White smoke

Aunt Florence can’t speak any more. Her steps are timid and short. Her eyes wander around. They are never quiet. Sometimes she looks at me, and her gaze fixes on my own. What are you thinking? I ask, but her eyes only reply by going away.

I wonder sometimes what does she think. And then I imagine her wandering gaze and think of her tiny and timid steps. Her head must be filled with smoke. It must be filled with a white fog of nebulous mist. I keep thinking but the idea of the smoke is often dismissed as I meet her eyes again and her they look at me with a lucid smile.

Her photograph rests on a small shelf of the living room. Her smile was wide and a perfect row of white teeth delineated a beautiful gesture that, as my mother recalls, melted the hearts of the young boys of their neighbourhood.

I think of her, walking side by side my mother on their weekend trips. Aunt Florence would always pick a few sunflowers from the fields. They would die, slowly, while their stems floated inside a vase full of water. The flowers would follow the sun until exhaustion would slowly turn their heads down and their petals would wither and fall on the table.

Aunt Florence. What happened to you? I whisper. We grow old, my mother would always start, and ideas start circling in our heads like a school of silvery fish. They turn over and over and around and around. Look at your father, look at him. And I would turn my head to see him looking and unlocking the door three times. Time fills us with ideas.

I was young when she was lucid. I would sit on her lap, and she would pass her hand through my hair. I didn’t like the way she did it, but I would always stay, because of the stories she would tell me. I don’t remember many of them. They talked about my mother and her, their house in the mountains, and the evenings they would spend there stretching their bodies to the sun.

I often think it is the weight of our memories what ends up driving us crazy. Some other times, I think this cannot be the case. Memories go away, vanish and die, except those which, due to an unlikely event of fortune, remain glued to our beings. Those memories, those aleatory pickings from the random sample of our lives will cycle again and again, back and forth as some of the most basic constituents of our selves. What happened to Aunt Florence? It may be there are too many memories inside her. She would repeat the same stories again and again, until one day, she stopped talking. Her eyes left the calmness of her face a few months later. Since then, she can’t speak any more and her steps are timid and short.

Aunt Florence is not crazy. She is as crazy as everyone is. On the streets the homeless man tells every man the same words,  ‘Good morning young man’. In the café, they speak with a high pitch. That man talks with an air of importance, and she listens with an interested gaze. Oblivious to my looks, they talk their intimate talk, and he gesticulates and she gesticulates back, and they talk of their manias, and they nod to the sound of each other’s obsessions.  I am crazy as well. I collect fossils from the mesozoic period and in my dreams I am able to fly, and move objects around with the power of my mind. Aunt Florence is not crazy. From time to time, I whisper to her ear “Are you crazy? Are you crazy Aunt Florence?” and her eyes look back at me with a vague and indecipherable smile.