Chronicles from the Future: A new life in Athens - October 20 to November 2, 1922
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Athens, October 20 th 1922
I feel so settled in the white city now. I have got used to the warmth brought by the winter sun, the voices of the street vendors, the odor of chrysanthemums and the car fumes. I think I’ll fit in just fine here . My greatest pleasure is, however, to go out in the evenings and get lost in the crowded streets, among the bright windows of the stores and with the characteristic, rhythmic sound of the rubber wheels as a soundtrack. You have to be either sick or crazy to stay at home at dusk. No one in this city finds any pleasure by staying inside anymore.
The place is poor - it’s shown by the many beggars on the streets and the sympathetic elderly men with their tormented violins - but the women here are all well-groomed and elegant, with an inexplicable air of true nobility.
I just recalled, without really wanting to, the somehow unjust words that Stefan uttered one day in conversation, when he wondered “what would it be like to suddenly find ourselves in the heart of the 20 th century, among the most proud and rebellious of the underdeveloped and nearly uncivilized nations of the South?’’, in order to emphasize that the cultural centers had now moved up North. “What ignorant opinions are formed in the absence of any historical knowledge…”, I now think. Stefan, my friend from the future , with all his pride and affection for the ancient Scandinavian blood that runs through his veins, easily came to unjustified conclusions about the “uncivilized South”. But I, on the contrary, am well aware of all the excesses that this lucky race got dragged into. And I say lucky because they couldn’t have achieved anything on their own. They were merely representatives of the other big winning force, with the authorization of which they came and re-colonized this tortured continent that was almost emptied out by the fatal war of ’-87 (our 2309 AD*). This is when a thermonuclear war of a medium intensity took place that destroyed Europe with the exception of the northern Scandinavian countries. After that, Europe was re-colonized by the Northern Europeans. (* When a global government is established in 2396 AD, the year is reset to 0.)
And as far as the Greek nation is concerned, I think there’s not a more relaxed nation under the Mediterranean sun, unless everyone is pretending, including my landlady that does everything in her power to help and please me, and the little eight-year-old boy that went late to school so that he could take me all the way to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus on his own, and didn’t even accept the tip I gave him.
I don’t know about the rest, but I could walk the most remote and secluded streets and districts after midnight, felling as safe as I would in broad daylight . Here I’ve met both decent morals and remarkable internal civilization.
These Mediterranean shores are where civilization was born and I’m proud to live here now. I feel so light in this foreign but so beloved country among strangers. I’ve now settled just fine in my humble room. The only thing I fear, however, is starting to feel the same weight in my chest again, the one caused by the limited-time issue.
Wednesday November 2 nd, 1922
In a foreign country the first few weeks are quite difficult. Everything - the morning, the evening, your habits, the way you’re going to spend your day - needs to be redefined. I truly believe, though, that with the passage of time things will get better, and I rely on the reassurance of Mr. De La S*… that he will recommend me to German foreign learners, who he has in abundance. After my visit to the archaeological school, with the recommendation letter of Μr. M*, I have every reason to be optimistic. (* Dienach didn’t want to reveal their real names).
During the past few days, the weather has been reminding me of home and loneliness keeps flooding my world and my eyes. If I find private lessons I will accept them all even if they’re underpaid, with the hope of finally meeting someone that I can actually trust and communicate with… Hilda, Stefan, Silvia, where are you…?
This evening I sat down across from the Parthenon – by the northern side – and got lost in my thoughts for hours, stroking with my eyes the inscriptions carved into the rock. Suddenly, a small noise interrupted my daydreaming. I heard steps nearby and raised my head. It was a tall young man who looked like a civilized person. He apologized in French. I introduced myself and he shook my hand, expressing his joy about me not being Prussian. That’s all he got from my accent.
“I understand… I understand you very well”, he told me. “When you concentrate your thought entirely on this rock, without allowing your mind to think about anything else, it’s like you’re living in that era, two thousand years ago… What more would a person see back then, if spent at this spot for a couple of minutes? For those minutes, this rock would be their world…”
I got carried away and answered him: “And after the same amount of years it will still be the same… This land has strong and solid foundations. So many things will have happened in the meantime, so much will have changed until then, and yet this piece of rock will remain exactly the same; this is the incredible thing! So, staring at it, and forgetting for a moment everything else around us, isn’t it like we’re living in the future for a second?
He turned around and looked deeply into my eyes. I hushed…
“Except,” I said after a minute, like suddenly remembering something, “Except then, there will be no bars around it, they will have gotten rid of them.
He looked at me with a strange expression on his face, almost like questioning me. He seemed a bit offended, not by what I had said but more by the simple and confident tone of my voice.
“I should go now,” he said right after, “the doors close by the time the sun sets.”
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Copyright Achilleas Syrigos. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be republished.