Midday Sunday

(C) Ted Kouretas 2018

It was hot as I weakly stepped out of the house. I thanked God for it being downhill getting there. It was almost 2 o’clock. For the first time in decades, I’d managed to wake up after noon. Like then, I ate quickly. Like then, I had stuffed tomatoes and peppers with potatoes and feta cheese. I ate hurriedly. Ravenously. Unlike then, I didn’t fsel refreshed. Unlike then, I couldn’t stand the heat on the other side of the door. Unlike then, I wasn’t planningbto walk over thirty minutes to the cool side of the beach. In fact, I wasn’t planning to wear my bathing suit. Unlike then, I had a tablet and opted to go to the cafe to use the Wi-Fi.

Some things just never change. I was still slovenly yet erudite. But then I was labelled a slut, even a sex tourist. Now, I was labelled a salacious old man; albeit I dressed better than ever before. “Ageism” I thought. “Fucking ageists”. Like then, I liked young women. Thailand passed through my mind but quickly went away as the heat hit my forehead. I was halfway down the first half of the hill. Like then, I swigged a big sip of cold water from my polluting plastic bottle. And like then, I put myself ahead of the planet. I don’t think that’ll ever change. And I still believe we all put ourselves ahead of anything. “Stop thinking, you idiot. You’re sweating enough already.”

I looked at my cell phone and noticed it was 34 degrees. Felt like 37. There was no shade available as my feet got scratched by the little thorns sticking out of the ground. Unlike then, it affected me more than it should have. My skin was really sensitive. I saw the main street just a few metres away. I turned the corner to head towards the beach cafe but I heard my name being called.

“Hey, Ted,” someone said, “in here.”

How could I forget? Το κέντρο (the centre), was the Sunday after-lunch hangout. It was the last enjoyable group activity before preparing for Monday. Thank goodness I was on vacation.

The music was rather loud; as loud as the owner could put it at this time of day without having some old lady call the cops on him. I could smell the freshness of wood as I walked into the coffee shop. My shoulders stopped burning and I gave in and had a big bottle of Amstel that I’d never finish. There were about ten guys in there and only three girls. Two of them were there with their cousin. The other one, a blonde woman in her thirtees named Elena, was alone. She’d just gotten off work. She told me she worked at the supermarket. She had a young son. Never said his age. She turned to her right so as not to blow smoke in my face. At least she was polite. Her face was not red.

Hennessey the Irishman was there. He was a strange bloke. You know, the good kind of strange. A bloke that keeps some of himself mysterious. Someone you want to figure out. I still don’t know his first name. I think no one in the cafe thatbday knew his name. He was the furthest away from Elena than anyone in the room. He had just finished rolling a joint. He had his Guinness in frontof him. Itbwas always a Guinness, as long as the store had it. If a store didn’t have Guinness, he would go through a brief history of the beer while the server would force themselves to act interested. Some hid when they saw him. Hennessey was 37.

My two friends were having beer and coffee. One of them was alternating from one to the other. I got nauseous thinking about it. The good thing on tjis day was that not one person was grounded enough to have a conversation with. A few were red-faced and ready to go take a long siesta. The two girls that were not Elena left with their two cousins. After about twenty minutes, there was just me, my two friends, Elena, and Hennessey left. Hennessey went further and deeper into his corner. I wish I knew what he was thinking.

Elena came closer to me. It was the usual search for information. Elena had come here on vacation, found her victim, got married, and then divorced him when she could. I even knew the guy. It made sense to divorce him. But I found it unfair she’d married him. Like then, I loved her position of weakness; her trying to see if I’d bite somehow into something. I don’t think either of us knew what. Every time I tried to move in she’d put up her shield, probably to not let the slut in her show. It’s one thing if they think it and quite another if they witness it. At the same time, I was trying to move in too often. Too quickly. “Stop looking desperate. Don’t be a fool.”

“So you’re giving up so easily,” she said.

