By Georgia Kolias
There are places that hold silences. Even within congested and vibrant streets you can find inhalations that are held in like secrets. I had my own secrets that I held within my ribs, caged and fluttering. At 16, I knew my traditional Greek immigrant family would never accept my desire for women, so I started my secret keeping. I thought I was the only one holding secrets, but I eventually learned that my father and I walked the same sidewalks, living hidden lives.
Daddy’s barbershop was in the heart of the Mission district in San Francisco, on Mission Street at 24th, right across the street from La Taqueria and Dianda’s pastries. If you don’t know, it is impossible to go to either of these establishments and not leave satisfied, licking your fingers, and too full. The succulent grilled meat wrapped in a warm corn tortilla and topped with huge chunks of avocado and fresh salsa would drip down my arms as I took hungry bites. At Dianda’s we would greedily point at the pastries through the glass case and salivate. Napoleons creamy and crisp, puff pastry filled with a coffee filling and drizzled with crispy caramel, chocolate éclairs forced full of satiny custard. Even now, I am fanaticizing about a gluttonous suitcase of pastries and an eagerness to experience a stomach full to bursting.
Visiting Daddy’s barbershop was rare when I was a kid; it meant a couple of bus lines and my mother’s willingness to be in his company. He charged $8 a haircut and that seemed like a lot of money to me back then. His shop always smelled like the barber antiseptic that he used to soak his combs, and meaty sweat. There was a poster that displayed a variety of proper haircuts that my father could execute, not like the hack jobs that Super Cuts provided. Daddy had pride of craft, and resented being put in the same professional class with Super Cuts.
His landlord owned a bakery, and once a month when the rent was due, Daddy would come home with an apple pie in a white cardboard box. We would jump around, mouths watering – except my mother, who preferred lemon meringue. Mommy sometimes got a turkey or pumpkin pie from her job waitressing at Zim’s, but that was only on Thanksgiving. One night Daddy came home with the white box and an angry scowl. Instead of hopping around, we took the cue to step back to see what would unleash. Mommy took the pie and put it on the counter, then followed Daddy into the bedroom, where the yelling started. Continue Reading…