Greek-American Stories: Stepping Back

Yiannis was telling everyone at the table in Dixon’s how serious he was about losing weight. “So, I bought this gadget. It’s a step counter. It counts how much you walk.” Curious, Dimos asked, “is it working?” Yiannis told him, “I didn’t take the subway here.  I walked, so it says one mile and three quarters. That takes a few pounds off me, I think.” With a sly grin, George said, “you wouldn’t need a step counter if you moved to Albany and walked here.” Ignoring him, he turned to Kipreos, the least critical, and asked, “Kipreos, the step counter came with a booklet that gives helpful hints. What’s ‘saturated fat’?” Kipreos looked up and gave the question some thought. After a pause, he offered, “well, I’m not sure but it may be describing you when you take a shower.” The others tried hard not to laugh. John patted Yiannis on the shoulder and said, “never mind what the booklet says. Just continue walking from your house to Dixon’s and you’ll lose some weight, I’m sure. It’s a good beginning.” Satisfied, Yiannis sat back and started to reach out for a donut when, realizing what he was doing, drew his hand back. Dimos asked, “Is Areti helping you diet?” Yiannis nodded. “Oh, she’s cutting back on the shopping for food. She doesn’t need to diet but she’s joining me. I don’t know how she manages to stay so thin.” George muttered, “you, probably, don’t give her a chance to get second helpings.”

Pretending not to have heard him, he said, “I’m going to, maybe, take up a sport like tennis or take my grandkids for hikes, maybe.” Draining his coffee cup, Yiannis rose and told them he intended walking back home. “See you, guys.” They waved as he walked towards the cafeteria exit.

Next Sunday, all were seated, coffees in hand, donuts centering the table, when Yiannis entered and took his seat. Dimos noticed his wrist.  “Where’s your step counter, Yiannis?” Trying to appear casual, Yiannis explained, “I realized that a step counter wasn’t as practical as I thought. All that walking here from my house and back, I’m wearing out the soles of my shoes. Then, all my shoes will need the shoe maker. That means money. Then, I’ll have to buy new shoes. That means more money. Then, if I lose a lotta weight my clothes won’t fit anymore. I’ll need to buy new clothes and that will set me back more bucks. In other words, dieting and walking here is not going to work for me.” Realizing he was sounding cheap, he changed his tune. “But, most of all, I thought about my poor, devoted wife, Areti who was eating less because of me. I realized it was selfish of me to make her cook less, eat less, too. I didn’t want to see my poor wife getting thinner when she has to go to work every day. So, for her sake, I gave it up.” Feeling that his self sacrificing concern for Areti had impressed them, he reached out for a donut without sensing guilt.

But Dimos knew that, honestly, it wasn’t so much his great concern for Areti as it was for the money he’d have to shell out. He said, “that’s admirable of you, Yiannis, thinking about your good wife. But, maybe, you should diet anyway, like not eating donuts, or, stopping at the bakery for those pizza breads. You’d save money and lose weight, too.” John added, “but, taking your grandkids for hikes isn’t a bad idea.” Kipreos put in, “and, although I like your coming to the hotel where I work, maybe, you should omit the French pastries you choose when you come.”

Listening to all their opinions and ideas Yiannis began to feel that life would, slowly, become boring and depressing. But, he couldn’t think of what to say to rationalize their opinions and thoughts. He thought and thought. Then, he brightened. Slowly, he set down his coffee cup, his chin nearly reaching his chest, and said, “I guess I’ve been a selfish, overbearing friend and husband, but I just wouldn’t admit it.” Suddenly, they all felt they had hurt his feelings. “No, no, Yiannis. Don’t take it that way,” rescued John, pushing the donut dish closer to him. “You do what makes you happy, Yiannis,” advised Dimos, sorry he’d spoken. “What time will you be at the hotel?” asked Kipreos. Slowly brightening, Yiannis told him, “same time.” Life is good again, thought Yiannis, reaching out for a donut.


This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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