her eyes

her face with

eyes of deep dark

lakes where nubile women

dance and seven veils

will slide with every blink

of intimate thought

deep inside the soul

drums up a storm

white flashes of torn sails

two bodies clasp to

each other

denuded of their hair

that ties the raft of hearts

together

on high seas of emotions

there’s the sole hope of

love that grows wings

to fly the birds of a feather

safely to the nearest

isle  the pebble studded

beach of treasures

where dreams lie

stone to stone   face to face

bodies in pieces

to be assembled

with limbs and heads

for the poet’s play he’ll

finish writing on her

wide wide stretched soul.

Image

The Red Umbrella.

V  P03 C

The Red Umbrella.

It started to rain on the third day of our stay in Como. Rain stayed here around the mountains more continuously than we have been used to in South Africa and recently in Greece. I waited for it to ease off and don my hooded rain jacket and headed for the exit of the tiny family run hotel at the edge of the centre. If you need an umbrella, the sellers emerge around the centre of town, the desk clerk said to me as he buzzed the door open.

I walked down the already familiar street, Via Gallio and arrived after ten minutes at the Piazza di Volta. The umbrella man popped out of nowhere offering me an umbrella, as if he had anticipated that I am a buying customer. “Do they work?”

“It’s black,” he replied having misunderstood me.

“Give me the red one.”

“It’s 5 Euro.” I gave him a note, opened the wrapping and tried to open it. It worked. I handed the wrapping to him and left. Whatever, at least it would hold out until I visited the exhibition in Villa Olma, situated along the western shore of the lake, like most famous villas of the Como region. The dark grey clouds interspersed with white changed continuously with lighter and heavier rain. I was glad having bought an umbrella, whose colour brightened up the somber mood of nature, more dark clouds gathering above the Brunate Hills on the opposite side of the lake: dramatic scenery as a gigantic metaphor for the dramatic happenings of finding genuine leadership and to establish a way forward in Italy that soul-searches for a functioning government.

After 20 minutes I arrived at the gates of an enormeous extent of property matching the grand Villa with its classical features of a dominant centre portion, Roman arches at groundfloor and ionic columns on the first floor stretching to support the second floor roof beam. My shoes started to get soaked as I entered the wide gravel driveway toward the main entrance and placed my red umbrella into the metal stand annexed to other umbrellas. The woman in charge issued me with a reduced ticket, but still quite pricy and enough for a small meal indeed.

I gazed at drawings of my favourite artists, photographers and architects, designers and futurists. I walked immediately to the exhibits of the group around Moholy-Nagy, painter and photographer, and professor at the Bauhaus. His wife, a photographic artist, as well as students, experimenting with constructivism, Lang the film maker expanding on his drawings of a futuristic megalopolis, and Sant’ Elia with his unique style of expressionistic visionary drawings. In front of my eyes were the documents that I have been lectured about at university and I recall the inspiration it had sparkled in me. ‘Tendencies in contemporary architecture’, was a well-visited lecture by Dr. Feuerstein, supporting the way forward of stimulating the creative part of our minds. That’s where I first heard about Sant’ Elia and I still recall the slide of his La citta nuova – The new city. A new approach to town planning that enhanced the spirit and created places and domiciles, where one enjoyed living as world population grew rapidly and one would have to deal with a new philosophy. Indeed, it already happened and we might never catch-up of doing it, but having witnessed its ideas in projections, 80 years ago. I took some photographs.

Lang’s movie took me away. I had a flying seat with a red umbrella affixed to it and I visited La citta nuova. The ants below me became scurrying people and the cars continued to flow past on specific highways. I enjoyed to land in a creativity park.

“Did you enjoy the exhibition?”

“Yes, who is asking?”

“Elias, I am the student of art and music, remember me?”

“I met you at the bookshop of the New City Exhibition.”

“Of course and we had a spirited conversation about art and music.”

“Indeed, but what are you doing here?”

“I followed your red umbrella, the new type vehicle.”

“Ah yes, my flying machine for body and soul.”

“Are you selling these?” Elias smiled, his long hair spiraling around his cheeks.

“Well, I have to find a manufacturer first.”

“Unfortunately I only know violin makers.”

“I have to sell my paintings first to get capital for my projects.”

“What do you paint?”

“Come along hop into my red umbrella vehicle and I’ll show you.”

I looked into the umbrella stand, but my red umbrella was gone. “Excuse me madam, anybody seen my red umbrella?” I approached the desk clerk. “No, but I think you should ask at the bookshop.

I went back to the bookshop and asked the student who sold paraphernalia as mementos and also art books. “Oh high, you are the artist looking for your red umbrella?” He greeted me. “Yes, I recall we have talked and visited the last part of the exhibition together.”

“Yes, we have and you told me about your invention.”

“Well, I can’t remember, but I recall of having seen a movie by Lang, where a red umbrella is appearing in midst of a huge futuristic city.”

“Yes indeed.” Elias said and frowned. “I think it is odd.”

“What?”

“That your umbrella is gone and it appears throughout this exhibition.”

“I am lost.”

“Come and see for yourself.” Elias took me to the adjacent room, where he showed me the vehicle with an attached umbrella as one of the models in a city that had been conceived as a warehouse of parts, one could chose ones parts there for furnishing and living in a future city. “It’s mine,” I said and checked for a name on the umbrella. I took a photograph.

“It says: GZ.” Elias stated.

“Yes, my initials.” I frowned. “I give up.”

“Don’t,” Elias said, “just believe you’ll find your umbrella again outside the entrance on the stand.” He smiled and I accompanied him back to his bookstore, where he handed me his calling card. I gave him mine. “Oh one of your paintings?” he asked looking my card over. “Yes.” He smiled. “I like it.”

I bade Elias good bye and headed for the entrance. It was raining again and I checked for my umbrella. As I prepared to place the hood of my rain jacket over my head, I saw a woman approaching with a red umbrella. I stepped aside into the niche of the entrance arch and waited, camera in hand.  She came and released the catch folding it. “You should have kept it,” a short man with a moustache and a hat said in Hungarian.

“But it’s not mine; I should have not listened to you.” The pretty woman in a short jacket replied.

“Well you have no raincoat and you will catch a cold.”

“Well, I will find a street seller nearby.”

‘You are sneezing already and we still have to fly back to Budapest tomorrow morning.” I stepped out of the entrance arcade.

“I have overheard your conversation,” I said in botched Hungarian.

“Oh,” the woman said, “Is this perhaps your umbrella?” I smiled as she sensed the waves of my thinking.

“Yes, but as I see you are in need of, take it.”

“No, that would be not right,” she said. Her face looked sullen and pale.

“Well, I mean it. It had been lost already today in this exhibition.” She looked with big eyes and suddenly smiled. “Are you a fellow architect perhaps?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Let me pay for it,” she said and handed me a five Euro note.”  She took the umbrella and put it up again. “OK, thanks and enjoy it.” She smiled.

“Have a good trip back and greet me Budapest.” She stopped and took a card from her purse handing it to me.”

“Thank you again,” she said. I looked a t the card.  Ilona Moholy-Nagy. I’ll be damned I thought, she must be related to her famous great uncle. I can always find that out, as I had her address. I placed the hood of my rain jacket over my head and hurried toward the city along the embankment path. As I turned at the park to cut across below the trees, the rain subsided. I took my hood down and enjoyed the rest of my walk toward the hotel with the sun peeking out behind the clouds.

“Did you enjoy your exhibition?” Bea asked as I arrived in our room and placed my raincoat into the bathroom to dry. “Yes, I did.” I had to smile. “I had a few experiences I would not have liked to miss out on. Besides I enjoyed practicing my rusty Hungarian language again with a Moholy-Nagy.” She smiled “You always had a lively imagination.” Maybe that’s right, but even if, I had enjoyed the visit to Villa Olma and the red umbrella.

*

Bus Ride.

