Athena’s street looks abandoned, still, like a dusty street before a duel in a western. Shop windows dim, like the dirty spectacles of a myopic child; cardboard boxes scattered over shabby floors, like presents that have been left unwrapped; dust blanketing the window displays, like stale icing on a cake. On the pavements, in flaky flower stands, yucca leaves cower over brittle trunks, like rusty, weary swords.
The economic depression has gravely affected retail sales all over Greece. Chopped salaries mean less money to spend on consumer goods. How do all these redundant people earn a living now, I wonder. Something has to be done soon or lots of people will starve.
I stop at the traffic lights. The orange light blinks aimlessly, its red and green siblings impassively achromatic. Crossing Vouliagmenis road with the help of an orange light, solely, would mean you’ve recited the Lord’s Prayer a hundred times before. The boldest and luckiest manage to escape the Gordian knot that tens of cars have perilously weaved in the crossroads.
Suddenly I see an outstretched hand, palm up, flung in front of my face through the open window.
‘Please, Ms. I’m hungry,’ a boy of ten, in tatty clothes and a supplicant voice says. His sad eyes hold my gaze, making me stammer.
‘Of … course’. I rummage into the glove compartment for a coin. Nothing there. Then I remember I have a euro in my trouser pocket. For the supermarket trolley. I fumble for it but then I think. I won’t have any change for the trolley. Can’t expect to turn a hundred euro banknote into change. And I couldn’t possibly go back home to get another coin.
‘Sorry, nothing here.’ I shrug and the boy hides his blighted hopes behind his lowered eyes and pursed lips. I roll up the car window and glower at the orange traffic light, which keeps winking at me. It’s either I push my way into this bedlam or stay here forever, I ponder, and press the accelerator hard, leaving Athena’s street behind me.