40 years in the shade


The woman that enters the café must be around 65 years old. She is well-dressed, made-up, smiling from ear to ear.

“I wait for company” she said. And every now and then she casts a look towards the door.

After a while we see a man hovering at the stairs. She catches glimpse of him too and tries to catch his eye. He is older, maybe 70 and worn out. He is pale and thin and his clothes are hanging. He limps down the stairs with his hand on the banister.

The woman’s enthusiasm wanes as he comes closer. They hug, kiss and look each other with upside down smiles on their face.

She orders decafeine and he takes an ice tea. From what I hear (accidentally) they are old friends – they could have been temporary lovers. It was a long-time-no-see situation, the woman was living abroad.

The man looks as if he has taken the whole situation in stride. But the woman, who hasn’t seen the old friends (lovers?) for so long, looks as if she has just realized how many years have passed, that she is 65 years old and not 35 – back then when she was leaving for Australia.

Back then when she turned heads wherever she went. Back then when the other women envied and commented her. Back then when she was mastering her art. Back then when Gus was forty, before he got sick, before the operations, thirty years ago, before the man opposite her goes to seed and now looks at her with an upside down smile and a denture.

The way they sit, the body language, is louder than music. They say: “What’s going on? How did I become like this? How did you become like this? Where have all the years gone?


I leave from work in the heat of the day. My car is sick so I have to cover a twenty-minute distance by bicycle.

I thought it would be a piece of cake. Twenty minutes on the bicycle and it is forty degrees, after eight hours on the run. I remember my old self, when I was working in Naxos for ten hours the day and in between I would go by bicycle to plunge into the nearby sea. I had miscalculated, I had forgotten that I am not twenty-something years old.

After ten minutes going up the slope having the sun x-raying me, I was a panting sweaty thing. I throw in the towel, I get off the bike and I search for a shade with the bicycle on my side.

I remember Dimitris from Pelion, a 46-year-old florist, who used to say that his body couldn’t take as much as in the past. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

No matter how we strive to play the heroes or muttons dressed up as lambs, no matter how we want to delude ourselves that “forty-is-the-new-thirty”, the truth is bitter and bone-crushing.

Forty is the beginning of the autumn. The leaves are falling, the hair are falling, the boobs are falling and perhaps it’s not long before you find yourself in the awkward position to hear the infamous phrase “don’t-worry-it-happens-to-every-man”.


The spring lasts till you’re twenty. You’re growing, you’re blooming.

From twenty to forty is the magnificent summer. You give fruits, you give birth.

From forty to sixty is the autumn’s turn. There are shiny days with sunsets that outclass those of summer (maybe because the sky is less clouded). But sometimes it may be too cold, especially during November. And the days are getting shorter and shorter.

From sixty to eighty is the winter. Your body contracts day by day. Your hair becomes like snow. One by one, friends and partners migrate to other places.

Unfortunately spring will not reappear. You become like a baby once again, but you can’t bloom anymore.

Man (the lucky one) may live a fifth season, where all four seem to intertwine but the end of time marks you. The end of your time.


While I walk under the shade with the bicycle as my companion, I see two adolescents sitting on a bench. I wouldn’t bet that they are older than 14 years old. They kiss each other standing still, like a statue of the youth that a self-taught sculptor chiseled in the air.

There is no petting, their hands are at bay from every erogenous zone. Only lips, tongue and teeth exist.

The contrast to the woman from Australia and worn out Costas was thrown into sharp relief.

The children that kiss each other must have been thinking: “I’m kissing! I’m being kissed! Am I doing it right? Does he/she like it? I’m kissing! I’m kissed!”

This very moment, they need nothing more than that. There is nothing else. Just the lips that they kiss.

Forget about Elytis and his olive trees, the vineyards and the boats.

If the world is completely destroyed, two adolescents kissing each other will be left. They are enough to rebuild the world from scratch.


When this thought formulated in my head, I see that the slope came to its end. I ride my bike again and I go. 40 years in the shade and the sun is merciless.

Every season is nice and delicious. What you lose on energy, you gain on experience.

As long as you see the sun and the moon, it’s all right; and rejoice (your) every season.


I’m done with this text, I saved it in the computer, get some sleep and wake up to work for another fifteen hours (renowned artists like me, have to work two jobs to make a living).

Late at night I sit in my office, the balcony, and I start my computer to write a bit more, as long as I can keep my eyes open.

I learn about the attack in Nice. I remember the place. I’ve been there many years before when I was wandering in France. It’s a Mediterranean city, full of light. It became a town full of blood and horror.

Our world becomes increasingly horrendous day by day.

On one hand, the violence that people exert on their own will, on the other, the statutory violence of the states. In between, children pay the price of their parents’ sins.

Sometimes I do feel that all hope for our species is lost, for this immensely, twice as much wise species, Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

Then I remember the adolescent kissing couple. As long as they exist, as long as love exists, there is hope left.

Those in love will save humanity – if it can be saved.


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Translated by Alexandros Mantas