The first chapters: NATALIA

- I -

She simply could not live with him any longer; Natalia knew that within herself. The marriage was dead and she felt beset, in an undefined, almost pleasurable way by guilt and a sweet compassion.

She felt compassion for Evgenios, her husband of fourteen years - she was even in love with him at first - but the bond had worn out like old clothing, the small moments, the daily ones, lost their luster, time had shrunk and Natalia was drowning, felt asphyxiated, could not abide even his voice - that peculiar sound, as of flowing water on a fissured depth, that once charmed her - “your voice makes me dream of water flowing on a moonlit night,” she would say to him, but she could no longer endure that defeated voice, nor bear to look at his hands, those hands wrapped in a strange almost threatening silence - even when they touched her accidentally she shuddered.

“I can’t bear him, Dimitri, help me. It’s a dead marriage. You know about things like that; you’re a psychiatrist. Even his music disturbs me. He lies for hours buried in the cushions of the sofa, and his interminable nocturnal walks... where does he go? Can you tell me where he goes?”

Dimitri listened, afraid to contradict her. A family friend for years, and before that, he and Evgenios were friends in school and in the army.

“Evgenios always liked music, I don’t understand why now, suddenly, it upsets you…, he dared to say to her, you need to look elsewhere for the reasons underlying your aversion to him...”, he added.

Natalia gave him a cutting glance. She did not like the word “aversion” even if it was synonymous with the reality of her life. In fact, that same reality eluded her, flowed within her full of fissures, slipped, soft and dangerous, beyond logic.

Her gaze remained fastened somewhere in space, and on her face was a strange compassion, like gentle regret. Evgenios was charming, she admitted that even as she wanted to divorce him. Perhaps those same marks of loneliness and rejection, those deeply shadowed marks of a wounded ego made him charming in her eyes. He was at fault for the failure of his life, deeply, traumatically at fault, and that feeling precisely was cultivated in him by Natalia, with all the female powers of evil that waxed unsatisfied within her and goaded her into the nets of the most insane conceit.

“... You must look somewhere else”, repeated Dimitri, who read her thoughts and wondered now what had happened to that youthful girl with the dreamy eyes that Evgenios, madly in love, had married... how people could change like this... they grow thorns with time, their soul is dulled and their mind becomes burdened with absurdity, which is the flip side of the need for tears, the flip side of a dangerous and showy vanity, like the bright artificial flowers on the table, yes their mind becomes burdened with absurdity, burdened with its future martyrdom... he was thinking with prophetic inclination, as he looked at her lamely.

“Somewhere else, of course,” she said, “and I wonder if it doesn’t bother me that nothing happened in his life...he didn’t develop, you see, he remained an insignificant minor officer in a bank...”

Her eyes were still blank, a withdrawal where doubt hovered, and her face now took on a complacent smile.

She herself had achieved a high position in the company where she worked; she had struggled, worked hard, “ I didn’t waste my time on pointless walks and on velvety hours of music... success is not won without giving, you know that... time must be productive,” she shouted angrily.

“But for him the hours spent with his music are more valuable than the pursuit of success, don’t forget that Evgenios likes poetry... at one time he wrote...”

She smiled. The subject of poetry always made her smile, without knowing why exactly... poor Evgenios couldn’t even be a poet, so inconsequential, so miserable was he, she thought with that sweet need for compassion, and once again she confirmed for herself that the marriage bond had died within her, finally and irrevocably. She was now building her house, building it with her own money earned from her overtime hours, and all she dreamed of was to live, free, in her house, with new friends, with exciting acquaintances; she was thirty-six years old and she had aged well, she still had the time to love and to be loved by someone worthy of her, someone with a stellar position who would talk at supper about his business trips... .All that charmed Natalia, fascinated her, she needed once more to gamble with her feminine powers and to win... .She dreamed of passion, nothing is worthwhile in life if not done with passion she thought, and felt her body trembling from ambiguous, misty fantasies and from erotic delirium, whispers in the dark amid moonbeams and half-empty glasses. She would not listen to her friend Anna, her only childhood friend, who tried to bring her back to reality.

