A long hot summer.

THIS STORY IS A WORK IN PROGRESS….

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A long hot summer was coming to a close that late October. Already the first chilly winds were sweeping in from across the southern straits of the Mediterranean during the nights. It was, however, an uncharacteristically warm afternoon on that day that changed my life forever.

It all happened thus. I was pottering about on my little workshop on the roof, enjoying the menial tasks in the warm orange glow of the afternoon sun, now setting slowly into the sea, visible in the distance, when the front door-bell rang.

I recall being a bit grumpy about my silent reverie being broken by an unwanted visitor at that time of day. I had seriously considered not answering, but realized that it could be one of my brothers or my sister. The fact that I was single meant that I had a bevy of relatives coming and going at all times of the day. I can’t imagine why they all believed I was helpless around the house. It was a decision I had taken after a lot of soul-searching and one that suited me to a T.

I opened the door and was surprised at the vision in front of me. It was my close neighbour Tina.

“Hi!” she said “I was alone at home, relaxing on the roof, when I heard your machines. So, um, seeing that I had baked a cake and no-one to share it with, I came to see if you wanted a piece.”

“That’s real nice of you Tina…do come in. I think such a cake like that deserves a decent cup of tea to go along with it.”

She followed me inside. It was rare that I had the fortune of accepting visitors such as Tina. She was truly a beautiful woman. Raven-black hair framed large oval eyes and a look to drive men crazy. Funnily enough I had never considered her to be an object of my desires, mainly because, first of all,  she was a neighbour of mine, secondly, she kept herself to herself, and similarly, I was of the quiet type. I knew she had a child, a pleasant young boy of around six, but I was unsure whether she was married or not. It didn’t matter anyway, but it was a nice surprise.

As we waited for the kettle to boil, I showed her around my house, now unnecessarily large following my parents passing away. Tina delighted in how I had transformed the garden, which I had enlarged by tearing down the kitchen, and replacing it with a large patio, screened by a large canvas awning. On the table were the latest additions to my family, a pair of kittens, busily frolicking around, oblivious to anything else.

“Oh, they’re beautiful.” my guest exclaimed. ‘I simply adore cats.’

“Really? Well I am not much of a cat person, or at least I didn’t think I was until I found these on the doorstep about two weeks back. The poor things were so soaked that I had to take pity on them. Now they have grown on me and I’m reluctant to put them out on the streets again.”

“You know, if they are house-trained, they really won’t be a bother to you Chris. True, you have a lot of flowers and plants that must be taken care of, but if you provide a decent cat-litter and a scratching-post, you won’t have any trouble.”

With the whistling of the kettle boiling in the kitchen, she straightened up and we made our way inside. I asked her if she wanted to have tea in the garden, but she declined, asking instead if it would be possible to see the workshop where she often heard me work.

It wasn’t usual for me to allow visitors in what I considered my inner-sanctum, but then Tina wasn’t a usual visitor either. We made our way upstairs, continuing the house tour. We skipped the bedroom, because I thought it would be too embarrassing to let in a young woman into my room. Being a bachelor also meant that I was somewhat lacking in house chores that are usually handled much better by a woman. Needless to say, it was a disaster.

The workshop was on the roof, now a bright but warm orange with the glow of the setting sun, and such a cozy nook. Tina plopped down on one of the couches, her light blue dress clinging to her curvy form with every movement of her body. That was another thing I had not initially noticed. I had never seen Tina wear a dress, or a skirt. A little thing of no consequence, I shrugged to myself. However, while explaining to her the intricacies of model making, I could not help but be captivated by her feminine beauty. As she curled up on the sofa in that impossible gesture possible only to women, I felt myself opening up to her.

I had never been seriously attracted to another woman before, but I suddenly felt a sudden constriction on my chest, my heart hammering on my ribs. She was truly mesmerizing. I was afraid to talk, fearing I would break the magic moment with my gawky smattering of speech. Tina seemed oblivious to my change in manner, and continued her probing of my work…the different materials, metals, mounting…practically every little thing that she saw on the table. I was amazed at her perception, and was taken by surprise when she asked if she could come and visit me again.

There was only one outcome to the question, and I told her that I was at home mostly every evening except Fridays, when I usually went out on a lad’s night with my workmates, invariably to a bar. Early Sunday mornings were also usually reserved for my second passion, that of fishing.

“Oh God, I LOVE fishing.” She exclaimed. “I’d like to come sometime with you.”

“Really? I never knew women were that much interested in the sport.”

“Yes I know, but I used to go with my dear father practically every Sunday. My mother used to be very angry with us, since she considered Sundays were only created to give homage to God. I guess that is the only thing they used to quarrel over. I’m not too much of a church-goer either, never found the inclination.”

Truth be told, I hadn’t seen the inside of a church in ages. I didn’t care much for it and I told her so.

“I would really like you to come with me next Sunday, Tina. Always assuming it is possible for you.”

“Oh yes, I don’t have anywhere to go. I am usually all alone on Sundays. My son spends the weekend with his father. We are divorced you know.”

I didn’t know about it and I duly apologized to her.

“Listen, I don’t mean to cause any trouble. It’s just a friendly invitation if you are up to it.”

“You won’t be any trouble Chris. We split up even before little James was born. We grew to hate each other on sight. Now all that is left is the bitter memory of our fights. He’s currently planning on re-marrying…so no, there won’t be any problems.”

“Okay then. So how about we meet around half-five in the morning then?” I asked.

“Half-five it is. I warn you, I’m an early riser, so I will be here at exactly that time.” she smiled.

“Yeah, right! I’ll believe that when I see it.”

“Honest. I’ll ring the bell at the right time. What lure and tackle will I need?” she replied.

“No need to get anything, I have more than enough poles and stuff for five people. I usually take this fishing business very seriously I’ll have you know.” I warned her.

“No problem. That’s fine by me. So that’s ok for feeding the fishes, but what are we going to feed ourselves?”

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Usually I go and pick up some ‘pastizzi’ from the local bar. Not too healthy I admit, but it gets me through the day alright. Maybe you can rustle up something?”, I implored with a hopeful look.

“Sure, I do these heavenly tuna sandwiches that simply-“

“No, no, stop there. No tuna for me. Even hearing the words brings me out in a rash, let alone think about it. I can take anything except fish for food. Strange, true, but despite enjoying fishing, I can’t bring myself to eat the stuff.”

“Tell me you’re kidding Chris. Everybody loves tuna! Everybody.”

“No Tina, not me. I absolutely hate the damn stuff. I only eat mermaid, and usually only the top half.”

Tina chuckled at my obvious distress, and promised to provide a good portion of ham and cheese sandwiches, as well as two flasks of hot coffee.

She got up lithely from the couch in one swift movement, gracefully smoothing her dress down.

“See you in two days time then” she said.

“Sure…uh..actually you don’t need to see me in two days time. You can come anytime before that. You don’t have to be a stranger.”

I didn’t mean to sound as if I was pleading, but in my ears that is exactly how it sounded. I escorted her downstairs to the door, and we stopped like two gawky teenagers on a first date. This was anything but a date, although I was hoping it would be.

I was actually blushing as I opened the door for her. There I was, nearly thirty years old, and blushing like a simpering teen.

“So, see you around,” I finally croaked.

“See you then”, she waved as she slipped out of the door.

I closed it and leant against the cool wood, feeling my senses reel with the heady smell of her still in the air. She was so beautiful. So fresh. And so different. What was it about her?

That Friday at the pub my mates could tell that something wasn’t right with me. Uncharacteristically, I lost all my darts matches, something which was quite unusual.

“Hey Chris, what’s up, my man?” asked Mike, one of my best mates. “Hello…you here?”

I lowered my usual pint on the table and sighed.

“I don’t know Mike….or rather, I do, but I don’t want to make anything of it. At least not yet.”

“Ah.” He said knowingly. “It’s a woman then.”

I looked up at him in surprise. Mike could be surprisingly astute in such mysterious matters. Despite his bulk, he was a gentle and surprisingly graceful man, with a worldy gleam in his eye.

“How could you know? I swear you are part magician. But yes. It is about a woman. I think she is absolutely beautiful and there could be something in it, but I don’t know if I am imagining things.”

“So what’s the problem,” he probed gently, sitting down beside me, and offering me a cigarette.

I refused his offer and opened my heart to him. I found it easy to speak to him, what with our having been friends for practically all our life.

“Well it’s an interesting situation, but I actually think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. She’s probably just as lonely as you are and wanted someone to talk to.”

“Who said anything about my being lonely?” I answered in surprise.

“You don’t have to say it to be in that position my friend. Lately, I noticed that on our way home you always seem to be so withdrawn and quiet. I guess, although I could be wrong, that you dread going home.”

I sighed. Part of it was true, although I rather fancied what I thought to be my independence. Reflecting on it, I realized that a man was not meant to be alone.

“Maybe it’s true Mike” I sighed “Maybe it’s time I settled down.”

“True, but just don’t expect it to be this girl…what’s her name again? Tina was it? And she comes with baggage too.” He said, referring to her son.

“We’ll see what happens Mike. “ I grinned ruefully “but for the life of me I cannot imagine myself as a settled man. Besides, I’ve only really talked to her once. ”

“People live happily together without marrying you know. Maybe settling down isn’t on her mind either. Give it some time. You’re just nervous…that’s all. And anyway, what do I know about women?”

Mike was one to talk. He had known his wife practically forever and were virtually inseparable. It was only on Fridays that you wouldn’t see him with Jennifer. Contrary to him, she was as thin as a stick insect, but strangely, they complemented each other very well. They had produced four children with a minimum of fuss and their house was like a teens club. They shouldered their responsibilities with aplomb, dignity, and a good dose of humor. I always felt more than welcomed there. The world needed more couples like Mike and Jen. Could I do my bit to help humanity? Sincerely? I doubted it.

Usually Saturday was a day that l looked upon in relish. Probably the only day I had of real rest and basic lazing around. Not this Saturday though. This time it was the day before my meeting up with the gorgeous Tina. So it was with trembling hands and palpitating heart that I set out to check my fishing gear. Of course, it was quite needless since I usually kept everything in top condition.

As noon approached, I could find no more excuses. Everything was ship-shape. My stomach grumbled annoyingly, and so, being the week-end, I turned to my usual gourmet meal. Well, meal was stretching it a bit since Saturday meals consisted of microwaved rice eaten straight out of a bag. French-fries and maybe a burger if my inclination stretched that far.

After eating and topping up with a glass of coke, I looked at the clock in the kitchen and remembered that my football team had a two o’ clock match scheduled for that day, so it was with pleasure that I slid onto my comfortable recliner, sat back and turned on the TV. The kittens climbed onto my lap and purred away into sleep, stretching gently. The pre-match talk wasn’t even half-over before my eyelids drooped down and I dozed off, another ritual.

The phone woke me up two hours later. Not only had the match finished and the players showered, they had also probably hit the bar together.

“Yello” I answered, in my best Homer Simpson imitation voice.

“Yello? Who says yello when he gets the phone?” the voice said.

“Homer Simpson does. Uh. Who’s that?” I enquired.

“Tina, that’s who.”

My eyes and brain co-ordinated effortlessly into overdrive.

“How did you get my number? I can’t recall giving it to you… not that I’m unhappy mind you.” I asked.

“Ah…the power of the Internet. So, everything ok for tomorrow? I don’t want to come over just to keep waiting on the doorstep.”

“Have no fear…I will be wide awake and waiting. Everything’s fine. I got everything packed up. Just don’t forget the sandwiches. I’ll just wash, dress and go wait outside the door.”

“Well it seems you don’t have much to do. I was just about to go rent a DVD. Any suggestions?”

Suggestions? I had thousands of suggestions, but they all boiled down to the same conclusion.

“Come and watch that movie at my place.” I told her and she accepted gladly.

“What do you want to watch?” she asked.

“Anything will do for me. Yeah. I want to watch what you want to watch. How does that sound?” I replied with a grin.

“Sure, great for me. Ok, see you in twenty minutes. I’ll get some popcorn done. It’ll be casual right? Don’t feel like dressing up.”

“Yeah, anything will do. I got to put on something though. I’m only wearing boxers” I laughed.

I put down the phone and jumped into the shower for a quick wash. Not that I was dirty, or expecting to be close to Tina, but it felt good to be clean and smell half-way decent.

Five minutes later I was toweling myself dry and heading for the bedroom for a change of clothes. I happened to glance at the TV-room, and I was horrified to see that it was a mess.

The jumble of empty pizza boxes, take-away cartons and beer cans went into a bin-bag, while  the remotes for the various electronic stuff went into the top drawer of my desk.

I picked up all the clothes strewn on the furniture, rolled them into a bundle, and dragged them with me into the bedroom. Naturally I plonked them straight onto my bed.

Opening the wardrobe, I noticed that all my smartest t-shirts needed washing and only my customary rock shirts were left hanging. I resigned myself to a Led Zeppelin shirt, nothing too wild, and three-quarters shorts. I decided I would simply have to do the washing on the Monday after the fishing. Bah. It would be an early morning I realized.

Living alone had led me to this, I thought with a shake of my head. I either needed to start taking more care domestically, or else get a maid to do this stuff. I wasn’t too keen on somebody else washing up behind me, especially clothes. It was, frankly, a bit embarassing.

I opened up my Nivea after-shave balm, relishing the clean smooth texture of the liquid on my palms, before rubbing the lotion into my face. It felt great.  The Garnier gel was next to my razor, and I grabbed a gunk onto my hand and spread it on my hair, spiking it up in the process.

Wearing just a damp towel around my waist, I rushed into the bedroom, throwing the towel into a corner of the wardrobe before dressing. Dozy, the laziest kitten of the two, jumped after the offending cloth. Who knows what she thought it was.

I slipped my battered T-shirt on, thinking how good it was that certain clothes tended to mould themselves around your body. The three-quarters was a recent addition, a dark-blue adidas shorts I had only recently purchased, but already adapting well. These were clothes that I felt really comfortable in.

Running downstairs and into the kitchen, I made sure that the fridge had a good bottle of Chardonnay already chilled to the bone in the door. I closed the door and opened the freezer partition, pulling out a couple of pizzas and settling them near the microwave.

Compared to the bedroom, the kitchen was a vision from heaven. With that settled, I went back to the TV room. I guess no amount of time would get it back in shape, let alone twenty, actually now, ten minutes.

I fluffed the cushions on the sofa as much as possible. In reality they looked like dead dogs. Resisting the temptation to remove the carpet, I decided that this was what I was…and that was final.

But then I smiled to myself as I ran around to get a can of air-freshener, thinking what a good job it was that I remembered. I zipped into the bathroom to make sure that no extra hairs were clogging the shower or the sink. I need not have worried, since it was extremely clean.

Just as I was thinking that everything was finalised the phone rang. I looked at the name on the display. Mike. Of all days, it had to be today.  I considered not answering, but then decided against it.

“Yello!” I cried after I punched the green button.

“Yello yourself buddy. Listen, we , uh, that is, the wife, thought we would drop over for a cuppa if you are in today.”

“Listen Mikey, I know it’s gracious of you, but I’m having visitors today..it’s somebody you don’t know…and you know,” I stammered.

