Travel notesIssue 06 | August 2009

An American in Athens, or In Ambelokipi, I Pretend I’m Greek

by Rebecca Newton

I have bought my postage stamps and mailed my postcards home. Now I will try to forget I am an American. It doesn’t matter that I can’t speak anything but English. I will be Greek. Not so much like the olive-skinned, roman-nosed Athenians, with their hennaed hair, who rush pass me to the bus stop or the Metro.  I’ll pass for a northern Greek with my dark eyes and hair, fair complexion, and pointed nose. A Greek from somewhere else.

Kiffisias Avenue is four lanes of whizzing cars, coaches, motorcycles, and scooters. I wait for the traffic cop to give the signal for pedestrians to cross, make my gait purposeful and try to look like I’m used to the city’s commotion. I’ve been this way before, past a shoe store, up a few blocks to an art supply shop, and here, just across from the post office, there’s a fabric store I discovered the other day.

I have returned to see if the piece of embroidered chiffon is still in the window display. I approach the shop tentatively and see the fabric is draped over the mannequin in warm, rich brown folds, like coffee being poured after siesta.  I am a dressmaker on a mission. The placard in the display shows 60€ crossed out, dropped to 15€ a meter. It’s a good deal.

I push open the door of the shop, leaving the bright morning behind me, and am embraced by the warmth of cigarette smoke as I enter the shadows. I can’t see, but I finger several pieces of suiting that are wound on bolts and spread on the center table. Gradually, as I regain my vision, I cast a glance around a room lined with shelves and bolts of fabric that stand upright. I’m like a schoolgirl, pretending not to notice the boy who’s caught my eye. The shopkeeper bustles toward me, a woman in her fifties, short, robust with olive skin and peppery hair.

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About the author

Rebecca Newton has been a writer from a very young age. Her earliest attempts with the pen appeared in her grandparents’ mailbox in the form of illegible scrawl on scrap paper. In recent times, her writing has endured the scrutiny of a more critical audience among the faculty at College of the Ozarks where she is finishing her B.A. in English.

Read our current issue:

Poetry

Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok