Feb 1, 2012

Winding stairs lead up to the front door. It's half open. I enter. There's a brief ante way, and just to the right, a room, completely dark, save for a rickety looking little fire under the mantle. I call out. Suddenly, he appears in front of me.  He's smiling, always so jovial.
   We go into the kitchen where he has everything prepared. Fresh fish, cauliflower, an enormous pan with paella, bread, hummus, a Greek salad, naturally. "Would you like a glass of wine?" he begins. I shake my head. It's a work day, I say. He is undeterred. "This is excellent. Try it."
   He pours me a glass. "To my play," he says, and he goes on to tell me about how he has prepared the food, and asks if I like this or that. We go outside where he has several ovens cut into the rock. One for bread, one for fish. Finally, we sit down in his diningroom, which is cluttered with small boxes on chairs, stacks of magazines, and on the wall a relief of Aphrodite's head in profile.
   He chatters on, tells me his wife is somewhere about. A man in his 30s appears and disappears. I have no idea who it is. "I do what I want," he tells me, and from the beginning he's drinking quickly. "If I like someone I let them know. I may have them or I may not. You know at this age, you should be able to do what I want."
   Finally, we get to the subject of the play. "What do you think?" he asks me.
   The play is based on a true story of a woman living in a small town. Think of Kalavryta. Nearly 20 years ago she threw herself off a bridge. She was then in her 70s. Here is what happened. During the war, when the Germans reached her town the captain called the people into the square and said what a shame it was that the war had come to this and he certainly took no pleasure in this occupation, and he went on at great lengths to praise Greek culture.  He promised — many times — that no harm would come to the town's people.  His very warm manner was all part of his presentation, and he kept repeating that he would do anything he could to make this period pass without incident.  But of course, there were partisans and remnants of the Greek army; eventually several German soldiers were killed and then the captain called the people into the town square once more and this time his persona had completely changed and that was when the massacre started.
   And so this woman could never get over the way this officer had made her believe that everything would be fine.  She could never get over the way he changed and the way she had been so drawn in.
   "I think the story is extraordinary," I tell him.
   And now he brings a second bottle, and he doesn't want to talk about the play at all.  He wants to tell me he's going to have a pacemaker put in. Again and again he rubs his face with his hand.  As though he's going to stretch it into some new shape, some other identity, mold some new person without all of these problems.
   I draw him back to the play and make the point that perhaps the woman killed herself for some other reason.  After all, why would she wait 50 years?  Why wouldn't she be able to resolve this in that time? Or else kill herself much earlier. And what was the ignition? Something must have happened. I suggest that needs to be part of the play; that he needs to explore the psychology of this woman, not focus on what happened in the war.  And especially considering Greece now.  
   "Perhaps, there's some broader truth here," I tell him. "Perhaps, the idea of not being able to change has some sort of resonance."
   He shakes his head. He swirls his nearly empty glass. He looks at me for a long time. The plates are ravaged and empty. It's not about the play at all.  
   "I feel I am at the bottom of the void."

1 comment:

Anjuli said...

I would have loved to be at this meal- and listening into the conversation. I only felt sad at his final comment- as he was so jovial and full of ideas prior to it- so it is almost like when he hit the bottom of the wine bottle- he reached the bottom of his own void.