04052012150

BUS RIDE.
By Zoltan Zelan
Written in Patra, Hotel Delfini.

He struggled to get-out of bed, when the alarm went-off. He switched the mobile phone off, turned-on the lights in the corner, where the small bed was located. He slept here one morning, after he had been writing about his feelings for a woman he had loved once physically to the point of self-destruction.
Now it was only compassion he felt for her. He thought he still loved her, but then, as she was hurrying to get close to her, time had passed. He could get only near her through her generosity to let him stay at her place that was a stone throw from the sea.
It is rather a place that is pretty in its natural setting on a small hill that faces the boat harbour to the south-west, with the port that is active during the day and at night the stars fall onto the bay in the glimmer of a myriad of lights. The shutters are closed and he routinely got-on with his breakfast: Cereal, nuts, yoghurt and a spoon of honey topped with some powder of cinnamon.
His spouse came from the bedroom and joined him for breakfast. He had finished quickly, as he had a fast eating habit. He packed his knapsack while Jo-Ann was eating and waited for her to make coffee. He was particular to pack his poetry, notebooks and pens, the present for his Muse, her palmtop to download his digital photographs and the edited version of his novel, he had written during the seven months of his absence. She had a natural feel for his writing. Perhaps she was too sympathetic in her critique, just to keep him positive and encouraged. However he did not want to miss the opportunity of her comments and her critical input.
He took his packed knapsack, said good-bye to Jo-Ann and left through the terrace. “Be careful on the marble, Jo-Ann shouted, I slipped the other morning.” Indeed the early morning mist from the sea had turned the surface slippery. He locked the front gate and waved her good-bye as he descended the few stairs to the street. He unlocked the dark-blue Morris and he started the car that gave-off its familiar roar. He rolled down towards the beach-parking to keep it there for his return, carefully positioned below a group of maple trees. The beach was already visited by the local swimmers, who cared about their morning exercises. It was five to seven and the red bus supposed to arrive at seven. Sometimes a bit later, depending on the number of stops, where it had to pick-up or let passengers exit. It arrived just as he checked his time, the angular bulky watch with tinted windows. The air was already warm and pleasant and as soon as he stepped inside the bus, its cooled air was waking him-up immediately.
At the next stop, uphill again, as bus followed a one-way system, he noticed a young woman entering, who took the seat in front of him. He had to look at her, feeling drawn to her. He noticed his conscious deriding his inner longings. He observed her from this acute angle. She had soft brown hair and dark brown glasses that obscured her eyes. At times she would turn her head, as if she would signal to him some preparedness to start communication. These manoeuvres went-on for some time and he was conscious of them. He had opened his notebook and he had started an outline for a story. Inspired by this indicative contact of her head turning at an angle that allowed him to see her profile, he then thought of her just being curious and then gave-up making nothing of it. Then as she continued, animating his attention again, he thought of his friend’s words: You are too sensitive Zany. Indeed, he felt even close to this strange woman who seemed familiar to him. He intended to chat her-up, phrase a question that would spark-off a conversation, get to know her. But what should he ask? She was attractive and looked intelligent to him. She might even speak English. He finished his thoughts about her and then as he wanted to say: Tell me do you speak English? She stood-up from her window-seat and as she turned she smiled at him fleetingly. He smiled back with the words frozen on his lips. She left the aisle moving forward to the front door that supposed to be the exit. He tried to read the bus station’s name, but his knowledge of the Greek alphabet was incomplete and he could not decipher the name as quickly. The bus moved-on immediately as soon as the passengers were stepping on to the pavement.
The stop he wanted to exit did appear just 5 minutes later. It was marked with a big M for Metro. He took the stairs down to the station and got on the blue line to the city. He intended to exit at Syntagma Square. As the train doors opened, spewing-out the majority of travellers, he felt drawn along in that vortex. Taking the escalator up he recalled the time, just seven months back, when he prided himself to have the fitness of walking up the stairs, often competing with others, to be faster, arriving ahead on street level.
The square was filled with people criss-crossing into all directions, many parts still closed-off to be finished off with a combination of marble slabs with granite flagstones in decorative patterns, to be ready for the arrival of foreign visitors to the Olympic Games this summer of 2004.
He continued to find the stationary shop along Ermou Street to stock-up on the items he had noted down. Besides he wanted to buy sweets for Aline and some for Jo-Ann, a notebook for Lian and then he checked his available funds, as he always overspent in the city. Athens is a boisterous town and for the squeamish best to be avoided. But this time, although he loved the city, he felt less enthusiastic about being here. He intended to visit Aline, but something told him inside that she was now more interested in her girlfriend Misch than in him. It had hurt him first, but then he did not own her and he had to curb his expectations, she had the cunning talent to stir passion and longing in him. She turned him on with wild desire for her and as she ignited his lust, they did engage in the fieriest sex he had for a long time. They had mutual freedom of expression in sexual lust and their fusion melted in the intensity of their engagement.
Then suddenly a few months ago all this intense and engaged daily communication faded, ceased and collapsed. She had poured cold water on the fire of their permanent renewable lustful merging and eventually her libido had cooled down.
She had handed over herself to the medical professionals, within the medical help she was subscribed to by a state funding of medical personnel, who subjugated her to a long series of tests. He worried about her. With some viral infection his anxiety became dominant and the subsequent hypertension caused his near-suffocation. The consulting doctor told him to stop taking the pills for his cholesterol control and try some alternative medication for asthma. It helped him immediately and he recovered. While he suffered in a state of anxiety, sensing almost a foreboding of a dramatic event, Aline told him in held-back sobbing that she was diagnosed finally with cancer of her spleen. She had to undergo chemotherapy and she was afraid of it. He felt sick. They commiserated and he fell suddenly into a sobbing mood that she wanted not to happen to him. How could he avoid his emotions of fear that burst to the surface, now as he was told he would be losing her?
Then he gradually recovered from this shock. He influenced her with his positive attitude and thinking. He loved her and wanted to help her, do anything he could to heal her. She called him her hope. He would not disappoint her. His sexual love had turned suddenly into strong compassion for her.
He exited the bus at the small square that defined its last station from town. The suburb she lived in was on a hill and the view of the town was spectacular. He pressed the button to her apartment and as soon as he heard her voice on the intercom, he answered. She pressed the release button for the electric lock and he got into the hall. He walked-up the marble steps for one floor and then took the elevator to the fourth floor. She had already opened her door slightly. He entered and she closed the door behind him. He intended to kiss her, but she was slow at closing the door. Then she turned and at that moment he kissed her. Finally she let go of the door handle and she embraced him. He pulled her tightly to his warm body and they kissed deeply. Then she eased off him, touching his arousal slightly, taking his hand, she led him to the terrace. He sat in the chair; he always used to sit and absorbed the breathtaking view of the Acropolis and Filopappou Hill. The traffic of the city flowing beneath with a pattern of ants scurrying along the known roads through the forest of building blocks strewn about from the distant mountains, as if giants had played a set of domino.
She was not well lying down in her reclining armchair. Soon she fell asleep. He took his notebook from his knapsack and he wrote about the brunette woman, with the brown matching glass frames, he had met in the bus. He remembered her overall impression, some details of the square shape of her watch and the design of her sunglasses matching it. Finishing his story, she woke and then started sharing some memories with him and then they looked at some of her collected photographs. Then they held hands, almost like a married couple, still blessed with the magic of love. And as his time was up, he left as if he would just visit the food store for ice cream on the groundfloor below her apartment. She smiled. A bitter expression formed around her curled lips.
The next day he was invited with Jo-Ann to visit her and they took the same bus. They sat at the same place where he had sat the day before. The first station from the centre, the brunette woman appeared. She took the window seat before their seats, eyeing him with a smile, which he returned. As the bus moved and slowly climbed the familiar route, Jo-Ann fell asleep. Then at one station, passed the port behind them, the bus stopped, but it did not leave. An argument ensued between the driver and an elderly man with a crop of silvery hair, which shook as if in a breeze, as he got worked-up and the voices of the passengers grew cacophonic. Then the conductor moved-in, then again someone else. Soon the entire bus was involved, except for him and Jo-Ann. They could not understand the reason for the argument and the subsequent shouting matches, nor its contents. The woman in front of him turned to the side in her seat, eyeing him. “You have of course not understood the goings-on.”
“Of course not,” he replied, almost excited. She had taken the opportunity to talk to him. She translated roughly. The cause was the claim of the elder man, who felt insulted by the driver. He had greeted him with ‘good morning’, and the driver did not reply, which he thought to be rude. Then as the arguments for and against were aired, she also got-up and threw in her bit of excited talk that sounded like an accusation, as if this supposed to be a traditional way of dealing with a debate, taking sides and voicing it: An immediate court, but did it offer a solution? The bus had not moved for 5 minutes and the driver had switched the engine off. “He says, it is his bus, and it’s a private company,” the young brunette woman continued and he enjoyed conducting a dialogue with her beside the ongoing debates she was involved in. He became spirited, as he could come closer to her and he had guessed right the first time, she could speak English well. He felt closeness to her and a familiarity by now. As she turned her head back from facing him, her hair touched his left hand that was placed in the gap between the seats. He felt stirred and aroused. He knew there was a spark and there was chemistry at work by now. He had this gut-feel they matched quite well. He observed her hands, her angled fingers, as if she had become stirred too, slightly excited perhaps that they had met finally this way, became friends in a short time, wanting to meet again. She let her emotions fly in the excited way she had added her piece of shouting towards the driver, probably to get on with the bus ride as she had to be at work on time.
The conductor fetched the driver from the nearby café, he had eloped too, glad to have a cigarette break. The elder man with the loose crop of white hair refrained from calling the police, as he had threatened before to do. He moved to the back of the bus and as soon as the driver was seated, the trip continued.
The young brunette woman excited from the debate, but also from his attention moved to the aisle at the same time, preparing to exit the bus. He noted her light-blue jeans, her lighter faded-blue top and her wine-red strap on her square watch. Then he lost her out of sight.
