Saturday, May 26, 2007


I was sitting in the small room off the kitchen. It had a linoleum floor. It had a single bed pressed up against the wall underneath a small window. There had been a small built-in closet in the room. We had taken the door off the closet and built a shelf in there for the IBM Selectric typewriter – our prize possession. I could sit there and type, the shelf becoming a desk.

During the day we covered the single bed with a maroon cloth and pretended it was a couch. The room became a tiny waiting room, presided over by the big electric typewriter. When clients arrived, I greeted them at the front door in my navy blue suit I had stolen out of Arianna’s Upper East Side apartment, the suit that here in Athens, Greece looked haute couture, and the brown leather pumps and white stockings, my hair pinned up, make-up and earrings. I didn’t feel pretty like this, but Natvar assured me that at twenty-nine nothing else was acceptable.

Today I was in the little room that didn’t have a name – the office, the waiting room, my bedroom. It was tiny, more like a large closet, but I could close the door. It was Sunday. Natvar had just hit me in the face as we sat for breakfast, all of us, all five of us, still in bathrobes, breakfast on the blue-and-white china, all of us seated around the white marble table.

As people rose to dress, I retreated. I didn’t know what to do. I could hear Mark doing the dishes on the other side of the wall, Mark in shorts, tee-shirt and flip-flops, his wide feet pointed out, his strong calves and high arches all marking him as a dancer – his blue eyes that could be soft and dreamy, Mark who looked most natural with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth – a cigarette that he never allowed himself anymore – a boy who was made for long languid afternoons with other men. I could imagine him standing at the sink, looking out the window, his eyes far away.

Natvar finally came in. He was dressed now in his pressed pants and cotton shirt, everything about him fresh and crisp. “Here,” he said. “Here’s 2,000 drachma. Go see a movie or something. The rest of us are going to my mother’s.”

I nodded, did not say anything much. I heard them leave. They were going without me. Almost every Sunday we went out into the country to visit Natvar’s old mother in her two-room cottage. It was the first time I hadn’t gone with them. The first time any of us had been shut out of a group event.

There had been plenty of fights. It was hard to get through a meal without one. There had been violence and the threat of violence before. But there had never been money handed over for someone to use all on their own for themselves. We’d never gotten rid of someone before.

The afternoon stretched in front of me. I was alone. I went outside onto the quiet shaded street and began to walk. I had no destination. Walking gave me something to do and the gardens I passed were pretty. I walked until I came to a small park, a stretch of grass, and I lay down on my back in the sun. I fell asleep. The sleep felt perfect. I wanted it to last forever.

I woke, knowing it was late afternoon. I still had some time left before I had to go back. I didn’t want to think about going back, maybe the hours would keep stretching for me. I walked down to the main wide boulevard with shops and crowds. I ate something small, not wanting to spend much and I bought a ticket and saw the movie. I hadn’t been to a movie in years. I hadn’t been to a movie by myself for even longer.

When I came out it was dark. I had nowhere to go but back. I walked slowly. Maybe I could make the walk back last forever and never get there.

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