“I’m not one for too much game, babe.”

She rolled another joint and offered me a toke. I declined. I poured my beer into her glass. It was just too damn hot. I joined my friends at the adjoining table. She slowly crept to the table, flirting with one of them.

It was 3.30. Everyone was leaving. My friend paid Elena’s bill. She looked at me, smiled in a somewhat defeated yet optimistic way, and was quickly on her way …. somewhere.

(C) Ted Kouretas 2018

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The Lonely Life of the Moribund

I’ve come to accept that the only sure thing in life is death. No. Not taxes. You must either be ignorant or just not rich enough.

But why does it need to be so painful? One pain no longer replaces another. It just joins the other to make it more intense. You naturally fall aslesp earlier just to wake up to go piss at 2 in the morning. Then you look at stars you thought would never age. But if Monica Belucci gets old, so will you. If Morrissey loses his voice, you bet you will too. If your high school teacher died after a life well spent, well…….

And remember, you won’t age as well as Monica.

I saw Shania Twain on TV the other day. She was so beautiful. But you couldn’t help seeing that she had to hide her age.

The lonely and misunderstood life of the moribund is trite at best. Acceptance is a step forward. You can accept your impending lack of energy, your continued receding hairline, even those new wrinkles around your eyes. Hell, I even accept being called “Sir” out of respect by young people. And I’m still 40-something.

The scary and misunderstood life of the ignorant and elding. It’s sad.

All this because Monica Belucci and Shania Twain, twomclassy ladies I’m still in love with, looked old on TV the other day.

But don’t worry. I’ve already snapped out of it.

A Hot Young Old-School Greek Communist

I was deciding where to sit in the Gazi neighbourhood in Athens. As you can see on the paper, it was Sunday, September 3rd, 2017. It would be my last day in Athens for yet another summer.

The image above was taken at a posh cafe just a few minutes after I’d bought it. I had come out of the amazing Athens metro system (boasting the title of best metro in Europe) and was walking my way up the stairs whena stunning young university student came up to me and asked me if I had been to the Greek Communist Youth conference.

“Sorry, I never heard about it. I’ve been out of the loop for so long,” I confessed.

She smiled and looked at me. She knew I was saying the truth yet was accepting the fact that I’d griwn out of it.

“You can help by buying a paper,” she asked, smiling, knowing she’d guilted me into it.

“I’ve got two hours to kill,” I told her. Do you need to stay here, or can I buy you coffee, a drink, or dinner?”

She smiled.

“Do I look like day game?”

“It’s actually after six. But it’s still day. But I haven’t heard that term in Greece. ”

She laughed, exposing her neck s she lensd backwards.

“Well, the word doesn’t have a Greek equivalent. We just call it kamaki,” she said.

“Παναγιώτη, πάω για καφέ,” she told a fellow university student. He nodded.

“Good. Bet you never thought I’d say yes to your offer. And i’m damn hungry,” she said.

We walked to my regular place. I was greeted personally by my waiter, and given my favourite seat. He barely looked at the girl. She didn’t quite fit the type of customer they be serving.

“Yes, Costa,” I said, “for two people. ”

The girl above is the hostess of the restaurant. She is supposed to be the eye candy that entices the people to take a seat.

We ordered and started chatting.

“I’ve learned to believe that the old-school Marxism you believe in can no longer win elections. The current government is the closest thing we’ll get. And they’re stuck,” I said.

“The Communists wouldn’t be stuck. Drachma overnight. Just like the finance minister admitted to having planned,” she answered.

“I totally agree with the ideal outcome. I totally want that to happen,” I said.

“So do you feel like a king here? Am I what you would want to be with? A starving university student who’s too shy to sell herself?”

“You seem to know more about it than that do. I was simply turned on by you. You know, you brought back the beauty of my youth,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I can no longer play you.”

“Play me?”

