After going through hell and high water to get it, a bright and brainy young Georgian woman finally had her American visa, and she set off over the ocean in search of happiness and a crust of bread. When she did, she left her only child with his face bathed in tears. To her mother she said, once again and probably for the hundredth time, “you’re my one and only hope. Take good care of my heart’s delight.”
Before leaving, she measured her son against the wall, drawing a line just above his head, and looking him confidently in the eye, she promised him this. “Remember, before a second line appears on this wall, I’ll either send for you or come back home.” She turned, left the house without looking back, and got into the car that would take her to the airport. The boy stood unmoving, rooted to the spot and silently staring at that little marking on the wall. He lifted up on his tippy-toes, trying to rise above it.
Months passed, followed by years. The boy grew, and more and more lines went onto that wall, but still his mom didn’t come home. His room, though, was crammed with the gifts she sent. With the handset to his ear, the boy could not only hear his mother’s voice, but even feel her breathing.
“Mommy, when are you coming or sending for me?” The conversations always began this way.
“Soon, my only one,” the dear and distant voice in the handset said.
That ‘soon’ was lost in infinity. Once the upstairs neighbor left a faucet running and water poured down the walls of the floor below. Surprisingly the wall with the boy’s growth marks was unharmed. His gaze slid up the wall, which made him think of an endless stairway reaching up to the heavens. “You’re liars, you lines! Liars!” In the desperation of a wounded soul, he hit the wall with his fist, and the bitterness that had gathered inside him burst out in a torrent of tears. The phone rang. The boy picked it up. “Hello? Who’s this?” he asked in a trembling voice.
“It’s me, my sweet son. How are you, light of my life?”
“Good,” the boy replied, squeezing back his tears. In the tones of a grown man, he calmly said, “Mom, explain to me how much longer I’ll have to be drawing those lines on the wall.”
“Just wait a little while longer, poppet. You know I’ve come here for you, so that you’ll never want for anything. You have everything, don’t you, my pride and joy?”
“Yes, mom, all my dreams have come true, except for one, and that’s to see you,” the boy said sadly and handed the phone to his grandmother, who was standing right there. They spoke for a short while before the connection dropped, leaving only those maddening, shrill, fitful sounds in the handset. It was as if the phone lines and the lines on the wall had conspired to be in the boy’s life forever. Between the phone calls and the marks on the wall, the son grew older.
A call came from America one day. A sympathetic voice told his grandmother that her only daughter, who had been incurably ill, had passed away. “No, oh no my little girl!” the old lady screamed and with that she fainted.
“Granny, granny!” the boy cried shaking his grandmother as hard as he could until at last she opened her eyes. Her memory came back, she pulled herself together, and she held her grandson tight.
“Don’t be scared, my ray of sunshine,” she said. “All of a sudden I didn’t feel good.”
A week later, the remains were brought home from America. The boy who only wanted his mother back had instead been given a statement from an account, that the poor woman had opened for him.
An open account and an interrupted life, is often the way of so many who emigrated, scattered far and wide by a cruel fate.
Women in mourning wailed out their bitter grief and wept aloud. The neighbors brought up an old, dusty sofa from the basement, wiped it off carefully, covered it with a rug, and laid the coffin on it.
The boy stood and looked at the dead woman, at the mother he had yearned for. His gaze slid to the wall that was streaked with lines. Absolutely calm, he went up to it and began wiping away the lines that had led his hopes astray. When he came to the one that his mother had made, he looked back at the corpse. His mother’s face, at peace now as she lay so still and calm, seemed to fix the blame on that marking, made a decade before. A keening sound, that no child should ever make, burst from the boy’s chest. “Thank you, mom,” he said, “for keeping your word. You came back, just like you promised, before another mark was put on the wall.”