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Nicosia in Dark and White
On Your Fiftieth Anniversary
Short story by Ioanna Mavrou
Everything is quiet. The years pass like water in a stream. You sit and wait patiently and impatiently. You can’t decide if you’re happy that nothing bad happens, or sad that nothing happens. You can’t be sure but you think you were lucky. You are alive. You have mementos of the time before the war. You have mementos of the war too. You wonder if broken countries can be put back together and what kind of glue is necessary for such a delicate operation. You are growing old and weary and your children flew to places far, like migratory birds coming back once a year, and then going away again. The TV doesn’t show the Don’t Forget places anymore and you wonder if that means you should stop remembering.
When the roadblocks opened you couldn’t help but go through, but instead of reconnecting with your family ghosts you felt betrayed that your old house would go on living without you. They smiled and stood there and held the door open for you to come in and look, but their family pictures on your old mantle told you that they would never want to leave. When you saw the sea of your youth you felt a piece of your heart sinking in it. The smell told you this was home but you doubted that any court could give it back to you.
You now have a new picture to put on your wall, a new thing to keep you up at night. The centuries aren’t comforting you anymore, history stays with history, and you feel like you’re fading into it. You raise your flag in defiance every October, of that country that could have been. You keep thinking of inappropriate jokes you don’t dare tell people, like how the whole thing was a big practical joke, payback for April Fool’s Day 1955: “Here, have a country, we swear, it will work, in fact we guarantee it.”
You are both ashamed and entertained by your wit. You think of the days when you had frappés with your friends at the Nicosia Airport café and watched the planes land and take off. You were too old to fight in 1974, too scared to not run away. You were never one to want revenge but sometimes when you follow the road that no longer takes you home you feel like crying.
The years have been kind to you, your children often say, and you don’t want to make a fuss so you don’t tell them. About the dreams that come now almost every night where you are stuck in mud on the bottom of the sea like the Kyrenia Ship, waiting for divers to dig you out. The ancient faces you see now are your own, you speak to them in Ancient Greek and tell them what they already know. That you are afraid.
(Note: On Your Fiftieth Anniversary is a work of fiction.)
Thodoris Tzalavras is a Greek photographer currently based in Nicosia, Cyprus. Nicosia in Dark and White is his first monograph.
Ioanna Mavrou writes fiction and is studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. She loves photography.