A few days later he had to take the bus again from the small seaside port to the city. As usual he waited to see her again, but she would not pitch. He sat on the right hand side of the aisle at the same height as she used to sit on the left. But there was no sign of her. He was disappointed. He wished to talk to her and befriend her today. He had missed the opportunity to ask her for her cellphone number.
Then suddenly he saw her. She had turned half-way, pretending to look at something on the other side of the street. He would finally see her again; even hear her voice, as she spoke to a woman seated next to her. He observed her from the corner of his left eye. She sat today on the seat, he had sat on the other day, when they met for the second time and talked about the incident. But Jo-Ann had chosen other seats.
He scolded himself of having taken this seat, and not the one he had taken last time. He could have met her easily and sat next to her, exchanging details, perhaps name a place for their communication.
As she left the bus, he looked at her, checking her clothes: Tight khaki pants in a sand colour with pockets on the sides; a cerise-red top, faded and soft. She loved light colours, suitable to her watch strap and her accessories, colours related to natural objects.
There will be a next time, he thought. Pity though, he could have met a nice woman here in the port of the Pyramid-Isle, as he referred to the place: A Nefertiti, a Cleopatra almost, as he had gazed passing Raftis Island. He noted down the name of the bus station.
They exited the bus at the final station in Areos Park, close to the NARMU, as he called it by acronym. They would be viewing their treasures today. Joey was enthusiastic about the museum at all times. He loved Poseidon’s sculpture in bronze. Some referred to it as Zeus, which he did not believe. The position of the god’s right arm that supposedly was throwing the thunderbolt rather looked like the position of a movement holding a trident to be thrown.
After the extensive visit to the National Archaeological Museum, he took Jo-Ann this time for refreshments to the Joly Café opposite the museum. They sat in the cool atmosphere and ate sandwiches and drank iced coffees.
It was singing hot at noon, melting everything that was not cooled sufficiently. Finally they took the bus and arrived at the street where the grey apartment building was situated, and where Aline lived. He went around the corner to the flower shop. He was mesmerized by the beauty of a dusky-eyed young woman in black clothes that attended to the customers. She had perfect breasts and her hip jeans sowed her pretty midriff, her navel that was free due to her short top. He was smitten by her appearance, attracted to her immediately. Jo-Ann noticed that and stood back, looking at some flowers in the entrance area. He talked to her, admiring her, complimenting her a bit and she smiled her beautiful smile. He was stirred deeply and wished for a future opportunity to continue their talk on plants and flowers, as he wished to prolong this stimulating talk. The flower girl noticed Jo-Ann’s jealousy and she took a rose from her container to give it to her, balancing the situation of his erotically sensual leaning towards her. He asked her the name of the plant he had chosen for Aline. Erotica, she seemed to say, or so he understood. Love-flower. How well chosen, he thought.
Aline was waiting for them and he gave her the plant. She was elated. Where do I put it? She asked him to bring it to the balcony, where she pointed to a place for him to place it.
Do you think it is nice here? He was not into small talk, only to be able to hold her. He was animated for sexual love and to fulfil that was impossible now, though their hearts met, caressed and sung together. The power of their belonging to each other felt palpably in his body’s welling and his lustful oncoming enticement. You are so easy to arouse, she had once commented on his physical reaction to her touches. I am not aroused with everyone, he replied to her, but with you foremost. She was pleased in her direct way of confirming her pleasure that rebounded in her body and turned her on for him, despite her sudden outbreak of a terminal illness. She had the phase of anger that precedes acceptance not overcome yet. Now and then the apocalypse of thoughts stormed passed, causing a sudden pain. She got pale in her face, almost sullen in her expression with her cheeks falling in. He saw in front of him a shadow of her beauty, a statue that she had offered to her sanctuary and the goddess of love, to be truthful and be healed. He wondered then what her shadow of being did still reveal to him, as he wished he knew everything about her and slowly a pattern of her fulfilment in love emerged. It was as if he had seen a picture in his fantasy that had nestled in midst the lewdness of lovemaking in him. It was always the same picture: Aline with a girlfriend and her husband. Pity, he thought that Jo-Ann had some dislike to Aline. They could have fulfilled her need to be officially with him and her in life and bed. Such interplays were the turn-on for her, he would not mind, but one person is usually the loser in a threesome, one is the sexual handicapped and then the intimacy breaks-up. The girls usually stay together. Men are always tarnished as losers. Aline was an Amazon.
All he felt was a strong attraction to her and he continued to research this phenomenon. Slowly she had revealed to him her preference for women. Slowly it killed him at first and then, as he fled into the world of his own creative being, he turned the tables of jealousy and pain and he gained advantage over his personal feelings again. He felt enticed by women, who were sensual and beautiful and he was not holding back his feelings any longer; nor did he hide or suppress them. He treaded though gingerly, almost as a cat. He had learned that from her. Life has to be lived and she had pulled back like a crab into its shell. He had on the other side, just emerged from his carapace and he disliked retreating into the darkness of an armour again. Life was beautiful and he felt pain, thinking about it this way, while she suffered and fought the circling shadows of the underworld. He had tears welling in his left eye and he did not suppress this emotion any longer. He cried. She could on occasion, as she was present now on the phone, but also in reality be like a mother to him, protecting him. He felt like a child, powerless and ashamed, yet in need for her love, this way. Then he moved into the next stage to hold her close, tight as possible, without causing her pain: A son loving his mother.
Then another change of mutation of feelings and love flooded him for her and he wished to touch her, even if she would lie down supinely on her bed and he would massage her left foot and her calf, she liked done the way he did. Her skin was dried-out and her muscles hurt and receded as if she never had use for them any longer. He was her lover turned angel and then her son turned lover. She smiled an almost dried-up smile and he watched her facial transformations as he expressed his love for her. Some faint sounds in her voice, some loose indications of a name, just a lightly kept tone of a mention told him to be prepared. Prepared for some news she popped like bubbles of champagne within him. Droplets of poison that seeped into his bloodstream and flowing towards his heart: The swift increase of hurt that became finally a catastrophic asphyxiation. But by now he was warned and prepared enough by his attuned consciousness. Yet he could not avoid the welling of jealousy, thinking of her other lovers that still stirred in him. The fact that he could not possess her drove him even more so toward destructive feelings. He was handicapped by his non-existence in the circle of family and friends: A solitary and stealthy lover, her underwear in the peak of his fervour. Now he was running as a blind, a man lost, hitting his head against the plate glass wall of a paradise behind a Fata Morgana of his desires that became piled-up into another mountain that he felt was about to fall upon him, squash him and finish his life that still had so much left open. He had not yet tied all loose ends, had not yet poured all his love he had still deep inside his spiritual well, onto the persons of his own desired extensions. But it will happen. Happen soon.
He leaves with his tail between his legs, a dog beloved and kicked now hard with her spiteful behaviour, induced by her dragon-friend. “Ah Shit!” He cries and then he flees into the arms of the sexy woman next door, opposite a cemetery, indeed! Life is here to be lived, he tells her. Aline has already declared him dead, as she struggles to live and breathe and is in need of a juicier friend, ah! What is this talk of token friendship for? All of these living moments show the cities she had once mentioned, turning into tinsel-towns and are not of the same substance as places she was living-in physically as she described them before. There is a change of scenes and the play will enter into a final act. He shudders and is relieved that the woman with the hip jeans and a sexy belly, who sells flowers in this shop, is indeed a beauty, despite the liver marks on her left breast that act as an interesting tattoo by nature, see? How do some disadvantages the owners feel as such, turn suddenly crimson-red switch of a turn-on for onlookers? Yes, he desires her and she senses that. Then she offers his spouse a rose to compensate for his emotional ride upon her in their projected mind’s scenario.
He will not ever take another bus ride back to his lover, but indeed to meet this new woman of his lustful life: The flower-woman. Lascivious thoughts accompany his eyes that he has set upon her figure that he disrobes already in his mind. He could come just being close to her now, he’d come!
But whatever image he does set before Aline’s face that is deeply ingrained in him, she still does haunt him. She has engineered her love acts so well and so profound that he is struggling now to overcome virtuality for reality. She had after all two decisive facts that helped her to abandon the ship of stone-cast lust: Firstly her libido stopped and then she pushed her terminate illness in front of all the demands other lovers could have on her. Now she hides officially, not any longer stealthily. It suites her and she has thus been manoeuvred swiftly into the hands of her gild-haired friend, the scheming Amazon from her student days, she was in love with. He has lost, she signals to him with flashing lights of sensual photographs, which she sends him immediately. Well she has united with her love-sister. But she has not the right to scorn him with somebody that is not of his concern. When he asked her questions about her gender liaison before, she was almost shy to talk about it. Suddenly she is brave, well under the Nordic woman’s influence. Instead of being nice to him, as a poet supposed to be happy, she once said. Is hate following love? Has he not turned one layer of love into another one of compassion and all he can see is that she has fallen into the trap of a woman’s misused powers? He actually feels sad about the matter and he puts the pictures aside. Now he does understand why she never wanted to enter another room with him, but her own. Just to be able to get back to him, at least needle him for a while. Become a mean woman? He would never have thought about that. They two have succeeded to turn-on the furnace of derision, lust him to death and then burn his carapace in the heat of sacrifice, she also once disliked, and then watch him burn to ashes in hate’s holocaust. Then as all cooled down they drove to Filopappou Hill and the two love-sisters, Aline and Ais took Lian the budding daughter along, who had a love-hate relationship with her mother Aline, and they cast Zarkos’ ashes onto the shards of houses below, the endless splinters of marble, bricks and wood that was assembled through the thousand of years, the wind taking the grey flocks of once flesh and blood and blow it over the dust of times they have suddenly revived from their lofty heights.
But he is not yet completely lost, not yet burned to death, only his virtual image is; he is still in with a chance to find some safety-net for his stirred-up feelings. Lian has saved his early fatal fate and she has emotionally turned against her mother, rather liking Zarkos, secretly coding his photograph with intumescent layers of her own love.

