The last time I saw Mr Aleco* he was so clean that not even a mosquito would sit on him.
That’s what the Greeks say.
“Είναι τόσο καθαρός, που ούτε κουνούπι δεν κάθεται πάνω του.”
Mr Aleco was oozing classic Greek fashion style, too.
He wore a white shirt so bright, his wife must have used laundry bluing to wash it. The top button was undone and the shirt collar sat perfectly. On top of the shirt, he wore a light brown and beige check blazer with notch lapels, flap pockets, buttoned cuffs and double-button front. His trousers were tan with a razor-sharp crease. He stood in dark tan shoes.
He smelt beautiful.
Mr Aleco was outside his house situated in the Richmond area. He was waiting for his daughter to pick him up.
READ MORE: Flying fish of Baloukli, and life’s painful lessons stored in my shed
“Γεια σου, Κύριε Αλεκο,” I said. “Τι κάνεις;”
“Περιμένω την κόρη μου,” he told me.
I never saw Mr Aleco again after that day . Every time I walk past his inner-city Melbourne house, I wonder where he has gone. Was he living with his daughter? Was he in a nursing home? Or was he watching over his house from above?
The house definitely needs watching. Nobody lives in Mr Aleco’s house anymore.
The house is still impressive, to be sure. Mr Aleco knocked down a period home to build it. They don’t build houses like Mr Aleco’s anymore: So solid and everything colour co-ordinated. The house’s red double-brick matches the reddish tiles and the red painted fence. But, the colours are fading now. The locks and chains on the front gates are covered in rust and wrapped in cobwebs. The garden in unattended.
The centrepiece lemon tree in the middle of the front yard, is ragged. The lemons haven’t been picked in ages: They’ve been hanging there for so long that the lemons are turning orange. I can’t see the perfectly round concrete boarder at the tree’s base for the long grass.
The mandarins on the mandarin tree are the same size every time I walk past, they just don’t grow. If I could fit my hand through the front gate I’d cut some rosemary and take it home to dry it.
The hardy Greek mallow plants, the “μολόχα”, at the front gate and along the front fence, just keeping growing. They blossom with red and pink flowers. But the rose bushes don’t.
The petals withered long ago and fell to the ground. Only the dried up, brown bulbs remain.
The wire and string Mr Aleco designed to keep the plants upright and contained are still intact. But, the plants without the strings run too freely.
It won’t be long before I won’t be able to see the side pathway at all: The ferns multiply so quickly they will soon claim it.
READ MORE: Oakleigh’s “cafe society” wonderlust of old
The stairs leading to the front door still make a grand entrance, but you can tell nobody’s knocked on or opened it in ages. The embroidered curtains haven’t moved in years.
Nor have the bins. They are all in a row according to size. The yellow-top bin first, then the green-top and finally the red . Next to them is always the bucket for the rainwater tank.
But, nobody’s been around to empty the rainwater tank.
No-one’s come to do the simplest of gardening, either. That cutting of an unruly twig with the hand here, breaking off a withered flower with the palm over there.
The long grass, the dandelions and the dust, live at Mr Aleco’s house now. I don’t even see birds sitting on the verandah’s thick concrete rails. His house is like a museum.
Nobody lives there anymore.
*Not his real name.