Who am I?
- Mar 29, 2004
I had never been in Koinion before, but judging from the well-kept buildings it was one of the inner city’s most well to do areas. Most of the district was made up of large apartment buildings, five or six stories high and built in what I believed to be art nouveau style. The tram stopped along the main avenue, so we walked the rest of the way. According to Kalina, the address on the note should be about half way in one of the streets crossing the avenue. She knew that professor Doxiadus lived somewhere in Koinion, but she had never been there. We found the street very soon though, and the address wasn’t very hard as well. It was a café, located at the floor level of one of the apartment buildings, named Café Ianus. The café looked very new and light, keeping something loosely resembling a Roman theme as far as I could tell from the outside. When we pushed open the door to enter, we found a familiar face, though. It was the same student that had told us that we would meet the professor here instead of his office. He nodded in acknowledgment as he was us. “Professor Doxiadus is waiting for you at the table to your right, near the rear wall,” he said monotone. Surprised, I eyes him up. “What… errr what are you doing here?” “Lookout,” the student said grimly, as if he found the setup as uncomfortable as I did.
Professor Doxiadus was indeed at the table near the wall, facing away from the door. I recognized his brown tweed jacket that was draped around the back of the seat, and that had even made him look dustier than professor Sisinis on the first impression, weeks ago. I now knew better, realising I never met Sisinis in a downtown café with a student lookout, mimicking a setup that looked a lot like a criminal business transaction. When he looked over his shoulder and saw us, he smiled at his polite, calming way and he told us to take a seat opposite of him. “Alexandros, Kalina, good you could make it to Koinion. I bet you wonder why we had to meet here, instead of my office at the faculty.” I laughed. “That did cross my mind, sir. I also wondered why you have a lookout at the door.” Professor Doxiadus nodded. “Well, quite simply, I didn’t want professor Bokova around. Her present would compromise the sincerity of this meeting, you see. My esteemed colleague and me are… a bit at odds, you see?” I wasn’t the one to complain, nor did I really want to talk about professor Bokova today. “But why meet us here?” Kalina asked. The professor laughed. “Frankly, it was the most convenient place for me. I live here, you see? Well, a few stories up, actually. You know, Alexandros, your grandfather used to live in this street too. We actually met in this café often in those days, although it looked much different back then.” I didn’t know, of course. After all, I never knew he had lived and teached in Constantinople until he had died. “I can imagine that you have a lot of questions about your grandfather.” Crap… actually I didn’t. It suddenly came to me that the professor had blown the thing out of proportion. I had always intended to remember him from my own experiences as a child, on the porch of his house on Kefalonia. Not by what other people from his past would tell me, because frankly I didn’t really care that much about his past. Kalina and the professor looked at me with expectation though. “Well… professor, do you know anything about the money he left me to go study at the Imperial Academy? Not even my grandmother knew anything about that.” The professor nodded. “Yes, he arranged that way back. Your father wasn’t very interested in history, so when you were born your grandfather had it arranged that the Imperial Academy would pay for your study. Your study and even that of your children.” I frowned. “My children, sir?” Professor Doxiadus laughed. “Oh yes, it was his wish that you and… you would get children to also follow your footsteps, and keep the interest in history alive within the Elias family.” Wait… “Me and who, sir?” Professor looked a bit flabbergasted. “What? Errr, well, whoever would want to have children with you, of course.” I could swear he winked at Kalina. I never considered having children, with her or anyone. We haven’t been that close yet, anyway.
“He really never told you about his teachings?” I shook my head. “Never. I always thought he had lived on Kefalonia forever. But then again, I was so young.” We laughed. Once the talk had progressed into informalities, things had become much more relaxed. Although Kalina was still just sitting there, laughing with us and drinking her coffee, me and the professor had been exchanging memories about my grandfather like we were some old friends rather than teacher and pupil. “I can imagine it must seem like he has lived two separate lives. I remember that in the years after my graduation, he began to cut back on hours. He was… well, he was planning to move to Kefalonia, I suppose. I think it has been twenty years or so, that he left the history faculty.” That must have been only a year or two before I was born. I never realised that my father also lived here, then. Didn’t he go to college in Thessaloniki? “It’s a shame though, he wasn’t quite so old. If you have the chance, you should have a look at his writings. He did some pretty inspiring things. You should at least read his reports on the digs in Nineveh II, or his cooperative work with… well, with professor Bokova.” “They… they worked together?” Professor Doxiadus nodded slowly. “Yes, I believe they go back together a long time. At least since the time I was still a student. She… she never really talked about that time, but there is a reason why she became one of the coordinators of the archaeology department.”