He sits for days on end on the terrace of his temporary stay, he now treats as if he would have as well to forget, to abandon and to find another place instead of this one, hired from Aline, who is completely strange to him and she entices him to find another woman, friendly to his nature. Perhaps close-up, depart, seek something he does not know where and how and what: Another place, another home, another entire different story. He had a strange telephone call the night before. The voice of an upset woman that sounded concerned. All he understood was the name Aline. The rest was a lament in Greek he could not follow.
He tried hard to get her name, but he failed. It haunted him for the rest of the night. You can write her story, Aline had said to him, when he told her about the phone call, referring to her cousin, a hypochondriac. Probably lonesome, he thought. She refers to her cousin as scornful, crying a lot, as she has hurt herself, splaying an ankle. On these shitty pavements it is no wonder, he would reply angrily, still heaving inside with a storm of emotion, taking her cousin’s side. Aline hammers into him as if she would get him interested into her cousin’s life. She is cunning and he already knows that: Cues, suggestions, love affairs, and indicative sensual matters, thoughts of controversy and changes of mood. No? Yes it all has to do with Aline; she’s turned into a mental chameleon.

He has gathered his thoughts, relaxed on the beach with his spouse and has felt the relentless burning of the sun, thinking of the love-sisters to extinguish him. His skin can take no more burns, he has to dive into the saving waves. Now in the wake of his feelings for the pretty brunette-haired woman with the colour co-ordinated taste of clothes and accessories, he met in the seven-morning bus, he intends to take another ride, another try to meet her. This time he would not fail to talk to her and put-up the required sharpness of mind and courage of his heart to impress her. After all she spoke English well.
He is finally at the station, taking the bus to the city. He did not know that it was her day off. Oh blast, darn, no sight of her, however hard he turns in his seat and he scans the station where she usually does get-in. Fuck! Then at the next station that follows he can see her. She stands somewhat aside, her bathing stuff in her bag and she enters the bus. She sits down at a different seat to her usual one and soon falls into conversation with a woman sitting next to her, ignoring him totally. He feels hurt and offended. He’ll continue to concentrate on his notes. Secretly now and then he ogles in her direction and he notices that she does the same.
This is like cat and mouse, a battle of who is interested and if; a battle of nerves had begun, who will chicken-out first?
He’ll write her a note, he is better in that. As he wants to hand it to her, greeting her, she suddenly exits the bus in a hurry, not even turning, except for a stolen glance and not returning his smile this time. It reminds him of his girlfriend, same darn game, same deceitful longings. He is exhausted from games of love, yet he is pursuing them with fervour.
This can be a thrill and an excitement and this pursuit to chase sexual stealthy love that will take many ups and downs and end in the peak of frustration to scale new heights of a first climactic merging. That’s it we all want this to be. The chase is more exciting as the repetitive physical pounding in the end; otherwise we would all just walk the convenient road to Piraeus and find solace between the thighs of sex-workers and prostitutes, wouldn’t we?
He is annoyed; she has mastered the art of pushing his adrenalin levels, busting the temples of his head. As soon as she is out of sight, he relaxes, forgetting his mind-fuck and falling asleep. He will not visit his ailing Muse Aline this time. He’ll rather visit the flower-girl with the sexy midriff, or the girl in the electronic workshop that did show interest in him. Now he is already keyed-up to enter another love life, much the way Aline has taught him, the ways to counterbalance the innate boredom in repetitive sex with the same person. This is exciting he thinks. This is just great.

