robertisenberg

Evripidou Street

In Greece on June 11, 2009 at 12:00 am

 

Evripidou Street

Stumbling home at 5 a.m., giddy, light-footed, I turn right on Evripidou Street. The alley subsumes me. No flowers are sold at this hour. Everything is locked up. The nooks smell of drying urine. And a dark, squat woman emerges from the shadows and follows me, her heels clacking. I can see the vertical sign of the Hotel Athinaikon, only a half-block away. Soon my head will sink into a pillow. Soon this night will vanish into dreams.

“Hello, baby, how are you!” she sings. When I don’t slow down, she races ahead and cuts me off. “Come on, don’t you want a good time?” she says in a chanteuse’s alto.

“I have to sleep,” I say.

“Come on! One Euro. I give you a blowjob in the alley. Just one Euro.”

The thought chills me – I can almost feel the thump of a cudgel against my head, the frozen-toothed feeling of blacking out, then the cold concrete as I wake in a pool of blood. Does she really think I believe her? Her dignity sacrificed for a buck-fifty? Does she really think I’ll trust her, panting against a brick wall above her earthbound head, as I absorb another man’s viruses through her lips? I can picture her pimp – enormous, thickly veined, kicking my nose sideways.

I try to maneuver around her, but her feet as are fleet as a soccer player’s.

“Come on,” she moans, and her hand cups between my legs – her fingers caress my scrotum through the bisecting seam of my jeans, but the touch doesn’t allure me, only makes me retreat, go limp. With one touch, she has anesthetized me, and I grow heady with the desire to escape. I jump back, but she jumps to the side and hooks my arm. Our skins are touching. She is warm, soft – a woman, a grown child, a former infant. This woman had first steps, first words. Someone gave birth to her. Someone helped conceive her. Someone, somewhere, has loved this woman; other someones have damaged her for good. Her life is wrecked. One euro. Alley. Run.

“You know I’m going to say no,” I say, pulling my arm, trying to untie our knot of elbows.

“What di—”

But she never finishes these words, and they are the last words I ever hear her speak. Because the alley is echoing with footsteps – coming fast, a deluge of clicking heals. We both look up, look back; and down Evripidou, silhouetted by headlights, are the twisted faces of a dozen prostitutes, all of them black-skinned, arms waving in the air, knees knocking together beneath their miniskirts.

Run!” they scream. “Run! Run! Run! Run!”

And then I hear the rumble of motorcycle engines – revving, chopping – and just as the women scramble past me, their faces contorted with fear, I see the motorcycles zooming toward me; and in an instinctive instant, I fall back against the grimy wall. I feel the segmented steel of a garage door beneath my spine; I hear the clang of my body slamming against it; and in this alcove, flush with the brick wall, I see two motorcycles fly past me – faster and closer than I have ever seen a moving two-wheeled vehicle – and they flash past so quickly that I feel the breeze of their wake. My arm-hairs prickle. My cheeks bloom. And now Evripidou Street is vacant. Only I am standing here. And the only sound is a distant roar of engines, and a dozen women, screaming.

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