by Jay Scheib
illustrator Daniel Egnéus
“Wir hofften dass wir eines tages kämpfen würden doch es war zu spät, es fehlte uns ein herz wie wir ein herz uns dachten.”
“We had hoped that one day we would fight, but it was too late. We didn’t have the heart, the heart as we had so thought.”
- Ulrich Zieger (1961-2015)
Even in the cradle of Democracy, Orestes, goaded on by the silence of Pylades, lusts after his sister, and with the blood of his mother still fresh on his mouth, moans as Electra buries her nails into his neck and stares, sings, spits madly into his eyes. She pulls him into the bath, blind with desire, and braced, wildly clutching and braced, writhing silently in swirling bath as the shadows stretch ever further south as the cold sun, Apollo hunched at the zenith, sets quietly in marble halls of the north. In the halls of German banks, even the marble was mined in Hellas, like the tan of the secretary grimacing and placing that proud Athenian accent on hold once again. Electra, cringing without a future at the touch, smell, taste of her very own mother, putrid, smeared along the skin of her brother, cringes in disbelief, and sinks into the bath, lighting his way while deep inside she shudders to accept what advances may come. If not today then tomorrow, she thinks, or her children too, come what may, will pay.
The whole place seems wet with sweat and the sun beats every step to the seat of democracy—as though, so long in ruins—wait what was I thinking?—the Parthenon looks way better from the roof of this or that café, bistro, bar, hotel, pool . . . Maybe they could rebuild it, a Hilton, with the best of the very best views.
AND IN THE EVENINGS THE PROTESTERS, BASEBALL BATS DISGUISED AS SIGNPOSTS ARRIVE FROM THE SUBURBS ON BUSES AND IN VANS AND ARE DIRECTED TO TURN THOSE SIGNS INTO BATS AND BE TRANSFORMED AT THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION FROM THE POLICE, TONIGHT THE STREETS BELONG TO THE PEOPLE AND THOUGH THE BANKS ARE CLOSED THE BARS ARE FULL AND THE RESTAURANTS ARE FULL AND ANYWAY IT’S HARD TO BE A COP IN THOSE COOL EVENING NIGHTS AMONG THE OLIVE TREES AFTER STANDING IN LINE UNDER THE BROAD AFTERNOON SUN—WAITING TO WITHDRAW YOUR MEASLY 60 EUROS.
Waving goodbye to Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the way to the airport, the cab driver demurely says, Friends, it’s okay we stop for gas? We must? Of course, and glancing at the time and exchanging worried looks with Laine and rounding the corner and heading up a short, steep hill, the petrol station not more than forty meters away, the taxi lurches and stalls, and will not start, and the driver curses at the impossible reality under his breath, and pounds silently the steering wheel with the palm of his hand and checks his mirror as the car eases, now backwards, back the hill down, and scanning the curbside for a place to escape the traffic he says, Please! the petrol station is just there, just there, can you believe it, it’s all shit, and he looks like the other side of sad with his stained forced grin splayed sideways in frustration, and just five just ten minutes, he said, hand at his brow against the hot morning sun and we apologized knowing ten minutes would be twenty and running late and we passed him five euros for the three block trip and tumbled onto the street again and into another cab. This was Athens. This was our own three day Grexit—forty meters short of a petrol station and many kilometers to go—just days before the referendum en route to Boulder Colorado to be married in the pause between rehearsals and the premiere of two operas in Greece.
On the bones of yet another wave of pensioners, crumbling to chalk under yet another wave of pensioners, paving the way for yet another wave of protestors—even this does not seem to care that the line at the ATM stretches more or less around the block. But it’s not a problem for us. Foreigner’s can withdraw all the cash they need, from foreign banks. And the sweat is making me feel light-headed, but maybe it’s just the clammy feel of this marble-entombed opera house. The singers are nervous, but they know they will be okay, most of them, because they work in foreign countries and have foreign bank accounts. The chorus on the other hand, proletariat of the opera scene, they have it much harder.
Somewhere on the island of Milos or GODSKNOWWHERE there are octopi hanging in the sun and no one really knows what is happening in the city and no one really cares.
I HAVE THROWN AWAY MUCH AND SHOULDN’T OBSESS SO MUCH.