Then he exits the bus, he feels compassion towards Aline. After all she has always helped him and loved him. Now it is his turn to love her back.
He takes the bus from the centre of the city and exits at the shop where the flower girl works. He asks her for a bouquet of pink roses. She says she has only a few. He takes what she has and she combines the roses with other flowers. He wants some white and light blue shades added. He talks to her in colours as he is ignorant of flower names, as the seasons produce different flowers here. She rattles down the names, he cannot catch. She is hectic today. “What will happen next?” She asks him. “This,” he says, and kisses her on the cheeks. “Wait,” she says and then hands him a red long stem rose.
“Thank you,” he says.
“I thank you too,” she says. “How long are you staying?”
“I do not know yet,” he says with a bitter-sweet smile, “but I am sure I’ll see you again.” Then as she smiles and a feisty thick-set woman enters the shop, she introduces him to her. “My mother,” she says. As she wants to take the bouquet from her hands, her Mom pushes her away and hisses like a snake. “Ok,” he says, “I am a friend,” and he smiles at the fleshy woman, who has little humour it seems and is pushy with her dominant attitude.
Then he says good-bye to Heli and he takes the last few meters to the main street and then towards the side street that faces the Acropolis. He rings the bell. “Oh,” Aline says through the intercom, “please come-up.” As he enters the passage to her apartment, she has already opened the door. “I did not expect you. I am glad you are here.” She beams and takes the flowers. He helps her to place them into a large vase. “They are beautiful,” she says, “thank you.” Now she smiles. He returns her smile. Then she asks him to accompany her to her adjustable seat, she has especially bought for her relaxation and she can sleep in. She sits down, reclines and falls asleep.
He is in suddenly in a mood to jot down some ideas for a poem. Does poetry not express the deep feelings at a given moment that emerges suddenly from one’s heart? A love poem this time.
She has called him hypersensitive and she has been drawn to his innate femininity with the awakening of her innate masculinity. How important was this analysis? Maybe it was what she felt and he felt something different. Was this the motor that they had once coined as a matching chemistry?
Can he recall suddenly a series of incidents that were living proof to him of a matching chemistry in heterosexual proximity: The incident of meeting someone, when the heart does strike a note that one pays entire attention to?
Yes, he has recalled the incident on the bus ride to the city and the meeting of the flower-woman. Incidents if followed-up entirely and with reasonable tenacity, would lead to the same status quo of a relationship, he is finding himself in now?
Not quite. Perhaps physically, but mentally he has question marks against them. He has to seek her advice; advice from his lover, as she gets advice from her girlfriend Ais, who offers her healing through her younger son, who is a doctor online.
Indeed there is more to love than he ever thought possible.
“Ais thought I need a younger person now,” she says to him. He muses. This is an interesting situation indeed. He also needs a younger person. He has his one Muse, called Danyelle, he loves her. Now he has felt the instant notion of a fathom as her words did strike home. A death is never something easy. It is a finite answer to life. The ultimate. He recalls a piece he wrote about two lovers: A Death in Athens. He thinks is tragic, emotionally charged, a drama, especially a love between two artists. This is a bomb of emotional shards that’ll hit anyone who became involved. He wonders how many that would be. He knows of Ay, Lian, Heli, Ais, Vassilis, Mai, Takis and Altis. There are Lin and her brothers, cousins, maybe seven to 12 lovers and a host of family and acquaintances and others, he does not know yet, and she had never told him about. Would that be considered as normal today, probably yes, even on the lighter side. Still in certain societies, it’s traditional and called Hetaerae, where well-groomed men and women moved about in important positions and Hetaerae knew them intimately as a circle of friends, they also influenced and especially if they were bluestockings.
I will love you, he signals her in a moment of inspired writing, without the fear of others, without a timid heart.
Love that will entail the love of all others and accumulate like an enriched mineral, extracted within the furnace of pleasure, melting down and burning us alight, inflaming all traces of energy left behind that recognizes the new approved fervour, forged by the lust this one love will generate. The powerhouse of our intense communication, you and I do value all above else; even if we delve into deeply confined fields of our being, on matters of art, we will still have this erotic backdrop to our mutual stage of our lives, we do meet upon.

He finishes his monologue to her that does not let-up and carries on in an almost continuous fashion, when the layer of his yearning has reached a boiling point.
He has not seen her for a while, engaging in a driving away on the mood of a moment to see the other side of the Attic lands.
He is almost gone for a whole week, even extending his stay for another day. He visits many places, meeting many people, but his hunger for spiritual and physical fulfilment is hardly stilled all together. Either his spirit is sated with the overpowering beauty of a place, or his physical side is stirred-up into a frenzy of auto-eroticism that’ll bring him to a burst.
Another Tuesday. He considers it as the day he wishes to travel to town again. Would the brunette haired beauty be there? This is the time he will choose the seat close to the entrance of the bus, a place she seems to prefer. He has some questions to ask her, of course if she agrees to be questioned by him. Is there still the basis of their friendship left that touched on the periphery of sympathies they felt the first time, as their heads came close between the headrests of the seats that left a gap enough to gaze into each other’s eyes?
How were these eyes now meeting? But there was no such a woman, perhaps all was just a great imagination.

This Monday the twenty-sixth of July his inner voices were at turmoil, ready to explode and he had to take a chance to travel to the city. He had to handover the letter he had written to her, or should he rather drive these demons of his lewd associations from his body, free the mind and clear the spirit, see what happens first, let the incidental touches of the moment be the motor for his departure into the moods and voices of the day. Let the riches of the heartbeats melt by the incidents of nearness that’ll determine the start-off to a story or it won’t. Let the day evolve with all its colourful flowers and the bare midriff’s enhancement of the flower-woman’s attraction, when buying another plant. He’ll greet her as a friend and pour his love into the collective cup of sweetness. Lets enrich the man-made world of peace and gentle togetherness of minds and hearts, the collective spirit of love reflect on all the faces he’ll encounter today; this is it, he thinks, this, the best bus-ride of them all. This bus ride enriched by the beauty of the humanistic spirit: the love for all the arts.
He’ll sit on the seat that was to be the bus-lady’s seat, but she does not turn-up any longer.
Then another lady will sit next to him, who’ll throw glances of curiosity towards his profile. She crosses herself at every church along the known route. She has an almost angelic face, waxy, but pretty against the soft-flowing pitch-black of her straight hair, she keeps tied-up with a five-fingered clasp at the back of her head. He’ll sink into his seat and he thinks of Aline and her mental ride across the open pages of her notebook, something she does write with great renewal of vigour, she could be enticed into. And as he meets her again, she radiates. “I have written a story.”
“What is it called?” He asks.
“It’s called: The Bicycle Ride,” she says and smiles. It is about some interesting happening from my childhood.

