“Papa is coming home, the light went off in his store. Nana, may I use the binoculars? I want to see him walking!”
The old lady opens the dresser’s drawer, and gives Ellie the ornated binoculars. They are by the balcony, on the highest floor of a nineteen-century building.
Ellie loves exploring places through the binoculars’ lenses. She looks at the town, and at the moon, which is so big and bright tonight.
“Nana! The moon seems so close to me… I can almost touch it.”
“And Papa? Where’s he now? Can you see him?”
The girls lowers the binoculars to search for Papa on the street.
“He’s walking fast…”
“He’ll be here soon. Come, let’s set the table.”
Ellie would like to linger on with her magic tool, but it’s time for dinner, and the two get busy with dishes, pots, and tablecloth.
“Where’s the milk? Why didn’t the farmer deliver the milk tonight?” Nana asks, her voice tense and worried. Ellie smiles: “He came already, don’t you remember? The milk is there, on the windowsill.” She runs to get the bottle, but she hears a crash, she turns around: the old lady is on the floor, lifeless.
“Nana, Nana! What happened? Nana wake up!”
Her cries and screams reach the neighbours. They come, they shout, they whisper, they take the old lady to her bed. One of them runs to call the doctor.
From the commotion, felt already from the first floor, Papa fears the worst. He dashes home, his wife is unconscious on their bed.
“She’s alive, she’s breathing.”
“Don’t panic. She’s still with us.”
“The doctor will be here soon.”
The neighbours’ voices try to console him, but Papa is desperate, as if madness had entered his body. He questions Ellie for the details, but she doesn’t know more than what she has repeated already several times.
The doctor can’t help. Nana had a stroke. There’s no ambulance or hospital in this small town.
Only a few hours later the old lady dies, without getting the chance to reach the nearest city with an emergency room.
Ellie lives through the funeral, the burial, the denial as in a nightmare.
“Nana, Nana!” she cries in bed, sobbing and muffling her screams in the blanket wrapped around her face. “Nana, come back, don’t leave me.”
If she sleeps, she is mad at herself: how can she fall asleep when her Nana is not alive anymore? How can her body forget? In her frightful dreams at night, a witch strangles her. She wakes up sweating with dread.
She lived in heaven, she drowns in hell now, burnt by a tremendous guilt: she feels responsible for her grandmother’s death.
Only several years of psychotherapy, much later, will help her unravel the truth.