During my childhood, I would spend most of my time at Grandma and Grandpa's house and many nights, I would fall asleep in the guest-room after the tenth or eleventh bed-time story. I didn't like sleeping. I felt it took me away from a fascinating world I needed to explore!
Sometimes grandma would fall asleep first as many other courageous adults who attempted to 'tuck me in' which left me free to wander around a dark house or peeking through the window overlooking Chrisa's house.
I was a bit apprehensive of that old house and especially curious about who comes in and out the front door. I knew Chrisa lived there with her family but I never saw her outdoors.
Grandma Anna told me she was a sick little girl who had to stay in bed until she felt better. Grandpa Francesco would always ask me to be quiet when listening to my collection of fairy-tales in the tape recorder because the little girl needed to sleep. For that, I would always keep very quiet when I was over to their house not wishing to wake up 'the little girl'.
One day I asked grandma if I could go over to Chrisa's house and play with her. I had brought with me all my toys and hoped to somehow stir up that little girl. To my distress, grandma refused to give me permission and bluntly stated that Chrisa was too ill to play and that I had to wait until she got better.
I started making calculations and returned with another question for grandma.
"She's been sick for too long! When will she get better?"
"Well, soon..." Grandma reluctantly replied.
"Soon, when?" I insisted.
Grandma kept trying to attract my attention away from the girl and I finally gave up the questioning since something about the adults' secret concerning Chrisa felt threatening to a girl my age.
For the next couple of months I would spend more and more time by the window. From there I could see her bedroom window and was even able to discern slight movements behind that white curtain that kept me away. I would leave a doll or a teddy bear on the windowsill and wait behind my curtains to catch a reaction. A few times I saw a little hand pulling the curtain aside and what looked like a yellowish little face looking towards my direction.
One night my grandma's narration was interrupted by a woman's scream and at that, a violent commotion could be heard from the neighbors' house. I darted towards the window and my grandparents both ran to the front balcony. I heard them whisper but all I could make out was a single phrase grandpa uttered.
"Not now-they might not like it..."
An ambulance arrived, people started crying and grandpa came back to put me to bed. He closed my window and pulled down the blinders.
In the days that followed, I overheard the adults saying that Chrisa wasn't doing well and constantly referring to a "tragedy" and I knew something terribly frightening was going to happen. Being too young to know better, I came up with an idea that if Chrisa could have all my toys, she will be happy again and the illness would go away. I summoned up my courage, collected all my best toys and knocked on their front door.
I was greeted by an elder woman I had seen a few times from a distance, Chrisa's grandma. I told her my plan and after we got my grandmother's permission as the elder requested, I followed her upstairs into Chrisa's bedroom.
I still remember that tiny bed by the window overwhelmed by my stuffed toys, dolls, books, etc.
Days later Chrisa came back on a stretcher but the crying didn't stop. Every day and every night I would see the lights on all over her house but her own bedroom remained dark and silent until that dreadful night when the crying became louder.
"No. No. Not my child! Whose God are you?"
I stayed behind the window frozen until grandpa came rushing in, picked me up and took me home.
"You're not supposed to be here tonight-you're too young" was all I was told.
Chrisa's funeral took place a few weeks after the final incident and I wasn't allowed to pay my respects. I wasn't allowed to be at my grandparents' house during the mourning and wake either.
That spring, Chrisa's family moved out leaving nothing but an empty cold house behind. My toys were returned to me with a thank you note from the girl's mother. I put them back on their shelves and never touched them again.
One night I was awaken by something falling off the shelf onto my bed. My stuffed monkey pencil case was head down on my side. I picked it up and hurried to put it back in its place. The second night the toy hit my face on its way down from the shelf. Again I put it back. The third night, the same ritual only this time I put the toy with its back against the far end of the wall and placed a wooden cube in front of it to block its way.
A few nights passed until I was awaken again by the monkey lying face down on my pillow. Looking up on the shelf I could see the cube standing in its place as did many other toys that were "almost balancing" on the edges of the shelf. None of them ever fell so how could a toy that was carefully placed in the far-away corner not only fall but instead of hitting the floor, come face down on my bed, a meter and a half away from its seated position? I screamed as loud as I could and I remember my parents running in my bedroom trying to calm me down.
I asked my mum to remove the toy from my room. I didn't sleep that night since my mind was fixated on that falling toy.
In the morning I decided it would be better if I put the toy on my dad's bookcase where I wouldn't have to see it so often. I pulled out a chair and picked up the toy when I realised it made a strange sound when you squeezed it. I pulled down the zip on its back to find a drawing I had never put in there myself. It depicted a house with a red fence and a large garden full of colourful flowers and green trees. Two girls were sitting on the front porch playing with what looked like a pink kitten. It was signed "Hi, Chrisa".
Up until today, I keep wondering if the toy was deliberately thrown on my bed by a 'restless energy' of some sort or by pure coincidence. And yet, I have found the logical or empirical evidence too weak to support such conclusion.
Chrisa died at the age of eight after a long battle with cancer. Ever since she was diagnosed, she had to stay indoors. While I was playing happily with my toys and running around annoying all others, Chrisa was getting blood transfusions and barely clinked to life.
We never had the chance to play in reality. I never got to see her smile but in that drawing that still decorates my old bedroom wall, both girls are smiling in the open air under the brightest of all suns.