by Adrianne Kalfopoulou
“Remember telling someone you’d meet them somewhere;” this tweet on my feed takes me to Athens with its crowded sidewalks, its bar-café life where people will take up entire side streets in Exarchia (the “anarchist hub”) or Kolonaki (the “bougie hub”) or anywhere else in the city. More an outdoor than indoor culture—I mean, this is Southern Europe—since March 2020, and the first of a series of pandemic lockdowns where the Greek government mandated people to stay indoors, Athens is very literally policed. We have to send SMS text messages to a government portal before leaving the house; we tick one of six options that include: a visit to the pharmacy or doctor #B1; grocery shopping #B2; business that can’t be done electronically, as in banking #B3; funeral attendance (no weddings mentioned) #B5; helping someone in need #B4; and exercise, of oneself or a domestic animal #B6.
I left Athens in July to teach in the U.S.; after the first lockdown that lasted over six weeks, Greece was among the least affected. That changed after tourism was encouraged in the summer. I went back in December. I wanted to see friends. On the corner of Kalidromiou and Ippocratous Streets Alexandra was waiting. We shared coordinates: there was no checkbox for coffee-with-a-friend. Most checked “exercise” for anything social; how unlike Athens not to have this option. Athens, always an encounter, planned or unplanned. Alexandra and I got our coffees at a favorite shop that was open and hung out standing at a side street. If police asked us anything, we could say we were on our way to someone in need #B4; they would understand the need for coffee. Catching up, drinking fresh coffee, the bliss of that, still Athens.
Adrianne Kalfopoulou is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, A History of Too Much, and the essay collection, RUIN: Essays in Exilic Living (Red Hen Press). Her work has appeared in various journals including Slag Glass City, Superstition Review, the Harvard Review Online, and Hotel Amerika. She currently serves as the McGee Professor of Creative Writing at Davidson College (2020-2021). Despite the myriad places work, and life, have taken her, Athens is home.
SLAG GLASS CITY · Volume 7 · June 2021
Header image by Rey Perezoso.