I wear the blue Versace polo shirt,
one size too big, my mother bought me.
We meet in Thissio, sit outside
a bar by the Temple of Hephaestus.
He looks different from the pic he sent –
balder, heavier. But he has a smooth voice,
the kind they use in milk or yoghurt adverts.
I lie about my age.
I have a Moscow Mule in a coral bottle.
He drinks something in a heavy-bottomed glass.
We talk about our summer plans.
A taxi takes us to a place north of Omonia Square.
In the dark hotel reception, he pays
5,000 drachmas. A blue note. I don’t contribute.
Even with the window open, the room stifles.
On a tray, laid out like wedding rings,
He keeps the light off.
I’d expected lovemaking to be
a soft, easy affair –
a seaside room,
the scent of lemons,
Instead, this angular, stinky wrestle,
and his voice turning childish,
he calls me baby
as we soak the bedlinen.
We dress in the dark.
We don’t kiss goodnight.
If there was blood on the sheet,
it isn’t the sort tradition likes
presented from a balcony.
his room smells of body spray
something sharp, peppery
the air is stale, the window
won’t open more than an inch
bare wood-chip walls, scuffed lino floor
a cell, really
just about fits a single bed, double duvet
spilling down the side like beer head
a knackered chest of drawers
bottom one missing
top-deck commuters look in
as they slog up the high street
disinterested, or maybe what they see
in the sooty glass is their reflection
a heart-shaped silver frame
on the windowsill breaks
this austerity: a boy
six or seven, in a snoopy t-shirt
grins at the camera, the woman
next to him sits straight-backed, hands
folded stiffly in her lap, her tight perm
just like the one my mother had
he sees my eye is fixed on her
opens his mouth, scratches his beard
no words come out, he pulls
the chord, the blind rolls down
woman and child vanish
he takes his t-shirt off
Kostya Tsolakis is a London-based poet and journalist, born and raised in Athens, Greece. He is founding editor of harana poetry, the online magazine for poets writing in English as a second language, and is deputy poetry editor at Ambit. His debut pamphlet, Ephebos, will be published by ignitionpress in November.