*

The Pen

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When I moved my shoulder bag from a side position to my chest, I noticed a pinprick. I opened the top flap where I keep my ink pens pencils and other writing paraphernalia and I saw that my black Parker pen was missing. I remembered having placed the delicate ink pen next to the stainless steel ballpoint pen in the morning. I felt the pinprick again as the bag moved on my chest. I always keep the straps of my bag around my neck to secure it from misplacing it while I think of other tasks, or from leaving it behind in one of the print shops I have to frequent lately. My fingers searched the pocket and held the pen, but the cap remained missing. It must have been slipping off while I retrieved the ballpoint pen in a hurry to write something down. Blast! I tried to retrace my steps of today, but then there were many places I visited, the print shop, the hardware shop and the Kodak photographic shop where I had passport photographs made. But then I would not have taken the pen out there, as my wallet is kept on the top pocket of the bag separately. It must have been at a place where I wrote an address down or a Greek word I wanted to study. I felt bad with age creeping up on me, feeling drained of energy and irritated by my lack of alertness, not having noticed the cap of the ink pen falling to the floor. It must have been at a place where the ground was soft, the grassed area between the tram stations, or a shop with a carpeted floor.  No, there are hardly any soft floor coverings in shops as all have stone or ceramic tiles. My eyelids felt like lead. I took my glasses off and rubbed them in anger. You should not do this, my inner voice reprimanded; it is bad for your eyes. I stopped and removed my fingers from my eyelids. As I opened my eyes my vision was blurred. I felt dehydrated. I rushed to the kitchen and placed a glass below the water dispenser from the fridge. The cool water rushed down my throat like free flowing water from a natural spring. I felt refreshed immediately and the first bout of anger about losing Anna’s ink pen cap has subsided. Memories about losing her travel ink pen remind me of losing her as a lover with her body slipping from my grip. It still feels devastating having lost her. When I mentioned to her at one time that I lost her travel-pen, she said: Don’t cry and she handed me another one. I kept it in my travel bag. They were cute ink pens using cartridges, compact and ideal for writing on a bus or train. Unfortunately I fell asleep while writing my journal on a bus-ride and the ink pen slipped from my hand. It fell into the gap between the plastic seat and the outer wall of the bus and I could not retrieve it again. So I carried on writing with the second one, until I lost it as well one day rolling off my bag and falling into a crack between a train stations’s paving and the wall to the lifts. Now it could not be replaced any longer as Anna had died.

I prepared supper. Beef mince and tomatoes, spiced with oregano. I cooked the pasta al dente and added the sauce on top. My spouse ate without saying anything. She must have sensed my tension, the loss of Anna’s pen induced in me. This pasta is delicious; she finally said and looked at me with eyes that expressed the continuous headaches she suffered from. I enjoyed my pasta too.

Slowly the memories faded again and I looked at the ink pen’s shaft with the golden nib, as I had to write down some ideas for a story. I turned it around and recalled my life that had changed since I met H., who became my instant soulmate. What a way out of a love that gave me another love I have never questioned just enjoyed. It seemed that Anna had finally taken leave from me and set me free in mind and soul to enjoy my new muse and pick the fruits of mature love which I thought had become dormant, with new gusto. The pain of losing a lover physically, followed by losing her personal presents, had been a prolonged agony with this important present’s loss, she gave me when I met her with my spouse for dinner. It’s my pen I wrote all my poetry with, she said. I heard her words repeated as rising panic shot-up my spine and into my head where it exploded as a flash in my brain and I saw suddenly black spots. No! I cried out, the cap must have slid further down into the pocket of my shoulder bag. Warm sweat covered my forehead as I began looking yet again for it. I could not find it.

Then I remembered that the black cap of the pen always had a loose cap, probably due to the extensive use of pulling if off and replacing it, while Anna used it.

I call you an equal, she said as she listened to the recital of one of my poems. I will give you a pen from my collection, which one would like to have? She came with a stand where all her pens lay on display. This one, I said, and took the black slim pen that seemed to me the most suitable for her in style and appearance. Oh, she said, that one? I wrote all my poetry with it. She smiled and I felt as if I would have touched the extension of the poet’s soul as I held her pen between my fingers, stroking its smooth dark shaft. The cap disengaged too easy, as if the resistance of holding it in place had been worked off by the constant closing and opening. I loved her pen and I kept it at a special place in the drawer of my night table. At times I stopped using it, as it did not write properly on the paper of some of my notebooks. I remembered that Anna had told me that certain ink pens write only on certain papers, especially those with finer nibs. The new series of Italian notebooks favoured the use of my Waterman pen. The more different paper surfaces I came across, the more I began to understand Anna’s collection of ink pens with different nib qualities, and I began collecting my own set of ink pens. But if I fancied a certain design of a quality ink pen, which I could not resist to acquire, I had to find the matching unlined notebook, whose pages had the paper the new ink pen’s nib would write upon properly.

However, one day I ran out of cartridges for the French pen, but I had still cartridges left for Anna’s black Parker pen. I recalled the paper she had shown me onto which the nib’s ink flow would be best. The words I wrote turned into a prose-poem of my life with her for the short period of 21 days, during which I saw her every late morning. I walked about the southern suburbs of Athens searching for the shop which carried electrical appliances at best prices. During this time I used Anna’s pen re-peatedly entering notes about prices and types of domestic appliances, I intended buying.  Anna’s pen had a magical effect on me, besides making notes into my pocket notebook, its smooth slender shaft I ran my fingers along, reminded me of her well proportioned body. Absentminded I stuck her pen into the breast pocket of my shirt whenever I finished my notes. My initial fear of losing it had evaporated and self confidence of handling it returned to me with its frequent use.

One August day I set out early in the morning to visit my friends in town, Kritikos in a Pizzeria and Baba Che in his ice cream parlour. As closer I walked to the Plaka district, the more light-footed I became, greeting friends I have not seen for some years. Of course they immediately remembered me and we exchanged news about our lives. As Che, as I called him due to his tea shirt featuring the famous revolutionary, had his shop on my way to the small square where all eateries gathered around its perimeter, I visited him first. Hey Solt, he called out as soon as I entered his dim lit shop. Geia sou, I replied in Greek and he smiled with his white teeth showing. He started his usual monolog telling me the happenings in his family and the patch of bad luck he had with a health problem. But now I am cured, it’s OK. I am working again part of the week. I lauded him and he continued with the latest reports about Greek politics and the European tragedy of being the end of Greek life as we once knew it. He closed his monologue as customers came into his shop, serving them behind the glazed ice cream counter. As soon as they paid he carried on telling me about his projections for the foreseeable future. I took my leave having enjoyed his talk he delivered to me like a sermon with sparking Greek temperament.

Around the corner to the right of the small square the Pizzeria is the smallest but best eatery tucked away at the end of the street. Already from a distance Ktitikos would wave his hand in greeting as he rushed about serving food to the tables opposite the café below a shaded outdoor terrace, the extension of any tavern or café, which has a small indoor area with a kitchen and storage area. How is life? Kritikos cannot speak English as well as Che, who worked in the USA as many Greeks acquiring the necessary capital for establishing himself in Athens. We converse with short sentences and catch up on the latest news. Kritikos brings me a catalogue on the Cycladic islands he considers to be the best to visit. His eyes open wide as he calls out their names: Ios, Paros, Sifnos, Andros… I take my pen and notebook and write all down. I ordered a small pizza and a carafe of wine. Kritikos treats me with the same way as all his friends, who gather around the tables on the pavement outside the café. He passes to serve the customers on the opposite side below the shaded terrace with shrubs and greenery, before he casually serves me the wine and as he passes again, my meal. I have an address for you, he smiles. Write it down for me, I reply. The moment he has a break, he takes my pen and writes. Nice pen, he mumbles. A poet’s pen, I tell him. Oh! He looks at Anna’s black Parker pen and his eyes show s glimmer of respect. Very special, he adds and finishes his notes. He hands me the pen and he recites a poem. Sounds great, who is it from? Iannis Ritsos, he says and I nod. Oh you know him? No, I know of him, I say and he smiles, recalling the phrase I had told him once before.

On my way back I had to stop at the New Acropolis Museum. I cannot pass without visiting the top floor, to view the Parthenon temple, as I admire the freeze, which once had been part of its outer walls. The missing panels show empty spaces and everybody who has visited the museum knows that those panels are the ones deliberately removed for fame and financial gain perhaps, still creating bad vibes for an unlawful act amidst loud voices of art lovers and cultural ministers for their return. I love to sit on the low marble sill of the panoramic glass façade and sketch a horses’ head or the movement of a body. Anna’s pen serves me well and I feel euphoric. You have returned, her faint soprano voice sounds in me. Yes, but you have left, I gasp. I am talking to you through my former beloved pen. Hah! I have been using it for the last week writing all my journals with it. I am proud of you Zen, you have still time to write your poems. Well I have learned from you, Anna! Ah, I was just your guide, and I am happy of having handed you my pen.  Hah! I have been using it for the last week writing all my journals with it. I am proud of you Zen, you have still time to write your books. Well you have inspired me Anna! Ah, I was just your guide, and I am happy having placed you onto the right track….Of course it was your doing, your closing act, before you made your big leap into the universe….I hope you are content. Ah, yes…..damned! I woke from daydreaming as Anna’s pen slid out of my hand and hit the marble floor. I gasped, but it sounded far off and not my own. I knelt down and picked up the pen. It seemed to be all right. I tried to write into my notebook: Today Anna appeared to me as I sat on the windowsill of the topmost floor of the NAM…yes! It still worked. I sighed relieve, but I could not find the cap. I looked around and could not detect anything. I gave up finally and headed to the tram to travel back home.

