If we had an agreement saying I’d be reborn in Amsterdam, I’D DIE on the spot.  
  Rome isn’t to die for. No way. Sorry, Giorgos.  
  Last year I bowed to force majeure and quit smoking and drinking. It was a momentary weakness. I beg forgiveness from my smoking, drinking friends. I uphold our human right to keep choosing until the end, and the state’s obligation to provide beyond it.  
  On this, the first anniversary of my abstemiousness, I would like to publicly thank each one of my friends separately for their support. Tha, who, since last year, has never once stopped reminding me that “we can quit anything except cigarettes – we’d be sick if we did”. Pl, who, since last year, has never once tired of asking me “if I’ve found a way of kicking the peanuts I spend my evenings with now”. Tho, who after a smokeless decade and a boozeless life has, since last year, smoked when we’re relaxed all together and drunk when we quarrel. Na, who, since last year, has fallen for cigarillos, and whose every drag justifies the special place they once held in my heart. G, who’s never stopped asking me for a light since last year. And Ir, who was smoking like a chimney three months ago and never touched a drop.  
  She just sent me this photo from Hania; she says it’s how she wants me to remember her and that I should organize a session, seeing as how she’s on her way home bearing demijohns of raki with and without honey. I’m so glad I know you, folks  
  I bought a new pair of green tights just like my faded favourites the day I was to make my first appearance on the Greek state TV book programme.  The skirt, blouse and top I’d chosen were the ones I wore everyday, which is how I thought it ought to be. I didn’t want anything different rousing the stage fright I was keeping sweet with lullabies.  
  I’d get myself a hot coffee when I arrived, early – filter, white with sugar – and everything would be just fine. I hadn’t had the time to read the book by the only gentleman on the panel – seeing as how we would all be talking about the others’ books as well as our own, I really ought to have – but something would take that problem in hand, too. I could, for instance, be saved by the bell – the intermission! – just as our host was preparing to seek my impressions. Well, I could, couldn’t I? Nothing’s impossible!  
  Rolling up at the television centre canteen, I was struck by a painful discovery: I’d left my purse at home. Ten steps more were all it took for a terrifying revelation to register: the elastic had gone on my tights. It was with great joy that I recognized the seated figures of  the two women and the man –  the show’s other guests –  at the end of the corridor. The production manager sprang out in front of me: “would you like a coffee while we’re getting ready to start?”  
  As us women embraced, the tights slipped down as far as my bottom. Exchanging views on sugar with the coffee guy, I felt them peeling down my buttocks. Though it was clearly a struggle, my gentleman colleague shot me a smile in greeting from the glittering universe he inhabited, before I collapsed into the armchair with nylon wrapped round my thighs.  
  When it was my turn to be made–up, I seized my chance to haul the tights up to my waist again. The make–up artiste seized her opportunity to do my lips red: “But how else could you want them?” As I was waiting for them to make up the gentleman who—they thought—wasn’t into the idea at all, I seized my opportunity to nibble away at the red lipstick. Later on, the cameraman was to seize his opportunity to immortalize me: the Joker, just in from Gotham City.  
  In the studio, when the time came to shake the host’s hand, of course I favoured my right, leaving my left oh so casually draped around my waist. But then they handed me the cup of coffee I’d left behind in the lounge: I was in grave danger of reaching one of the set’s five armchairs with my tights round my ankles!  

I found myself sitting beside the dour gentleman with my tights tangled thigh high. I launched a smile of great relief at his left cheek. Aaaah! We had a whole hour of safely seated discussion ahead of us. The spate of inelegant wriggling before the director shouted “Action!” was me subtly pulling them up at least as far as my bum.

  And we were off! Time passed with one thing or another. The bell wasn’t going to ring. I could feel it in my waters. No one was going to save me from the question: “so, my dear, what did you think of Mr. So–and–so’s book?” A minute before our host addressed me, my mind was awhirl like hurricane Katrina; a minute after, it had been transformed into a spinning top of many colours. And it was sitting cross–legged atop this fine top that I related my tale: moving from the title of the book once, to the symbolisms upon a time, and thence to inter–war comics at one point, the farcical state of affairs in America at another, followed by a spot of Europe to top it all off, and our gentleman friend and the rest of us lived happily ever after. At the end, I leapt off the top right away with my hands in the air: I surrender!  
  The cameraman was fooled by the only proper smile cracked by the gentleman beside me, fooled by the host’s enthusiasm over what I’d said and missed my instantaneous transformation from cat on a hot tin top to a plumed peacock. He shouldn’t have! Mistakes like that happen and victims get wrongly accused of victimizing. Anyway.  
  There were two thoughts rattling round in my head as I stared at the rainbow shining round me after the storm: a) my friends rolling around on the floor in floods of giggles—and, indeed, my words were discussed in the small hours of Saturday underneath the pines atop a mound of nibbled–out watermelon seeds; b) the tights sliding down my bottom to my ankles as I made to get out of the armchair.  
  It certainly never even crossed my mind that, when the bright lights went out, mine host would give me a heart–felt shake, the tights would be round my thighs before I could say “pleased to meet you”, that the dourly famous Mr. Whatsit would pursue me down the corridor in pursuit of friendship, and that I’d speed off without so much as a handshake, both mine busy clutching my new green tights.