In the grip of fear

It could be any part of Athens. Pangrati, Neapoli, Patissia, Aghios Panteleimonas or Acharnon. Late at night. A 30-something woman leaves a friend’s house and heads for her car. She stops under a street light to look for her keys. All of a sudden, she is hit with a knuckle-duster. She feels no pain yet, only horror: Two large, silent men stand behind her. She offers her bag to them, even before they snatch it from her. But they hit her again and again. She falls to her knees. They leave without saying a word. She now feels the blood filling her mouth. She cries out for help. Some balcony doors open and she can see the figures silhouetted by the living room light behind them. They stare motionless, mute. A woman throws a packet of paper tissues. The victim wipes off the blood and reaches for her mobile in her inside pocket. She rings her friends in the nearby flat. At the hospital, where she received three stitches, the policeman speaks to her in a patronizing voice: «What were you doing there at that time of day?» The feeling: Fear. A blind, inhuman fear. The mute balcony observers hurt more than the knuckle-duster. Scared people who stare but do not speak, do not reach out to help their fellow humans. Their neighborhood is hostile and alien. Paralyzed in the grip of fear, the inhabitants of the old Athenian neighborhoods lose their humaneness, they cease to act as social beings with compassion and solidarity. Frozen beasts on their balconies. But in the city in which we live, sooner or later, one of us will fall to our knees. We need a helping hand to remain on our feet. But it takes more than a pack of paper tissues to be human.