Chapter 6 A visit from social services and a missing person’s report – Part 5

The doorbell rang, breaking the already fractured image of this grand funeral slowly coalescing in Brenda’s mind. It was Mimis with the bill for his boiler work and as Brenda wrenched open Audrey’s front door he smiled and said: “That door wants planing.” Brenda watched as Mimis hovered on the doorstep without saying anything further. She wasn’t quite sure what he was waiting for, until she noticed the bill in his outstretched hand. Reaching for the envelop she said “thank you. I am sorry Audrey isn’t back yet”, and stayed still watching the man and out of nowhere wondering about the poetry thing. So she asked him. “Do you really write poems?” Mimis had never felt so excited in his life, but he was also gripped by an urgent panic. “Yes. No one else knows. At least, I mean you are the only one who knows. I don’t really talk about it.” Clearing his throat and shifting backwards down the step he smiled eyes wide and headed for his van suddenly energised that someone might actually consider him a poet instead of a boiler man. “Maybe I’ll bring you something to read”, he called over his shoulder. ”We could go to the park and I can explain them.” Explain them? Brenda waved half-heartedly and called a careful “yes, that would be nice” and wondering what’s to explain in a poem. And Mimis got into his van and drove off, a waving hand flung out of the window in careless farewell. Brenda, yet another bill in hand slammed the front door hard, left the bill in the kitchen and took herself slowly down the stairs to the basement. Lying in the dark she ran through the bills once again until she fell into a half-sleep, where Mimis’ bill grew into the size of a bedsheet. The details it showed in giant letters were fuzzy and feint, and the space at the bottom of the invoice was empty.

Mimis is indeed more than a boiler man, but being a boiler man has given his adult life structure and stability, quiet, a living. Being more than that might have carried some incipient risk. Ever since he came to London as a small child his life had been dramatic, and for Mimis drama was a normal part of his childhood. His English mother had died shortly after they moved to the UK from Thessaloniki. Hippies with their little boy and an adoring Yiayia and Papou in tow, his parents and grandparents had come to London in search not of drama but of calm. The loving couple willingly left behind the chaos and violence that had been their Greek reality for the chaos and confusion of London, with a foreign language and a little boy to raise thrown in for good measure. An English bride wasn’t really what Yiayia and Papou had wanted for their son, but life over death on a protest line was definitely preferable for all of them. And without her who knows where their lives in Athens would have taken them. Nowhere safe for sure. Their love for little Dimitrios was boundless. They cared for him through all the school plays and gatherings, and through their son’s working life driving a cab whilst framing ideas for ousting the generals in charge in Greece. He would share his ideas every evening over dinner, smoking, eating, and rattling conversations in noisy Greek. Mimis had tried to follow his father’s rants but his little boy Greek could not keep up. And the shouting made him anxious so he instead would put his head in Yiayia’s lap and wait for it to stop. When Papou died and his wife swathed herself in endless black and tears, Mimis feared she would soon follow. With only his dad and grandma, it was hard for Mimis to keep any connection to Englishness despite his successful disguise. He spoke flawless English but confused, vulnerable and excessively popular with the girls at his school Mimis’ spirit was Grecian. His schoolfellows gawped at those soft shining brown curls and his matchless eyes, the perfect complexion, olives and cream, those endlessly long eyelashes, his grace and muscularity. Excessively popular, excessively sensitive, uncertain and gullible. A broken heart at 17 was enough to leave him emotionally traumatised and wary, reluctant to interact with his schoolmates. Despite his grades, uni was out and instead he trained as a fixer of boilers, became superbly skilled at superficial chat and took no interest in any sort of commitment to any strangers. Mimis cared for his ailing father, looked after their house and after Yiayia died Mimis cooked pasticio and koulourakia for his dad. He followed Yiayia’s recipes from a broken book with pages marked and stained, persistent reminders of festivals and celebrations long since forgotten. The book was his connection to a life long gone but still vibrant and he always remembered that Greek Easter, like many other magics comes in its own time.

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