“We choose a victim every day or so. It’s so silly. Part of our communist rebellion against the oligarchs. Or against the people we think are trying to use our poverty to their advantage,” she said. “I fitbthe profile. Poor university student. And you fit the profile. An average tourist who comes to a country to take advantage of young ladies.”

“I’ve never thought of that. It would be easy to do though.”

“Unfortunately, you’re right.”

We started talking about the state of things and throwing out solutions. Before long, it was time to meet some relatives for dessert at Plaka.

Without a thought, we went tehre together. I introduced her as a friend. She was very sociable nd we all had a great night of earing, drinking, dancing, and talking.

She kissed me ever-so-softly as I went into the taxi waiting for me in front of my hotel to take me to the airport. I smiled. It had been so long since my university years. She waved at me and turned and started walking the other way. It had been a very interesting 18 hours.

Reader Meet Author

There’s nothing like Morrissey telling the writers of his day, including himself, that they write of things they know nothing of.

When he says,

You don’t know a thing about their lives

They live where you wouldn’t dare to drive

most of the writers in their penthouse Manhattan winter condo can ascertain that this is true. And they’re happy about it as they prepare to ride off to an art gallery opening. They are relieved about it as they prepare to ski in the Italian Alps. They feel fake for a moment, but think of Detroit as a ghetto with a lot of stories in it, and smile.

Charles Bukowski has influenced my writing more than anyone to ever exist on this planet. He was so real that there were subcategories of seamy realism he has been ordained the godfather of. Dirty Realism is the one he sticks out being the pioneer of. He speaks from the heart. He gies a step further and goes autobiographical on us to make the realism stronger.

Then there is Ernest Hemingway, the greatest ever short story writer. Like Bukowski, Hemingway is genius at explaining big central ideas in very simple terms. I pattern my short stories on Hemingway as I do my poetry after Bukowski.

Then I come across a societal conundrum. I decide to be real. But my reality doesn’t match the hapoenings of the day. I can’t write mystery novels. I tend to stick to the untold parts of everyday life. Like Bukowski, I trend towards dirty realism. It’s there. It exists. But even the ones who want to embrace it will have to keep that a secret. They’ll need to read it with a flashlight under their covers, so to speak.

I guess not all of us realize the difference between a cult following and lovers of an alternative point of view. The latter are not blindly fascinated by personality and -isms. They in fact expect truth from a difference voice. They want to know why some things happen.

In my new book of poetry, A Fine Line, I decided to attack the problem of anomie and sociopathy from within; from the point of view of a malinformed and disturbed nihilist who wants healing and truth. And this is a reality that I have observed and even lived. It is important to build empathy and understanding and to see how the apparent evildoers are often waiting for some reason to change to trickle in.

My First Few Hours in Jamaica, Queens

I got out of the metro that faced the Jamaica Hospital with homeless people on the benches in front of the metro exit. They looked at me curiously. I looked like a tourist. I crossed the Van Wyck expressway and made mynway into the small hotel.

The cute Indian girl at reception had a bit of an accent, between Brooklyn and Jersey, that was hard to classify. The whole staff were Indian. They were very polite. I was there early. It was only 11.30 and check in was at 2. The polite girl at reception managed to find me a room that had already been cleaned.

“Please make sure it’s clean and smoke-free, ” I said.

She told a younger guy to stay at reception and came down to see the room with me. Itbwas very clean. Everything worked fine.

“You’ve seen your share of crappy rooms, ” she half-asked. She was smiling. “It’s in the basement, but it’s fine.”

I agreed. I thanked her.

“By the way, it’s Friday. I just wanted to invite you to a party tonight. Here’s a coupon. Just mention my name,” she said, unbuttoning 2 buttons of her hotel shirt. It was the way it worked. It was a trap for people they thought would waste money.

“Do I look that desperate?” I asked.

She looked at me, surprised.

“Look, Rani,” I said, looking at her still-intact name tag, “I don’t waste money on things I can get for free. Can I get you for free?”

