You were in such hurry that you wore your high heels first, before the tights.
You went away and left me with a smudge on my nose (from your eye make-up while you were crying), your cat’s hair, as well as a taste of deodorant on my lips.
I was left an old clown looking for a brush and a small mirror in the disordered room, in an effort to brush your last remains off me.
I said to myself that I would be rid of you, but I can feel your cat burying its claws in my flesh and the smudge curling up beside me at nights, staying there most often like a permanent mark – a snare to suggest one of your thousand breakups.
You remembered the pot, the very last minute, and the bloke outside was ceaselessly honking. The room an open sore, the drawers gutted, everything disordered and ruined.
You forgot a bra along with three panties, drenching in the bidet. I was always telling you to buy panties that reach up to your waist, not those, which are only 4 centimetres high. You will catch a cold and start the visits to the doctors. But what do I care now? For me now there exists only a dot, a human leaving in the distance, the heartsease is a heartsease, and the butterfly is simply a butterfly. You were more of a winner in this situation. You kept Keramikos and, you the dead held the dead me in your arms, a small slope filled with pines and the excavations below, and the patched marbles from the reconstructions a bit further down. You also took the handless statue, showering in the rain, touching breasts and thighs (the back is always difficult to touch). What for? You went away and left me without hands unable to keep it company anymore, to walk in the rain or dry steaming alongside it in the sun, enjoying a bit of freedom.
And most importantly: you took the pot with the butterflies, which looked like heartseases.
I am thinking of leaving. But, oh yes, I am like a swallow without wings of strength over the sea, without any courage left. I think I’ll stay in this room to winter. Not that I care so much about your absence. Don’t even think that the situation is unbearable. A little forgetting, a slight adjustment and the hard times will pass. The winter might even be mild with light rains and a little mud and everything dries out in the visitor sun anyway; soul, wings and eyes.
The ashtrays are filled with cigarette butts, the windows are closed but the smell of smoke cannot cover your aroma.
I am thinking of hiring a cleaning lady to clean the room. And then I will untidy everything, as if you were here, messy and wild, not in order to remember your presence though, but to give her some work to do.
There are benefits in this separation as well. I get to see the sunrise, something I couldn’t do while you were here, even though I have to wait since midnight. But I tell you, my head got fat from sleeping next to you, and even if I stay up all night now it is because I am waiting for the sunrise; there is no other reason at all.
All the bookmarks in the porn scenes of Henry Miller. All your cheap and sexy pulp fiction, “la belle du jour”, “the bloody slip”. Your favourite Kama Sutra, all torn apart, you even devoured the covers. But the Thucydides I gave you is all intact. Every time I mentioned it you were telling me that you had lost the paper-knife. I am looking now and I am finding five paper-knifes shoved under the bed.
You weren’t a human being, you were not. Even in the museums I took you, you only cared about satyrs and phalluses. Even though you stood for a long time looking at the handless statue, it was its genitals that riveted your attention, portrayed in the moment right before the erection.
I cannot fit in bed, your space and your power; I admit it, they make me give up. If we exclude the chairs that your cat might be sitting on, I can only pace the room until dawn.
Your face is the night; your hair is the day. If I ever be with a woman again, her hair will be the night, and her face the day. I will make sure she can read Thucydides and look at statues in the face. When we go out, she’ll be placing her purse on her knees. I am not jealous or prude, but I need peace and quiet, even if it comes from a graveyard.
Anyway, I drink my milk, I go to work and in the evenings I take walks toward Keramikos, seeking for new paths. I am thinking, she didn’t step on this stone, this patch of grass she didn’t see, even though I am not sure, how would I know where your eyes roamed? As far as your foot is concerned, since it stepped on my heart, it stepped all over the place and crushed it.
I observe the marbles’ veins and I rejoice in the thought that some day your legs will be full of small veins. Then you will come to erase this permanent smudge from my nose, this permanent haze from my mind. You walk among the ancient graves, burying your dead cat, which in turn buried its claws into a thousand lovers, which saw you lying on a thousand different beds and played with a thousand of your panties that got tangled in the sheets and the abandonment. You return holding the pot in your arms and I say to myself, the dot in the distance is a human coming and those heartseases look a lot like butterflies.
Source: A short story from the collection The Bidet and other stories,2nd edition, Kedros publications, Athens, 1920. 1st edition: Kedros, 1970.
Hakkas Marios (Makrakomi, Fthiotida 1931-Athens 1972). Poet, short-story writer, playwright. His books include: Omorfo Kalokairi [Pretty Summer] (1965, poetry), O tifekioforos tou exthrou [The rifleman of the enemy] (1966, short stories) etc., now collected in his Collected works (Kedros, Athens, 1986).
Translated from the Greek by
Vassilis Manoussakis (Athens, 1972). Poet, short-story writer, translator. He studied English Language and Literature. He currently teaches at the University of Peloponnese in Kalamata.