There is this very old stone house that still stands in one of the oldest neighborhood on the island just on the outskirts of the Medieval Town-the place I proudly call "Home". Almost twenty-five to thirty years ago when I was still a young child this house was a popular meeting place for kids my age who loved cats and enjoyed Yiannis' stories about the lost ships and their buried treasures deep in the ocean.
The elder man lived there with his wife, a fragile woman who kept to herself most of the time. He loved cats and for that reason, the overgrown garden became a shelter for strays of any age and color.
The old couple would spend most of the day in the safety of that garden behind the tall stone fence or rather, the "protective wall" that kept them at a safe distance from the few bad neighboring "eyes". I visited them every single day until finally my presence became an important part of their everyday life. Yiannis would not feed the cats unless I was there to "help" him. Then, he'd rush inside the kitchen, prepare the "elaborate meal" and start calling out to them to approach his porch, "Psss...Pssss...Pssss..."
Often he would wait until I was there to keep an eye on his beloved wife, Katerina, before he left his fortress for a quick glance at the "world outside" and Katerina would not bake the sugar cookies if I didn't share them with Yiannis.
It must have been during my last year of grammar school when I once again opened the front gate to pay another of my highly anticipated visits to the "grandparents". It took a simple, quick look at Yiannis' face to realize that something was terribly wrong-a suspicion that soon because bitter knowledge for me. He was sick!
"The doctor wants me back for more tests but I'm not going", he plainly stated as I remained quiet.
"The wife's also sick, her bones are growing old-they're wearing out-she'll have to stay in bed more often".
I tried uttering a word but my thoughts were abruptly interrupted by the elder's hand gesture. I kept silent watching him disappear into the kitchen once again.
Time passed, the neighbors began spreading the news about the elder's deteriorating health. His son, they whispered, forced him to see the doctor but to no avail. "He's got cancer", they said.
I kept my daily schedule and made sure to always be punctual during my visits to the Stone House only now I was the only visitor allowed. Yiannis seemed withdrawn, easily irritable. It would slowly take him ages to prepare the gourmet-meal for his four-legged companions and stood on the porch when calling them to dinner.
It was a Saturday when I woke up with an uneasy feeling as if something terribly bad was going to happen. I immediately brought Yiannis to mind and wonder what he was doing since his Katerina was in hospital for treatment. I quickly jumped out of bed, grabbed the left-overs from the previous night and ran to the Stone House forgetting all about breakfast. The front gate was locked from the inside. I yelled his name but got no reply. It took me no more than a brief moment of hesitation and I was up on the tree, onto the fence wall and into the garden.
I called his name again but still no sound of him when I glanced at the front door to see the keys being on the outside. I turned the knob and walked in.
I remember seeing his Sunday shoes first before my eyes followed his silhouette hanging from a rope from a beam up on the ceiling. I dropped the bag as my eyes met his-wide open and distorted, looking in the vast emptiness around him.
I ran back home to tell my parents and watched from inside my bedroom window as people were gathering outside his home and others in uniform came to take him away.
Years passed with people telling Yiannis' tale of how his love for his wife made him end his life for fear that he would become a burden. The house aged, Katerina perished but the cats still remained multiplying in numbers.
I never stopped visiting "the shelter", feeding his beloved strays but each time I'm there I sense him around peeking through the rusty kitchen door that hangs low from its hinges. I have never "seen" him but I have heard him once, I'm sure. It was late one afternoon that I once again walked through the front gate with another bag of food. I had my back turned to the kitchen as I was dividing the portions when I clearly and distinctly heard his "calling" fill the air.
"Psss...Pssss...Psss" and the cats all vanished from my side to line up on the kitchen porch.
I froze for a moment when the sound echoed again, "psss...pssss...pssss!" I left the food down and approached the porch. I called at the cats. They turned looked at me and turned back to face the dark interior behind the rusty door.