Rhodes is known as the island devoted to Apollo - the ancient Sun God. Winter seems to have almost forgotten this part of the world as it barely "touches" it. If one excludes the boiling hot summers from June until mid-October and the torrential rain and thunderstorms from January until late February, you can enjoy the bright sunshine and the refreshing breeze throughout the rest of the year. For that, spending time close to nature can have a healing effect and, as you might have guessed, the garden at Anima was, is, and always will be a sight for soar eyes.
With that in mind, I decided to turn one of the store-rooms into a study and a personal living room and thus, having a good excuse, spend most of my free time at the garden. I had a problem though. The store-room was full of old furniture, old china and various decorative objects from the previous owners who had abandoned them there when they left the business. I called the original owner's daughters and asked them if they wished to come and collect whatever was left from their father's belongings. They told me to do as I pleased with them since they had already taken all that was important a long time ago.
More than happy with their response, I disposed all that was beyond repair, stuffed the rest into another store-room and got myself busy fixing up the place. I found an iron set of shelves which I put on the wall as my bookcase, a couple of old chests where I put my personal collection of wines, a small oval table onto which I drew a white dove sitting on a branch, and used it as a desk and a very old, broken rocking-chair which I had a hard time repairing. When that was finished, I placed it by the window and, on the wall overlooking the garden, I painted a vine (clearly inspired by the aged vine in the garden). I purchased Turkish hand-made rags to put on the floor and completed the "picture" with an old bird cage where I put several scented candles. (I tend to use the weirdest things in the weirdest ways).
I was now admiring my "achievement" and wandering what was missing. Something WAS missing from that "nostalgic touch of a long forgotten era" I called my "little dwelling" at Anima. A smell! Jasmine, being my favourite flower, was soon to take its place outside the window and the picture was now completed. I'd be rocking in my rocking chair admiring the "magic" garden while smelling jasmine. A perfect world!
It was Saturday morning when I called the owner's oldest daughter whom I knew better than the rest of the family, and asked her to come by for a look and a cup of coffee. She kindly explained she was too busy to stay but she would gladly come with her husband to see what I'd done with the old place. Around noon, she walked through the garden and approached smiling. I was a little nervous because I hadn't told her I would be turning the store-room into my own private study but then again I didn't think she would mind.
I let them in and stood in a distance to give them space. I could hear them talk but, since it was in Turkish, I couldn't understand a word. Shortly afterwards, the husband came outside and asked me to go in and at that, I became more nervous.
Fayzan was alone inside with her back turned. I spoke gently and when she turned to face me, there were tears in her eyes. That was the first and last time she hugged me and I was deeply affected.
"Did I upset you? I'm sorry!" I asked.
She responded that I had just moved her and then, again, retained her distance. She explained that she hadn't seen this room looking so beautiful and cosy since the time they lived there as a family. She said she was still a child when she would come home from school to find her dad resting in this room on his rocking chair. She had seen the rocking chair before and never bothered to take it since it was completely broken and asked me what made me want to fix it. I told her I didn't know which was true. I was quite shaken by the revelation.
"I didn't know that this was his own space, I'm sorry if I upset you", I uttered not sure what I was apologizing for but she reassured me she was happy I fixed the room up.
She went on to tell me that the vine I so clearly loved to even draw it on the wall belonged to her father's father and had a great importance to her old man, who implored her never to let anyone cut it down. She lit up a cigarette and, after approaching the window asked me another question. What on earth made me put the jasmine by the window? I was now really shaking as I felt she had a good reason for asking and took me a while to speak. I think she must have sensed how nervous I was because she hurried to tell me it was her old man's favourite flower.
How on earth could I possibly have known that this was his rocking chair, that was his favourite flower and that he cared so much about a vine?! I supposed the rest was his stuff too but the daughter said nothing and I was not about to ask. I had enough for a day!
"The old man is a happy man now" she added and I think I must have smiled or, at least, I hope I did.
A bit later, they were gone and I was left shaken by the "coincidences". I have, to this very day, never stopped wondering if all that, the decoration, the room itself, the drawing on the wall, had been my idea or someone else's dream through me. I remember feeling as if I was invading another man's space, and that now I had spent so much time fixing the room, I had no business there. The previous events concerning the mirror, and the misplaced china could not have been a coincidence, either. What if he was actually here and angry that I was touching his belongings?
I dared to stand on the front porch but I was too scared to walk any further, and just whispered "What I did was out of love for this place, and out of respect for the beautiful objects. I couldn't let them laying there broken as they were. I didn't mean to interfere, but if my presence bothers you, let me know and I will never step foot in here again. But, please whatever the answer is, don't go moving objects or making noises because that scares the life out of me. Thank you..."
That was that. I had never, in the 3 years I stayed in that place, felt threatened, but there were instances I felt I wasn't alone. On a few occasions, I could even swear I caught a glimpse of the rocking chair slightly moving. I can't be sure it was him and yet, I know that whoever was there had come in peace to keep me company.