Koula treats Dimitri like a little mother, warning him not to dress so casually when it's cold outside. He's like a little boy in some ways, she thinks to herself as, mentally, she restrains herself from reaching out and touching the goosebumps on his bare arm.
Koula has two children herself, girls of ten and thirteen. Dimitri's only 21 herself, but he seems to be attracted to her. What's a woman to do? Little by little Koula finds herself giving in, as she sees him daily. Once she catches him crying. It's absurd, but she feels twinges of love for him! Author Menes Koumantareas knows women from the inside out, or so it seems, how would I know? She, Koula, seems real to me, and her quandaries seem like those of a person entering middle age and, perhaps, hoping for one last tryst with life itself. "Girls of my age bore me to death," he confesses, although she's seem him with her own eyes huddled intimately with a young girl. Somehow she believes him. This is sort of a Greek version of Summer of 42 or Brief Encounter.
Anyone who's been on the Athenian underground will understand the intimate allegory Koumantareas proposes, first the progress between stations, cutting deep through the belly of the ancient city, and the sexual impulse growing ever stronger with the subway's ambient musics. Out on the street, "a few bitter-orange trees gave out a faint, wintry scent."
Translator Kay Cicellis provides us with a open sesame into Koumantareas' electrically charged universe. She is especially good at catching the mood of his story. How it veers from comic to melancholy, sometimes by the end of a sentence. I won't spoil the story for you any more, just urge you to give it a try. Friends in Greece have long urged me to try reading some of Menes' Koumantareas's work. He is like the Reynolds Price of Greece, they say. Now I can, and you can too.