“Are you crazy? What’s come over you that you want to divorce him? He’s a wonderful man... .He never denied you anything... .What’s come over you suddenly, can you tell me?”

No, she couldn’t. And she didn’t want to. What she felt was organic, beyond her powers, in crazy fantasies that disturbed the mind’s balance. It might be fatigue that was affecting her nerve centers, a fatigue heavy like an illness of the soul, maybe it was that same harsh regime of work that she had imposed on herself for years against which she was now rebelling, a rebellion that she did not dare undertake in her youth. But she didn’t want psychoanalysis now, she despised self-examination, I am free now, she said complacently, and I can order my actions and my life... I was bruised achieving that marvelous freedom of mine and, well, I’m determined to enjoy it.

- II -

Natalia was alone in the sitting room that served also as a living room, in the small three-room apartment, where she felt oppressed these many years. That was the reason she had worked hard to build the house - how she dreamt of it! At night she would lie awake to ponder the roses and hortensias she would plant, and she wanted a huge fireplace, faced with marble. She lay awake, yes, and she liked it. She watched the glow from the burnt logs and her mind wandered, behind that glow sleep always overcame her, a white, smooth sleep, like paper being torn softly, almost pleasurably, by the brightness of the fireplace.

Natalia had worked hard, had not even had a child out of fear that she would not be able to work nights; I have time, she would say, but first the promissory notes. And the more she lived with that intensity, taking advantage of every last minute of her time “productively,” the more Evgenios sank into a silence that resembled solitude, into an absence, I’m all right here, three rooms don’t bother me, he said in the beginning, later he could not keep up with her any more; it was as if he was losing her, they were both becoming lost in a cloud of alienation.

In the first years, he tried to assert himself, I can’t take the exhaustion of night overtime he said to her, almost pleadingly. I’ve done what I could, I’m forty-three years old, try to understand me, I need some hours to myself, I need to think, to live for me, that’s very important to me, please don’t deprive me of it.

Natalia could not comprehend; the house was still just a foundation, “You are incapable of concentrating your energies, and you never understood what productive time means... what makes you win and what makes you lose...” “I don’t care to win, in your sense, I have other criteria.”

Later they stopped talking, stopped arguing. Irreconcilable differences, as lawyers say in divorce suits. And Natalia flared up.

For a lifetime we have lived on different wavelengths of perception, in different life rhythms, well, that’s it, I can’t take any more, I can’t take you. Can you imagine, he needs to think... to think about what? Is Evgenios capable of thinking? He never has anything to do, he wants nothing, as if he exists in a void, in a totally circular cipher of a void.

Natalia became more and more angry. Ah, tonight I will talk to him, I can’t wait any longer, she said aloud - to hear the words - and was surprised that he was late. Usually he has nowhere to go... and tonight when I am trembling under the strain of all I have to say to him he is late, he is so late, it’s already past midnight, perhaps he senses it? Sometimes, they say, souls can sense disaster... And surely, for poor Evgenios, my decision will be a disaster.

Her mind burned with the fever of the impending scene, but she could not bear the situation another minute....

No, I said. I can’t live another minute with someone who gives me the feeling of a piteous void... a feeling that annihilates me, humbles me, angers me; I hope that some day he will understand that and forgive me, or, more properly, ask my forgiveness.

She heard the key in the door and her heart melted, she felt sorry for him now that the moment had arrived, she felt indelibly sorry for him, tears almost rose in her eyes, but it could not be otherwise, it was a matter of dignity, she reflected, and wondered, why dignity?

The door opened and she did not have the time to comprehend what dignity had to do with her decision. Evgenios had done nothing to her, never raised his voice, never deceived her - that he would never be capable of doing - she reflected, he never kept her from a business trip, never...and she wondered now whether it wasn’t his hours of music that bothered her more, the hours of his solitary walks, that kept him from living “productively,” she was not certain, yet whatever it might be, it was Evgenios’s irrevocable fault and he must pay.