“Don’t tell me it’s that girl…is it? Allright. I knew it. Okay, we’ll make ourselves scarce. I understand that. I bet she’s hot!”

I grinned as I hung up. Mike was as subtle as a raging bull in a fine china shop. With enough finesse too!

DOING! That really was the bell. Like a teenager, I ran to the front door, throwing it open and startling her in the process. I tried not to look too eager, but I guess that wasn’t happening soon.

“God, you startled me!” she laughed shyly, holding her arm over her chest, red with embarassment and heaving with fright.

“Uh..sorry. Guess I did open the door bit too quickly. Uh. Do come in…the place is a bit of a mess today, so maybe you’ll excuse me.”

“Oh look, bless their little hearts. They recognized their aunty!”

Auntie? Ah well, I could never understand women and kittens. Lazy turned over and pawed at Tina while she was rubbing her tummy. I certainly could do with some of that, I thought.

To my embarassment, Tina looked up and saw my face, lost in my musings. “Penny for your thoughts?”

“What? Oh…ah…no. No. No thoughts whatsoever. Why do you ask?”

“Well for a moment there I thought you were thinking about something.”

“It’s been known to happen. I was just thinking how cute the kittens were…being tickled.”

“Is that really all?” she asked impishly.

“Miaow?” I asked, with a grin, as I closed the door behind her.

“That’s good. Miaow indeed. Oh my, it’s nice and cool here. Air-conditioning?”

I nodded, explaining that the house had retained a lot of warmth, making it uncomfortable.

“Must be hell on the bill.”

“True, but I’d rather be comfortable” I said

“Amen to that brother.”

I led her to the TV room, where I had my precious movie collection.

“Anything in particular you want to see or shall I choose one?” I asked Tina.

“Your choice is okay. Where do I put the popcorn? Already salted and really yummy.”

“Put them on the table opposite the sofa. I’ll get drinks in a moment.”

“Ok. Goodness, so many movies to choose from. I want to watch a happy movie, got a recent one?”

“Yeah” I replied “I got a great movie. Have you seen the Hangover?”

“I missed that at the cinema, I couldn’t go with my son could I? I’d love to see that. I heard it was a bit raunchy.”

“They exaggerated a bit, but yes, it’s a great movie.” I replied as I took the movie out of its protective case and slipped it into my spanking new blu-ray player.

I hunted around for the remote control, but could not find it anywhere. Finally it dawned on me. I had dumped the whole set of controls into a drawer. So. Three remotes. One for the DVD, one for the amplifier and another for the huge television.

“So what are you drinking? Wine? Or a soft-drink? I got a good Chardonnay chilling in the fridge.”

“Wine is fine..”

“But whisky’s quicker!” I interrupted with a smile.

“What are you on about? I didn’t quite get that.”

“Ah, not to worry, it’s a line to an old song by Ozzy, you know, ex Black Sabbath..err…rock..heavy metal.”

“Right…are you…uh…I mean, does your tree grow up to the top branch?” she laughed.

I smiled at her. I had a bad habit of linking phrases to songs from the world of rock. Not too bad a habit, but still strange to outsiders.

I picked two glasses and went into the kitchen to get the win, along with a bottled of cold mineral water.

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Katie.

It was my first day of work at these new offices and I promised myself that I would try to make it work out. Little did I know what a surprise I had in store.

Going up the stairs to my new office with one of the secretaries, I could see a young woman kneeling, picking up some paper that had slipped from the sheaf in her hand .

It was an amazing sight. Her slim body gave me a hint of swan-like gracefulness, jeans tight over her curved backside. I stared at her, not wanting to break what seemed like a magic spell.

‘Ah… Katie, here’s your new quality technician. His name’s Jake. I’m sure you’ll get along fine.’

And with that short intro I was left staring as the woman continued picking her work from the floor. I knelt down beside her to give her a hand. I got a first glimpse of her face and I swear I nearly died. She wasn’t what you would call beautiful, but her visage was like that of something I could not define. She had a narrow face, with a large mouth and a bony nose… But her eyes were these huge almonds, framed by dirty-blond hair.

Her face lit up in a sunny smile, ‘Welcome… I’m Katie. We’ll be sharing an office.’

‘Are you an angel?’ I blurted out before I could control myself.

‘Excuse me?’

‘Sorry, I thought you were someone I already knew. I’m Jake by the way.’ I said as I offered my hand.

Her touch was nice and soft, but she had a firm handshake, which boded well. I followed her to our office. It wasn’t big by any standard, barely enough to hold a couple of desks, but the views from the windows were something out of a dream. The countryside spread beneath us in glorious shades of green and gold.

‘Lovely isn’t it?’ the girl said in hushed tones. It was indeed a gorgeous sight, but what I really had in mind and looking at, was not the view but the girl herself.

‘Yeah. It’s…truly beautiful’, I replied, with embarrassment clearly etched on my face.

We really got on well together, and after some time began to get friendlier with one another. She was single, surprisingly, and not really looking for romance. We would see about that, I thought.

By the time the break had arrived I was itching for a cigarette, but all thought was swept away as Katie got up, turned her back to me and pulled her sweater over her head in one quick swoop.

Once she looked back I stared at her small chest, ensconced in a training bra. “Had a good look?” she asked with a smile.

“Uh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare. You just took me by surprise there. Are you feeling hot?”

“No you ninny, I’m off for a run during the hour break.” she replied.

“Oh that’s good. I might come and keep you company tomorrow.” I told her, reminding myself that i had not seen a track in 5 years, let alone run. She bid me goodbye and skipped nimbly out of the office.

She returned in forty minutes, all sweaty and flushed.

“I simply got to have a shower now. Back in five minutes . She was as good as her word and returned quite quickly .

“Would you mind if I come with you tomorrow?” I asked.

“No, not at all. It will be nice to have somebody to talk to.”

We left it at that since there was so much for me to learn. That evening I was looking for my old running shoes in the closet, remembering the feeling of being alive that only comes from a good run.

The next day I was all tingling with anticipation, and my beautiful colleague could see that my mind was not entirely on the work at hand.

Well, the time finally arrived and I was treated again to the really erotic sight of Katie pulling off her jumper, tight body moving sensuously. I pulled my sweater over my head, reveling in the brush of the cotton over my chest. As the garment slid over my head, I could see my new friend eyeing me out of the corner of her eyes.

Well, well, I thought, this might get interesting. We made our way outside and warmed up for a couple of minutes before starting on our run.

Needless to say I was soon panting in agony, my breath feeling like spouts of fire through my
throat.

Katie realized I was well out of shape and slowed down her pace, until I could get my second wind. Naturally this took more time than expected and I realized that the run wouldn’t be that long today. Between gasps however, I could really appreciate the country lanes we were passing through. Low walls and high hedges protected the green fields from intrusion. It was all so peaceful.

Katie pulled up to a tree, barely breaking into sweat.

“We’ll rest here a bit before heading back. Seems like you need it. ” she told me while using the tree trunk to stretch her muscles.

I could only nod my head in agreement. Hell, I could hardly speak. My throat was dry, and I was really thankful for the small bottle of water I had brought with me.

Within three minutes I was coherent again.

“Thanks for taking it easy on me”

“Hey, no problems buddy. As long as we are going to be in the same office, we might as well be friends.” she answered with a smile on her face.

Because it was her whole face that was smiling, not just her lips. That really melted me I can tell you. The days at work passed quickly enough in her company. And why not? She was a hard-working, pleasant and intelligent young woman. The fact that she was single was a point in my favour. I was also unattached, and despite not looking for romance, felt the first pangs of interest drawing us together.

From her side I think that she only started to get close a little to me after some weeks. She was friendly enough, with that little extra intimacy thrown in for good measure.

Pretty soon we were nigh on inseparable, enjoying our daily jog and improving our work quality immeasurably. This reflected in an increase in our wages, and we celebrated this occasion with our first sort of date together. It was not actually a date, but simply a run together in the evening.

We met at the start of the old promenade around seven. The night was warm enough for us to not bother with tracksuits but use the usual running attire. I forgot to breathe when I saw her. The hammering in my chest reminded me to take control of my senses. Katie was wearing light coloured cycling shorts and an orange training bra that screamed ‘look at me’.

Dammit I was falling hard for her. I greeted her with a hug, and noticed that she also gripped me firmly. After a few stretches and a short warming up routine, we got on our way. Following the first few weeks I had regained my fitness a bit and could keep up with her easily.

We settled into an easy jog, reserving our strength for the return trip.

We barely talked in the beginning until our breaths settled. Then once we got our second wind we started to talk in earnest. I found that she was the eldest of two sisters, the younger one called Tracy. Sadly i found that the reason she was single was that her husband-to-be had perished in an automobile accident.

“His car was swiped sideways by a drunken lorry driver. He lay in a coma for three weeks before passing away..” . Her voice broke at this point. “He died on Valentine’s day. The cruelest day one could hope to lose all one held sacred. All our love, dreams, and hopes…blown away by a drunk.”

I felt so sorry for her…but what could I possibly say to console her?

“I’m so sorry to hear this. I wish we never got into this conversation.”

She smiled sadly then, tears in her eyes as she continued running.

“It’s not your fault my friend. Don’t try to take the blame for something you never had a part in. And that is maybe why sometimes you may see me so distant or fragile. I want you to understand that…”

I stopped then, emotion welling in my heart. This lovely young woman had an aching need in her heart, ready to be filled up. Could I be the one to do the job? God knows I had slowly fallen in love with her. My heart told me not to be selfish though. She stopped as soon as she did not hear my pounding on the pavement. I could tell from the look on her face that she knew what i was thinking.

“Jake I can imagine what you are thinking, and the same thoughts are going through my head. Lately, thanks to your friendship, I have finally been able to sleep without medication. You have neither asked nor expected anything from me. You have not even flirted with me, like many men do. For that I am truly grateful, for it is an honest friendship. Let’s not rush things. We are both
enjoying life at the moment, let’s go slowly. Who knows what might happen…”

She was right, and I certainly could find no reason to doubt her. Somehow I just felt that we had more than a good chance of finally getting together.

“Kate, now that you have brought this up I feel that I must tell you something. I’m sure that I am falling in love with you. I was too scared to admit it to myself even, but every time we are together at work, time seems to go so fast. I feel so happy. But I respect your wishes. I will not bring this up again, I promise.”

She turned to me then. Her face awash with tears and sweat, and gave me a fierce hug. Our faces were close together and our lips brushed each other lightly. ‘This is it,’ I thought. Our first kiss. But it was not to be, as she pulled back.

“Thanks for understanding. It has been only just over a year since Mike died. I thought I would never get over his death, but you have brought me new hope. Time will tell. Come on, we still have five miles to run!”

With that, she let go of my arms and we turned to continue our run.

Il-mini ta Kemmuna.

1.Decizjoni li mmorru btala

Kienet decizjoni li konna ilna biex niehdu. Jien u l-mara konna qeghdin intellghu u nnizzlu jekk immorrux btala qasira f’xi lukanda, jew inkella nghaddux hmistax mistrieh fuq il-gzira sabiha t’Ghawdex. Fl-ahhar id-decizjoni kienet waqghet fuq Ghawdex, kemm ghax konna ndumu aktar, u kemm minhabba li z-ziju tal-mara offrilna l-uzu tad-dar antika kbira tieghu. Kiber wisq biex jaghmel uzu minnha u xi kultant kien jaghti permess lil-qrabatu biex juzawha.

Meta tarrafna l-ideja taghna lit-tfal, haduha daqs li kieku kella tkun l-avventura ta hajjithom. Konna sifirnihom sa l-Ingilterra, imma Ghawdex konna morna bil-kbira meta kienet ghada tarbija u biz-zghira ma rsaqniex l-hemm. 

Rita kienet ghada kemm taghlaq l-ghaxar snin…twila u rqieqa, kienet fula maqsuma ta omma meta kienet zghira. Kienet imferfxa w fuq ruha, ferrihijja u generuza. Anna, iz-zghira, kienet tixbah lil-missieri meta’ kien ghadu zghir huwa. Xi kultant niskanta meta nara ritratti ta missirijietna, u ninnota kemm jigbed id-demm.

U meta ftakart fir-ritratti, ftakart li meta konna ghadna zaghzagh jiena u l-mara konna nitilghu spiss in-naha ta fuq ta Malta, u mhux l-ewwel darba li nghaddu granet nimxu fuq il-gzira ta tlett gholjiet. Mort gibt sellum zghir li nzomm fil-bitha u tlajt fuq ir-raff biex ingib kaxxa taz-zraben mimlija ritratti u rikordji li konna nigbru min kullimkien.

It-tfal habtu ser jaqbzu fuqha l-kaxxa, imma gielthom iweghduni li l-ewwel ninhaslu, nieklu, u mbaghad noqghodu narawhom bil-kwiet. U hekk sar. Wara li kullhadd kien intela’ gmielu, irtirajna gol-kamra li konna nuzaw bhala kamra tar-rekreazzjoni. Ma kienet xejn specjali, kamra zghira ta 12 il-pied kwadrati, imma kellna sufan komdu, televizjoni, kif ukoll diversi kumditajiet ohra. 

Intfajna ma l-art fuq it-tapit hadrani u ftaht il-kaxxa. Gharrixt l-hawn u l-hinn sakemm sibt ir-ritratti t’Ghawdex…..u mill-ewwel beda d-dahk. Lit-tfal tajthom ritratt li kif tarah taqbdek kurzita. Ragel niexef b’ras mimlija xaghar sa spallejh kellu jdejh imdawrin ma tfajla rqieqa zokk, liebsa libsa orangjo tixghel u zarbun b’takkuna ma tispicca qatt. 

It-tfal tawh harsa ta malajr u warrbuh. Bqajt inhares lejhom cass…..’Mela ma rajtuhx ir-ritratt?’ staqsejthom.

‘Iva papa’, qaltli Rita,’imma ahna tieghek u tal-mama’ rridu naraw…lil dawn it-tnejn ma nafuhomx!’

Ma kenitx kelma.Jien u Lina nfqajna nidhku. It-tfal imsieken ma ttihomx tort hux? Wara li waqafna mid-dahk taghna, Lina spjegatilhom li dawk tar-ritratt konna proprja jien u hi…

Regghu qabdu r-ritratt, ezaminawh u harsu lejna. Pront qabzet iz-zghira u qaltli…’Dak zgur mhux int papa’. Daqs kemm ghandu xaghar, int m’ghandek xejn…’

Qabzet Rita u ziedet m’ohta ‘U kemm hu niexef … int qisek bumbardun!’

‘Le zommu wahda’, wegibthom jien. ‘Xaghar ma fadallix ghax eh…ghax inqaxxara……u jekk ghandi zaqqi naqra kbira, dak it-tort tal-mama taghkom ghax taf issajjar hafna. Jiena x’nahti jekk nigi mix-xoghol u nsib platt ghagin ifewwah? Narmieh jew? Ma tarawx…’

Ma dan il-kliem iktar dahqu bijja…’Tqaxxara biex ma tidhirx bil-qara’ imma papa’ hux?’..qaltli Anna. L-innocenza tat-tfal kienet helwa daqs iz-zokkor u taqta daqs xafra. 

