She was a charming girl, she looked wealthy, but she didn’t have any friends. She spent all her time at home. If somebody happened to gaze at her with a touch of compassion (such a shame a girl like her, it must surely be a very boring life) she would gaze back surprised – honestly, she had no idea what they meant. One day out in the street she came upon the new guard at the park on his way to the shift. He fell madly in love with her. As the girl treated him affectionately, he began to make dreams for the future, a home of their own, marriage, two, perhaps three children, things eventually taking their course. After some time, he realized the girl responded to his feelings, his effusions even, only out of a general lack of interest. She was with him because she was absent. She felt so good on her own that she could live with anybody, all the more so with the guard, who was so gentle and considerate.
“Art is the result of incomplete combustion,” somebody said, and they all nodded meaningfully. The poetry reading had been a success, even though it was Monday, a day unsuitable for an event of this kind. The gallery was in the centre of the town; a lot of well-known people had turned up, and the buffet served real drinks, not just plonk pretending to be village wine. The poet who was being presented that evening felt immensely flattered. I might even commit suicide, he said to himself, and his exaltation rose at the thought. A female fan came up to him and asked him to sign his new book for her. Her breasts looked firm and fresh through her thin blouse, though slightly cock-eyed. I need only beckon and she’ll run after me like a puppy, he thought as he smiled at her. The girl started to gush enthusiastically about his work, and among other things she mentioned something about incomplete combustion. The poet grew instantly depressed. He wished he had been the first to mention that phrase. Now he was too drunk, he didn’t even understand the meaning of the phrase. That which is left over when combustion is not completed, he insisted to himself, if it were completed, then, there would be no poetry – in other words it’s a kind of detritus.
“Do you really think the ancient Greeks bothered about Heraclitus?” My wife and I were sitting opposite another couple, drinking beer. The two of them had started fondling each other, so they weren’t paying much attention to the conversation.
“None of the ancient Greeks ever gave a damn about «τα πάντα ρει»*. That’s the sort of thing that troubles us – that is, if anything troubles us at all,” I added, and I glanced at my wife, expecting a look of approval.
“It hadn’t occurred to me before, but now that you mention it, you’re quite right, the ancient Greeks were practical, down-to-earth people,” she said. “Only do be careful how you move about, this is the third pair of tights I’ve bought in a week.”
“I’ll bet nobody has really understood the ancient Greeks,” said the man facing me. He was a colleague, this was the first time we had invited them to our house. “The ancient Greeks knew how to enjoy life.”
We drank a few more beers. We saw them out at the front door as the night descended softly from the hilltops.
* “Everything flows”
–translated from the Greek by Kay Cicellis