He said good evening and headed quickly for the veranda. She saw him take the aluminum ladder and place it in front of the loft; then, ignoring her presence, he climbed up and retrieved several cardboard boxes full of old things: forgotten pictures, yellowed papers, school notebooks, various files, ripped zippers, useless electrical cords, books with covers. He emptied it all in the middle of the living room and started to search.

Good Lord! she was at a loss, “What are you doing there in the middle of the night, can you tell me?” she shrieked, and held her nose - that dank smell of age was overpowering and the clouds of dust choked her.

He did not answer, did not even turn to look at her. He searched madly, looking for something, something that must have been valuable, and she mocked him, “as if you were searching for your lost paradise....”

He paid her no attention at all. So absorbed was he by what was on his mind, almost shaking with emotion, that Natalia began to sweat; it was the first time she saw him so passionate, can Evgenios still be passionate about something? And she blurted out:

“We have to talk... I have made certain decisions.”

She saw his fingers squeeze some old folded papers, the tension subsided and his eyes closed with an expression of strange happiness, “So what is it that you found?”
His voice shocked her, that voice of water flowing in the moonlight, shaking with emotion:

“An ancient paradise”.

No, she probably could not talk to him tonight, this scene put an end to it, and she choked with anger, I have to live another day, waiting, another day with him, she thought, and that fact appeared to her so terrifying that she shuddered to her very blood and was terrified.

Once, she was able to dream beside him, his hands touched her and she would soar; he talked to her of his boyhood years, when he loved trains, and she melted with tenderness. Then, she could not have imagined the days that were to come, the drab days full of despising and rejection... She had rejected him, yes, as a human being and as a lover; she did not respect him any longer, ah, what power there was in respect during the fourteen years of their marriage... .And he did nothing to win it, as if he was living in her life in spite of her, thought Natalia and she dissolved in pain at the thought of her wasted years.

She wiped the tears from her eyes, but he did not understand.

“Is something wrong?”

She was crying now, sobbing, what was it that he found and dared to call an “ancient paradise,” how dare he experience emotions that he did not share with her...

In the end, she may not have known why she was crying, but her decision to divorce him was final and irrevocable, and at that moment, as she watched him being happy, she despised him.

- III -

“Our marriage has been dead for years now, you must have realized that, I want us to separate.”

She said the words all in one breath, as if swallowing medicine, and immediately felt herself unwinding, like a spring.

She turned her head to look at him and could not believe her eyes.

Evgenios was smiling. His eyes were half-closed, as at the moment he had found the “ancient paradise,” and happiness shone on his face.

She was shaken. Perhaps he didn’t understand? How is it possible that Evgenios should receive her decision with such joy? Evgenios the irresolute, the intimidated, the morally untainted and socially dignified... how would he bear the burden of a divorce? Wasn’t he thinking of his family in the village? Evgenios would die of guilt and fear at the thought that his family might cease to be proud of him... .What had happened? How could he accept her decision with such joy?

And what about her? Did he give any thought to her?

How was it possible for him to bear this without martyrdom? She needed his martyrdom in order to be able to resist, she needed his unhappiness, his loneliness, his tears, even his entreaties, maybe she created this whole matter of her decision only to see him as a martyr, to see him as a suppliant at her feet, incapable of living without her... And most important, she needed her own guilt, her own compassion, how would she live without compassion, did he think to ask her?

“So, what do you mean... explain yourself... what does that smile of happiness mean?” she cried, beside herself.

He opened his eyes and looked at her blindly, as if already dreaming about his new life.

For a long time now, he had flinched at the thought of telling her that he wanted his freedom, and now, she was proposing it, and he smiled as he thought about Sibyl, his sweet Sibyl, whom he loved in his boredom, in his loneliness, loved her and gave her all of his unspent tenderness; all of his lost dreams came to life again... .Ah, how he felt young again beside her... .He felt like a young man, and sank into her arms, listening for hours on end to his forbidden music, without the voice of his wife: “Our time must be productive... nobody makes money with music and long walks....”

