It was pretty this part of Athens, cloistered away from the raw cement, traffic and smog of the city by trees and gardens, houses usually only partially visible, set back, with now and then an ornate gate. The roads I walked along were only wide enough for one vehicle, and there weren’t any to speak of, nor did I meet anyone on the narrow strips of sidewalk.
I just walked. It was all I wanted to do. I wore my usual costume – brown leather pumps, the narrow knee-length navy skirt, a blouse – clothes that distinctly felt like someone else’s, but I insisted on them because Natvar insisted on them. They overrode my old hippy tendencies, my blue jean past, all that silliness before I had learned from Natvar to dress, to be adult, to be part of his world.
I came to a large open patch of grass, almost a traffic circle, almost a little piece of park. It was warm and this bright warm sunshine was the first of the season, the first after a long gray winter, the first promise of summer.
Cars passed now and then by this long rectangle of grass. I was coming out of the shadiest parts of the neighborhood now, getting closer to the busy street below with its stores and steady traffic. I lay down on my back and I slept. I slept with pure ease and sweetness, sinking down into its comfort, every muscle relaxing. It was perfect.
And when I became aware that I was sleeping, I pulled my awareness back down into the oblivion, pulling it this time, not sinking effortlessly. It was 3 or 4 o’clock when I opened my eyes finally and though I tried to linger, lying on my back, the sun was cooler now, the day was passing.
“It is 4 o’clock now,” I thought as I stood, “But 6 o’clock won’t come. And tonight won’t come.” It was an old trick from childhood. When dreaded things loomed in the future I could convince myself that the time would never arrive.
The rhythm of the day had shifted, the traffic picking up. I walked down towards the busy street. I would get something to eat. I would check out the movie – after all, Natvar had actually suggested it. I could follow his direction and have pleasure at the same time. And these things would take a long time – food, movie.
To walk into the pizza place. To choose a slice. To sit and eat. Alone. No one watching or commenting. Natvar had given me this. Could I really spend this money? I am spending it. I feel guilty, indulgent, but I continue.
I buy a movie ticket, enter the cinema, take a seat. I have not been to the movies for several years and more years since I have been alone. See, the movie hasn’t even started yet so there is still all this time before I have to go back. I don’t know what will be in this movie. By the time I leave the cinema I will know the movie. I will have seen it. So that is a long way away. Another time. Not this time. In this time I will never have to go back.
I watch the film – the opening credits, the first scenes, the story, the end. I sit until the lights come up. I am here, at the end of the movie, the place where four hours I thought I would never be. When I walk outside it is dark. The traffic continues to stream by, and still people on the sidewalks, a nighttime city. My sweet warm sun has gone.
I wish there was another place to go, but there isn’t. I have used up the long delicious leash Natvar gave me earlier. I must return now. But still, I am not there yet, and there is still the long slow walk back. Perhaps if I don’t think about it the end of the walk will not come.
But the streets slide by me, step by step, until I am in the small dark street below the apartment. My home is up there, but I can’t get to it. It feels fortified against me. The car is back, of course. They have returned. The apartment is in darkness. They have all gone to bed. Good. I can’t bear to see them. I like being alone so much. I know it’s not good, it’s weak, but if I can hold onto this aloneness I will.
I slip upstairs and into my tiny room off the kitchen. I take off my clothes, lie down, sleep a few hours and awaken at dawn, long before anyone else. I wash and dress quickly, not making any noise and slip out again, down the stairs, back out into the relief of the street.