Dawru harsithom lejn il-mara tal-libsa orangjo fir-ritratt, u mbaghad jippruvaw iqabbluha m’ommom tal-lum. Iz-zmien jghaddi, u ghalkemm Lina ma kenitx baqghet dik it-tfajla rqieqa ta hafna snin qabel, kienet baqghet zvelta u zzomm lilha nnifisa pulita. 

‘Kif kont ghazilt lil-papa’ daqs kemm kien ikrah?’ qaltilha Rita.

‘Vera mama’, inti xorta helwa bqajt.’ qabzet iz-zghira.

Ma dan il-kliem taparsi hadt ghalijja sakemm gew it-tnejn fuqhi u qaghdu jzeghlu bijja biex inkomplu…Bla ma naf kif, intlifna fuq dawn ir-ritratti u l-hin kien sar gmielu meta harest lejn l-arlogg. 

Qomna minn fejn konna, ghamilna bela’ te’, u tlajna norqdu fil kmamar taghna. 

2.Il-preparazzjonijiet.

L-ghada, li kien il-Hadd, sebhet gurnata ohra xemxija kif taf taghmel Malta biss. Lanqas lehqu qamu li ma gewx ihabbtulna l-bieb tal-kamra tas-sodda taghna. Wara li ghidnilhom biex jidhlu, intefghu b’girja fuq is-sodda u bdew isaqsuna elf mistoqsija…

‘Meta ha mmorru?’
‘Nibdew nippakkjaw?’
‘Il-kelb ha nehduh maghna?’
‘B’liema karozza sejrin?’

Meta nqum filghodu u nkun tajjeb, ukoll irrid xi kwarta biex nigi f’tieghi, ahseb u ara meta nkun irqadt tard. Ma bdejtx nikkoncentra fuq il-mistoqsijiet li bdew ifajru. Sikkitthom u heggigtom jinzlu biex jitfghu il-kittla fuq in-nar. Wara li nizlu , Lina harset lejja u qaltli, ‘Imnalla ser immorru din il-gimgha tafx…kieku konna sejrin xi xahar iehor kienu jiggennu.’

Qbilt maghha mija fil mija. Hrigt mis-sodda, qbadt xugaman u erhejt ghal-gol kamra tal-banju biex ninhasel. Sakem lestejt u nzilt isfel, insib li mhux talli ghallew kittla izda wkoll ippruvaw isajru bajda u naqra ‘bacon’.  Harist lejn il-platt li zerzqu lejja….il-bajda kienet sewda daqs ‘tyre’ ta karozza, u l-‘bacon’ kien mahruq dlam….Ghallinqas il-fazola tal-bott ma setghux jaghmlula hafna hsara. Irringrazzjajthom u sakemm bdejt taparsi niekol, innutajt li kellhom lista gmiela quddiemhom. Kienet lista ta affarijiet li kellhom ihejju sabiex niehdu maghna. Anke l-kelb kien spicca fil-lista.

Bqajt inhares lejha skantat. Kieku kellna nitfghu dawk l-affarijiet kollha ma kienux jibbastawna zewg karozzi. Sahansitra nizzlu it-televizjoni z-zghir tal-kamra taghhom. Ippruvajt kemm stajt biex nipperswadihom ihalluh hawn halli jistriehu ftit minnu, imma stajt kont qed inkellem il-hadid. Fl-ahhar fehmuni li rieduh minhabba li wara nofsinhar fil-qilla tax-xemx Maltija, ma tantx kien jaqbel li nibqghu barra wisq, u go dar mhux tas-soltu ried ikollom xi haga x’jaghmlu. Jien issuggerejt li jgibu xi zewg kotba maghhom, imma min widna dahlet, u mill-ohra harget.

Bil-mod il mod il-lista bdejna nqacctu minna affarijiet li mhux essenzjali. Imnalla konna ser nitilghu bil-vann li kont nuza ghax-xoghol. Niddubita kemm kienu joqghodu fil-karozza zghira li kellna.

Jiena ma kellix wisq affarijiet ghal xiex nahseb. Ghal hwejjeg ftit kont naghti kaz, erba’ flokkijiet tac-cingi, tlett pari ‘shorts’, kif ukoll qmis ghal quddies. Tfajt il-‘camera’ tar-ritratti, bicca radju, u xi zewg kotba li kont ilni nippjana li ser naqra. Fil-bagalja zghira li kelli tfajt fiha wkoll affarijiet essenzjali bhal sapun, xafra tal-lehja u zewg xugamani. Bi tbissima ftakart li ma kellix ghalfejn niehu ‘shampoo’ mieghi. Vera li xaghari kienet bdiet taqa’, izda il-fatt li meta’ nqum ma noqghodx tinkwieta ghax qomt qisni rizza sibta vera komda.  Il-hsibijiet tieghi marru lura fi zmien meta xaghari kien jinzel sa fuq spallejja. Ftakart kemm kien ikolli xoghol biex niehu hsiebu. Imma dak iz-zmien hekk kienet il-moda. Illum kullhadd bil-magni, biex jiffranka u biex ihossu komdu.

Sadanittant, kif jigri lit-tfal kollha, wara l-eccitament inizjali, bdew iharsu lejn l-ippreparamenti bhala ostaklu. M’ghandniex xi nghidu, spicca biex ix-xoghol sar kollu min ommom. 

Il-Hadd is-soltu tkun gurnata li jiena nehoda bhal mistrieh assolut. Biex immiss il-karozza riedet tkun xi haga ta barra min hawn. Izda meta konna mmorru dawra twila kienet id-drawwa tieghi li ndur naqra mal-vettura w nara li kollox f’postu. B’hekk spiccajt hlejt in-nofs ta nhar ta filghodu nibdel iz-zejt, innaddaf l’hawn u l’hinn. Ftit hin wara li lestejt mix-xoghol, ghajtuli biex inhejji ghall-ikel.

Ergajt mort niffriska ftit qabel inhejji ruhhi ghal xeba’ mistoqsijiet li naf li kien ser ikolli nirrispondi fuq Ghawdex u l-postijiet storici tieghu…

Fl-ahhar wasal il-lejl, u bil-van ippakkjat sas-saqaf, kellna kollox ippreparat biex nitilqu kmieni kemm jista jkun. Dhalna norqdu dik in-naqra qabel is-soltu biex inbakkru halli nilhqu l-vapur tas-sitta ta’ filghodu. Issa l-eccitament beda jahkimhom sew lit-tfal u mhux darba qomt mis-sodda biex insikkithom u nwissihom li jekk ma jqumux fil-hin, konna mmorru jien u ommom, u lilhom inhalluhom gimgha man-nanna Rozina.

3.Il-vjagg

Mad-daqq sfrenat ta l-isveljarin antik qomt b’hasda u nzilt nigri mis-sodda qisni mifxul. Harist il-barra mit-tieq u minhabba li kien ghadu d-dlam hsibt li ghamluli cajta t-tfal u babsuli l-‘alarm’. Minnufih ftakart izda li kellna nahsbu kmieni ghall-vapur. Bi tbatijja kbira qajjimt il-mara, li mid-dehra kienet qeghda tisserra bicca njama sew bl-inhir taghha. Ghorokt tnejn ghajnejja u mort biex inqajjem lit-tfal. B’sorpriza nsib li kienu diga qamu, libsu u ghamlu s-sodda taghhom!

‘Intom l-istess tfal li ma tkunu tridu tqumu bl-ebda mod fi zmien l-iskola?’, staqsejthom bi tbissima…..

‘Eh papa’, wegbitni Rita, ‘illum m’ghandikx cans thallina ghand in-nanna. Tridx ninzel insajjar xi haga tal-kolazzjoni?’

F’mohhi gie mill-ewwel dak l-ikel li kienet ghamlitli l-gurnata ta’ qabel….’Le..Le…’laqlatilha….’jiena naqra te’ biss ser niehu ghax idejjaqni l-ikel meta nkun irrid insuq…araw il-mama’ ghandix aptit xi haga……’, u b’dan il-kliem inzilt nigri biex nixghel il-kittla.

Kwarta wara konna lesti. Dorna dawra biex nitfu l-plakek u naghlqu l-viti ta l-ilma kif ukoll tal-gass. Wara li assigurajna ruhhna li l-akkwarju kien ghad ghandu l-pompa mixghula, inzilna fil-garaxx u tlaqna bil-mod lejn il-vapur. Minn Hal-Tarxien ghal hdejn il-vapur kien hemm gibda gmiela u kif inzilna minn mad-dawra tal-Bombi u rajt il-vapur ankrat f’tal-Pieta’, gietni l-ideja li nitilqu minn hemm biex ingawdu dawra fuq vapur gdid f’ghodwa friska. Ovvjament lill-kullhadd ghogbot l-ideja u gbidt lejn il-lemin biex nirkbu.

Tlajna minghajr problema, hrigna w’sakkarna l-vann u tlaqna ghad-‘deck’ ta fuq. Sibna bank vojt fuq quddiem u ntfajna kobba nistennew li nsalpaw. 

Ma domniex wisq ghax mat-tokki ta l-arlogg tal-knisja ta Gwardamanga, il-magni ziedu fit-tgemgim taghhom u bdejna niccaqalqu. Dak il-hin tas-sitta ta filghodu il-bahar kien qisu mera’ jirrifletti x-xemx tiela. Mumenti bhal dawn igibuk iktar konxju tal-kobor tal-hallieq. Qaghdna ftit fil-kwiet napprezzaw il-gmiel tal-kosta taghna.

Is-siegha u nofs vjagg ghadda bil-kwiet, u hekk kif beda jrakkak mal-blat fl-Imgarr, inzilt wahdi ghal gol-garaxx tal-vapur biex insuq minn fuqu. Bhal ma stennejt kien hemm kju gmielu, u sakemm inzilt , kienu diga nizlu l-mara u t-tfal. Telghu u rhejnila lejn id-dar taz-ziju, fir-Rabat. Bid-distanzi kif inhum f’pajjizna , ma domniex biex wasalna….iktar domt biex naqla l-haxix minn mal-grada biex inkunu nistghu nidhlu. Fl-ahhar sbarazzajna u dahhalna l-vann gol-garaxx. Bejn li qomna kmieni, u bejn li l-vjagg kien naqra twil, iddecidejna li niehdu naghsa qasira, qabel inqumu niehdu bicca hobz, biex wara nhottu l-vann u nippjanaw kif ser inqassmu l-vakanza. L-unika haga li tat naqra nkwiet lit-tfal kienet brimba kbira mdendla ma kantuniera tal-kamra taghhom, imma serrahtilhom mohhom li ma kenitx ser tigi fuqhom…

Dak il-wara nofsinhar hadna vantagg minnu biex nahslu naqra l-kmamar li konna ser nuzaw, kif ukoll biex nerfghu l-affarijiet li gibna maghna f’posthom. Lestejna ghal xis-sitta ta’ filghaxija, u flok inhsilna qbadna xugaman kull wiehed u nzilna sa Marsalforn biex niehdu ghuma pjacevoli. Il-bahar kien shun u x-xatt kwazi abbandunat dak il-hin. Jekk fuq l-art it-tfal kienu jduru zugraga mieghi, fl-ilma ma kellhomx cans jiilhquni.

Ghaddejna l-isbah saghtejn fuq il-bajja. Meta beda jidlam tlajna d-dar , inhsilna  u ergajba hrigna biex immorru nieklu pizza kif kien jaf jaghmila Ganni tal-Gharb biss.

4.Il-Fanal tal-Gordan

Konna ilna jumejn diga qabel bdejna naghmluha ta turisti. Peress li fis-sena skolastika kellha progett fuq Ghawdex, Rita kienet talbitna li mmorru naraw il-Fanal tal-Gordan. L-gholja tal-Gordan, li tinsab imperrca fil-Majjistral tal-gzira, hija 162 metru ‘l fuq mill-bahar u tinsab bejn Wied il-Mielah u Wied l-Ghasri. Kien beda’ jinbena sewwa sew fil-bidu ta’ Gunju tal-1852, wara li l-gvernaturi ta dak iz-zmien kienu raw li tant kiber il-kummerc lejn dawn il-gzejjer li kien inhass il-bzonn li jsir xi haga biex jipprotegi l-vapuri. Il-bini nnifsu gholi xi ghoxrin metru, b’ghaxar filati ohra ghall-fanal. Fil-bidu l-pjan kien li jibnu fanal maqsum f’sitt sulari, li kienu jinkludu salott, zewg kmamar tas-sodda, kamra ta’ l-ghassa u l-lanterna. Meta dan il-pjan intbaghat Londra, il-progett gie approvat izda kellu jsir minghajr kmamar biex jigu ffrankati il-flus. B’hekk it-torri kellu jinqasam biss f’zewg sulari. Matul dan l-ahhar mija w’hamsin sena salva bosta vapuri u nies bid-dawl qawwi tieghu. Illum bl-avvent ta teknologijji moderni, naqas il-bzonn tieghu, izda l-fanal ghadu wieqaf bhala monument storiju lejn ix-xoghol siewi tieghu.

L-Erbgha, kienet Anna li qamet l-ewwel. Qajmet lil-kbira, u wara li libsu gew ipespsu wara l-bieb tal-kamra taghna. Ghajjatnilhom biex jidhlu, u grew ghal fuq is-sodda.

‘Ghadkom reqdin ma’?’, qaltila Anna, ‘uff kemm torqdu intom.’

Bi tbatija harist lejn l-arlogg li kelli hdejja. ‘X’norqdu norqdu…..tafu li ghadhom is-sitta w’nofs?’

‘Veru kmieni papa’, imma ma rridux nitilfu hafna mill-vakanza.’ Din giet minghand Rita, li normalment meta jkun is-Sibt jew il-Hadd ma titharrikx mis-sodda qabel ix-xemx tkun ezatt fuq rasna u dellna taht saqajna!

‘Kollox sew, issa nohorgu naqra kmieni biex nevitaw ftit mix-xemx…..issa la qajjimtuna, nippreparaw.’ Ghamilta ta bir-ruhhi li kont irrabjat, imma t-tfal makakki w’jindunaw meta tkun qed tippretendi.

Lina, bhas-soltu, kienet hasbet mil-lejl ta qabel biex tlesti l-affarijiet biex niehdu maghna. Lestew basket ikel u nofs tuzzana fliexken ilma kiesah, kif ukoll basket iehor ippakkjat bil-frott. Fil-vann tfajna wkoll mejda milli jinghalqu. Ghabbejt erba banketti zaghar, u ovvjament, xugamani.

Tlaqna bil-moghod, u billi ma kienx hemm xi ghaggla partikolari, ghaddejna minn quddiem ta’ Pinu…u min ma jmurx Ghawdex u ma jinzilx sa ta’ Pinu? B’xorti tajba konna fil-hin biex nisimghu l-quddiesa ta filghodu. Tfajt qmis fuqhi u ersaqna lejn it-tarag biex nidhlu….
Imma x’nidhlu… jiena kont liebes ‘shorts’ u zewg ajjutanti barra l-bieb ma hallewni nidhol b’xejn.

