In the middle of noisy Metaxourgio Square with its cafés and hotels a stout, old lady with gold spectacles and shocking pink lipstick is lying on her back on a mattress on the pavement. Her personal belongings are neatly packed in plastic bags around her. She has undone the top button on her blouse so her cleavage shows above the quilt covering the rest of her body.
I turn down a narrow street, the name of which is totally erased, and enter an area of empty shops. Flimsy curtains hang in front of the windows. I walk on and discover homeless people lying in cardboard boxes alongside the buildings. One of them is lying on his back on the bare pavement. His legs are bent skywards and his arms are stretched out to the sides in an open, almost meditative pose.
Around the next corner I suddenly find myself in an area with lots of activity. Everyone is carrying, pushing or driving things around on pallet trucks. There are Asian wholesale stores selling suitcases, bags, groceries, and kitchen utensils. I pass through the area without speaking to anyone, and no one seems to notice me being there.
I enter a slightly nicer neighbourhood. A car with a trailer full of potted trees and bushes comes around the corner. It looks like a floating garden. Plants are peddled via the metallic loudspeakers bellowing into the street. Some of the trees are trimmed in winding spirals – like strange plants from another planet.
I go around the back of Keramikos and look at roses and ruins through the fence. I continue through the noise on Pireos Street and up through an industrial area of auto repair shops, nightclubs and scrap dealers. One of the walls is so damp that mould is growing up it in patterns.
The last bit of the way I follow a narrow road under the motorway and run into a lot of men and a few women sorting cardboard, bottles and metal into shopping trolleys. One man has built a neat little house out of cardboard boxes for his dog. He’s even made a small, cardboard doormat. Now he’s sitting on the ground next to the homemade kennel drowsing against a wall.
Translated by Jane Rowley