To see again with unclouded eyes

By Lizzy Ioannidou

A few rains before 2020 set its eyes upon the future, I planted three sunflower seeds in a pot. I’d gone to visit my grandmother, something I didn’t do as often as I should have and something that always ended with me leaving with more than I had arrived. That time, I left with an envelope of sunflower seeds and mountains of pots she had no use for as a mother of a proper playground for roots.

I bought some soil from my neighbourhood nursery. I remember an old man with a thick white moustache having coffee with the proprietor, the tips of his fur tinted brown. A round beige top hat stood proud and immaculately clean on his bald head, whispering stories of what it has seen and survived to the tired, migratory photographs scattered across the only wall free of foliage. His forehead was dissected by rivers given depth and stature by the darkness of the interior of the shop. He asked timidly if I was planning on planting my jumper, a hand-me-down from my grandmother that she had laboriously embroidered herself, the threads of which formed a sort of wildflower still life. I remember smiling uncomfortably. These’ll grow whether we like it or not, I replied.

Four floors up, balcony looking south into the apparent vastness of this place which mostly feels like the place people go to give up. Soil in pot, three seeds well-spaced out, laid to rise in their lifebed. Water. Song.  And what costume shall the poor girl wear to all tomorrow’s parties, a hand-me-down dress from who knows where, to all tomorrow’s parties.

As the world closed in, the sunflowers bloomed. The world closed in, the world closed in, the world closed in. The derelict, violent now, as opposed to the blooming, unconfined then. But I knew that every corner of this world has always been at war – visible, loud at times, but mostly muted, a collective slow burn. The outside, the over there, all that which was supposed to be ours, the playground of our spirits, was never a hearth for all displays of being. That which we could not freely access was always the arena where inconspicuous death could run wild by the blank spots, by the words not said in legislative novellas proclaiming the end of violence.

And bodies silently piled onto bodies, superimposed by a projection of images on a loop depicting appropriate bodies moving freely, reaching somewhere, becoming something. But the streets always seem to direct the winds carrying the smell of those unjustly done away with across its whole, winding, potholed body – a proper funeral procession for those who’d be forgotten. I remember I could smell it so distinctly then, as the streets cleared of domineering fumes.

Dispossessed of our distractions, deprived of our false hopes. All we could do was remember. And watch our sunflowers grow, because for them, somewhere, over there, where we could no longer access, it was spring.

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