THE TEMPLE OF ATHENA
My hair was cut today and I got fresh clothes. They took me to a barber, and told him, “Cut his hair”. The barber said, “How you want it?” I said short but leave my beard alone. While he cut my hair, they took my clothes and burnt them; gave me these fresh duds. It's cold still, but I sleep out in the park. No one knows I’m here. It's safe. The city's not safe. At night if someone finds you, you might get beaten, robbed or stabbed.
I was in the city yesterday. I saw a crowd outside a building. There were maybe fifty. Then they started walking in the building, so I followed them. The young lady at the door pretended not to notice me. I followed the line of people to the stairs. Near bottom of the stairs was a lift. There was a sign on the lift, saying it was broken. On the wall beside the lift was a picture of a lady in a helmet. She wore a dress and between her breasts was the face of a ghoul, who laughed at me.
Five flights up and I was beat. Soon as I stepped onto the landing, I felt dizzy. The line was moving slowly. I was getting angry. The height made me dizzy and I wanted to be sick. The concrete strip that led to the flat didn’t seem strong enough to hold us. I went into the open flat. The room was built of large brown bricks. People filed through then out again. There wasn’t much space. There were no windows, I don't think. If there were, I didn’t see them. I went into the kitchenette. No one there. There was a cupboard underneath the sink. I climbed inside the cupboard and closed the door. It was hot inside the cupboard. I could hardly breathe. Then later someone used the sink, I heard water in the plumbing, the pipe felt cold against my cheek. I must have been dog tired, because I fell asleep.
I woke and couldn’t tell what time it was. I pressed my ear against the door. Nothing. I climbed out of the cupboard. The flat was empty. It was very dark. I felt my way along the wall, then stepped into the middle of the room and lay down on the carpet. Now the room was freezing. My neck and body stung from being cramped inside the cupboard. As my eyes took in the dark, I noticed a triangle lit up the corner of the room. I got up and walked into the kitchenette and saw there was a window. I could just make out a streetlight behind a tiny grille. Then I heard a thud. Though the wall a thud again, and then another one. I went back to the other room, pressed my ear against the bricks and listened. A thud and then a woman groaned. Then the sound of flesh get hit. “Don’t ,” the woman said. A crash as something hit the wall. The door slammed, I heard the woman crying. It made me scared to go next door so I laid back down, watching the triangle from the street light on the carpet in the corner of the room.
I couldn’t sleep. I checked the window a few more times to see if it was day. Then I must have been asleep, because the ghoul was chasing me. I woke again and went to check the window. A dull grey light had come. I let myself out quietly so as not to scare the woman. I passed her flat, and saw her light was on. I peered into the blinds. The woman was asleep.
When the barber cut my hair, I asked about the picture of the woman with the helmet on. He said she was a god. He said her name but I forgot it. He said she went to war for men. He pointed to a picture in the shop. “That's her temple”, he said. “In Athens. See how beautiful it is? She cared for men, this goddess. That's what gods did, and men built cities for them.”