by Aris Georgiou
First published in the literary review "Dendro" # 17-18, January 1986

For days now — well no, it must be a month and a half — I’ve been carrying a photograph around with me, black-and-white, eighteen by twenty-four. I’ve been taking it here and there, in my bag. It shows a middle-aged man in glasses, jacket and tie, resting his elbows on a glass showcase, and gazing solemnly at me, as he poses a little self-consciously in front of a wall covered with silver-coped icons, some of them good, some bad, some hand-painted, some ready-made. There he is, in his shop in Egnatia Street, in 1973.

My eyes were just open then and I was looking for pictures; and finding them everywhere, as I always have. Even then I knew some of them were important; but all the same, I would usually go back and give people a copy of the picture they had given me. Sometimes I forgot, of course. The years went by, many of the pictures succumbed, though some stood the test of time. Less zealous now, with a more dispassionate eye, ten or eleven years later I’ve been sorting them out and making a selection for a book, and any day now the man in glasses is going to be published. Something about him touched me, and I had a look for his shop in Egnatia Street, but it was nowhere to be found. I hadn’t noticed it had been turned into a sports shop. So much can happen in ten years. I went into the shop next door and asked after him. A woman phoned her husband, and he told her the next road along, the last house, in the basement. And the name. I forget it now. I went there straight away, found it, noted where it was, and told myself I’d bring the photo along the next day.

For a month and a half now I’ve been carrying the photograph of the man who sold icons around with me. I’ve actually walked past his door a few times. I was nervous, it was the wrong time of day, I really don’t know why, but I didn’t knock. I looked at the photograph again: he must have been sixty-odd then, say seventy-five today. Well no, not terribly old, but you never know, anything can happen. A chill ran down my spine. What if he’d gone blind? He was wearing thick glasses, after all — if he’d gone blind what would he be able to see of this photograph I was going to publish. With growing horror I wondered how I could face a blind man and show him something he needed his eyes to see. And then, everybody knows, old people can be awkward sometimes: just imagine a blind, awkward old man yelling at you because he can’t see what you’re showing him; or getting enraged in retrospect because you once took his photograph. I can do without that, I thought, and since then I’ve been walking past.

So it must be about a month and a half that I’ve been carrying around this black-and-white photograph of the man and his icons. It will be published soon. Apart from me, other people are going to know his face too. One day, sooner or later, the old man is going to die, and when I find out I shall be weighed down with guilt.