‘Jiddispjacina sinjur..imma b’dak il qalziet qasir daqshekk ma nistawx nippermettulek tidhol fis-santwarju.’

Ma nafx x’kienet il-problema. Il-qalziet li kelli kien wiehed dicenti u jinzel jaghttili rkubbtejja. Il-mara u t-tfal kellhom qliezet zgur iqsar minn tieghi. Ghal-xejn protestajt. Fl-ahhar tawni bicca drapp biex indawwara ma qaddi. Tghidx kemm dahku bijja l-mara u t-tfal. Kont qisni ghadni gej mill-Indja. Rita, ta makakka li hi harget il-‘camera’ tar-ritratti u gibditli tnejn tajbin. Kella x’tinkini bihom dawk ir-ritratti.

Wara l-quddies tlajna fil-van u qbadna t-trieq ghal Wied il-Ghasri. It-toroq f’Ghawdex huma hafna iktar lixxi min dawk Maltin u fi ftit minuti wasalna fid-destinazzjoni taghna. Ipparkjajt il-van mal-genb tat-trieq u htigt….u nsib ruhhi wahdi. Harest lejn it-tfal u l-mara u ndunajt li bl-ebda mod ma kienu f’burdata jitilghu dik it-telgha verament wieqfa. Ghollejt tnejn spallejja u ergajt dhalt fil-vettura ha nitilghu it-trejqa. 

‘Din it-trejqa vera perikoluza..’ , ppruvajt nispjegalhom, ‘Allahares nersqu hafna fil-genb ghax naqghu…’

‘Ahna nafdawk papa’ tafx..’ qaltli Rita, ‘u barra min hekk, shana wisq biex nitilghu sa fuq. Ahjar bil-karozza.’

Tfajt il-van f’gear baxx u tlajna bil-mod il-mod sa fuq. Fortunatament, ghalkemm wieqfa hafna, it-trieq kienet wahda qasira.

Jekk mil-boghod il-fanal kien jidher kbir, issa li konna tahtu kien addirittura enormi. Is-sulari ta zmien l-antik ma kienux bhal tal-lum. Anke l-bieb kien wiesgha hafna. Ma stajtx nahseb f’raguni valida sakhemm irrejalizzajt li l-lenti nnifisha kienet kbira gmiela, u mill-bieb biss setghet tiddahhal. Fis-sajf il-bieb ta barra kien jigi miftuh minn haddiem tal-bord tat-turismu. Dhalna fid-dlam tal-kamra u wara li qaghdu ghajnejna qadna nistudjaw ftit dan il-bini majjestuz. Il-hitan ta barra kienu hoxnin hafna, qishom kuridur dejjaq. Spjegajt lit-tifla li peress li kien mikxuf hafna, dan il-bini ried ikun b’sahhtu bizzejjed biex jirrezisti l-qilla tax-xemx, xita u maltempati. Wara kollox, kullhadd jaf kemm ikollna rjiehat qawwijja Malta. Fin-nofs tas-saqaf kien hemm toqba wiesgha. Imxejna ghal tahta u harisna l-fuq. 

Fl-gholi kien jidher il-gardarun fejn kien jintefgha z-zejt li kien jigi mixghul b’lasta taqbad. Kien hemm gholi mhux hazin , u d-dawra ta’ gewwa tat-torri kienet protetta b’railing’ tal-hadid.

Rita daret ftit ma l-armar li kien hemm mal-hitan. Sodda tal-hadid zgangata, skrivanija antika, kif ukoll gwardarobba li kienet enormi. It-tifla hadet ftit ritratti biex tkun tista ssebbah il-progett li kellha l-iskola. Riedet titla fuq u taghti titwila lejn il-lenti nnifisha, imma t-tarag kien maghluq b’kancell tal-hadid. Kellu katnazz daqs hobza tan-nofs artal. Harset lejja qisha riedet tghidli ‘hemm xi cans li nifthuh?’.

Wissejta biex iggib ruhha sew. La kien maghluq, sinjal li ma kellniex permess nitilghu fuq. Jien ukoll kont dizappuntat li ma stajniex nitilghu. Nimmagina biss nista x’veduta kien hemm.

Iz-zghira sadanittant kienet intefghet bilqieghda fuq tapit li kien hemm ma l-art. Hekk kif iccaqilqet biex tpoggi dahra mal-hajt, it-tapit iccaqlaq ftit, u minn tahtu tfacca ghatu tal-injam. Rita taret ghal fuq it-tapit u flimkien ma Anna kaxkru t-tapit li kien tqil gmielu ghal mal-genb.

Ghall-kuntrajru tal-kancell, l-ghatu kien minghajr katnazz! Harisna lejn xulxin u qisna bla ma qadna nahsbuha, dahhalna idejna mal gnub ta l-ghatu u ghollejna. Minnufih harget riha ta arja friska u maghluqa. Il-bokka tfaccat kbira u mudlama. Sellum imwahhal mal-hajt kien l-uniku mezz ghal-isfel….

5.Kantina mirduma

‘Ejjew ninzlu naraw x’hemm’ qabzet Rita. Halli ghalija biex tizzattat…. 

‘Iva mama’, lissnet Anna , li soltu kienet tibza mid-dlam.

Hrigt nghaggel sal-vann u gibt il-lampa tal-gass li kellna fil-kaxxa tal ‘picnic’. Kif xghelta il-bokka hadet ir-ruh, u l-blat umduz li kien maqtugh minnha l-passagg beda jiddi u jirrifletti d-dawl tal-lampa. Mohhi beda jigri , jipprova jaghti raguni ghal dak il-passag. Tghid kienet hemm biex tipprotegi lill-haddiema waqt il-gwerra? 

Minghajr hafna hsieb iktar , bdejt niezel is-sellum li jaghti l-isfel. Ma kienx xi sellum twil , imma stajt nara li l-passag kompla niezel l-isfel qabel jerga jiftah iktar fil-wisgha. Sakemm kont meghdi fi hsibijieti indunajt li lehaq nizel kullhadd. Harist lejn il-familja tieghi bi tbissima. Din tassew kienet avventura mhux mistennijja. 

‘X’naghmlu?’ staqsejthom…’inkomplu mezjin jew?’

Harsu lejjha bhalli kieku kont bahnan. Mur waqqafhom. 

Imxejna l-gewwa. Il-passagg kien forsi twil xi sittin, sebghin pied. Kien gholi bizzejjed li jippermettilna nimxu minghajr ma nitghawwgu, ghalkemm kien dejjaq u stajna nimxu biss f’fil wiehed. 

It-tmiem tal-passag kien maqtugh b’targa zghira baxxa, li wasslitna f’kamra mdaqqsa imnaqqxa min gol-blat haj. Kif kont bsart, kien tip ta ‘shelter’ ghal zminijet ta gwerra. Minhabba li fanal kien dejjem jitfa’ d-dawl tieghu il-boghod hafna, setgha kien ta ghajb ghall-ghadu. B’hekk kien ikun ta mira spiss mill-ajruplani Germanizi u specjalment dawk Taljani waqt it-Tieni gwerra dinjijja. Li qatt ma ggarraf hu misteru ghalijja.

Harisna dawra mal-kamra , ima ma mpressjonana xejn. Kienet kamra semplici b’mejda goffa u nofs tuzzana siggijiet maghmulin miz-zkuk tas-sigar. Kien hemm xkaffa li kella diversi tipi ta ghodda ta l-ikel u manutenzjoni. Ma l-art kien hemm qisu senduq, li apparti li kien mimli lampi, nahseb kien iservi wkoll ta bank. Kien hemm xi drappijiet mal-hajt li kienu jservu ta l-uniku dekor. Kamra kbira maqtugha fil-blat. Wara l-eccitament inizjali, hrigna naqra dizappuntati. Ma stennejniex li ‘l-avventura’ taghna kellha tispicca daqshek malajr.

Pero’ l-avventura ma kenitx spiccat hemm….ghaliex pront nisimghu l-ilhna ta zewgt irgiel jargumentaw bejniethom min-naha tas-sellum.

‘Dan kif hallejt l-ghatu miftuh?’ , wiehed kien qed jaghajjat ma siehbu.
‘U hallina minnek’, irrispondieh, ‘ma tarax li hallejt l-ghatu miftuh? Jien xejn ma ninsa. Kontx fis-sakra u hallejtu int?’

‘L-ahhar konsenja mhux jien gbarta orrajt? Zgur ma stajtx hallejtu jien miftuh.’ qallu b’sahna l-iehor.

Ta bhahan li ahna lanqas biss ftahna halqna, minhabba li hsibna li kienu mid-dipartiment tat-Turisti. Hekk kien jonqosna, naqilghu xi multa talli dhalna fejn mhux suppost.

Qalbi ghal ftit ma waqfitx meta smajna hoss kbir qishu spluzjoni jidwi mal-kamra. Ghal mument ma stajtx nifhem x’kien, imma mbaghad indunajt li kien l-ghatu jinghalaq b’rabja. Smajna t-tapit jitkaxkar ghal fuq l-ghatu. Biex tghaxxqilna kollox smajnihom imexxu l-gwardarobba ghal fuq it-tapit! 

Lanqas biss dahalli f’mohhi dak il-hin biex nghajjat! Veru konna nigu fl-inkwiet, imma ma konniex ninqabdu hemm isfel.

Grejna mil-kamra tas-shelter ghal go kuridur u ghal taht is-sellum, imma kull ma stajt nisma kienet il hoss ta karozza ssuq b’heffa.U hekk gara li spiccajna wahedna go kantina taht l-art, bl-uniku dawl ikun gej minn lampa tal-gas tnemnem! 

Wicc it-tfal kien bjad bil-biza, u tal-mara kien wiehed ta qatgha. Iz-zghira kienet ser taqbad tibki, imma mill-ewwel ghidtilhom li fis-sajf il-Fanal ikun miftugh ghat-turisti, u zgur li kien jitfacca xi hadd. Sfortunatament kull ma kellna maghna kienu l-basktijiet tat-tfal u flixkun ilma kbir. Imnalla l-mara kienet tiehu hsieb titfaghlom bicca hobz ghal meta’ jifjakkaw.

Li kont qed ninkwieta kien il-fatt li ma kontx naf jekk hux ser ikun hemm xi turisti li jzuru l-Fanal dakinhar. Allura ddecidejt li nintefa’ taht l-ghatu, biswit is-sellum. It-tfal kaxkru wiehed mis-siggijiet tqal biex ikolli fejn nistrieh.

Wara xi erba’ sieghat li ma tfacca hadd, bdejna ninkwetaw mhux hazin. It-tama li jigi xi hadd dakinhar bdiet tispicca. Sadanittant it-tfal bdew jaghmlu loghba mis-sitwazzjoni li konna fiha, u Anna marret biex tistahba lill-ohta wara wahda mid-drappijiet imdendla mal-hajt.

‘Ara papa!’, giet tghajjat hdejja. Kella lehina irqieq u hasditni ghax kont qed noghnos fuq is-siggu….’Ejjew araw x’sibt wara l-purtiera!’

Qomt nigri u mort warajha. Wara l-purtiera tan-nofs kien hemm bieb. Kien maghmul mill0injam tal-abjad, u mill-ewwel indunajt li ma kienx ilu wisq li sar. L-injam fl-gheluq mill-ewwel jibda jiswied, imma dan kien qisu ghadu kemm jinqata’. Kellu zewg cappetti kbar fuq ix-xellug u katnazz fuq in-naha l-ohra.

Qtajniha li la konna hemm isfel, stajna naraw sa fejn iwassal. ‘Kif ser nifthuh papa’?’, qaltli Anna.

Ma dan il kliem mort sa fejn kien hemm li xkafef bl-ghodda, ghazilt erba’ turnaviti sodi u ergajt mort hdejn il-bieb.

‘Tuni naqra spazju ha nkun nista nara…’ ghidtilhom.

Lina zammet it-tfal hdejha u zammet il-lampa tal-gass fl-gholi biex inkun nista nezamina l-bieb sewwa. Il-katnazz ma kienx possibli li jinqata ghaz kien wiejed mill moderni nett, imma min ghamel il-bieb qatt ma basar li ser ikun hemm xi hadd lest jaghmel minn kollox. Il-viti li kienu jorbtu c-cappetti mal-hajt kienu mikxufin. Harist wahda lejhom, ghazilt turnavit imdaqqas, u bdejt indawwar. Fi ftit minuti kont hallejthom u l-bieb kwazi waqgha minhabba li issa kien imdendel biss mil-katnazz. B’rabja tajtu daqqa ta sieq, u issa kien infetah kollu. Skantajna mhux ftit meta mas-saqaf kienu jidhru sensiela ta bozoz. ‘Switch’ abjad kien imwahhal fuq bicca njama mal-hajt. Lina harset lejja qisa trid tghidli ‘min jaf jekk jixeghlux.’

Zammejt in-nifs hekk kif ghafast il-buttuna tas-‘switch’. Il-bozoz xeghlu, dijja qawwija li dawwlet mina dejqa niezla l-isfel. Tfjejna l-lampa tal-gass li kellna u bdejna mexjin. Nahseb ghamilna xi siegha mexjin, u kwazi konna qtajna qalbna li ser naslu x’imkien.

It-tfal kienu diga qed jitolbuni biex induru lura, imma fakkarthom li issa telgha kellna nitilghu, u li ma kelli l-ebda hsieb li nerfaghhom jekk jghejjew. Gergru ftit imma raw li kelli ragun. Komplejna nezlin, u hekk kif hassejna moviment ta arja hadna r-ruh. Ghall-ewwel hsibna li konna ser insibu ruhna barra, imma ma kienx hekk. 

Bqajna b’halqna miftuh hekk kif insibu li konna hrigna go ghar kbir. Kien verament sabih, bi stalaktiti kbar nezlin mis-saqaf, ileqqu bl-umdita. Il-kuluri tal-hajt setgha jaghti x’jifhem li dan l-ghar kien ilu jezisti eluf kbar ta snin.

Li kien hemm stramb go l-ghar pero’ kienu il-hafna kaxxi ta l-injam li kienu jiehdu bicca mhux hazin mill-art. Ir-riha li kien hemm fl-ghar kienet wahda kwazi oppressiva. Hsibt li kienet ir-riha ta gheluq u l-hmieg li jhallu warajhom il friefet il-lejl, imma l-art kienet nadifa.

F’daqqa wahda nisimghu ghajta, u tghidx kif qbizna u kolla kemm ahna grejna lejn il-passagg u gbidna l-gradilja warajna. Qaghdna nistennew biex naraw kienx hemm xi haga gol-ghar, imma wara li ma tfacca xejn hadna naqra r-ruh. Ghamilt il-kuragg u hrigt nara x’kien ghamel dak li storbju.

It-tfal wara l-hasdu li kien hadu, hargu wkoll u kienet Anna li ghajtitli ghal hdejha. Go gagga kbira wara wahda mill-kaxxi kien hemm ghasfur kbir abjad.

‘Ara papa’! Hawn kokka go gagga.’, qaltli eccitata.