My euphoric state had turned into despair having lost the cap to her pen. It must have fallen down into the slots of the ventilation grille. I kicked myself for having taken on one visit too many and for exhausting myself. Or perhaps it was Anna’s voice that made me doze off in a state of remembrance? I sat in the tram staring out into the horizon of the sea, where the tram runs along the Saronic Gulf for a while. I felt dumbstruck.

At home I took the pen from my pocket and placed it into the bag where I keep all other pens and cartridges. At least part of it remained with me; I mused, but noticed that the tip of its nib had been bent in the fall on to the marble floor. It was now defunct, but it still recalled times with her, when she was alive. Is this the way to preserve her memory through my own clumsiness?

I hear her voice: Come on Zen, don’t cry like a baby, I will buy you another one. Yes, I respond, but it is not the one you wrote all your poetry with!’ I will write with it poems of the now. I like that, she replies. Dialogue with Anna has never stopped. The uncovered half of her pen is like the encumbered being of me: half poet and half artist. The one half writes down all what moves my senses, while the other half seeks out the colours of moods, I feel shifting through continuously, as if she still has a hand in all of my creative inspirations. Perhaps she has, her spirit has. I am glad.

 *

Botticelli, the little Italy in South Africa.

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At Botticelli’s one settles down quite quickly, once the entrance steps are mastered and one is stepping through the double door, both leaves opened wide. It feels immediately like a bit of Italy, a dash of Florence, where the famous Renaissance artist lived and painted. We all know the painting of the Birth of Venus; the master artist became famous with.

The colours of the restaurant resemble special areas of Tuscany: The fresh lemon strip across the top of the beam and windows, a precursor of the spring in Florence. The light watercolours of the rainbow represent the Renaissance thinking, the rebirth of the greatest movement since Hellenistic times. Overflowing with joyful exuberance and yet earthbound by the terracotta of the ceiling paint that reflects wall tiles within its larger squares and the columns, a playful interaction with well-integrated lights. The face brick red of the counter and the wine red entrance door are engaged in a lively dialogue about the love of the Florentines, who celebrate in high spirits the Rites of Spring. The lightness of living and the taste for colour that filters down into the glorious food, which takes off with your sniffing of scents and raises wings to your taste buds letting you fly above the maddening crowds of Gauteng.

There is charming Tonino, who immediately greets us as we enter, if he happens to be at the front desk. There is the sinewy pizza man and the third partner, Adolfo the Don, all playing their contributing role to make you feel at home and enjoy the immaculately served delicacies. But it does not have to be specials, the ordinary pasta dishes taste just as exceptional and I am looking forward to a glass of Italian beer or wine, depending on a dish and the mood.

I’ll sit here forever, forgetting the maddening rush, having fled to Botticelli with my spouse, a friend or a client, wedging breathing space like an invisible wall against the world outside; to enjoy the unusual and genuine retreat I wish to help preserving with our patronage. Every time we step through the door and either Tonino or Giuseppe,  the friendly Zulu waiter is present to guide us to our favourite place. Once settled at our favourite table covered with fresh table cloth, the unique character of the space merges the colours of Tuscany with the food offered that is cooked to tradition in an extraordinary environment. We always settle down immediately enjoying some fresh baked bread or rolls and a sip from our drinks. Soon the scent and taste of the well cooked food calls up the colours of the seasons: Lime and pink hues of spring which the artist Botticelli depicted in mythological scenes that transfer the spirit of lightness, the float above the undulated fresh greens in the recurring wonder of rebirth.

Venus born from the crest of waves at the nearby seashore merges in the colour range with the skies and provides the background to rich foliage of vines that shape reefs around the heads of Muses. They dance to the tunes of a flute played by a shepherd. Nymphs from the groove sing the bard’s lyrics to praise the rebirth of nubile spring, the forerunner of summer’s ripened women, like corn and flowers, cherries in red and white, the emerald green of the picnic and the green and black of fine skinned olives like a necklace of frolicking dancers. Outside the world races past.

The wealthy northern suburbs suffer as well under the dust and grime of the dry high ground of Gauteng, especially in winter. Crazed men chase each other with fast cars in dense traffic, being rude like road hogs are, speed-cutting across lanes and endanger less punchy drivers and the middle class that relies on their economy styled vehicles, driving them defensively. The pushy taxi cabs, declared as the best transport systems in the world flex their intolerant metallic muscles to rush without a care for other road users. By now most road users make way for them. Their battered motor vehicles show their hard-bashing attitudes and disrespect for other people’s properties. By now everybody stays clear of the Toyota phalanx, except for the huge bodied drivers of Hi-tech trucks, fitted with bull bars, ready to strike, when challenged by the aggressive hordes, poised like angry animals.

I had my review of actions sitting back and consciously trying to relax, while in front of me a silent movie plays scenes of road-rage and frustration by alienated youngsters and mature men.

With the meal consumed I feel a gradual and pleasant semi-sleepiness engulfing my whole body, where immediate reality merges with past leftover memories.

It is desert time and the Italian Kisses are a welcome conclusion of a wonderful meal of Prawns Mafia and Veal Cacciatore. Yes, the macchiato! Giuseppe remembers and smiles, having recalled our liking for that special espresso.

Soon I have to go and face the hordes of road users again, the builders that are scheming and cunning, the clients who know all about building and if their ideas turn out to be wrong, blame the architect and his professional team for it. I think I will be driving home slowly, while the after taste of the food still lingers on my palate. It would be crazy to spoil such a wondrous after clinging taste of a perfect meal with some cheap, rough talk at the site office.

I wish I could come back to Botticelli’s more often.

“The man drove off in his Ferrari like a pistol shot,” the chubby witness says, as he is interviewed by the insurance agent, who blocks the door with his huge frame. He must have been a rugby player in his younger years. “Well tell me what happened,” he says in a slow talking mode, “start at the beginning.” The vices blur into the afternoon atmosphere of murmuring chat and orders called out.

Giuseppe brings me a second helping of ice cream and B. wants another macchiato.

In the middle of the entrance area the interview by the insurance agent appears like a scene of a local play. I hear shreds of their conversation and overhear a story of guilt, love and hate, jealousy and self destruction. If I would be in the guilty guy’s shoes I would have bought myself an art gallery and a huge plot with a house and an atelier instead of the red mean machine, but we all have different priorities. But if you talk to Italians the name of Ferrari has them shudder with the sound of high revving engines and squeaking tyres, it is the crescendo of the motor enthusiast. It is beating up their boiling blood. The accident-story carries on for a long time to unfold: By now it became clear that the wife of another man was here with her boyfriend who drank excessively. When the husband of his girlfriend arrived, both took off in a hurry, creating an accident further down the road.

Ok, it’s enough. Basta. I pay the bill Giuseppe brings me. Tonino and Adolfo bade us good bye. Arrividerci. We shake hands and depart. Botticelli’s unique dining experience that will stay with us for a long time to come, if not forever. After all it is a genuine little island of Italy in South Africa.

*

A walk raising expectations.

Short story.

