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IV 

He had to do something to make the garden bloom. He had to take care of the plants so that they would flower, even if his heart was broken and hurt. Drowning in sobs from so many nightmares, he began to douse the pots with the green can, until they were flooded like soup. He was wearing the scarf stuck to his hair, the one with the tassels that hung down like rain drops and started to hang out the clothes. “It might rain!” he thought, as he hung up his wet rags on the clothes lines to dry in the morning cool.  He liked pottering about in the yard, weeding the flower beds, scrubbing them clean, looking after the pots. Even though none of you will let him douse the geraniums, he did what he could so that the flowers would not wilt and the birds would not die.  He had a look of cold satisfaction and a bloody head, while the sound of the torrent could be heard from afar. That day the sky was clouded with fog and it was raining, raining unceasingly.  He could not imagine a yard without taps or clothes lines, without the burbling fountain and without his flowers that perfumed the whole neighbourhood. That was why he took such great care of the garden! He regularly waxed and varnished the wooden shed and polished the cool tiles, and the wine flowed inexhaustibly every time he started some important job! He drank so much that hallucinations poured over him as if there was a river of blood on the ground, and not only there… Look, a fountain of blood in front of him, and the shallow pool of liquid foaming from the rain that you won’t allow to lick you clean. That was when he noticed the glass cases he had placed on the slabs around the garden, as he continued to douse the geraniums and hang up a few more clothes on the lines. But he had forgotten the cooker, the vegetable soup, and had to run, despite the rain, hoping to catch it before it burnt. What with his obsession for dousing the plants, all the liquids in the garden and having spent so long dousing the flowers, he got carried away in a whirlpool and forgot everything else going on around him.

So, he ran, fast as a fish caught up in the torrential current!  He tripped over the cat that had just had kittens – like so many around the neighbourhood at that time, their dugs full of milk. He entered the kitchen and saw her, drunk, having laid the table. He sat down to eat with her. He picked up a slice of bread, spread it with butter and put it in the plate with the soup. The whole house now smelled of freshly cooked soup. He started to enjoy it too and to take in its scent as they ate together in the cool of the morning. All that rain had turned the mud in the lake a brown turbid colour and the torrent was running unstoppably. The lake was surrounded by bars like the ones they install on the metro escalators and once again the smog was suffocating the air. He could see something shining far on the horizon as he struggled and sweated to clean the greasy floor and the stains from the cup that he had left in the sink the night before. Last night, as he was drinking a cup of thick, cold chocolate, he made a clumsy, sudden move and knocked it to the floor. He had to clean up the spilt chocolate before the stain dried. 

The rain and humidity gave him a sense of satiety. This unstable weather, with the smog and the damp sucked the air out of him, he lost his sense of smell - he could not breathe. His heart, day by day, was breaking more and more. Even the bath ritual seemed tedious to him. He could not even fill the bathtub any more, while the foam overflowed whenever he left the tap running. “I must have left it on while I was shaving” he thought, and the bathroom walls had acquired a spongy patina that absorbed all the damp. He could not get out of his mind how insulted, how offended he felt when this happened. And while he was now used to the humidity of the subsoil, and the garden was so shady and damp on those mornings, flooded with scents, full of multi-coloured pebbles, he remembered sitting with her on a metal bench overhung with the cool leaves of the elm tree - that lost scent of the tree blossoms, a faint aroma.  And they would be greedily gulping down the lemonade and watching an amoeba gracefully drinking the juice from a rotten radish in the garden. That was how he remembered her - that was how the figure of the girl came to him – a figure thickly powdered, so covered in make-up that she appeared cooler and more alive in this setting. And as he gazed for a long time at the mountain opposite and watched the smog moving slowly past, he drank his coffee after he had finished washing himself. He could feel the breeze go through him from the polished, lacquered kitchen table where he had set the china plates for the soup. As he held the soup bowl out, the brimming ladle filled with sweat. His mother had given him good advice: “Always wash your hands after cooking and before ladling out the food”.  While he was thinking of his mother’s words, he spilled the hot soup all over him together with the whey, and he tried to clean himself with an ordinary, waterproof cloth. It was really cold and the kitchen, made of varnished wood, was full, almost overwhelmingly, with enormous planks.  