‘Dak mhux kokka…..dak ghasfur rari…Barbagann jghidulu dak.’, irrispondejtha. ‘Imma x’qed taghmel imsakkra hawn gew?’

Mill-ewwel dahalli hsieb f’mohhi u bdejt indur mal-kaxxi u niftaghhom. B’dizappunt insib li kienu mimlijin b’ghasafar rari u tjur tal-priza. F’wahda minnhom kien hemm kuccarda kbira li l-harsa li tatni gabitli hniena minnha.

‘Ghalfejn qeghdin hawn papa’?’, staqsietni z-zghira.

‘Ikolli nghid li dawn huma maqbudin hawn gew biex juzawhom bhala kuntrabandu. Kemm hawn min hu bla qalb hux?’

‘Ejja nifthulhom il-gageg.’, regghet qaltli Rita.

Wissejtha li ahjar ma mmissu xejn ma jmorrux jigu lura dawk l-irgiel li konna smajna filghodu hdejn is-sellum.

Il-qattusa mitlufa!

Kienet l-ahhar gimgha ta Mejju qrib il-festa tal-lunzjata, u bhal ma soltu jkun fuq dawn il-gzejjer, ir-rih kien qed jonfoh gmielu… Peress li xogholi kien fil-berah, beda’ jtellifni sew, u kelli nieqaf minn dak li kont qed naghmel. Erfajt l-ghodda gol-kaxxa taghhom u rhejta lejn id-dar.

Irrejalizzajt li kienet okkazjoni tajba biex nghin lit-tfal jaghmlu l-‘homework’ taghhom kmieni, u b’hekk nintefghu fil-kamra favorita taghna. F’din il-kamra kellna sufan komdu, televizjoni u librerija b’numru gmielu ta kotba… Kienet l’hena tat-tfal iqallbu fil-kotba, daqqa jiskopru xi dizzjunarju bli-stampi , u daqqa xi ktieb b’ritratti ta pajjizi mbieghda. Wara gurnata xoghol iebes, kont nistrieh billi nghaddu l-ahhar siegha jew tnejn qabel immorru norqdu f’din il-kamra, flimkien mal-mara u t-tfal. Ghalkemm mhux dejjem konna naghmlu kollox flimkien, kont inhoss li dan il-ftit hin kien importanti ghalina bhala familja. Fuq kollox, kif jghid il qawl, familja li tilghab flimkien hija familja li tikber maghquda flimkien.

B’dawn il-hsibijiet go rasi, dahhalt il-karozza gol-garaxx, sakkart bil-katnazz u mort id-dar. Kif ftaht il-bieb ta’ barra ghajjattilhom ilkoll…..pero’ hadd ma rrispondieni…. Hsibt li kienu ghadhom ma waslux mill-iskola, imma titwila lejn l-arlogg tal-kcina kkonfermali li l-hin kien tajjeb. Smajt hoss minn fuqi u stenbaht. Mela kienu fuq il-bejt! Kellna bejt kbir hafna, u bil mod il mod konna qed indawruh fi’ gnien mill-isbah. Tlajt ghal-fuq u tassew hemm kienu. Ma stennejtx li ser insib dak li rajt. Il-kamra tal-hasil kienet ta taht fuq, u fuq wicchom it-tfal kien jidhru sinjali ta dwejjaq kbar.

‘X’gara?’, staqsejt lil mara, ‘ kif qallibtu kull m’hawn…mela ha tbajjdu?’

‘Dejjem b’xi hmerijja int. Qed infittxu l-qattusa,’ irrispondietni. ‘Rajta l-ahhar ghal xi nofsinhar, imma minn dak il-hin l’hawn ma rajta mkien. Is-soltu meta jigu t-tfal tghidx kemm tifrah bihom.’

Qalbi ghamlet tikk. Kont naf xi tfisser ghat-tfal il-qattusa gingrija li kellna. Nina kienet l-iktar qattusa ghazziena tad-dinja, iktar rieqda milli mqajma, izda kella natural verament mans u gustuz. Bdejt inhokk rasi mil-ewwel. Fejn setghet kienet? L-ahhar li ntilfet kien meta sabet ruha gol-gwardarobba. Ghalqita l-mara meta harget il-hwejjeg ghall-iskola. Sibta jiena meta mort nohrog qmis. Sibta rieqda fuq kutra. M’ghamlitx wisq storbju biex nintebhu biha. Ghidtilkom li kienet ghazziena.

Kien ovvju li ma kenitx fil-kamra tal-hasil! Ma kienx hemm fejn joqghod gurdien, ahseb u ara qattusa. Hallejna l-bieb miftuh ghall li jista jkun u nzilna l-isfel. Bdejna naqilghu kamra kamra. Meta wasalna fil-kamra ta l-imbarazz kont diga qtajt qalbi li nsibuha isfel. Kieku sematna zgur…u jekk kienet torqod hafna, ma kenitx nieqsa min zaqqa. Bdejna ncekcku il-borza ta l-ikel biex forsi tismaghna, imma kollox ghal-xejn. Ma stajna nsibuha mkien gewwa. Fl-ahhar kellna naccettaw li jew qabzet ic-cint tal-bejt u qabada xi hadd, jew inkella sabet il-bieb ta barra miftuh u harget. Peress li kienet qattusa tat-trobbija ma kelliex dik l-esperjenza ta kif iggib ruha barra mid-dar.

Sadanittant it-tfal kienu diga ghamluha li mhux ser rawha iktar, u d-dmugh niezel ma haddejhom kien xhieda tad-dwejjaq li kellhom. Ippruvajna nikkonvincuhom li mhux l-ewwel darba li l-qtates jaharbu u jergghu jigu lura. Imma ma nahsibx li spjegajtilhom bizzejjed ghax jibku baqghu .

Hsilnihom u dahhalnihom jorqdu naqra iktar kmieni mis-soltu. Meta jkun il-Gimgha mhux l-ewwel darba li ndumu mqajmin sa tard naraw xi film adattat ghat-tfal. Imma llum kien kaz differenti. Malli dahhlitom fis-sodda, tfajt gakketta fuqi u hrigt infittixa barra. Fejn noqghodu ahna hemm gnien pubbliku mdaqqas, u jekk harget barra kien hemm cans tajjeb li nsibha hemm.
Ma nafx kemm il-sigra ddendilt maghha, u npespsila…’Nina…pxx pxx……ejja Nina hi’…..kien kollu ghal xejn. Sahansitra wiehed mill-gierin baqa skantat ihares lejja qisni tlift il-boxxla. Iehor gheddidni li ser igibli l-pulizija, sakemm hrigt taht lampa u nduna min jien. Sa fl-ahhar qtajt qalbi ngharrex l’hawn u l-hinn. Kienet siegha mohlija… Tlajt id-dar b’qalbi sewda. It-tfal min jaf kif kienu ser jehduha jekk ma tergax lura. Kullhadd kien jghidli li l-qtates ihobbu jiggerrew, u taghna ma kenitx differenti.

‘Ma sibtix,’ ghidtila minn taht l-ilsien lil-mara. ‘Issa nitla naqra sa fuq il-bejt, forsi qeghda hemm tidhaq bina.’ Nizzilt il-belgha te’ u tlajt insejhila…u regghet ma gietx. Issa l-hin kien sar gmielu, u peress li kelli nqum inkompli x-xoghol li hallejt warajja, iddecidejt li ahjar ninzel norqod.

Filghodu sebah bnazzi u r-rih kien ikkalma xi ftit. Hallejt istruzzjoni mal-mara biex jekk isibuha jcempluli fuq it-telefon cellulari. Ma nafx kif ghaddiet il-gurnata. Nirringrazzja l’Alla li ma waqajtx minn fuq is-sellum bil-hsibijiet li kelli ghax mohhi ma kienx fuq il-lant tax-xoghol.Bdejt niccekja t-telefon min hin ghall-iehor biex nara kienx qed jahdem. Tajjeb kien, imma baqa sieket matul in-nofs ta nhar shih.

Meta t-tfal isiru jhobbu il-pets taghhom, tidhlilom certu responsabilita li ggelhom japprezzaw iktar ir-rigal tal-hajja. Din zgur kienet daqqa ta harta ghalihom. Qtajta li jekk sat-Tnejn ma nsibuhix immur s’ghand Lippu l-mastrudaxxa. Dak dejjem invazat bil-qtates il-garaxx tieghu. Xi ferh zgur kont insib ghandu.

Wasalt id-dar , u mill-harsa ta wicchom intbaht li ma kien sar xejn. Nahseb li kienet wahda mill-aghar granet ta hajti. It-tifla l-kbira ma ccaqilqitx mill-gallarija, u z-zghira kienet fil-gallarija ta’ wara. Lanqas kuragg jieklu l-ikel ma kellom. Iddecidew li ahjar ma nohorgux ghal harga tas-soltu ta nhar ta sibt, ma tmurx tigi u ma ssibniex hawnhekk.

Il-Hadd wasal, u biex nipprova nnessihom tellajt it-tfal mieghi fuq il-bejt biex inkompli nahdem fuq it-tinda tal-gnien. Tghidx kemm isarajt biex intella’ iz-zewg pilastri tat-tarf. Imbotta min hawn u igbed min hemm, b’xi mod waqqaftom bl-‘ghajnuna’ tat-tfal. Wara battikata bhal-dik intfajna ghad-dell tal-kamra nixorbu tazza luminata friska li tellaghtilna l-mama’.

Hin minnhom iz-zewgt itfal qamu f’salt wiehed…’Qed nisma’ l-qattusa,’qaltli l-kbira.

‘Anke jiena! Zgur hi!’, qabzet iz-zghira.

Issa jiena l-bambin berikni b’par widnejn imdaqqsin, u dak li hadli mil-vizta tahili fl-udit, imma xorta ma smajt xejn. Sikkittom biex nara nismax minn fejn gej l-ghajjat tal-qattusa. Kien kollu ghal xejn ghax ma smajt xejn. Imma t-tfal qamu f’daqqa u grew lejn l-opramorta tal-bejt ta hdejna.

‘Minghand Pippa tal-pastizzi gej il-hoss. Dik zgur Nina!’, ghajtet il-kbira.

Lanqas tawni cans niccekja li ma tarux l-isfel. ‘Isa pa’ , ejja ha mmorru ghand Pippa ha tifthila!’.

Kelli nitlaq kollox minn idejja u mmur maghhom. Il-hmerija hi li Pippa ma kenitx id-dar. Morna ghand bintha li toqghod zewg kantunieri il-hinn minna. Kif rat lit-tfal daqshekk agitati dahlitna gewwa biex tifhem ahjar dak li kienu qed jghidu. Sa fl-ahhar cemplet lill-omma il-pastizzerija u staqsieta jekk tistax tmur id-dar ticcekja. Ix-xwejha, li minn dejjem kienet ta qalb tajba, qablet mil-ewwel. Lit-tfal tieghi kienet thobbom, bejn forsi ghax kienu simpatici, u kif ukoll ghax kienu edukati, u jirrispettaw lil min hu ikbar minnhom.

Wasalna d-dar ta Pippa, u Rose, ghax hekk kien jisimha binta, tellatna fil-kamra ta fuq il-bejt. Fethet il-bieb li mit-tarag jaghti ghal-bejt u l-povra qattusa taret ghal-fuq it-tfal bil-ferh. Ma nistax nghidilkom l-emozzjoni li kellhom fuqhom bis-sejba tal-pet taghhom. Li gara kien li peress il-gimgha kien hafna rih, meta l-qattusa kienet qieghda tarrex gol-kamra ta Pippa, instabat il-bieb u ma setghetx tohrog. Meta tlajt fuq il-bejt ma kontx smajta, u peress li Pippa mhux l-ewwel darba li raqdet ghand ohta, ma kenitx resqet lejn id-dar taghha ghal-tlett ijiem shah.

Li-storja spiccat b’wicc il-gid hekk kif wasalna d-dar. Il-qattusa kielet ikla liema bhala, u ntasbet torqod fuq is-siggu favorit tieghi. It-tfal ma ridunix inqajjima u kelli noqghod nara l-partita tal-hadd filghaxija fuq bicca banketta mzegilga li ghal naqra ma nfaqatx bijja meta skurjana fl-ahhar ftit. L-aqwa li issa kien ghadda kollox.

Kull meta tarani Pippa tassikurani li minn dakinhar l’hawn qatt ma regghet rat lil-qattusa fuq il-bejt taghha!

Karawett migdum.

Qabel ma kont bdejt nahdem ghal-rasi, hafna zmien ilu, kont impjegat ma’ kumpanija lokali tat-telefon. In-nies li kienu jaqilghu l-ghixien taghhom minn hemm kienu varjati daqs il-kuluri tal-qawsalla. Kien hemm inginiera, bli-studju twil taghhom, kif ukoll haddiema ta l-id, li ghad forsi ma kienux jafu wisq skola, kienu ndispensabbli minhabba l-hila manwali taghhom. Fil-bidu jiena kont naqgha sewwa sew lejn in-naha t’isfel minhabba li kont bdejt bhala student. Ta’ spiss uliedi kienu jitolbuni nirrakkontalhom xi praspura li mhux l-ewwel darba kienu jdahhluni fiha dawn l-imberkin ta haddiema

‘U isa pa’, ma tiftakarx f’xi bawxata minn taghkom?’, kienet issaqsini spiss il-kbira. Kont inhares lejha taparsi bl-ikrah meta kienet iddahhal lili bhala percimes fli-storja

Issa nghidilkhom is-sewwa ma kienx pjacir tieghi nghid stejjer tad-dahq fuq nies li kienu jaghmlu l-hmerijiet forsi ghax m’humiex daqshekk intelligenti. Imma meta’ ghadda iz-zmien kont irrejalizzajt li wasal iz-zmien li nidhqu naqra b’dak it-tgerfix li kien isir.

U darba wahda f’Jannar kienet giet opportunita’ tajba biex nirrakkontalhom storja li zgur ser tibqa f’mohhi ghal-dejjem. Kien lejl ta’ maltemp verament feroci, u bhala konsegwenza kien mar id-dawl fir-rahal taghna. Wara li kebbisna l-lampa tal-gass, intfajna fil-kcina niehdu belgha te’ tajba. Bhala generazzjoni li mohhna dejjem mimli bit-televizjoni, radjijiet u x’naf jiena, kienet stramba l-ideja li ser naghmlu lejl fid-dlam minghajr naqra ta’ zvog. U hawnhekk kemm il-mara kif ukoll it-tfal bdew jipprovaw jikkonvincuwni nghidilhom praspura. Okrob minn hawn, u okrob minn hemm, fl-ahhar haduli rasi u accettajt…

Intfajt bilqieghda hdejhom, billejt grizmejja bit-te, u qisu z-zmien beda jgerbeb lura bhall-ilma…..

Niftakar sewwa li kien sajf qalil jahraq u l-parti l-kbira taghna l-haddiema aktar kien mohhna li nsibu xi rokna dellija milli nghaddu l-linji tat-telfon ghall god-djar tan-nies. Min jahdem barra jaf kemm jista jkun ikrah Lulju taghna. Kien jehdilna sahhitna kollha.

