There was a time that’s hard for me to talk about when I could have prevented a foolish act that led to a tragedy. More than one of them, actually. Consequential calamities seem to be a specialty of mine. In fact, just now I was told to watch out for another mishap that might be headed my way. What’s that supposed to mean and what am I supposed to do about it? I feel like I’m flying blind through enemy radar.
Like the others, this one is supposed to happen here, so I was informed. By “here” I don’t mean the little flat on a side street off a side street off Dimokratias Boulevard in the Keratsini Municipality of Piraeus where I am now. What I mean is the whole messy civic scene I’ve been part of since touching down in Athens seven—or is it eight—years ago. I was fresh off the boat from Senegal, so to speak, feeling more disillusioned and disgruntled than fresh.
My diploma in Foreign Relations from U. Geneva was fresh when I signed up with an NGO as a medical aide and got posted to Dakar. I thought I could change the world, or at least a bit of it. Instead, it changed me, and not for the better. Let’s just say I picked the wrong aid organization to work for. Like me, they were Swiss and so I figured they were open-hearted, focused, and competent. I had a lot to learn. Apparently still do. Anyway, I’m still kicking around Athens seven years on, with a little kid, a place to live, and not much that’s happening. But that’s about to change, I’m told.
If you read my diaries from back then you would know what I mean about being a relief worker, but that’s ancient history now. Past few years, I haven’t kept them up. Being a working mother mostly accounts for not recording the days of my life like I used to. Even though they’re pretty alike now, I should, if only to capture how my beautiful boy is growing and changing.
But that routine got upset the other day when this writer dude contacted me out of the blue. Said we’d met a few years ago, but I had no recollection of it. He apologized for never having introduced himself and then asked if he could shadow me for a while and write it up. Said it might make me famous and it wouldn’t cost me anything. Forget it, I told him. Notoriety from some freaking tell-all is the last thing I want, even if I got paid for it. Understood, he said, but wouldn’t I like an unobtrusive, non-judgmental diarist to chronicle my life and times to help me learn from my mistakes and pass on those life lessons?
Well, when he put it that way I told him I guess it would be all right as long as I had editorial control. Sorry, he said, it doesn’t work that way. You’re my character, see, and you don’t get to edit my write-up, but you can use it to edit your life. Told me he’s seen how I operate, thinks I’m good at getting things done but don’t always think through consequences. I should beware, he warned, of jumping to conclusions without a parachute.
Before I could ask him what that’s supposed to mean, he showed me a conspiracy thriller he’d written a few years back, saying I was in it. Offered to email me a copy, suggesting I read it and if I felt misunderstood or mistreated we can forget the project, but that would be a shame because I am an inspiring woman with greatness in me.
Imagine my surprise that anyone could think that of me. All my adult life I’ve been throwing myself into situations without thinking twice—even once sometimes—and coming out tearful, bitter, and bruised from kicking myself. He said I’ll learn. Either that or die young, so why don’t I let him help me find out who I am and maybe even whom I’m meant to be before I get in over my head. Maybe that’s what he meant about the parachute.
He told me to think of him as a traveling muse who might keep me on the rails, validate my ticket, announce the next stop, and take notes, leaving me to figure out what my destination is. So I took him on board. Even though I still don’t know where the end of the line is, what he offered seemed worth the ride. Not everyone gets to have a private tour guide to conduct them through life.
He was so into it that I didn’t even mind being a figment of his imagination. So I read that book of his and came away thinking he’d sized me up pretty well—introverted but pushy, flexible but obstinate, collaborative but prideful, and a decent cook among other things. The tragic ending drove home that nine-tenths of my misery is due to a man, but not in the way you’re probably thinking. It isn’t what he did to me, it’s what I did to him that eats at me.
Even five years on, he still haunts my thoughts. That brave, kind, and handsome father of my child who loved and protected me, the man who would be raising him with me were it not for me. He would graciously call what befell him kismet. I call it criminal negligence, and the bitter finality of it keeps me under his spell.
My writer dude tells me there’s nothing I can do will change the past, so maybe I should try to forgive myself and seize each day to bend the future. That’s a lovely thought, I told him, but you said some sort of mishap is coming that I can’t prevent. Sounds more like the future is bending me.
“Look Anna,” he said, and I quote, “The future is like a black hole sucking us into the unknown. To bend your trajectory, you must have a vision, believe in yourself, and inspire others. You know how to mobilize people. I’ve seen you do it.”
Right, and got enough blowback to make me feel lucky to be alive, as he well knows.
“If you go on a crusade,” he went on, “you need an army. So keep on collecting allies you can count on to pitch in. But just as you can’t know the future, you never really know who your friends are until you need them, and even then you still might not know.”
Thanks for giving me hives, dude. Allies for what? Against what enemies? I don’t have time to wait for his new book to find out. Not while being backed into a cliff I don’t know goes down or up. I gotta go.
Last update 1/26/21