There Is No Place That Does Not See You

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - Natalie Bakopou­los

TWould not, from all the bor­ders of it­self, / burst like a star: for here there is no place / that does not see you. You must change your life. — Rainer Maria Rilke, trans­lated by Stephen Mitchell, “Ar­chaic Torso of Apollo”

o be­gin, let me tell you about Ciné Paris, the out­door the­ater; if we ar­rive early enough, we’ll get the good seats with the best view of the Acrop­o­lis. Or maybe about the Hill of the Muses and that bar in Pe­tralona. Or maybe I should tell you about the hand­some young guy in Exarcheia who looks like another back­pack­ing col­lege stu­dent, save for leav­ing a life be­hind in Da­m­as­cus. The square is an ur­ban limbo, but in the old tav­erna at the base of Strefi Hill, time has sim­ply stopped. I might be­gin with the street artist I meet in a café across from the crum­bling foun­da­tions of two once-beloved prime min­is­ters, won­der­ing why we want our politicians to be ei­ther gods or thieves, heroes or traitors, and why we think there is a dif­fer­ence. Or per­haps with my pass­ing the closed-up bar where my fa­ther’s best friend played rem­betiko, just around the cor­ner from where I now live, and feel­ing hit by a sad­ness that comes from some­thing far be­yond this boarded-up space. Or mo­ments af­ter, when a well-dressed man asks me for money, or with the Afghan boy run­ning through Omo­nia be­fore get­ting thrown onto the side­walk for be­ing brown. We could stroll past those “houses of tol­er­ance” in Me­tax­our­gio, watch the in­ces­sant traf­fic in and out. Fa­thers and sons? The city’s most ex­pen­sive, ex­quis­ite res­tau­rants have sprung up in this neigh­bor­hood, and I imag­ine some dis­turb­ing con­nec­tions I can­not shake. Nearby, at the de­ten­tion cen­ter for un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors, refugee chil­dren ar­rive and dis­ap­pear within days. Or per­haps we’d meet in the square at Agia Eiri­nis, where the light and the life is softer, where beau­ti­ful peo­ple sip cof­fee and Aperol cock­tails at the cafés, but where I climb the stairs to a rooftop party full of other jour­nal­ists like me. We com­pare our sto­ries, our bro­ken hearts. Come with me to Skopje to­mor­row, one says. The protests. I de­cline, but later wish I hadn’t. I for­get I am now sin­gle. I like the tal­ented, witty Span­ish photographer, her large eyes, but am un­sure about the

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