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from the June 2010 issue

from “Inside a Girl Like You”

October 27, 2006


I’m writing to send you my new address. In case you’re still getting mail for me, you can forward it here: Katina Mela, Erodiou 8 (off Euripidou), Athens. I’ll find out the zip code and send that, too. The apartment here is smaller than ours, the main bedroom is more or less connected to the living room. Well, it’s separated by a sliding door, but you can hear everything if someone’s in the living room. (Not that there’s ever anyone in the living room, I live alone.) The second bedroom is very dark; it has a hideous view so I hung planters eve­rywhere. But it does fit a semi-full sofa-bed, maybe I’ll start sleeping there. Tomor­row is a national holiday in Greece, there’s going to be a parade and I might go, as a tourist, you know. I’m guessing that only people like me go to parades these days. I won­der if they have parades like this in the rest of the European Union—somehow I can’t imag­ine the Dutch or the Swedes taking their armed forces out for a stroll. Of course all the Nazis in Europe descend on Sweden to march because it’s actually a democracy, I was reading about it on some blog earlier today. Greece, anyhow, certainly has that Ameri­can side, the militaristic one—it’s like watching a theatrical version of Top Gun. This woman I know said, “It’s worth going for the girls in miniskirts,” and though I felt like spitting, I’m kind of curious. But about the apartment. It’s in the center of town, though not in Plaka and not on a pedestrian street, as I had hoped. The apartments I looked at on pedestrian streets were way too expensive. That’s one thing that’s changed about Athens since you were here: these days it’s full of pedestrian streets. It wasn’t like this when we came here together in 1997.

I don’t know, Tamara, I don’t want to keep harping on the past, but I have to ask: do you remember that summer, 1997? Our first trip to Greece. Santorini. My cousin Avgerini laughs at me for wanting to go to Santorini in summer, she claims that the only people who go there are hillbillies and Japanese newlyweds, who are the biggest idiots on the face of the planet. And Greek-Americans, of course. But could we have chosen so wrong? I don’t care what you’ll think, and I’m not interested in finding some original way of saying it: when I think of the summer of ’97, my eyes burn. There isn’t a single time that I’ve thought about it and not cried. And the reason is, it was a summer we spent together two whole years before we became a couple. In hindsight, I wish we never had. I don’t care what you think about what I’m writing. It’s the truth. I would prefer it. A thousand times, if it would mean that what hap­pened wouldn’t have happened. I’m going to be thirty soon. That means I spent the most wonderful decade of my life with you. I love you. Even if that dec­ade turns out to have noth­ing to do with the most wonderful decade in a human life. Now I’m part of an entirely dif­ferent reality. I’m thinking of staying here (in Athens, but in that other reality, too). I’ll look for a real job. More literary. I’ll look for a beautiful Greek woman, the way Schliemann did. The thing that gets me is, we were planning that stupid ceremony. The wedding. Which was your idea. And I always made that joke that annoyed you: which of us was going to be the groom? I really did want to marry you. I’m writing that to you now in Greek because it sounds hys­terically funny in this language. Here everything’s a matter of “subtlety.” Lesbians like us, with clear and open plans for a shared life in plain view, simply don’t exist. They’re hiding, who knows. They’re not getting married, that’s for sure. Though that’ll start happening, it’s just a matter of time. I finally met a couple, at least. I looked around online, there’s a rela­tively respectable site. I went to a film screening, I had to bum a cigarette in order to strike up a conversation. In the outside world they treat each other like friends. Nineteenth-century friends, play boyfriends, depends on the environment. Like us, in front of my father and his kind. And if I haven’t said it outright yet, I’ll say it now: I’m glad you told him. I can see you in front of me (I’ll always see you in front of me, doing that) standing up from the table with your spaghetti straps falling down, one braid loose in your rage, explaining to my father that you’re not a pervert, that there are homosexual animals (I can’t remember, though, which animal did you refer to?). Didn’t you know that my father belongs to a generation that takes pleasure in calling things “perverted”? Your own father did you a favor and died. Eleni once said, “It’s better for fathers to die young, especially the fathers of girls.” I’ve thought about it ever since she said it back in 1995, and I think I’ve come to agree with her: the death of a father reduces the sense of oppression a young woman feels by 60%. If she’s a lesbian, by 80%. When my father dies, I’m sure I’ll feel the castle on my back crumbling, the bricks metamorphosing into feathers. I’m sorry I kept on sitting there at the table. I mean it. It was like that time I didn’t save you from the sea, during our first summer in Greece. Don’t think I’ve forgotten that horrible moment. I replay the whole scene frequently in my mind. Every night, in fact: “You didn’t dive in to save her, she’d grabbed hold of the rock and you told her when a wave was coming, but in the end it was some stranger who dove in.” I under­stand com­pletely, for years you tried to get over it and in the end you came to terms with the fact that you would never get over it. You fell in love with a woman who would let you drown. You fell in love with a coward. So let’s not kid ourselves, you didn’t fall in love. And your mind made sense of it spherically: that other woman must not have really been in love, either. You could never really trust me after that. Those matters of life and death are just what’s needed to shake a person’s faith, to destroy it. But do you still think it’s my fault you stopped swimming? And is Nixon like the girl who saved you back then? Is she heroic? Is she a good swimmer? The erotics of a swimming body are unsurpassable: sternum, legs, all the edges of the body, everything smooth and wet. How long have I been writing to you? An hour and five minutes. I don’t know what you think when you log in and see that you have something “from Kat again, dammit.” If it disgusts you. What is all this shit I’m writing, for fuck’s sake! I’ll stop now. I hate the two lines you send in response every time. The fact that you’re always equivocating, like you don’t have anything to say to me. I loved you so much. I loved you more than anything. I never told you this, but you were my family. Particularly after my mother died, when I felt myself drifting away even from Francisco. It was as if we’d been shot into different directions with the deletion of Mom’s body. Don’t worry, I’m this melodramatic when I write to everyone, it’s not just you. And you haven’t seen anything yet. One of these days I’ll write to you about Mom. Don’t read it if you don’t want to. It’s taking forever for the DSL to get set up, I have a broken modem and the technician won’t come, and I want to be at home when I write to you about my mother. In that regard, it’s as if I’m in Africa (that’s how it seems, anyhow). But now I’m going to go out, I’ll take the train down to see the Temple of Hephaestus all lit up. It’s the one that seemed so beautiful to you at night that you thought it must be a fake, built just for the tourists. You said that about Preveli, too, when we looked down from above at the landscape with the river and palm trees. You’d said it was all fake, a Greek Disneyland. You were such a beast sometimes, poor dear. If you’re still interested in music, get the new album by Sparklehorse.



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