He had met her one night, as he was returning from a piano recital. Once in a while, unbeknownst to his wife, fearful that she might discover it, he would go to free concerts. On one of those evenings he saw her and his heart was touched. Sibyl was a musician, a serious woman who kept to herself, with the first wrinkles appearing on her white, somewhat pale skin. He had read some small notices about her in the newspapers, had seen her another time at a neighborhood concert, where she played the piano, and later, the idea of giving her flowers became fixed in his mind. While she played the piano, his eyes looked at her insatiably and his hands shook with a strange emotion. Everything about her touched Evgenios, the dullness of her complexion, her pallid skin, her thin hands, he was moved even by the somewhat maladroit way she smiled at the end, the way in which she shook her dyed hair, even the way she walked moved him, he gazed at her thin legs and was overcome.

She seemed to him like a magical, prophetic being, a priestess of the art he loved, and night after night, the fixed idea of presenting her with flowers kept him from sleeping.

He still remembered that winter night when he waited for her at the corner outside the concert hall, bouquet in hand.

He saw her eyes in the lamplight; they seemed sad... .The rain was turning to snow, but nothing could keep him from waiting for her, he was soaked to the skin and enjoyed it, felt young and that was superb, felt that his love for music was elevating him to other spheres, where social conventions were abolished. And now he stood there with the ardent desire of presenting the flowers to her, giving no thought at all to his wife’s reaction if she were to see him.

She was surprised.

“Oh, thank you...” she said shyly and stopped to look at him.

“For a long time now I’ve wanted to do that, an expression of my gratitude... , he said, I admire you so much, you are the embodiment of the goddess of the art that I love....”

She was at a loss. She heard the sound of his voice that shook slightly, and wondered where he found the courage to say all those things - and they were not words he had prepared beforehand.

He came closer to see whether his words had made an impression and their eyes met. A moment of discomfort, as they stood, soaked with the watery snowflakes. At that fateful moment, at the street corner, under the street lamp, he searched her face to find signs of the charm that drove him to distraction, signs of his divine art.

So solitary was her face that it entered him and assuaged his own solitude. At that moment he knew that she would be his forever, that his love would be absolute and hopeless, a love of madness and death.

And that is how it was. Something like that.

Their story began that same evening, when she, her voice soft and moist, as if moistened with old tears, asked him: “Where are you going? Do you have a car?”
He smiled, still looking at her insatiably, “No, I don’t, but I’ll walk...I like to walk,” he said with a warm, youthful voice.

The street was deserted; the concert audience had scattered at a run, and she paused again. A moment of uncertainty and then she turned toward him: “Come with me... I’ll drop you off.”

They stayed up talking until morning, at first in the small Deux Chevaux, then in her apartment, lighted candles and flokati rugs, and the bottle of wine next to them.

Evgenios remembered it all now and shuddered. Ah, how many nights he had lain awake reliving that first meeting... But now he did not want to go into the details, Natalia, standing like a nemesis before him prevented that, he felt that she was exposing him, mocking him, and he became angry. He did not want to be afraid of her any longer, but he could not, not yet, and he escaped into his fantasies, thought of his sweet Sibyl, who was also madly in love with him.

Madly in love. From that very first night. And all the others that had followed. She felt that her solitude had found a place to be comforted inside his solitude, to be freed, -love is freedom, she learned that then - to discover within herself unexplored realms of sensitivity and tenderness, realms of mystery.

She listened to him talk to her interminably, his voice shaking with emotion, with passion. All the things he had not said during the fourteen years he was enclosed in his silence, he said to Sibyl: about his childhood years of privation, about the trains that made him dream, about the diploma he never completed at the conservatory, and about his unrealized dreams, with a half-empty wine glass in his hands and the full moon coming through the window and bathing their half-naked bodies.

On one of those nights of confession, he told her that as a young man he wrote poetry and that when he married he hid his poetry in a corner of the loft, because it was outside the “productive time” of his wife. It was at that point that Sibyl asked him to find one of those youthful poems, so that she could set it to music - she had always dreamed of setting a poem to music - and that was what Evgenios was searching for tonight, what he held in his hands with such joy, what he had already entitled “Ancient Paradise.”