Meetings with V

Walking alongside Val through the streets of Glyfada is a new experience. Her youthful gait is furthering my own. Keeping up with her pace is for me still achievable, although I find it stressing the muscles in my hip, especially the left one. Due to an accident falling from a retired racehorse is an experience I wished for to be without. My fall onto hard, rocky ground has been a painful experience at my mature age. I am still cursing myself to have fallen prey to a silly challenge I accepted from a hard-nosed business orientated and ruthless character with a streak for malicious pleasure. Of course that dawned on me much later. Flashes of mosaic thought began to reassemble to a greater picture.

“This wind blows all my hair,” Val said suddenly as strands of hair veered across her face. I enjoy looking at Val’s lively profile, with her cherubic lips pursed, when she senses my gaze enveloping her face.

“Your hair looks great,” I said, “the colour suits you.” She looked at me and smiled. At that moment a gust of wind blew my hair into my face. I had to laugh and she joined me. Evident that we had same thoughts, even same habits, like waving the blown hair from our faces. One could think of brother and sister, yet we were more like father and daughter, as I did not entertain a thought of Grandpa and granddaughter.

“How old are you?” The question took me by surprise.

“Well, I am over 65,” I said, not to give away my age, as I have a streak of vanity about being younger and most of the time I get away with it. So what?

“OK,” she says, you look younger.”

“Thanks for the compliment.” Well, she carried on and we started comparing our physical attributes. Strange usually it’s done with same gender friends, however.

“I am not happy with my hips.” Val frowned, clapping her hips.

“To me they look good,”

“Look it’s my bone, there is no fat here.” She stood in front of me pulling her coat aside and hitting her hips with her flat hands.

“Let me see.” I felt her hips for the first time, they felt good in my hands.

“It’s great Val,” I said and smiled.

“Yes, it’s my skeletal frame, but I like to have a slim waist.”

“OK, I think that is super, like an hourglass figure?” She gave me a big five.

“Well you’ll get there, if you only want to.” I smiled. We carried on taking the pace of walking up again talking about where we wanted to go in the first place.

“Let’s try the herbal shop first,” she said and I reminded her of the corner with Starbucks Café.

“No I meant I do not know which road it is from there.”

“OK, leave it to me, I know.” Val shook her head thinking I am bluffing her. But I had suddenly an intuition.

“It’s not about Starbucks,” Val said, but about what street?” She could be stubborn.

“OK, I will find it, if you let me.”

“Sure.” She simmered down. I like Val a lot, besides I have dreams about her, as she is my youngest Muse in years. She laughs as if I would have misunderstood her pulling her lips to that ironic curl, one of her characteristics, when she wishes to get a discussion about some matters that have laboured her too much.

I take the road I know and where I have walked many times and where H. has once taken me once to buy some green Chinese tea, which I like. Once we reached the spot of Starbucks, I continue straight ahead, as I recognize some familiar buildings and my gut feel tells me that I am on the right road. Val stops. “Hello,” she winks back at a woman standing in the entrance door to a shop. I waited for Val to finish her dialogue and looked up my notes about the herbal tea I wanted to ask for. When she said good bye to the woman, I joined her again.

“A former school mate of mine. I have not seen her for years.”

“I have the name of the herb,” I said, “do you have a pen?” I jotted down the name. “Where to now?” Val asked. “Why do you smile?” I had a gut-feel that it was the right street we advanced on.

“I can smell it,” I laughed and walked ahead. “Here it is,” I pointed at the shop looking at the opposite side to find a street name.

“Oh, it is…B.Georgiou,” Val read the slightly obliterated sign, my bad vision could not pick on exactly. She waited outside the shop smoking one of her self-rolled cigarettes, while I entered and talked to the shop assistant. She did not understand me well and I asked Val to speak to her in Greek. “Well, they do not have any of that type, besides she does not know it, as the name was not in Greek.” Val translated. We took our leave and the woman gave me a stamp with her shop’s address.

“And now let’s walk to Vodafone,” Val said falling into the paced rhythmic stride she takes to when aiming at another place to go to. The phone shop was filled with many people.

“Fuck,” Val swore, as she uses the word regularly, if annoyed.

“These are my written verbs,” I showed her my notes that I am carrying around with me at all times to learn the Greek language to her method of teaching. She is a wonderful teacher and I like her a lot. Val and I go on well with each other and perhaps we might even become best of friends. Where do we stand? Teacher and student, doctor and patient, artist and model, well I have many scenarios I have painted in my head with her as my protagonist. However Val is in a serious relationship and yet she flirts with the possibilities love offers at so many levels. I enjoy exchanging opinions with her about any topic. We queue at Starbucks Café, ordering for her mocha with fresh cream, while I stick to filter café. The barman wants to know where I am from and we joke about nationalities. Finally settled down, we relax with Val’s famous self-rolled cigarettes.

“What is love?” she asks starting a conversation about an abstract theme.

“There are many aspects of love,” I replied. “I want to draw you,” I said, but Val murmurs something about a portrait of her granny, I supposed to do for her.

“Let’s see.” She opens her smart phone and just a few seconds later she has a definition about love on her screen. However there are many forms of love, from compassion to erotomania. Of course the Greek words are from Agape to Erato, from idealistic love to physical love and I am all for free love, pure and not bound by any rule, not predetermined by scheming thought or any tainting influences whatsoever. Val reads me the definitions from the Internet’s encyclopaedia,  while I think about the passionate lovers Tristan and Izault, I have been fascinated with all my life, until I have experienced a similar situation myself. But then that is embedded in my brain and chiselled into the granite memory of my soul. As granite is unchangeable through millennia of time, the message will never be eroded. Is love embodied in the granite blocks of Giza? Have the gods left the imprint of their souls back for us humans to understand most important messages about our lives on this planet?

“Ah, here you are!” Val greets her girlfriend, a young, blond and good looking woman with an explicit Joie du vivre. “Hi,” she extends her hand and it feels soft and firm in mine. Her exuberant style of talking takes over. She is fluent in English.

“Excuse me for comparing you, and I don’t mean it as an insult, but as a compliment.” Oh here it comes, I think, some grandpa thing. “Not at all, carry on, I am curious.”

“You remind me of Anthony Hopkins,” she smiles and I think aloud: The silence of the lambs? But she carries on in her overflowing mode, “No not at all, but rather Howard’s End.” Oh, I have suddenly some strange connotations of love and death, thoughts that follow me since Ana’s death. She is interested to know my relationship with such questions and I tell her my position. I observe her way of talking and imagine her being nude and wonder what her reaction would be to a man making love to her. She would be a great model. Suddenly she excuses herself for visiting the ladies’ room. Val dons a pair of dark sunglasses and says “What do you think?”

“You know you look like ‘Lolita’ with them.” Her face suddenly changes.

“I am not a whore.”

“Well I do not mean that, I mean the shape of your glasses look like hers.” I wonder why she has such disgust for sex workers or physical love. “Listen just don’t rush to judgements that fast.” I don’t have to explain to her all aspects of society, but it seems I have to lecture her about all aspects of love. However it’ll be another time, but I have an immediate thought about the online definition.

“One aspect of love is not mentioned.”

“Which one?” She reacts fast.

“One aspect of a poet’s love that is necessary creating great poems.”

“What’s that?”

“Longing!” I say and watch her face. Val says nothing pursing her cherubic lips and remaining silent until her friend returns. The girls talk about shopping and presents for X-mas. I smoke a cigarette Val has rolled for me. I wish to linger on my thoughts. Her friend seems restless and wishes to go. “Let him finishes his cigarette,” Val says.

Finally we break up and walk toward the shops along Metaxa Avenue. The girls bade me good bye and we kiss in friendship. I walk to the close by station and take the tram for one stop, wondering what will become of such a friendship and why Val introduced me to her friend, who acts superficially. Maybe we’ll meet in future again and the girls will model for me together. The painting Demoiselles d’Athenes that’ll be my homage to Picasso is at the back of my artistic mind.

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