Fortunatament jiena kont ma haddiem li kien jahdem sew b’mohhu. Karmnu kien ragel ta xi hamsin sena, irqajjaq u fuq ruhu sew. Konna nohorgu kmieni ghal xi s-sitta w’nofs ta filghodu nlestu t-tulijiet tal-‘wire’ minn mal kaxxi tal-hajt sa hdejn il-ventilaturi tal-klijenti. Niftakarni nhallu daqsxejn ta’ romblu tal-firdiferru mdendel fuq musmar apposta. Dan konna naghmluh biex inlestu x-xoghol ta’ barra malajr kemm jista jkun. B’hekk kien ikollna hin bizzejjed inlestu x-xoghol ta’ gewwa minghajr wisq ghaggla. Iktar importanti kien il-fatt li fl-eqqel tas-shana konna nkunu gewwa ghand in-nies. Karmnu kien wiehed li jipprepara l-gurnata minn qabel. Ghallura ghal xi s-siegha meta konna nidhlu lura fl-ufficini zaghar li kellna, konna nippjanaw ir-rotta li rridu niehdu il-gurnata ta wara.

Mela darba gara li Karmnu kellu bzonn jiehu xi jftit granet frank biex idur bil-mara ghax kienet liwjet saqajha. Kont hakkejt naqra rasi. Bhala student ma kellix permess insuq il-van tax-xoghol jien, allura kienu tefghuni naqra ma mghallem iehor. Zeppi kien ragel tassew differenti minn Karmnu. Kien bniedem verament imdellek. Wara li kien ilesti mix-xoghol ta filghodu, Zeppi kien imur jiehu hsieb l-erbgha moghziet li kien fadallu f’razzett zghir li kien hallielu missieru. Nista nghidilkhom li niddubita gismu kienx jara laghqa ilma ghax ir-riha li kienet tfewwah meta jghaddi minn hdejk kienet xi haga li taqsmek. Kienet proprja riha ta moghoz mahmug. Minn warajh konna nghidulu ‘il-Beqq’. Laqam tassew tajjeb. Zeppi l-Beqq! Tistghu timmaginaw kemm kien jiehu ghalieh meta kienu jsejhulu l-Beqq! Ma kienx jinzillu sew dan il-laqam. Kien ihossu wisq fuq gildu. U iktar ma kien jithambaq iktar aghar! Ma setax jifhem li ladarba jwahhlulek laqam bih tibqa!

Kif kont qed nghidilkom ghamilt ftit jiem ma dan-Zeppi. Jghidu lill-gurnata mis-sebh turik, u jkolli nghid li dan il-qawl verament tajjeb. L-ewwel battikata kienet li nfiehmu li x-xoghol kif nahdmuh jien u Karmnu kien jaqblilna. Wara li accetta, ‘Ghax jine jdejjeqni t-tilwim’ , qalali problema ohra. Insista li flok vann tax-xoghol, niehdu il-‘Land Rover’ imtektka tieghu. Thambaqt ghal-xejn mieghu!

‘Jine dejjem tieghi nuze,’ qalli b’Malti mghaffeg. ‘ U jekk me tridx, tirkebx. Ghelijja xurta.’

U bhal kelb mismut kelli mmur mieghu f’dik il bicca racanc imsaddad! Jekk kienet tal-biza minn barra tistghu timmaginaw kif kienet minn gewwa! It-tapiti ma kienux jidhru bl-imbarazz li kellu…gwiez mifrux, ful, basal, kif ukoll xi borza tal-pastizzi antika. Meta rahni nhares skantat lejn dak it-tgerfix, dahakli dahqa minn tieghu u qalli….

‘Stenna naqra helli nnaddaflek is-sedil to!’, u ta’ daqqa sew fuq is-‘seat’ li kelli npoggi bilqeghda fuqu. ‘Dok biex me toqghodx fuq il-gurdien..’

Gurdien! Taht is-‘seat’! Minn ftit affarijiet kont nibza jien, imma l-kelma gurdien kienet tibdilli demmi f’silg. X’ma jkollux grieden fil vann. Kienu jimmaginawa bhala festa ta ikel il-‘Land Rover’. Harist lejn Zeppi, u bil-kemm m’ghamilx ghalija ghax kont qed nehoda bil-lajma. Fl-ahhar wara li bellajtlu daqtejn ohra jien, iddecidejt li nitla’ , u tlaqna tlikki tlikki.

Wara xi hames minuti konna wasalna ghand l-ewwel klijenta. Is-sinjura Vella kienet mara kbira pulita, u meta konna morna jumejn qabel jien u Karmnu konna bqajna mpressjonati kif in-nisa jibqghu xummiema fuq l-indafa, anke meta l-eta’ tibda diehla sew. Imma kif ratna minn wara l-persjana rajta tibjad.

Qaltli, b’lehen irqieq u edukat ‘Zaghzugh, int idhol kemm trid, imma lid-‘driver’ halllieh ftit barra.’ Ma ntihix tort. Kif harist lejh, bi qmis miftuha fuq sider mimli suf griz, u qalziet kollu mraqqa, imxammar u hafi, b’kull difer daqs wirdiena sewda, qalbi ghamlet tikk. Lanqas kien dahalli f’mohhi li jista jkolli problema mal-klijenti. Hassejt in-nar tielgha lejn wicci. Ippruvajt nispjegala li dak ma kienx id-‘driver’ tieghi izda l-imghallem. Ma reditx taf, u kella ragun. Kieku kienet il-mara kienet tohrog fliskatur u broxk dak il-hin.

Cempillna lil-‘foreman’ fuq ix-xoghol li s-sinjura Vella kienet naqra ma tiflahx dil-gimgha u kellna nghaddu ghand li jmiss. Ergajna ghabbejna l-ghoda gol-vann u rhejnilha lejn in-naha l-ohra tar-Rahal. Is-sinjura Grech ma tatx kaz li stat ta Zeppi u hawn hadt ir-ruh. B’dan il-pass qatt ma konna ser inlahhqu l-kwota ta kuljum. Wara li ccekjajt li kollox sew minn-naha tal-klijenta, hattejna l-ghodda u dhalna l-gewwa. L-ewwel haga li laqtitni kienet ir-riha taqsam ta qtates u l-hmieg li jhallu warajhom. Bdejna x-xoghol u hawhekk bdew il-praspar ta Zeppi. L-ewwel tgerfixa kienet meta beda jtaqqab il-hajt biex nghaddu l-‘wire’. Ma nafx kif irnexxielu, imma flok taqqab bejn kamra u ohra, ha zball fil-hajt u taqqab ghal god-dar tal-gara! Kif gibed il-golja lura, kienet mimlija suf! Dak il-hin twerwirt! Kien taqqab dritt ghal gol-gwardarobba tal-gara!

‘Il-ahwa Zepp x’ghamilt!’, ghidtlu, b’lehni naqra jghajjat,’issa sew! Ara naqilghux xi daqtejn! Dak jonqosni jien!’

Ara ma tahsbux li nkwieta tafx! Farfar il-golja mis-suf u beda jtaqqab fejn suppost. Ix-xoghol kompla miexi bil-galbu sakemm wasalna fil-kcina. Sewwa sew f’nofs il-mejda kien hemm skutella mdaqqsa mimlija karawett u lewz. Issa jekk Zeppi kellu xi difett zgur ma kienx tal-misthijja, u kif ra lix-xwejha riesqa lejn il-bieb ta barra hataf ponn mimli b’dak il-karawett u tefghu jigri f’halqu.

Bqajt inhares lejh skantat…’Imma…Imma Zepp hija tghamillix dawn il-hmerijiet ta! Dawk mhux taghna.’

Ghalxejn ghidtlu, lanqas biss indenja ruhhu jirrispondini.Smajtu jgerrem dak il-lewz b’gost kbir. Gietu tajba x-xorti li is-sinjura Grech kien gie tal-pitrolju u qaghdet tpacpac mieghu. Zeppi qabad ponn iehor minn go l-iskutella u tefgu f’dak il-halq mimli snien kbar kwadri. Lestejt ix-xoghol ta malajr biex naharbu l-barra min hemm gew! U bl-ezatt lestejt! Kif kont qed nimla d-dettalji tal-klijenta fuq il-formola taghna , dahlet fil-kcina s-sinjura Grech.

Iffirmat b’salib kbir fuq il-karta u lestejna biex nitilqu. Tista timmagina wicc Zeppi meta tatna wkoll kaxxa cikkulata tat-‘toffee’. Imma hawnhekk waqghet il-bomba!

‘Dawk ma nistax nikolhom,’ qaltli. ‘It-tifel tahomli bi zball! Is-soltu jtini cikkulata bil-lewz.’ kompliet. ‘Jiena snieni ilhom li waqghuli, allura noqghod nomghod sakemm iddub ic-cikkulata u l-lewz nitfghu go li-skutella fuq il-mejda. Tghidx kemm ihobbu jlaqqtu minnha l-qtates!’

U b’dawn il-kliem ghamlet ideja ma halqa u laqghet xi sitt lewziet ileqqu. Resqet lejn il-mejda u tefaghtom go li-skutella. Ma flahtx inzomm bid-dahk! Wicc Zeppi beda ghaddej minn numru ta kuluri sakemm issetilja fuq l-ahdar. Gab kull skuza biex nitilqu l-barra, u l-ewwel spizjar li sab dahal u xtara ‘toothbrush’ u stocc ‘toothpaste’. Hasel halqu dak il-hin fit-trieq. Jiena sadanittant kont qed nitgerbeb fuq is-‘seat’ bid-dahk. Haqqu…ma missu qatt ibaghbas affarijiet tan-nies.

Kif wasalna lura l-ufficju irrakkontajt b’kollox lil-‘foreman’, u tistghu timmaginaw kemm dahku l-haddiema l-ohra. Iddecidejt li jekk ma jitfaghnix ma tekniku iehor, kont ser niehu gimgha frank jien ukoll…..u hekk ghamilt.

Kif spiccajt mill-istorja harist lejn il-kumplament tal-familja, u fid-dawl inemnem tal-lampa stajt naralhom id-dmugh niezel ma haddejhom.

‘Il-ahwa pa! Kieku jien ma kontx nihu l-‘leave’….ragel bhal dak! Ara kemm kont nidhaq. Min jaf x’sar minnu Zeppi.’

Ftit wara kont iddecidejt li mmur nara lil-shabi l-antiki tat-telefon. Staqsejt ghal Zeppi, imma qaluli li kien halla dan il-wied ta dmugh fl-ghomor ta tmenin sena. Kienu sabuh mejjet fis-sodda, imdawwar bil-moghoz gheziez tieghu. Veru kont nirrabja meta kien jaghmilli l-hmerijiet, imma ghamilt ftit tad-dwejjaq ghal dan ir-ragel, ragel tal-ghalqa li dejjem hadem bl-gharaq ta xbinu ghal ghixien tieghu u ta familtu.Minn din l-istorja kont hadt il-lezzjoni ta hajti. Kull persuna jifforma parti mportanti mix-xibka tal-hajja, u d-dinja zgur kienet ser tkun iktar fqira meta jisparixxu nies anzjani ta tradizzjonijiet antiki.

Tmiem

Kurun jaghlaq il-hanut.

Ghall-persuna bhal Wenzu, l-ahbar li bdiet tigri mar-rahal xejn ma kienet sabiha. Missier Kurun, fl-eta’ venerabbli ta disghin sena’, beda jbatti, u bhal ma jigri lil-kullhad, kien wasal biex jaghlaqlu c-cens f’din id-dinja.

Ghalhekk Kurun kien ser ikollu jsiefer malajr kemm jista jkun biex jaghti l-ahhar tislima lill-missieru. Dan kien ifisser li l-hanut fejn kienu jingabru il-hbieb taghna kien ser ikun maghluq ghal xi tlett gimghat shah.

Wenzu hass rasu ddur bhal zugraga meta Kurun innifsu qalilhom li l-ahbar kienet minna.

“Issa ahjar siehbi…u min ser jiehu hsiebna lilna?”, qallu lejl minnhom waqt li kien qed inizzel dik il-pinta regolari tieghu. “Kif ser jirnexxilna nghaddu dak iz-zmien kollu minghajr din id-duwwa?”

‘Shabi, ghandi habib tieghi fir-rahal ta hdejna, dak zgur li jaqdikhom mill-ahjar li jista.”

Imma ghal Wenzu, Gakbu u l-bella kumpannija ma tantx nizlitilhom wisq tajba. Kurun kien igib l-inbid minn-Tunez, pajjizu, u dan kien maghruf sew man-naha ta’ isfel ta Malta kollhu ghat-tjubija tieghu. Barra min hekk, bi ftit soldi kont timla zaqqek sew minn bettija tajba.

‘Nista nghidlek x’naghmlu Kurun.” qal Wenzu, hekk kif mohhu beda jberren kif jistghu jsolvu din il-problema. “Nehodlok hsieba jiena c-cavetta tal-kantina. Esperjenza fin-negozju ghandi naqra mhux hazin jien.”

Kurun kien jaf li qabel irtira, Wenzu kien mastrudaxxa, u wiehed kapaci wkoll. L-ideja li l-hanut tieghu jibqa jrendi l-flus ghogbitu mhux hazin. Ftiehem ma Wenzu, izda avzah ukoll li kien ser ikejjel il-btieti kollha qabel jitlaq. Ghalkemm Kurun kien ghaqqdhom sew, ma riedx li jitlef dik ix-xi haga zejda.

Allura l-ghada, qabel ma fetah il-hanut ghan-nies, Kurun nizel flimkien ma Wenzu biex ikejlu kemm kien hemm inbid fil-btieti miftuhin. Ftit setgha jimmagina dak il-hin li Gamri u Gakbu kienu diga qed jippjanaw kif ser jaghtu qatgha lil-Wenzu.

Kurun qabad il-vapur kmieni t-Tlieta filghodu, u wara l-quddiesa ta l-ewwel, Wenzu kien diga beda jithajjar imur jaghmila tan-negozjant, imma Rozi wissietu li l-ewwel il-pappa , imbaghad l-impappa! Minghajr ma jaqla l-ftit soldi ta kuljum, hobz niexef u gobon xott kien hemm ghalihom.

Kollox mar harir matul l-ewwel hmistax tas-safar ta Kurun, li bhala paga, kien qed ihallas lil-Wenzu b’zewgt ifliexken inbid prim kuljum. Nista nghidilkom li Rozi qatt ma kienet tiftakru gej daqshekk imxengel lill-Wenzu. Ta’ spiss kien jasal id-dar b’xi brungiela fuq mohhu minn xi daqqa ta stanga, meta kien jipprova jidhol f’xi dar ohra. In-nies tar-rahal kienu drawh lil-Wenzu, u Rozi kienet ittihom parir li jekk hemm bzonn, iwahhluhilu.

Mela jumejn qabel kellu jigi lura Kurun, iddeffes Brejbes. Gakbu kien akkwista xkora melh minghand negozjant, u gab ponn mieghu fis-sidrija li kien jilbes ta’ kuljum. Ftiehem ma Gamri biex lil-Wenzu jigbidlu l-attenzjoni, halli jkun jista jhallatulu mal-flixkun inbid li kien qed jixrob.

