Frozen Memory: A True Story

I will always remember the sound: The shrill pitch. Anguish. Utter loss. It must be twenty-five years ago now. Still, a shiver runs down my spine, makes the hair stand on the back of my neck, goose pimples raise on my arms. I have to set my jaw to keep the teeth from chattering. Sudden tears cloud the vision.

I was at work one day. It was the afternoon. A workday afternoon like any other. A coworker got a phone call. A preteen boy, his best friend, a gun in the house, a mother’s scream frozen in time.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The church bell rang this Thursday morning. Long, measured strokes echoed through the neighborhood’s narrow, paved streets. Howling dogs answered.

I closed the door behind me as I left on daily errands. My neighbor stood on the terrace before her house, facing the street.

Marianna and I always exchange greetings. She doesn’t speak English, and she knows my Greek is limited. That doesn’t stop her, though, from smiling and talking at length about the cats, her husband, or the olives she crushes into paste. Catching what I can, I smile back, nodding, and say, “Nai,” which means yes.

“Kaliméra, Marianna!”

She turned toward me, blowing her nose into a tissue. Her eyes, wet.

My smile dropped. “Ti kánis?” I asked, How are you?, nearing the frontier of my proficiency in the language.

She gestured toward the house across the way and spoke. Among the words, I heard “fíli.” Friend.

I nodded and said, “Nai,” while Marianna went on talking between sobs.

At a pause, I opened my arms. Her head fell on my shoulder. Blubbers and murmurs. Eyes closed, I took a long breath and held it.

She pulled back and blew her nose again. “Efcharistó,” she said, Thank you.

I walked away, hand on heart, where wounds yet weep.