Natalia looked at him absorbed for so long in his fantasies and was at a loss, she was unable to comprehend his behavior. She told him that she wanted them to separate and he, instead of being hurt, was happy. She was beside herself. Beside herself. And she shrieked again:

“What does that smile of happiness mean? Can you tell me?”
Evgenios raised his eyes and looked at her enigmatically.

“Thank you for being the one to suggest it... .For some time I’ve been thinking about suggesting to you that we separate... and... and I didn’t know how to tell you... Now we can remain friends.”

She froze. And her feminine intuition was correct.

“What... what do you mean? Do you have a liaison?”

“I love a girl... I am happy.”

Had a lightning bolt struck her, it would have been less intense than the flame that suddenly engulfed her. She shivered to the bone and a burning sweat ran down her back. Happy? How could he dare?

Ah, no, that no, never... a voice screeched inside her. We lived together a whole lifetime, chained to each other’s solitude, and now you dare to come away, refreshed, from that misery, to say so shamelessly that you are happy... You dare to touch the sanctity of love, you... whom I considered unworthy of even the least favors in life... you dare, you dare... and you leave me in the hell of agony... impossible... .And she tried to find a defense to fight the situation, that woman , she thought, must be a wretched, bandy-legged or illiterate creature with dried-out and withered breasts, or a cleaning woman in the office where he worked... .Oh, surely, that must be it... .And she smiled with satisfaction.

He must have read her thoughts, read them in the void of her eyes, felt that he was recovering his blood, his precious blood, that she had drunk drop by drop for fourteen long years.

“She is younger than you and has marvelous legs, he answered, she’s a musician.”

How did he dare? Evgenios - speechless, intimidated, cast aside - how did he dare? Her head was burning, and she wanted to hear nothing more. She said nothing, only felt the floor coming up to her waist, and the ceiling tilt as if it were falling; with difficulty she held her body balanced and said nothing, only opened her eyes wide, to see him clearly, was this her husband or some stranger?

The first chapters: CHRISTINA

- I -

It all started the day I found the letter on his desk. The handwriting looked like a woman’s, neat letters, at a slight angle, and the paper exuded a faint aroma of jasmine.

My hands were shaking as they touched the envelope and, without the slightest reflection that it was contrary to my principles, I took out the enclosed letter.

Now my whole body was shaking and my sight was blurred, the shock was like a storm that darkened my mind. And the words slipped out of the mist, falling like drops of water - it was impossible for me to read.

I made certain that his car was gone, locked the door with the key on the inside, so that he would be forced to ring the doorbell, and went back to his office, out of my mind with torment.


The moon behind the branches, and you whispering words of love to me. The moment you made me yours I realized that I will love you forever.Why did you take me to Mt.Parnitha? I am jealous even of your memories. I went there yesterday alone, looking for you.

I love you; it’s like a longing for death.


I froze. Suddenly, it was as if my body was empty, pale, shaking. I saw my life as a pile of unknown ruins, smoking from the pain of the crumbling. It seemed to me at that moment that the eighteen years of my marriage - and the two of love before we were married - were drowning in a dead sea and dragging me down, the dead waves were engulfing me and it was impossible to breathe. I was drowning. A feeling of absence or a hallucination of death, where I was sinking, and white circles were lulling me to sleep, a watery surface that refracted my face, calmly disfiguring it, detaching it from its base in my conscience.

I had fainted. And I don’t even know how long I lay there, in the hallucination of the white circles that were tossing me about.

When I came out of the absence, when I came to and saw the letter crushed in my hand, then time rushed suddenly into the emptiness, suddenly etched the wrinkles and my body became watery, as if my life was crushed in a moment, like some comic figure made of paper.

I looked in the mirror and saw that wrinkled paper sketch that I was. A pitiful image; I knew it would be that way forever. My lips were pale, my eyes empty, as if dead, like the sea of the hallucination, and his voice jumped out of the glass “you will never grow old, because I will love you always... ,” and the voice formed circles, as if mocking its own past, and it was spreading, increasing, coming out of many places at once, pieces of a nightmare that was just awakening “because I will lo-o-o-ve fore-e-e-e-ver.”

