The last time I called you, your mother answered so I just hung up on her and that phrase she always says. The one where I only understand the first half. 'Ne…' yes. What comes next, I can't tell. And you never told me.
I wrote you once, asked you to teach me all the phrases that could be said in Greek, when answering the phone - "He's asleep," or "He's gone out" and I would learn how to say, "Thank you", and "Tell him I called" and "Goodbye", so I wouldn't be this rude, gruff girl, who always feels like she's hanging up on your mother.
Except this time I did. Because I didn't have it in me to pretend that I understood what was being said.
It's been weeks and suddenly I'm that 22 year old girl again, writing a letter to a man that doesn't want her anymore except this time, it's real.
It's been weeks and today an earthquake was felt around the Mediterranean - Cairo to Athens, by way of Turkey.
It made me pick up the phone thinking maybe you would be the one to answer it this time because you had the same thought as me and that you knew that I would be calling to make sure that you felt nothing more than a building swaying, just like I did.
Maybe a few books fell off your shelf, or a dish slipped out of the cupboard in your kitchen and crashed to the ground but nothing serious happened. No one was hurt, no buildings collapsed.
Maybe after it passed, we both sat, dizzied, for that split second as we tried to find our balance once again, and for another split second it felt like we were still swaying but it was just the aftershock of our bodies taking in the same moment a thousand kilometers apart.
The swaying stopped at around 2:51. I know because I looked at the clock in the hallway, the one I can see from my bedroom door because I wanted to ask you if you felt it too, at that exact moment.
Life seven floors below went on as usual, like nothing had happened. A street seller shouting his wares, a machine, what exactly I don't know, whirring and buzzing, doing what it's supposed to be doing, but what exactly, I don't know...
And it was like the earth hadn't been shaken to its very core. Like it was something only you and I had felt, just like the day I was trapped in the elevator and you were laying in a hospital bed, and no one else cared, because these things - these small, trivial, life changing, enormous things, were happening only to you and me.
It's been weeks since I've heard your voice, that tinted accent, that pause where your mind translates the words, Greek to English, and back again and I stretch, and arch, and pull myself around that lull that beautiful, gorgeous moment of just you and me and nothing else
And then you laugh.
The same one I remember from six years before, and we say we've grown up and changed and matured and we're not the same people anymore and that this time things will be different.
Except they're not.
You still drink the nights away, sleep the days away, live the life that I want to curl into, and pull over my head like covers that I can hide under. But I'm still the responsible one, doing what I'm supposed to be doing.
You still wear your red and black kuffiyeh, pull it over your nose when the tear gas gets too strong, throw back the canisters when they land at the wheels of your chair, because that's your job. Your gloves, your arms, are the tools of your trade, built from the stone and resilience of all the things your legs can no longer do.
There was that one night, you were trapped, at the top of a flight of stairs, and there were too many canisters, and not enough hands to throw them back, and you kept your head down, and you sat trapped, and you threw up afterwards, from all the gas. And I wasn't there with you. Because I was trapped, in my own world, in this wheel that keeps turning and I tell myself that I want to leave it all behind, but I'm scared of the bruised knees and scraped palms, the cuts, the blood, if I stumbled and fell, trying to get off.
You still wear your kuffiyeh, and balance beer cans on your lap, and I still punch in. I still do what's expected of me.
For those six years of silence, I couldn't write. And now, here we are again. And I'm writing. Again. And you're disappearing again.
Months have gone by and we've filled the gaps:
The day you went to that woman's house, the one who's name I keep forgetting, and she told you that she knew that I would leave you, and I couldn't handle the pressures of a recovering addict, and your anger took over, and you smashed something in her home, and haven't gone back since.
The centre you've been going to, the medication, the balance, the scolding each time you misstep, and have one drink too many.
The man that I thought I loved, years of a long distance relationship, that fell apart when we finally lived a short drive apart.
The trip to Berlin, the one where you bought a ticket with my name on it. The one where you never went.
The days I went to Tahrir, and thought how you were the one person I would have wanted there with me. But didn't have anyone to tell that to.
The parties, the guilt, the loneliness, the fights.
The nights and sunrises spent in the balcony, watching the men of the neighborhood pace and shout, and guard what was theirs.
The baby that you lost.
The years, the minutes, we have missed out on.
Years have passed, but nothing has changed.
These thoughts, your body pressed down on mine, the weight of a man, of reality, of tying ourselves up into knots, for six years, they're all the same.
You're still writing poems for me in a language I can't understand, with the broken promise of reading them to me, out loud, wrapped in sticky Athens mornings, crumpled white sheets, and cigarette smoke. I'm still a girl who keeps making the same mistakes over and over.
When the only mistake I want to make is you.
It's almost 4 in the afternoon here, and there, now. And you're probably asleep. I want to pick up the phone, and hear your voice, hear you talk about that year, talk about the spare bedroom in your house, the one that we don't need, about all the plans you've been making, about the art that you've stopped painting, and I'll tell you that I'll get you the canvas, if you just promise, to get your brushes out again.
I want you to tell me about the life, the irresponsible selfish live that we would live. About the poems we would write. And how blissfully happy we would be. About the kisses, and the curtain that blows out into the summer air, and life goes on, several floors below, and car horns blare, and the sun spills heat into a pool of light by your window, and we lay in the shade, facing each other, your strong resilient arms, the ones that are so used to pushing everything away from you, turning the wheels of your chair, those arms, are wrapped around me, tight, and I almost can't breathe. And I don't care.
But instead, in one week's time, I'm getting on a different plane, to a different country, because I'm doing the responsible thing. And the scared thing. I'm doing the one thing that means that I won't get there and you'll decide that you were wrong about me, and that I'm really not good enough, and that there are other women - prettier, more talented, more suited, to you. Women who are everything that I'm not.
And I wish you would just come to me, be the one who comes to me, the only one who ever came to me. I wish you would wrap those arms, those strong resilient arms around me, and prove me wrong.
But it's 4 in the afternoon, and you're probably asleep, and I don't want to hang up on your mother again, and you probably didn't feel the building sway, because you were asleep, and I'm just sitting here alone. In the aftershock.