By Christos Georgalas
(Translation By Lisa Darilis)
It was evening, and the lights that decorated the streets were as bright as if they were Christmas lights. Their reflection could be seen in the clouds, having created an impression, as if it were taken out of a cosmopolitan movie scene of "Blade Runner."
Around me were people of all different ethnic backgrounds. Majority of them were well dressed and were chatting with each other. The light fall wind induced me to wear my first jacket of the season. Different types of couples were strolling up and down the paved streets. There were no signs of littering on the streets.
Majority of the people seemed to be in a good mood. They were standing in restaurants and bars with a cocktail at hand. The roads were full of cars, but loud voices and negative verbal exchanges were nowhere to be heard. No one knew the other person, so the phrase "Do you know who I am," couldn't be thrusted upon another, as it had no meaning here. As I walked between the crowd, every person who met my eye greeted me. I felt conscience-stricken.. I asked myself if all these people around me knew the secret that I was carrying inside. I tried to avoid their glances, but I couldn't succeed in this. They looked at me directly in the eyes and they were trying to make contact with me. Their stares were insightful. They were trying to warn me that I was not alone. There are people around who are interested in me. It was terrifying . I felt a terrible sense of insecurity. Why am I interesting to them? What do they want from me? I am positive that they recognized me. They know who I am and what I have done. I tried to isolate myself, to hide, and to forget. It was difficult. The city had a lot of lights and the people here looked at me constantly, and now in a more intimidating manner. I was desperate. I saw a well lit sign in front of me. Ziegfeld Theater. I pushed the door open and entered. I gave my ticket and proceeded up the stairs. I looked around me in a manner of conspiracy. The theater was very full.
People of all sorts of ages were seated and were engrossed with what was on the screen. They were gazing at it in adoration. I was trying to evaluate my vulnerable points. I still felt that I was in danger, even if that dark theater was always a place for me to hideout. Since I was a child, whenever I wanted to escape from my guilt, I found a dark room, which I used to pull myself back together. I was seated up high in the balcony, so that I was able to carefully follow everyone's movements. Finally, I felt that no one was watching me. Everyone was busy watching the screen. I was beginning to adapt. My vulnerabilities were in harmony with everyone else's. I felt as if I was in a familiar territory. It was, however, an illusion, because they were all here that day. It was a weekday - Thursday to be exact. They were all here for some reason. I asked myself whether or not they too were carrying the same thing inside that I was, which was killing me. The screen was full of colors and lights and my eyes became transfixed upon it. The images unfolding onto it were unique. I began to doubt if it was really possible for someone to recognize the burden that I carried. Is it possible for me not to be able to hide anywhere? I try not to reveal my feelings. I remained frigid in my position. I thought that I could pretend to be indifferent. I thought that I had learned to do this well. Where I came from, people learned how to teach themselves to pretend really well. They learned to live with another identity. Sometimes, they did this so well that they even forgot themselves who they really were. Now I had to unveil this talent in order to not arouse any suspicions about my past. No, I had to become another person completely and convince them that whatever was going one didn't concern me. This was difficult, however, because the images were very vivid. They were not allowing me to play my role in the way that I wanted to. They took me with them and brought me up high and then drove me back.
I opened my eyes in a dizzy state and in front of me I could see a beautiful balcony, a barrel-organ, and ivy. The sun was shining and young people were drinking coffee. The stairs were filled with planters and as my glance moved up the hill, the image became more familiar to me. There at the top stands was the eternal, the one, and absolute monument. It is the symbol of a continual civilization, and under it the "damned" were battling over their passions. For entire years, they were interwoven and entangled in seeking enlightenment, love and knowledge. Now all these things became dangerous to them. The futuristic dark scenarios stop here. The illumination of this universal bright symbol is at threat of being extinguished at its very base. I was starting to feel awkward again. I asked myself "if" I never entered here to begin with, perhaps things would have been better. No one would have noticed me and I wouldn't have seen the truth. End Titles.