He was pale, milky-coloured, with a floury layer of dust on his clothes, covered in horrible scars, trying to avoid the suffocating perfumed cloud that enveloped him. She appeared to have wept a great deal, while her rosy skin could be vaguely seen through the fine gauze material of her clothes that were a milky white – like whey – cruelly lit and also pale. They both started moving and the flooded blood was clogging the road in front of them. They had the child with them. And at the moment when the tongue was writhing, she looked at him with tears in her eyes and said in a trembling voice: “Let me lather you properly, I told him, and I was very happy to lather him. Then I asked, Can I shave you now? But he didn’t want me to …”. She was telling him these things, and he sat there, wasted from the drink, across the frothing surface of the lake that resembled the Sicilian Sea, trying to avoid the smells from the lost swamp, while the ambient temperature presaged a storm, a storm of dust that choked them. The child, who was not conditioned to this climate, could not stand the rain or the sandstorm that was flooding the atmosphere, and was crying. She had raised him alone, unbaptised, in these conditions, with the sandstorms, with the rain becoming one with the sewage that was flowing here and there like a riv“Where is the flood coming from, mummy? Where is the shit going, daddy?” The child wondered …

V

Why? Why? Why did he like watching it so much? Why did it take so much strength to swallow the air that the cold clouds around were spewing out in the form of rain? The most horrifying thing of all was that he was outside his old house, in one of his father’s orchards. What kind of orchard? Not a very usual one – it was one of those where insects flew in and smelled the spray that immediately warmed up their throats and killed them within seconds. That was what he remembered every time and from standing there coldly, he started daydreaming and his cheeks reddened as if after sniffing a pinch of coke, like that time at the party thrown by Klaus - his friend from Germany. He remembered feeling the bitter, sour powder in his nostril and wanting to throw up. The mirror did not lie, he looked a mess. He decided to interrupt these thoughts because he remembered that he had to take his car for a service, after he had painted the bumper that he had damaged some time ago when he was ordered to get rid of a stranger. He had been paid well for that killing: he had to get the oil changed as well, he thought, perhaps have a fridge put in and fill it with lemonade, like at home. Truth be told, what he wouldn’t give for a Pepsi right now.  The mechanics were nice and warm – they had been drinking beer all afternoon, their drooling lips were dripping with slimy foam, they burped and wiped their moustaches on their sleeves; each gulp of beer they guzzled made their faces even redder, as if he had found them soaked with blood In a tropical storm that had drowned in the grey dusk, yes, that was it, drowned in the dusk, in odors steaming in burnt beer. Then he realized he would have to get plastered too, so he could do his killing in better conscience.  He was at the petrol station, in the best part of town, that is to say, and he would drink, and inhale the spicy smell of the petrol. He had a quick look in the small fridge; inside were some yogurts that had gone off, they were warm, lukewarm – was the fridge not working? The mechanic smiled at him as he cleaned the windscreen, sweating over the exhaust pipe and splashed his muddy shoes as he relieved himself. He decided to steal some lemonade and leave, after they had finished cleaning the windscreen and the windows. After all that alcohol he had a longing to go down to the harbour and look at the sea: “I’ve missed hearing the wind” he said, “looking at the chubby ducks stuffed with too much bread and no longer able to quack, while the world is reeling”. He thought he might go to the Little Wet Spider, his favourite bar. It was evening, after all, what else was he supposed to do? 