Now that all of that is past, and the pain has become a faded spot in my soul, a black spot of dry blood, now I can see those events calmly, catalogue them in my mind, pardon them. Yes, that’s why I came here. I need pardon.

I heard the doorbell. Alexander had returned. The first word that came to my mind was her name: Nausica. A name that was empty for the time being, independent of time, independent of conscience, a dry noise in my head, a painful drumming, Nausica, and I was trying to give it shape, identity, voice. She must be a young girl, I thought hurriedly - the doorbell was ringing - she must be twenty or twenty-two, that honeyed romantic tone, the longing for death, after the first moon, those things bloom only at that age of fantasy, “all right, I’m coming, just a minute... ,” I called.

I didn’t know whether I could bear to look at him. Nor did I want to make a scene. I had first to clarify my feelings. I quickly hid the letter, wanted to keep it for myself. It’s curious, I felt that it belonged to me, a masochistic need impelled me to keep it for myself (you will find it in the papers I brought you.) Then, I stood in front of the dressing mirror. I needed to see my wrinkles, how deep they were, to see my hair, grey at the roots, the cellulite, the dull skin around my mouth, repulsive facial hair, I took off my dress - “Christina, what are you doing? Open the door!” his voice. White skin, flabby, I cupped my hands under the flabby useless breasts that had not nursed even one child, the word “barren” crossed my mind, “I’m in the bathroom, I’ll be right out!” How had I neglected myself in this way, I thought in panic, how old am I? Forty-three? Forty-four? I had stopped counting, I was happy, it was unnecessary, he loved me, “paradise requires sacrifice in order to be sustained,” his voice, and I shuddered, I had sunk pleasurably, had forgotten myself, and now it is punishing me mercilessly, paradise I mean, I had offered my whole life as a sacrifice, libations on the altar of our love, except that I didn’t offer it properly, in that fleeting moment I realized my error, a huge deadly error, and I didn’t know yet where I had made it, how, when the crack started to become a fracture, “I want all your time to be mine, all your thought, I don’t exist without them, you see... ,” I wanted to cry out.

I put my head under the faucet and wrapped myself in the bath robe. Then I opened the door. And it was the first time that he seemed like a stranger to me.

“You were late, I was worried!”

He kissed me, as always, and I felt his lean body touch mine with the damp raincoat he was wearing, purchased in happy times, and I shuddered to the root of my being.

I was in my last year of law school when I met him. My family were seamen, two older brothers who adored me. He was an only child, raised by nannies, and when his father became ill, he took over as manager of the half-ruined fortune. But he was unbearably bored, he said, and found a release in painting. White houses. He was painting white houses at the time.

Love came like a precipitous wind, gave us white wings, and the dim light of the candles made our naked nights melt on our sweating bodies. He was handsome. Alexandros, I mean. A noble prince. There was a sadness in his eyes, and when he smiled, they shone like sad stars. His body was thin and shy, with a youthful tenderness, like repentance.

The first night we spent in the dim light of the candles, I remember, Alexandros was trembling and tried to hide it, his body was shaking before he touched me, and his voice had a musical ring that drove me out of my mind. His voice contained something deep and solitary, as if it was carrying the burden of all his lonely childhood years or as if it was coming straight out of the wanderings of his soul, and when I heard him speak, I saw myself walking barefoot on deserted beaches. I was so in love, that everything that was his made me dream of doors opening to paradise.

That night he told me he loved me, “don’t ever forget it; you are my only love,” and when he made me his, I knew that my fate was sealed.

He stayed in my arms until morning, as if his body was seeking protection or certainty. That night I learned of the mystery the body hides.

And I loved that aristocratic, delicate body, with its doses of tenderness and insecurity, with the scent of jasmine.

“Come meet my family, I want us to marry...” “But I don’t have my diploma yet, wait a little... ,” “I don’t want you to work, I can’t share you with others, I want your time to be my time, your every moment...” And I accepted.