People of all ages applauded with fervor. The producer modestly tried to convince them that everything was attributed to one group, and one idea...in the passion which will hold the inextinguishable light at the eternal rock. I found myself amongst people from all parts of the world, using different languages, and multi-civilized body language gestures. I was standing next to the producer. Well, how did I manage to do that? I wanted to hide, and instead I found myself at the epicenter of the event. I observed him and found him to be authentic. How is this possible? ...but I have heard this from experts. Before I met him, I was warned not be swept away by his charm. He can steal thoughts from the minds of others, and he plays with people's souls. Stay away from him. Look how I found myself next to him now. I put in such a great effort to avoid meeting him, and now I was standing near him, as well as around people of various social classes who were looking at me annoyed. They thought that I was a part of this brilliance. I wanted to scream out loud that they were mistaken. I have no relation with this man, nor his images. On the contrary, they taught me to fight him, and they taught me all the techniques to use in order to demote him. How can you give him positive signals? Don't you understand that he is still too young to be distinguished? There are others who stood in line before him. The list of order plays a big role. You're going to ruin the ranks!
I wanted to leave. I was going to break the human chain that surrounded me. I wanted to run. I ran until I felt like bursting. I stopped at the dimply lit walls and looked behind me. No one was following me. I continued to run. Suddenly, I saw a brightly lit sign and yet another familiar symbol... an olive branch. Without wanting to do so, I entered inside. I tried to become one with the crowd, to lose myself. The hostess approached me with a smile and welcomed me with extravagance. She openly offered her gifts to me. Wine, food, a smile, and an overall pleasant mood. I thought that it was a trap. No one had ever treated me that way before. Usually they look at me first, then at my clothes, then at my shoes, then at my watch, and looked to see what kind of car I parked, and, after all that, without even a smile, they sat me at a table...without even a smile. I was on to her trick. I was going to leave. At the door, however, I ran into him again. He was there as well. The producer from Ziegfield was there. The crowd pushed him further inside. It was difficult for me to escape him. I sat in a corner and observed them. They drank and conversed amongst themselves, as if nothing special were happening. They were praising all the beauty that had gathered in such a small seaside corner of the universe. They have embraced the art, because it had managed to unlock many hearts with just a few images. They were rejoicing with the wine and the appetizers brought to them by the hostess. The room's intensity changed. It was a complete metamorphoses. It unveiled the grand talent of the well passionate one. You should have a fervor for his art. In addition, I felt indisposed to react. I closed my eyes and made a wish...to return back. Unfortunately, my capability to do this was taken away from me. I had to escape from this enemy...and return back.
"Wake up, wake-up, what happened to you?" I felt the hand of my beloved travel partner on my shoulder. She asked "What's wrong? Were you dreaming?" I asked "Where am I?" I was full of sweat. My mouth was dry . I had a panic attack and immediately grabbed the intercom apparatus and pushed the button to turn it on. I heard familiar phrases. My palpitations began to find their normal rhythms. My partner tried to calm me down by saying "You are at our home in Melissia." She always knew better than anyone else what I needed to hear to recover. The voices from the apparatus began to multiply "...immunity lifted for three parliamentary representatives...they will not provide other measures...the wiretapping has become an affair..." Now I knew that I was in the right place. My partner said to me "Tell me what you saw." I described it to her "I was on an island, everything was clean and beautiful, people were smiling. In a central theater many people applauded a young producer and screenwriter, because he managed to show the most beautiful side of Athens in just two hours. He celebrated his love for Athens from a cafe just below the Acropolis. Afterwards, everyone gathered in a restaurant, which offered an impressionable Greek type of felicity. Can you imagine that, at a major center of the world, you are able to fulfill all your desires and become an accomplice to a Greek representation that you thought had died out." As she tried to absorb all the details of my dream, she asked "What were their names? Who were they?" I replied "Christopher was the name of the producer and Maria was the hostess." She looked into my eyes with an expression of doubt and told me "It was probably just a bad dream. Let's forget about it. Starting tomorrow we have a lot we have to do, and we can't allow our dreams to distract us. Look at the apparatus and you'll calm down. We can't yet begin to dream, as we still have a long road ahead of us."
The above story is a surreal portrayal of a surreal life. Two months ago, I lived in the Greece of today. Today I am in New York. Yesterday, I was present at my premier of Christopher Papakaliatis' Film "If" ("Av" in Greek) at the Ziegfeld Theater. Afterwards, I attended the reception hosted by Maria Loi at Loi's restaurant at 208 West 70th Street in Manhattan. I still wake up from my sleep uneasy and I don't know where I am at the time.
I dedicate this to all my friends I left behind in my country (Greece), who battle with the worst enemy mankind ever had to live with on a daily basis, "the mud machine and the cerebral dictatorship of western society." Roberto Saviano