Excerpt

rien Rien ne va plus

by Margarita Karapanou

On our wedding night, Alkiviadis suggested we go to a gay bar. I agreed. I still had rice and flowers in my hair.

—I want to show you something, he kept saying, flushed and excited, like a child.

I was the only woman at the bar. The men eyed me aggressively when I first walked in, then with curiosity. As soon as they saw Alki, though, they settled down.

—Watch, he told me, watch what I do.

Directly opposite us, a blond boy sat staring at Alkiviadis. He was young, sickly and shy, not even good-looking. Alkiviadis took one of his business cards from the pocket of the tuxedo he’d worn to the church—he too still had rice and flowers in his hair—and went over to the boy. I listened to him from far away, to his cool, metallic voice, to the insolence that lay hidden beneath his courteous manner.

—My wife and I—we just got married today—would like very much for you to visit us tomorrow evening at this address. Here, it’s printed on the card, we live in Glyfada. You would make us very happy.

He gave the boy his card. There was something so bizarre about the formality of this scene. My eyes welled with tears. Alkiviadis in his tuxedo, the boy in jeans.

—Well then, goodbye, Alki said.

He returned to my side.

—Did you see? He looked at me.

The boy couldn’t have been more than fifteen.

Much later I understood that even then, on the first day of our marriage, Alkiviadis had an urgent need to prove something to me.

—I don’t even like that boy. He lit a cigarette.

This exchange had something so repulsive about it, and yet so seductive; it was as if I’d scarfed down some dish I couldn’t quite stomach or digest right away. It was beyond the limits of my endurance—so much so that I erased it from my memory even as it was taking place.

And so on the first night of our marriage I loved Alkiviadis absolutely, as if nothing had happened.

It began to snow. All of Glyfada turned completely white. There were no taxis, no buses. Alkiviadis’s apartment had no central heating. And the water heater wasn’t on, so I couldn’t even take a hot bath.

—Should I turn it on? I asked.

—No. Go and sit by the space heater.

The snowstorm continued the next day. All day long we made love. Around six Alkiviadis decided to read Proust. While he was reading from Le temps retrouve, the doorbell rang.

—Who could that be? I asked.

—One of the neighbors. No one would go very far in this cold.

I went to answer the door.

The blond boy stood before me, soaked to the skin, shivering.