I was incapable of opposing him in anything. Whatever he asked of me automatically made me happy, became my need, as well. As with the child, later. It was in the second year of our marriage, when I told him I was pregnant, and waited to see the light in his eyes. But his eyes darkened and he fell into my arms pale as wax, “I can’t share you with another being, the baby will take you from me, will kill our love...” “Our love will become stronger, more complete..,” “No, I don’t want a child, I’m too much of an egoist, or too incapable of loving it, or most probably, I am jealous; it will take you away, I will lose you, kill the child, love requires sacrifice, kill it, I tell you, we will have one another, forever.” And I killed it.

From Christina’s diary, June 20

“We were walking among the harvested fields, your hand in mine. We were leaving, always leaving, looking for the thrill of a new emotion, a new experience, like that golden afternoon of June, that carried us happy into the endless, shining night.

Our hotel was surrounded by expensive flowerbeds, but we were seeking the aroma, the breath of the earth, the gold that blinds, where you dipped the paintbrushes, to make it a memory on canvas.

We laid the stars on the ground and slept. And the wind entered our sleep from all sides, entered and washed it, laden with the scents of the stubble, of the osier, of wild thyme honey.

I discover the scents one by one, scents of the memory - memory is a scent, I always said that - they grow inverted in my dreams, flow from the white of my sleep. And I know that there you are mine. There, you are my prince, and I am not afraid of losing you. Come let’s walk again, my dear, the tears bring you to me, pardon you. Tears whiten the memories.”

- II -

He went straight to his office and began to search. He was nervous, upset, “did anyone come in here?” he cried. I stood like a statue outside the door. The office was a long, rectangular room he also used as a studio, canvases and dried paint on palettes everywhere, frames, paintbrushes, his world that I adored for twenty years, the mystery, “no, noone came in.” It was the first time in the whole of our life that I was lying to him.

He emerged pale; I saw him and dissolved in pain. His eyes were looking elsewhere, within them a brightness like fever burned slowly, and his bottom lip trembled “did you lose something?” He turned and looked at me uneasily, his look went through me without touching me, I wondered to what degree I existed for him at that moment, and I felt that I was crumbling. But he didn’t see that either, he was beyond me “no, no, I made a mistake,” he replied, absentmindedly. And I was certain now that he was in love.

I felt my blood run cold; I was dissolving, a bit more and I would fall, I was no longer part of his life - so simply, so easily - I who adored him, who had devoted my life, my time, my mind, to make him happy. He had leaned on me, had let himself go, a deep, existential dependence that calmed his insecurities and his fears; I had become his mother, his wife, his sister, and above all I was the eternal beloved, “when I hear music or when I am mixing colors, you are there... everything I feel passes through you, I exist through you, I gaze on beauty and I wear your eyes, if you leave me, I’ll die...” He was sick with jealousy, out of a hopeless need for exclusivity, a tyrannical and tender dependence that was the deep mystery of our happiness.

My body was limp outside the door of his office, and my thoughts, like black crabs, skittered over me and made me shudder, in a bit they would overwhelm me, those disgusting shelled creatures would finish me off, would gnaw on me as a useless thing, would start with my shadow and move into my barren womb. Revenge would say “you killed your children, confess, one of them before you married...” A many-footed panic crept over my body and I cried out.

I heard my own voice and was terrified. It came out of the darkest depths, out of the primal womb of screams, came out of the beaten breasts of Medea when she saw her husband with his paramour, or out of the collective uproar of the wronged, betrayed woman who must drown her shame in silence and solitude, in pride, must bear her own cross, raise it to the point where she can raise it no more, plant it on her wronged body, become one with the cross, with her muted martyrdom.

A hardness arose slowly in my body, a wildness, I will destroy you, I thought, I will create for you another kind of dependence, to replace this one that has worn out, I will plant mines in your sleep, Medea killed her children, I will kill you, your soul, a lightning bolt is burning inside me, watch out. Even if it is my fault that I gave you everything and kept only my shadow for myself, even if I was at fault for allowing myself to be absorbed into your shadow, sacrificing my diploma, motherhood, friends, personal life - ah, what a mistake! I am now beginning to realize when the first crack started, the one that became a giant rupture - well, even if I am at fault for adoring you like a beautiful, impotent god, for believing in your oaths, kneeling as you passed, so that you could go ahead, watch out, I say, a lightning bolt is burning within me.