Gamri pront qabadielu fuq l-injam, u Wenzu ma ried lill-hadd jghidlu fuq is-sena tieghu. Beda jhaqqaq mal-gabillot, u bla ma nduna, Gakbu waddab il-ponn melh go flixkun kbir, ferra’ l-inbid ta Wenzu mieghu, halltu sew, u rega tefa’ t-tahlita gol-flixkun. M’hemmx xi nghidu, ponn melh imhallat ma flixkun inbid isakkar lill-aktar bahri kapaci, u xi saghtejn wara Wenzu kien siker u qed jonhor fuq l-ixkejjer tal-gwiez.

Gakbu taptaplu tnejn fuq haddejh.

“Telaqna Gamri, ghajnejh homor daqs tat-tonn” qallu dak, “ejja ha nbattlulu l-bettija.”

Nizlu fil-kantina friska, qabdu fliskatur, u bdew jghaddu l-inbid mil bettija ghal-ohra li kienet f’kantuniera. F’xi nofs-siegha lestew, gabru kollox, u telghu fuq, fejn Wenzu kien qed jisserra. Qabduh minn taht aptu, u tkaxkru bih ghal ghand Rozi. Habbtulha l-bieb u tefugh kobba ma l-art fuq l-ghatba.

Kif fethet il-bieb u ratu hekk iktar inkurlat, imma fl-ahhar mill-ahhar kien zewga. Kaxkritu ghal gewwa fejn stejqer dik in-naqra biex jintlewa’ ghal fuq is-sodda bil-hwejjeg b’kollox. Minhabba li kien jigbor il-flus kuljum, hekk kif qam mis-sakra tieghu, Wenzu petpet il-but biex jara kienx kollox sew. Ha r-ruh meta sema l-hoss tas-soldi fil-but. Ovvjament, Rozi ghamlitlu panigierku iehor, imma fortunatament ghalih kien sar il-hin biex imorru ghal ta l-ewwel.

Hekk kif nizel il-hanut ta Kurun wara nofsinhar, nizel fil-kantina biex jara li kollox kien ghadu sew. Izda hekk kif kejjel il-bettija u saba vojta, imsarnu nizlu f’saqajh. Sakhemm kien jiftakar hu qabel sensieh harbulu, kienet iktar min-nofsa mimlija. Vera li shabu kienu sponoz bhalu, imma biex tnizzel nofs bettija nbid mhux facli.

Hareg il-flus mis-sidrija biex jara kemm kellu, imma s-somma ma kenitx tkopri dak l-ammont kollhu ta nbid. Beda jahseb biex jara kif kien ser jaghmel biex ifihem lil-Kurun, li fuq-kollox kien afdah daqs l-akbar ragel. Dak il-lejl Wenzu l-inbid ma bediex jinzillu helu daqs is-soltu, u Gakbu mill-ewwel induna li belahha l-lixka.

“Jaqaw Wenz? Qed jaghmillek id-deni l-inbid?” staqsieh dak il-makakk.

Wenzu bhallikieku ha ghalih u rrispondieh li kellu hruq ta’ stonku kbir.

Imma kemm Gamri kif ukoll Gakbu dahqu wahda sew bih dak il-lejl.

L-ghada s-sagristan kellu jigbor lill-Kurun bil-karettun antik tieghu, u huma w’telghin lura lejn Hal-Muxa, qallu b’dak li ghamlu lil-Wenzu. Dak hekk kellu bzonn biex itaffi ftit mit-telfa ta missieru.

Kif waslu fil-hanut , Kurun mar dritt fuq Wenzu u saqsieh kif kien mar in-negozju. Wenzu, bi tbissima mcarrta fuq wiccu, qallu li kollox kien mexa harir. Hadu isfel biex jara li kollox kien kif suppost, u Gakbu w Gamri skantaw mhux ftit meta l-bettijja regghu rawha nofsha mimlija. Hakkew naqra rashom mhuz hazin. Indunaw li Wenzu kien rega sab mod kif jerga jimliha bl-inbid.

Li gara kien li Wenzu meta nizel l-ghada nduna li fuq naha wahda tal-kantina kien hemm xebgha pali tas-saqajn ma l-art mimlija trab, u nduna li wahda minnhom ma kenitx hlief ta Gakbu, li kien maghruf ghas-saqajn kbar li kellu. Irrejalizza li shabu kienu ghamlulu wahda min taghhom. Ghamel lejl shih gej u sejjer bil fliskatur, imma fl-ahhar kien irnexxielu jghaddi kollox lura.

Kurun induna li Wenzu kien makakk wisq ghal Gamri w Gakbu, u dak il-lejl tah zewgt ifliexken inbid Tunezin zejda mal-paga tieghu.

U filghaxija kella tiftahlu Rozi l-bieb ta barra lil Wenzu ghax ma wasalx li juza c-cavetta biex jiftah il-bieb. Mhux ta b’xejn li l-ghada meta mar jigbor is-sagristan rah b’gundalla daqshiex lil habib taghna.

Tmiem

Wenzu jispicca mkeffen!

Kien l-eqqel tax-xitwa, u Wenzu, Gakbu s-sakristan u Gamri kienu naturalment qeghdin jishnu permezz ta naqra duwwa kif kien jaf jaghmel biss Kurun. F’dak iz-zmien bikri tas-seklu ghoxrin, ftit kien hawn postijiet ta divertiment, allura l-irgiel ta l-irhula kienu jiltaqghu ghand ta l-inbid…li nzertat ukoll l-unika xarba li kellhom , barra l-ilma. Sfortunatament kullhadd jaf li l-inbid fi kwantitajiet generuzi, mhux tajjeb wisq ghas-sahha tal-bniedem. Nigu lura ghar-rakkont taghna. Sakhemm il-hbieb taghna lehqu hargu mill-hanut, mhux talli kien dalam sew, izda kien kesah gmielu. Id-diskursata li bdew jippruvaw ikomplu kienet bla sens ghax kienu legilgu dik il-pinta zejda li tilfitilhom sensijhom.

Id-dahk taghhom beda jfaqqa’ fli-sqaqien ta hal-Muxa, u mhux mara jew tnejn hargu jsikktuhom minn go darhom.

L-ewwel ghaddew sal-knisja biex iwasslu lil-Gakbu. Is-sagristan ftit kien fadallu hin x’jistrieh billi kellu jdoqq ghal ta l-erbgha w-nofs. Zerzaq idejh ghal gol-but tal-qalziet, izda bix-xengil li kellu fuqu, waqghalu l-muftieh minn idejh u ghadda bejn il-hadid ta l-ispral tal-knisja.

‘Issa sew’ gemgem wahdu ‘Il-muftieh ta l-ghorfa qieghed gos-sakristija. Illejla barra ha norqod.’

Wenzu nduna li Gakbu kien dahal fid-dinja ta l-imlahalhin, u minhabba li lanqas hu ma kien fl-ahjar kundizjoni, iddecieda li ahjar ma jmurx id-dar. Il-korla ta Rozi kienet wisq ghalih. Gamri ftit kien fadallu qabel jintefa’ gozz huwa wkoll, allura ddecidew li ahjar li kieku kienu jmorru jistriehu fic-cimiterju tar-rahal. Gakbu inzerta li kien ghad kellu l-muftieh tal-kappella fil-but minhabba li kien ghadu kemm miet Gilormu tal-Kafkaf, negozjant ghani li minhabba l-generozita’ tieghu, kien mahbub sew f’Hal-Muxa.

Bis-sewwa jew bid-dnewwa waslu sac-cimiterju, u din id-darba kien Wenzu li bi ftit tbatija dahhal il-muftieh u fetah. F’dak il-hin, kull hoss kien qisu terremot, u meta Gakbu zzerzaq lejn vazun u xehtu ma l-art bil-fjuri b’kollox tghidx kif qabzu.

‘Ahwa x’qata’ tajtni Gakbu..’ qallu Wenzu, ghajnejh homor nar.

‘U iva’ qallu dak ‘ma hsibtnix tal-Kafkaf hux? Issa daqshekk gera warajna biex ma naqtghux bajtar mill-ghalqa tieghu. Alla jahfirlu imma, ghax dejjem kien generuz maghna.’

Hawn pront it-tlieta li huma raddew is-salib s’sinjal ta rispett, qalu talba ckejkna, u daru ftit biex jaraw fejn ser jistriehu. Gakbu, bhala sakristan, kien midhla sew tal-post, u mill-ewwel dahal fl-ufficju u ntasab fuq sufan qadim. Gamri bhalu ghamel, u ma damx wisq biex jintelaq helu helu fuq il-pultruna ta faccata s-sufan.

Il-povru Wenzu ma kellux fejn joqghod, u ntasab fuq bank ta l-injam tal-kappella. L-inhir min-naha tas-sakristija xejn ma nizillu tajjeb lill Wenzu. Sewwa. Dawk it-tnejn fuq is-sufani, u jiena fuq bank iebes.

Fil hin u l-waqt gietu ideja f’mohhu. Gilormu kien qieghed fuq irhama, imma tahtu kellu gverta hoxna.

‘U nghid jien, mejjet x’ghandu bzonn ta gverta?’ qal bejnu w’bejn ruhu.

Nizel mil-bank, resaq lejn Gilormu u waqt li skuza ruhu ma Gilormu, qabad il kadavru u refghu ghal wara l-artal maggur. Qallu talba zghira ta ringrazzjament, qabez ghal fuq l-irhama, gholla bicca mill-gverta u dahal tahta bil-hwejjeg b’kollox.

Bhal ma kien jaghmel is-soltu meta jkun id-dar, Wenzu ghatta rasu wkoll, biex izomm is-shana gewwa. U raqad raqda ta veru.

Mas-sebh qam Gakbu l-ewwel. Mar icaqlaq lill Gamri li dam ftit biex stejqer. Marru jfittxu lil Wenzu fil-kappella, imma ma sabuhx rieqed fuq il-bank.

‘Diga qam u telaq!’ qallu Gakbu lil Gamri

‘U zgur li jitlaq’ irrispndieh Gamri. ‘U dak hemm Rozi u hatar sod qed jistennewh id-dar.’

Bejn li kienu ghadhom nofshom reqdin, u bejn li kien ghadu dlam, lanqas indunaw li ta fuq l-irhama kien tkebbeb wahda sew matul il-lejl.

Hargu l-barra u Gakbu sakkar warajh. Sadanittant Wenzu kien fl-isbah raqda, u sakhemm ma kienx jisma l-qniepen tal-knisja, ma kienx iqum. Il-knisja, bhal ma kien normali f’dak iz-zmien, kienet tkun l-arlogg tal poplu rahli. Mat-tokki taghha jqumu, u mat-tokki taghha jerghu mix-xoghol.

Billi c-cimiterju kien naqra l-boghod, Wenzu ma setghax jisma l-qniepen idoqqu. Allura rieqd kien, u rieqed baqa’.

Xejn ma nghidu, tistghu timmaginaw kif Rozi ghaddiet lejl titmashan waheda, hekk kif dak il gurdien xih ta Wenzu ma marx lura d-dar wara l-mawra tieghu ghand Kurun.

‘Huwa nqieghdu jien. Ha nara jkunx ghal quddiesa ta l-ewwel, halli nara fejn ghadda l-lejl!’

Imma Wenzu ma kienx ghal quddiesa ta l-ewwel. Staqsiet lil Gakbu, li qalila li Wenzu veru kien maghhom, imma telaq lura d-dar ferm qabilhom. Ma qaliliex li kienu raqdu c-cimiterju huma. Hawnhekk bdiet tinkwieta xi ftit Rozi. Fejn tintilef ma kienx hemm wisq fir-rahal zghir taghhom.

‘Nispera li ma hassux hazin hdejn xi ghalqa jew hdejn il-gibjun.’ bdiet tghid, hi u zzebbeg il-kuruna tar-ruzarju, li kienet iggorru maghha kullimkien.

‘U le,’ qabez Gamri ‘Ma tarax. Lanqas biss ersaqna l-hemm!’

‘Rozi, tinsieh li ghandna l-quddiesa ta Gilormu fis-sebgha. Il-kappillan ma jixtieqx li jhallieh hafna minghajr is-sagrament.’ qal is-sakristan

Rozi , ghalkemm imdahhla sew fl-eta’ , ma kenitx tinsa wisq, u fakkret lil Gakbu li mhux talli kienet ser tkun hemm, izda kienet ser ittella l-offerti.

Il-hin ghadda u Wenzu baqa’ ma nstabx. Kienu s-sebgha neqsin kwart xhin waslet Zolli ghand Rozi. Kienu ser jattendu l-quddiesa ta Gilormu flimkien, u meta rat li Wenzu mhux maghhom bdiet tredden kemm kien ghazzien u ma hu tajjeb ghal xejn.

Tefghu fuqhom l-ghonnella sewda u rhewla lejn ic-cimiterju. Il-kappella kienet diga mimlija sew meta z-zewgt ixjuh poggew fuq il-bank riservat ghalihom. Kullhadd beda jhares bi dwejjaq lejn dak li hasbu kien il-kadavru ta Gilormu taht il-lizar abjad. Dahal Gakbu, resaq lejn il-kampnar zghir li kella l-kappella u gibed gibda liema bhala fuq il-qanpiena maggura, biex idoqq in-nota singolari li tindika li ser tibda quddiesa ta funeral.

Dak kien jonqos biex titghaqqad il-froga. Hekk kif kien rieqed Wenzu u sema’ l-qanpiena ddoqq, qam bilqieghda jigri, u pprova jinhall, peress li minghalieh kienet ser tibda l-quddiesa ta l-ewwel.

Kif in-nies tar-rahal raw dik id-dehra tal-wahx quddiemhom ghajtu wahda b’lehen wiehed u grew il-barra qishom fniek li kellhom kelb imkeskes ghal fuqhom.

Bl-ghajjat mahnuq tan-nies, Wenzu wkoll haseb li qam Gilormu ghalih u gera girja warajhom, bil-lizar imkebbeb mieghu! Kienet Zolli li ndunat l-ewwel b’dak li kien gara. Dahlet lura l-knisja, qabdet li-stanga minn mal-bieba u lill povru Wenzu tghatu daqtejn injama kif tmiss il-ligi.

Wenzu ghamel gimghatejn b’gundalla mdaqqsa fuq mohhu, u halef li ma jergax jipprova jaghmila tas-samaritan it-tajjeb. Jekk shabu jiskru, jaraw kif imorru d-dar wahedhom!

Gurnata fuq il-bahar

Gurnata fuq il-bahar

Ilhaqt ftaht ghajnejja qabel ma daqq l-izveljarin. Bejni u bejn ruhhi bdejt nipprova nirraguna ghalfejn kont qomt daqshekk kmieni. Ghalkemm kien is-sajf, ma kien hemm l-ebda hjiel ta dawl barra t-tieqa. Bi tbissima zghira ftakart li kella tkun gurnata specjali ghalija u ghal binti Rachel.