“Sir, so you and professor Bokova are at odds?” Kalina suddenly asked, somewhat sassy. Professor Doxiadus was clearly surprised and laughed. “Is that what is said on the faculty?” “It's what you just said,” I pointed out. It would explain the strange relationship between the two professors. Professor Doxiadus simply shrugged though. “I suppose. Professor Bokova… well, let’s just say we have some conflicting interests. And the good professor has on several times taken the liberty to get her… oh, you know… it’s not really any of your business.” I completely agreed, but Kalina seemed to have taken a sudden interest in the relationship of two of her teachers. “Is that why you didn’t want her at this meeting? Because of conflicting interests?” Professor Doxiadus seemed to squint at Kalina for a split second, but then shrugged nonchalantly. “I just didn’t like that she invited herself, without even asking me. She’s the faculty coordinator, but that doesn’t mean she is allowed to attend private meetings between me and students. I don’t have to justify that to her… and aptly miss Taneyev, nor do I have to justify that to you.” Kalina smiled innocently. I knew the professor and she knew each other personally, and I couldn’t tell if they were just joking around or not.
It was past five when the professor informed us that he had another meeting, and that he would have to leave. When Kalina took her time to start asking questions about the lecture she would have from him Monday, I took my time to visit the bathroom. Kalina and I had planned to get to town afterwards, to get a bite and find a nice pub afterward. I needed an empty bladder if I was going to criss-cross the city with her again. When I got back, she and the professor seemed to be in some heated discussion. “…just shouldn’t know! This is simply not the time!” Professor Doxiadus said, struggling to keep his voice down. “If this is not the time, than it’s never going to be the time!” Kalina fumed, her beautiful emerald eyes so focused on her teacher that she hadn’t seen me returning yet. “Perhaps. Perhaps it’s for the better,” the professor said, apparently trying to calm her down. What the hell was going on? “He deserve to… Oh…” Her passionate rebut suddenly stopped when she saw me standing behind the professor. Professor Doxiadus also turned around, looking up at me in a mixture of surprise and amusement about my own surprise. “Ah, Alexandros… “ He got up from his chair. “I’m afraid I have to leave now, people. Time waits for no man. Not even for historians.” The professor laughed as he got his wallet from his tweed jacket and put a 1000-Drachma bill on the table. More than enough to cover our coffees. Then he said goodbye and casually walked out of the café. The lookout had already been gone. I was still standing behind the chair. “So… what was that all about?” I asked carefully. Kalina shrugged and waved the question away. “Ah, archaeology nonsense about pottery.”
Instead of taking the tram again, we walked back to the old city from Koinion. It was quite a walk, but I had never really been in the area so I kept looking around all the time. Eventually Kalina told me to knock it out because it made her restless, and we walked on hand in hand. On my request, we went to drink something in café Axum across the train station, which did not look any better around dusk. Afterwards we went to a little Armenian restaurant near the old palace and more or less pub-crawled our way back to the artisan district. It was around two that we entered the bendy alleys of the city’s oldest standing district. It seemed to be just as quiet as the last time. Kalina had told me a lot of students lived in the district, so I was surprised to found ourselves alone on the street. Perhaps the others were still in the pubs along the Mese?
And as before, I found the empty streets a bit haunting. Kalina walked very close to me, holding my arm so she would walk straight. Although she insisted she was a big girl, she wouldn’t take her ouzo as well as me. Big girls are still girls, after all. I led her to her place, while a voice in my head warmed me that I should say no if she would invite me up. Suddenly it became very clear to me we were being followed. I had noticed something before, when we entered the district, but I blamed that on my own intoxication. But now I was certain I saw somebody hiding away to my left when we took a turn. Feeling the liquid courage flow through my veins, I turned around and looked better. There was a lot of darkness. Suddenly I saw something move into the alley to our right. “Wait here,” I told Kalina, and I walked towards the alley. I felt watched like the first time I had been here, but now the ouzo had taken away my fear of getting mugged. Besides, now I had a lady to defend. Then the figure in the alley ran away. I did a few steps, and felt I could still run. The next second I found myself chasing after the shade, keeping in mind to put one foot after the other. The person wasn’t very fast himself, but he had an advantage on my on the account of not bouncing from one side of the alley to the other when running. The man – because I could see it was a man – wore a hat and a hat and a long dark coat. While I kept following him into another alley, I reckoned he would have mugged me if he had wanted that. He went into another, even more shallow and dark alley, that apparently led between two large old warehouse buildings. I could hear footsteps behind me too, now and I wondered if that was Kalina, or if I was running into a trap. Somehow I won distance on the man, who was clearly getting out of breath now. “Hey, you!” I heard myself say, and I nearly grabbed his coat. Suddenly he got into a dark doorway, and he tried to push the door close. He clearly hadn’t realised how close I had been onto him, though. I managed to grab his coat, and tried to drag him back outside. He turned around in surprise, jerked his coat from my hand. I saw his face. “Go away!” he said, but I didn’t hear him, nor did I noticed how the door closed before me. It couldn’t be.
It could have been a minute or an hour later, that Kalina had reached me, stumbling more than running. “What… what the hell was that, Alexandros?” she asked worried. I stared at her with big eyes, my heart racing while my brains had ground to a halt. “That… was my grandfather…”