“Ok. It’s just a party,” Rani said. She buttoned up, smiled, and tried to look kempt. She looked like she’d just had sex. She probably felt worse.

“Thank you, Rani,” I said. I figured pretending nothing happened was good for my staybat the hotel. She smiled and felt better after I became ‘normal’ in my demeanour again. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I think I may show up.” This made her happy and she exited the room.

———————

I wanted to fill the small fridge with a bit of food, like Greek yoghurt and such. The new Indian girl at reception pointed me to the direction of the big supermarket. I walked a big block and still no sign of it. I saw a guy lening against the wall eating the last of his sub.

“Where’s the big market, man?” I asked him.

“Name’s Reginald. It’s another street down. ”

“Thanks, Reginald.”

“Hold up,” Reginald said as he approached me and gulped the last of his submarine sandwich. “You into black pussy? I know you’re a white guy, but some of you are secretly into that. ”

“I don’t discriminate on pussy,” I said.

“Here’s a ticket to a party,” he said.

I showed Reginald the ticket Rani had given me.

“Oh man. That’s a whole different thing,” Reginald said, laughing.

“Tell me, Reginald, what are these parties?”

“The one the hotel girl gave you is a place to buy bitches drinks and then maybe eventually bang one,” he said. “The one I gave you is an underground place. Lots of legit bitches who like white guys like you.”

“Reg, I’ll take your fucking deal. Just tell me it’ll be cool.”

Reg smiled. “You and a few other white guys will be there.”

“It’s too much trouble for me, man,” I said.

“Cool. But I’ll get you what I promised. Is 100 reasonable?”

“Yes,” I said. You need to be careful in these situations.

We walked to the market and he introduced me to Lola, newly arrived from Ghana. He looked at my indecisive manner.

“Forget about tonight, man. Get to know Lola better.”

Reginald left and Lola and I went shopping at the grocery store for later. She was a very attractive woman. About 22 or so. She spoke English and Portuguese.

Lola insisted on carrying the grocery bag for the 10-minute walk back to the hotel.

Christmas Day Trauma 

I must have been 9 years old. Maybe 10. It’s hard to keep these facts straight when you’re trying to forget them at the same time. It had been a pretty nice Christmas.  There were mountains of snow. As far as I remember,  it was balmy for that time. I was on the way to the schoolyard with my hockey stick. I can hear the other guys shooting the orange ball with their hockey stick against the wall. Jimmy hadn’t come there with the nets yet.

Steve told me to go to Jimmy’s and help him with the nets. A smile came on my face. Being an immigrant kid, and having been bullied to that day, it was an honour for me to be important. I left my stick with Steve and dashed towards Jimmy’s.  Did I mention thatbhe was a distant cousin? Not that distant. Maybe 2nd or so once removed. Nonetheless, our parents knew they were cousins. His mother told me he was in the basement. She was in a hurry and sped off. 

I went to the basement and there was Jimmy. He was with Rex, who looked even more ruthless than his kingly name. He was a gigantic and angry German shepherd.  Jimmy smiled in that eerie way where I could only see the whites of his eyes. He was a creepy guy who had always treated me well. This time he made Rex come towards me and smell me. I was very scared. He told me not to move or Rex might  bite my penis. Rex was drooling and smiling, but I  was still shaking. Jimmy hit the dog and the dog started barking and coming on me. He threw me down and I hit my shoulder against the wall.

Jimmy’s brother came down from somewhere. He told Jimmy to stop. They both looked at me and laughed. They told me it was over. It was ok. I was even allowed to carry Jimmy’s net to the schoolyard. The day ended as if nothing had happened. I told my cousin about it. She was the only one I could trust. She took care of it somehow. She always seemed to have my back.

It took me a while to trust dogs again.  But I love them now. I understand it was the humans that were the savages. 

About 20 years later, I hit Jimmy a few times while 2 others held him. Till this day, I would do it again instead of forgiving him. Very unchristian maybe, but very gratifying.