA: He told me that in 1974, after the war, he left Cyprus with his parents and settled in Melbourne, Australia. Since then, he had never returned to Cyprus, nor had he had any contact with anyone here. What we call “dropping off the face of the earth.” My mother was his teenage love, but he lost her address and could never contact her.
PETROS: Well, how did he find the house now after so many years since he didn’t know the address?
ZENOVIA: Oh, Petros! You’re so distrustful! He grew up here; this was his neighborhood. And as you well know, the house hasn’t changed much. We may have renovated it several times, but it remains the same.
PETROS: Okay, continue. I’m curious to see where this meeting will lead.
ZENOVIA: Well, to cut a long story short, he studied in Melbourne – he’s an architect, as he told me – married an Australian, had children, they studied, got married themselves, but recently, his wife passed away – I think from cancer – and suddenly, he felt the need to return to his roots. The first person he wanted to see was my mother. Of course, he had many reservations. He didn’t even know if he would remember, if she still lived here, and if he would be welcome, anyway. That’s why he didn’t dare to knock on the door.
PETROS: Well, why didn’t he return to Cyprus for so many years? Didn’t he have relatives? It’s strange to be away for almost half a century. Of course, Australia is far, but Cypriot immigrants come from there. I recently heard about a 97-year-old lady who came with her daughter and son-in-law for vacation in Cyprus! The place pulls them like a magnet.
ZENOVIA: I asked him the same. He told me that the ’74 war had left deep wounds, and he didn’t want to reopen them further. However, the death of his wife and the fact that his children had settled in other Australian cities for work made him think a lot. Now that time began counting backward for him, he felt it was time to face the past he had once left behind.
PETROS: I imagine he found everything different. Besides the construction boom that has transformed everything – not always for the better – there is also the detachment and forgetfulness of people about what happened back then. Especially the younger generations have no connection to the tragedy of that time.
ZENOVIA: I’m not sure if that’s what he gained. I think he didn’t have much contact with many people. He mostly walked along the Green Line, and there, you know, the degradation and impoverishment of the environment are the same if not much worse than back then. Almost half a century has passed! The whole situation brought him in touch with the pain he had inside. He didn’t see any progress, only “a thin veneer hiding the rotten reality. One moment, and it will break, and what will happen then?” He seemed very disappointed. Little did he know about the other rot in our land!
PETROS: Maybe he has a point. We got used to this situation. We had no choice at the time. We had to survive. And humans naturally seek joy and carefreeness. That’s natural, but perhaps it’s useful now and then to remember the prevailing situation in our land. But about his relationship with your mother, what did he tell you?
ZENOVIA: He didn’t tell me much, to be honest. It seems he didn’t have much to say. At that time, relationships for teenagers were more romantic. He went to the same school as my mother. He must have been a couple of years older. They lived in the same neighborhood and often walked to school together, talking. Back then, people walked, not like today, where we must drive children everywhere. They don’t even walk two hundred meters!
There was a fondness between them, and they exchanged photos. I didn’t understand they had anything more. He told me, though, that he had never felt greater communication with anyone than with my mother at that time. Despite disagreements on various issues, she understood him more than anyone else. Whenever he talked about my mother, he would cry. He said I resembled her, and when I opened the door, for a moment, he thought I was her. Then he realized I couldn’t be so young. When I told him how both my parents died in a car accident a year ago, we both cried.
PETROS: Fortunately, I wasn’t there to experience such a melodrama!
ZENOVIA: Mock all you want. Don’t forget you still have both your parents. I hope you never experience anything similar!
PETROS: I apologize; you’re right. I retract my statement. It just seemed to me that you fully identified with Mr. Orestis. Even though you only met him today!
ZENOVIA: Yes, it’s true that I felt a sense of familiarity with him, as if I had known him for years. The relationship he seemed to have with my mother touched me deeply. You know how much I loved my mother!
PETROS: Yes, I understand. It was an opportunity for you to connect with her through someone from the past. And where were the kids all this time?
ZENOVIA: Fortunately, they were watching a movie on TV and didn’t bother us. Otherwise, how could we have talked?
PETROS: True, I can’t recall your mother mentioning the name Orestis at all. When did this happen? And why?
ZENOVIA: It’s because you never paid attention to our conversations. Many times, she mentioned that name. Do you remember the letters?
PETROS: Letters? What letters?
ZENOVIA: I don’t believe you! Have you forgotten the story about the mysterious letters my mother received in 1980?
PETROS: Oh, yes, you’re talking about those letters that came from Turkey, six years after the war. I vaguely remember.
ZENOVIA: Of course, you must remember. My mother often spoke about them. It was a mystery in her life that she never solved. She couldn’t find any clues.
PETROS: How did this unexpected encounter end? Did you talk to him about the letters?
ZENOVIA: No, of course not! What would I say to the man? But I might talk to him.
PETROS: What do you mean? Are you going to see him again?
ZENOVIA: He asked me to tell him where my mother’s grave is so he can visit. I told him about the annual memorial service on Sunday and invited him to attend.
PETROS: Alright! We’ll have to explain to all the guests who Mr. Orestis is and what connection he had with your mother.
ZENOVIA: Don’t be negative! Aunt Monica will be there, and some cousins of my mother who might remember him. It’ll be good for him to see them. It seems he doesn’t know anyone in Cyprus. Besides, he’s a very polite and discreet man. He won’t cause any problems.
PETROS: You and your generosity! Anyway, you’ll have to explain to your father’s relatives who he is and what connection he had with your mother.
ZENOVIA: For God’s sake! He had no connection with my mother. Neither malicious nor innocent. He’s just a neighbor from the distant past. Besides, I want to ask him about the letters.
PETROS: I think you’ve made it clear that he couldn’t have had any connection with the letters. The man was in Australia! Your mother initially made wrong assumptions!
ZENOVIA: You’re absolutely right, but I want to ask him. I have a hunch, and besides, I owe it to my mother. Maybe something will be clarified. Who knows?
PETROS: Whatever you think. No one can argue with you! Let’s go to bed. It’s already late, and I have work tomorrow.
ZENOVIA: You’re right. I’ll put the dishes in the sink and wash them tomorrow. I feel very tired. The emotional strain I went through today has exhausted me!