Alexandros was standing over me, heard my cry, “is something wrong?” My eyes were burning as I turned them toward him, the veins in them surely were bleeding, but he did not see me, again he was elsewhere, “oh, no, I was dizzy,” I answered, and looked at the thin aristocratic fingers that were touching me. A strong shudder was rolling down my spine and overwhelming me. Now my body hurt, only now, the black many-footed creatures had hidden themselves in my shuddering flesh, I hurt, yes, and that meant that I was still alive, did I have the time to become myself again? The aristocratic fingers pulled back in fright, as if the tension of my body repulsed them, and his face fell, “your body is shaking,” he said, and I laughed, a body shaking and sweating on its own, who was I? And why?

It was the first time I sought an identity for my person, pain makes egoists of us; for the first time I realized that I was anonymous beside him, for years now I had lived without a personality, only a body, the body was our mystery, paradise began and ended there. I am pretending. There was also the soul. It was the agony of happiness. The agony of balance, our life was a fragile material, crystalline moments, ready to slip from our hands, to break us into little pieces. And they did.

Happiness has innocence at its core, they say. We were innocent. We had come out of paradise today and we were both naked. Today I am ashamed that I hurt, ashamed that I still love, ashamed that I am planting a minefield in my soul.

He was pale and uneasy. We sat at the table, silent. I could not swallow even a bite of food. He had not overcome guilt, he was still living his new love with the consciousness of sin. I felt like falling into his arms, crying, reminding him of his oaths. I put my hand next to his, hoping he would make a move and touch it, nothing. The delicate hand with the thin fingers was already seeking another touch, another tenderness, and a black serpent bit me. I got up from the table, a frenzy overcame my mind, I heard the noise in my head, a catastrophe, what is this thing that is lost so suddenly, this thing that keeps alive or kills a relationship, I was asking myself in terror, and what happens to the twenty years of marriage, how do they fit into a tiny space, into the tiny word “strangers”!

We were two strangers.

His hand was on the table and did not recognize mine, had already forgotten it.

He got up, indifferent, and went toward his office, as if I didn’t exist, went by me again, “tonight I’m going out with some friends, do you have something to do?”
The first pain is always harsh, savage. And I was still there. I had not cried, had not beat my breast, had not cursed him. So it was convenient that he would go out, with her naturally, the moon behind the fir trees, and he whispering words of love... I was out of my mind. “Yes, I will do something, I said, I will find something, go... ,” and we spoke no more.

Through the half-open door of the bedroom, I watched him dress. Soft movements, dreamy air, he was again the adolescent that was going to charm. His brown scented hair - not one white hair; my head was full - fell over the broad forehead, and that feverish light was in his eyes, those adored eyes with the sadness of a star, “don’t forget to take a sweater, it’s cool at night,” and I thought of Mt. Parnitha. “Yes, I won’t forget,” he replied guiltily.

I cried out. As soon as the door closed behind him and I saw his car disappear down the street. Something was being lost forever and I was powerless to stop it, something was dying and a burnt odor was wafting in the air. A giant wave welled up inside me, a wave of cries, a wave of tears. And I wandered up and down the empty house lamenting, like a ghost, I was gathering up the photographs and crying out, I needed to, it was the same cry as before, only now it was louder, more harsh, became one with the cry of the first human being on earth to feel pain. And when my eyes dripped blood, the savage pain subsided and I wiped the tears to look at the photographs.

On the island. Most of the pictures were taken on the white island. We had gone there so that I could introduce him to my family. He was enthralled with the beauty of it. White houses, belfries, stairways, everything was bathed in a white light. It was a period when he was painting houses (expression of a childhood need out of something that had traumatized him; only much later did he admit it) and the white light blinded him. A transparent island, held in the linen fingers of August, an island with warm, living people, a contrast with the large urban, somewhat moldy environment he had grown up in. And he emerged from his pale silence, laughed at the slightest thing, was joyful. He had rented a room at the hotel “I’m crazy about this island, he said, that’s it, that’s why I fell in love with you, you carry it with you...”

From Christina’s diary, August 11