He picked up the china teapot and sat in front of the mirror, quickly poured the tea and looked into the mirror with crazed eyes: “Stay and have a cup of tea!” he told his reflection, which replied with a forced smile, as if it not quite sure what was going on. Crickets and frogs could be heard from the swamp surrounding the eastern side of his ranch. He looked down at the palms of his anguish and saw the screaming cuts: “Where did you spring from?” he said to the razor in his right hand. The blood was pouring down his left wrist, the bucket of petrol he had thrown into the house stank, his eyes remained fixed on the slashed skin, where rivulets of blood flowed down glass furrows, just before he leapt at the drawer with the bandages hoping to prevent what was coming.  He climbed into the garage, onto the bookshelves – that was where he kept the sterile gauzes and white spirit – he slipped on the tools, with torrents of old magazines and an old bicycle coming tumbling down - among the magazines there was a book about the second coming – the blood kept flowing and the magazines kept falling, he coughed several times and spat more blood into his hands, he felt dizzy, he opened one of the magazines and then spat on two pages that were stuck together to separate them, his eyes shone like new coins, he saw  his favourite actress scrubbing floors, saying in her interview that there was no shame in any kind of work – her name was Urenia – he couldn’t remember her surname. He got up and tried not to step on the glass from the broken bottles that had fallen with everything else, he felt as if he was gestating a huge bruise, the seasons rushing and not stopping, spring to summer and autumn to winter in a second. The bulbous glass in his eyes made them look three times as big – was that how he would be found dead? Disgraceful! He started to laugh - a dry cackling laugh, like listening to Atropos playing biriba with her sisters in a straw cabin. The swamp, calm but full, was still there and he invited the frogs in and they drank beer. He called one of them Mr. Transparent, and the other one, Mr. Filther. The moonlight washed over their foreheads, sweaty and slimy from the swamp, as big as fruit plates. He went down the steps in front of him and arrived at a swimming pool dug into the basement, filled with subaquatic equipment – flippers, masks and so on, with clear blue tiles and china ornaments forgotten down there for years, perhaps since his grandmother’s time. Even the vases down there were antiques, with sweet, sad people painted on them in hematite ochre. 

“Didn’t I tell you to get in the bath and shut up? This isn’t the pool bar here, or some chick wrapped in little pink clouds, really, get over yourself. Do you see those cloths dipped in vinegar? Can you see the tear gas? When you were students, did they used to ask you what you believed in when you went into some joint and destroyed everything? You didn’t care, did you? Big deal, are you saying?’ he laughed and continued his inner dialogue: “Do you see that ice pick over there? Next to the ice sculpture you made for that wedding - that melted in 24 minutes? Its base is sunk in the smoke”, the frogs in the field were croaking as if calling his name, “The ice pick is over there – go ahead”, his eyes filled with tears – he was really pissed – he could see an aquarium next to him, “I like fishing” he thought. “Won’t I miss that? Grandad used to submerge himself in the tub and pretend he was a fish”, the liquid warmed up, the wind stopped for a second, the evening sounds in the gardens seemed to cease, the stones, time, everything stopped moving. “You dug two graves, you’ll only use one, like the time you gutted the trout and threw it away because it made you sick. The gardenias? What about them? Won’t you miss them? What about whisky? That you latch onto every time you can’t stand what’s going on, like a drowning man grabbing at a life jacket, oh, the little whisky!” Silence overpowered the depths of the house, like the morning frost. He recalled pissing next to a cypress near their house.

"The virtual residency at Well Projects came as a much needed getaway for me during this uncertain period of the pandemic. In the beginning, I had been invited to Well Projects to present a series of my artworks in a live exhibition. The abrupt change of reality which we were all forced to face, made me re-think and re-process the ideas that I had in mind, because everything had to be readapted in a virtual form. This turnout proved one of the positive outcomes in my life during the outburst of the virus, as I had the wonderful chance to meet and speak with new people of various disciplines, graphic designers, web developers, animators, etc. and discuss the amount of possibilities that I had in creating a "virtual" artwork, as well as get trained in a series of applications and programmes in order to bring my project to life. I had a crash call in all these mediums, which was a challenge, but a very rewarding one." - Kyriaki Costa


'Burnt Waters - a response to Carlos Fuentes' by Kyriaki Costa is the product of an online residency to learn new skills in cretive technologies funded by Arts Council England & The Cyprus Ministry of Culture .