Gimgha qabel kellna stedina minghand iz-ziju tieghi Kalcidon biex immorru mieghu, nistadu bil-qasba ghall-hut tal-fond. Kieku kien ghalija kont naccetta dak il-hin stess, izda ma kontx naf jekk il-mara tridx taghmel gurnata fuq luzzu f-nofs ta bahar. Il-fatti tawni ragun. Ma rieditx taf, u lanqas lit-tifla ma kienet ser thalli tigi.Wara hafna ziehil u weghdiet t-ubbidjenza eterna mit-tifla, taghta permess biex tigi mieghi fuq dik li kella tkun l-akbar avventura ghaliha.

Nehhejt il-lizar irqieq li kont mghotti bieh minhabba n-nemus u nzilt inkiss inkiss lejn il-kamra tat-tfal. Bdejt nispera li ma taghmilx hsejjes meta nqajjima. Bzajt li jekk tistenbah ohta z-zghira , konna nhassru kollox.

“Rachel….”, pespistila f-widneja, jien u ncaqlaqa. Stajt kont incaqlaq blata. Rieqda kienet…..u rieqda baqghet.

Erfajta u nizziltha isfel.Middejta fuq is-sufan u bdejt naghmel naqra kafe’ biex nigi f-sensija. Donnu qisu ir-riha friska tal-kafe qajmet lil Rachel mir-raqda li kienet fiha.

“Ma rridx immur skola Pa,” qaltli storduta .”Igri jasal is-sajf ha nibqa rieqda!”

“Rachel, fis-sajf qeghdin…u ma qajjimtekx ghall-iskola, imma biex imorru nistadu maz-ziju Kalcidon. Isa ha….ixrob din in-naqra kafe’ halli tqum sew!”

Ma kelliex ghalfejn tiehu il-kafe biex tqum. Bilkemm kont spiccajt il-kelma li ma qabzitx minn fuq is-sufan u dahlet tigri fil kamra tal-banju. Omma kienet lestitila il-malja ta l-ghum u l-hwejjeg fuq il-magna tal-hasil il-lejl ta qabel. F-nofs minuta kienet giet lura. Xaghara mgerfex hallietu…u l-flokk libsitu ta wara quddiem. Kollox kien jghadii ghal Rachel. Minkejja li kienet tifla bil-ghaqal, kienet imferfxa wisq. Kienet taghmel kollox bl-ghaggla, haga li gieli dahhlita f-xi praspura. Kif ratni nhares lejha bi tbissima harset l-isfel u ndunat li kella xi haga mhux f’posta. Infqajna nidhku it-tnejn l-ahna…

“U iva papa’…..ma tantx ser indum bieh il-flokk. Fuq il-luzzu innehhieh u noqghod zaqqi barra bhaz-ziju Kalc!”

“Kont ser nghidlek x-taghmel!”, irrispondejta jien. “ Ma tafx kemm hi qawwija x-xemx taghna? Qabel kollox irrid nidilkek kontra r-raggi qawwija. U jekk ma tobdinix, hawn inhallik.”

“Le papa’, nisma minnek zgur…biex niccajta ghidtlek hekk.”

“Kollox sew. Basta biex ticcajta. Isma jekk lesta nahslu l-kikkri u mmorru bil-mod. Iz-ziju zgur qieghed jipprepara kollox biex isalpa.”, ghidtila

Rachel haslet iz-zewg kikkri u gbarna il-basket li kienet lestiet il-mara. “Uff kemmu tqil. Dan fih xebgha ikel. Hasbet li ser indumu gimgha il-mama’.”

Il-basket kien tassew tqil. Kellna fih pero’ l-iktar haga prezzjuza ghall kwalunkwe vjagg…..erba fliexken ilma mimlijin sax-xfar, iffrizati biex jibqghu keshin. Kont hrigtom mill friza qabel xeghelt il-kittla. Hrigna mid-dar, sakkarna warajna u mxejna lejn il-garaxx. Wara li dorna dawra mal-karozza biex naraw li kollox kien sew, dhalna u soqna bil-galbu lejn Marsaxlokk. F’dawk is-sieghat hekk bikrin ta filghodu stajt insuq kif ridt ghax ma rajniex vettura ohra fir-triq, imma l-prudenza fis-sewqan kienet xi haga li jien kont nosserva dejjem. Kif kont bsart, iz-ziju mhux talli kien ipprepara kollox, izda kien kwazi ser jitlaq minghajrna. Rachel ovvjament ma hallitux bi kwietu meta semghatu jghidli li hasibna mhux gejjin. Fi ftit minuti irhejna il-habel minn mal-moll u bdejna hergin mill-port zghir tal-villag. It-tgergir baxx tal-magni kien l-uniku hoss jinstema’ f-dik il-hemda ta filghodu. Rachel qatt ma kienet rat il-port minn fuq il-bahar, u l-kosta ta Malta ghogbita sew. Bdiet tiehu ritratt wara l-iehor.

“Tahlihomx kolla tafx…”, wissija z-ziju, “xejn ma trid niehdu xi sorpriza!”.

It-tifla taghtu harsa kurjuza, u biex inkun onest, lanqas jien ma fhimt dak li kien qalilna. Dak il-hin gibidli l-attenzjoni l-ghajjat mahnuq tal-gawwi u nsejt insaqsi lil-Kalcidon x-ried jghid biha.

Bejn li qomna kmieni, u bejn li bdejna nsalpaw il-barra, Rachel bdiet tonghos u maljr dahlet f-raqda. Iddecidejt li nghattiha ftit. Is-sirda ta fuq il-bahar meta jkun ghadu kmieni ma kienet tajba ghal-hadd. Ghattejta bi gverta li taghni z-ziju u irhejt lejn il-kabina fejn Gamri, sajjied anzjan, kien qed ihejji kittla ghall-kafe’. Qatt ma rnexxieli niskopri kemm kellu zmien Gamri. Li naf biss hu li jiena minn dejjem xieh niftakru. U nisma lil-Missieri jghid li hu lill Gamri ma jiftakrux zghazugh imma ragel maghmul. Lestejna tlett kikkri jaharqu u tlajna bihom hdejn Kalc, li kien qed isuq il-luzzu. Ghaddiet l-isbah siegha nitkellmu fuq il-gmiel tal-bahar ta madwar Malta. Wara ftit hares lejja u wissieni biex f-xi nofs siegha nahseb biex inqajjem lit-tifla ghax konna vicin is-sorpriza. Dahaq bijja hekk kif ra dik il harsa fuq wicci.

“Imma tista tghidli x’sorpriza lestejtilha? Ma tistax tistenna sakemm tqum waheda? Rieqda qisa bumbardun!”

Ma dan il-kliem infexx jidhaq. “ Jien ma lestejtilha xejn. U le…..ma tistax tistenna.”

“Kollox sew…fuq kollox int il-kaptan u tidher li taf x-qieghed taghmel.”, irrispondejtu. Il-kliem dar fuq affarijiet ohra, lestejt il-kafe’ u nzilt inqajjem lil Rachel.

Konna bilkemm hrigna ghal-fuq il-poppa li ma qamx storbju minn Kalc u Gamri.

“Gew, gew….ejjew igru…gibu il-kaxxa tar-ritratti maghkom…..isa!”

Gbarna il-‘camera’ maghna u tlaqna nghagglu il quddiem….u rajna is-sorpriza li kien lestilna z-ziju Kalcidon. Kienet tassew xena li zgur se tibqa tidwi f’mohhi ghal dejjem. Kienu qatta dniefel li kienu ghazlu li jakkumpjawna matul parti mill-vjagg taghna. Gamri baxxa il-velocita tal-magni biex jiena u Rachel inkunu nistghu ninzlu baxxi ma l-ilma u mmelsu dawn il-krejaturi hekk sbieh u mansi.

“Papa, il gilda taghhom proprja qisa bajda mghollija meta tqaxxara.”

Ma stajtx nimmagina kif irrejalizzat it-tifla, imma kella ragun. Kienet l-ahjar deskrizzjoni li setghet taghti. Ghal darb’ohra mmeraviljat ruhhi bl-intelligenza nnocenti tat-tfal.

Is-sajjied gabilna barmil bil-hut imqatta go fieh, u waqt li xxabbat il-barra beda jzomm il-lixka lid-dniefel. Proprju bhal ma naraw f-xi cirku, bdew jaqbzu l-barra mill bahar u jiehdu l-ikel minn idu. Ovvjament it-tifla ma hallitniex bi kwietna sakemm ippruvat hi wkoll. Bdiet twerza bl-eccitament. Id-dniefel hasbu li kienet qed ticcajata maghhom u iktar bdew jaqbzu u joghlew. Hadtilha sensiela ta ritratti li kienu ser jaghmluha ferm kuntenta. Din zgur kienet esperjenza li ser nibqghu niftakru ghal-dejjem. Wara xi nofs siegha jiggwidawna, qabzu wahda ta l-ahhar u ghebu fid-dlam tal-bahar fond.

Nahseb ghamilt xi kwarta ma niflahx nitkellem bil-kommozzjoni li kelli fuqhi. Wara li rkuprajt, staqsejt liz-ziju Kalc kif kien jaf li ser naraw dawn id-dniefel.

“Dejjem jghmlulna vizta meta jaraw luzzu…donnhom jafu li ahna l-Maltin ma nistadhux ghalihom. Ahna s-sajjieda ghandna patt bejnietna biex nipproteguhom dawn il-krejaturi meraviljuzi. U min-naha taghhom nahseb li japrezzaw li nhalluhom ikattru fis-sliem. Bdejt nitlob li ma jigux kmieni u tkun ghada rieqda it-tifla. Xi haga bhal din iggieghla tkun iktar konxja mil-hlejjaq t-Alla.”

Xi siegha wara tfajna l-ankri f-bahar fond u bdejna nistaghdu bis-serjeta. Il-hut beda tiela gmielu, izda wara dik l-esperjenza eccitanti mad-dniefel, mohhi ma kienx hemm u kelli genn biex nergghu narawhom ahna u sejrin lura. M’ghandniex xi nghidu, Rachel bdiet timpika li l-iktar li taqbad hut kienet hi, izda iktar qabdet is-sunnara max-xbiek tal-genb tal-luzzu. Sahansitra darba minnhom irnexxilha tqabbad is-sunnara mal-beritta ta Gamri, beritta li mil-kulur taghha zgur kienet gejja minn zmien Adam. Taret minn fuq rasu u baqghet tghum f’wicc l-ilma. Wara hafna tgergir mix-xih, kelli ninzel ghaliha fl-ilma jien. F’dan il-fond il-bahar kien ingazzat. Wara xi erba sieghat sajd iz-ziju iddecieda li ahjar nerhula l-gewwa biex nevitaw li naslu fid-dlam. Beda jahkimni l-eccitament ghal xi vizta ohra mid-dniefel, imma ma kellux ikun hekk. Id-dizappunt ittaffa xi ftit meta rajna zewgt ifrieken gganteski jghumu bil-mod il-gewwa. Qatt ma bsart li l-frieken jikbru dak il-kobor, u naturalment hadna ftit ritratti taghhom ukoll bhala rikordju.

Rachel , li kien ghad kella seba’ snin, raqdet ahna u sejrin lura, u stejqret biss meta wasalna lura d-dar. Ma damitx wisq biex tghid lill-omma bl-avventuri tal-gurnata. Kont ftehmt maz-ziju biex fil-futur qarib naghmlu sajda ohra……imma dik storja ghal-darba ohra.

Tania.

She  came  to me  again  in my  dreams. An  ethereal  floating  image  of raven-haired  beauty,  silky-smooth  skin  and  unsullied  eyes,  gleaming between  the  tresses of her hair. The  intense emotions my dreams gave me left  me  with  a  tender  heart  even  after  all  these  months  of  her  untimely demise.

Tania had departed this life a year and a half back, stricken down by a cruel illness, burning up her body from within without warning. Three months of endless agony, pleading and a host of questions unanswered.

We knew  right  then why  she was barren. We had never managed  to conceive  a  child  due  to  this  evil  growth.  I  could  not  comprehend why God had punished us thus. Hadn’t we always been good people? Hadn’t we always loved  each  other  tirelessly? Why  did  this  have  to  happen  to  us?  So many questions  that  will  forever  be  at  the  forefront  of  human  questioning.  We began to doubt the existence of a supreme being.

As if  in a dream, I began to reminisce about one of the last times we had been  together.  I  recall  that  it was a warm early autumn night, and we had just arrived home after a nice long walk along the promenade. We loved the old town just after summer ended , not too many people around, and so tranquil.Our quiet little home had always been our haven. Small cosy rooms, mostly  candle-lit  at  night,  to  create  the warmth  and  togetherness we  both craved. We had made  long passionate  love all through the night, basking  in the afterglow that only a healthy relationship could provide.

It was  the  last  time we  had  been whole  as  husband  and wife. Soon after,  the  tiredness  began  creeping  in.  At  first we  thought  it  was  just  the doldrums of a long winding summer in which we both had worked hard. But the  fatigue  would  last  for  days.Professional  help  both  allayed  our  fears  to what was happening. This was the signal  that the world was about to come crashing around us both.

Endless  tests, agony and  crying  could not, would not, stop the inesorable progress of the demon inside Tania.  Her eyes remained defiant, challenging the very same illness, trying to battle through, but to no avail. She died peacefully in her sleep on a Sunday morning, a day dear to her. The dawn light was grey and misty, as if wanting to hide this terrible deed from the world. As the doctor stepped outside and offered his condolences, I was thankful for the downpour.

Nobody sees your tears when you’re crying in the rain.

An endless procession of well-wishing  relatives did nothing  to  relieve the heaviness that had settled  like a stone on my heart. I refused to host a wake, not wanting  to sully my house with people who were as strangers  to me.

The days following the funeral were the worst in my life. I would spend days just going to her grave beneath the willow adjacent to the creek just up a nearby path. I would kneel at her headstone, talking. About the new batch of kittens our cat had produced. About  the poultry  that was  thriving. About the stream that was now burgeoning at the banks with the coming of autum. Autumn.  The  season  that  is  most  parallelled  to  the  slowing  down  of  life, before  the  onset  of winter would make  our  hair  grow white  and make  our souls stronger together.

For Tania  there was no such season as autumn. She was  taken  from me in the brightest period of our years together, during her summer zenith.

A  year  and  a  half  has  now  passed,  and  the  endless  nights  have  only  been relieved by the presence of Roy, my faithful setter, who has intelligently seen to my every need by simply being there. A year and a half of mourning.

Tomorrow is another day. Spring has crept on to us in a rush, and new shoots  are  springing  out  from  every  corner  in  the  fields,  under  the  trees, around Tania’s grave, bringing new hope to the needy and the hurt.

Yes enough time has passed  for me to catch up with  life again. Many times I have thought about ending my suffering, but I knew that this was not what Tania would have wanted. She would have  liked me  to go on and be strong. Yes, to mourn, and to move ahead. Not forget, but move on.

Yes, tomorrow is another day that is a further step in healing…

…and another day in Paradise for Tania.

The End

Copyright 2008 – Christopher Grillo – grillomalta@gmail.com