SHARK LOVE & SEE-THROUGH ABBATOIRS: FIVE MINUTES WITH KATHY KATTASHIS
Kathy Kattashis stands out. She's in black, wearing tattoo sleeves and a pierced septum. Against the magnolia walls and soft grey details of the room she looks like an icon from the Mexican Day of the Dead.
But Kattashis, who is a writer, had come here to write about herself. Eleni Xenou was going to show her ways to do that. It was our first Life Writing Workshop at Write CY and it had drawn a crowd of writers who looked nothing like Kattashis.
Kattashis took the workshop in Greek, but she's an Irish Cypriot with roots in Egypt and Greek is her second language. A lot of material poured out, and began to take shape in the kind of intense, personal language that stands out in a way a tattoo or an arm of tattoos can't. I asked her to share some of her work on the blog. She agreed.
Here it is.
I also asked Kattashis if she'd answer five questions about her craft. You can find the questions and the answers to those questions below.
This will hopefully inaugurate the next, and necessary, step in Write CY's growth—becoming a venue to showcase the rich, multi-voiced talent we find in the community.
BY KATHY KATTASHIS
Πήα στην λαϊκή! Κόσμος, μυρωθκιές, φωνές τζαι πραμάθκιες. Now it’s him, he’s here and we’re walking through the old town and we’re making up stories that come from the memories of our lives up to this point. And me? Ήθελα τζαι γώ να έχω αναμνήσεις Κυπριακές, ήθελα να ζώ σε χωρκό τζαι να σκέφτουμαι στα Κυπριακά, ήθελα γιαγιά που εν οδηγούσε τζαι να φορούσε μαντίλα μαύρη. Θέλω τζαι γώ αναμνήσεις Κυπριακές – έν μου κάμνουν οι δικές μου. I want their stories, I want his stories.
We have to describe a place through the eyes of someone who has just lost someone they love. I know what it looks like to lose someone you love. I know because I lost someone I love.
A tinker, a sailor.
I’ve just lost someone and you can’t see it through my eyes. Feel me through your eyes. Describe it. It’s a perfect day. The weather is typical Cyprus mid-July: hot, sticky, humid, stuffy, unbearable, comforting, lazy, slow motion. So he’s lost someone in all this heat. He feels it’s the heat’s fault. Everything goes wrong in the heat. I’ve just lost someone. I’ve come down to the sea. How do you perceive me as seeing everything? There’s noise but it’s all in black and white. The stream seems to have stagnated somewhere and the rocks are aggressively jutting out towards your feet making getting to the water difficult. There are long strips of Cyprus to your left and right.
Everything is drab because I feel drab. Everyone’s in drag because I’m feeling drab but the weather doesn’t care - the sun still shines.
What’s it like losing someone on a sunny day? A sunny summer day in Cyprus near the beach can’t be that bad. Maybe I should choose a different location. But, no; when we lost mum, it was summer. I hated the hospital and I hated those dreary curtains in her room and I hated that she was there alone and cold all night and we were warm from a sunny summer day, waiting for her brothers to come.
They tell you ‘so-and-so died’ and this gargantuan wave comes out of nowhere and pulls you in, takes you to the centre of the world and drops you into the abyss. Bright darkness, watery numbness. There’s no getting away from it, you’re suspended in the water with nothing around you, fearing that something will come bite you out of the darkness so you move around in circles anxiously waiting, searching for a point of reference in all the black, deep drowning sadness. There’s confused grief and a roar of agony fights its way out of your throat.
He’s gone. She died. He died. It’s swallowing me up now. I lose myself. Time is extended forward into eternity so that you’ll never escape this feeling and this moment. There’s nothing you can describe because you can’t see anymore. Put everything away; press a delete button because it doesn’t make sense. You can’t ask me to see through these eyes. It’s too painful. How can I show you Eleni?
Paint me a picture.
It would be a dark picture and I’d be inside a black box, the sea would swallow the black box. I’d be married to the sea. No mermaids would come rescue you, they’d leave you there to view the world through the eyes of the mourning, and it’s the only eyes that see here. She was your mother. I lost myself for a minute.
Describe that minute.
It was the longest of my life, I still exist somewhere in that minute, in limbo; I’m still waiting for it to pass. I can start with the usual – I know what it looks like to lose someone you love. The wind blew both ways and made a great mess of me. We didn’t know what to do. I can’t handle a love like this. It has to keep on writing. The love can’t exist if it doesn’t keep on writing.
I’d never love a tinker. They’re too vague. I can’t place them. I don’t understand how their caravans and carts got across the sea without being inhaled by it.
What ghosts are chasing me now? She gives new meaning to the earth and the trees and the sea and all those waves; she’s everywhere even if I did have to carry her on my shoulders with my brother to her grave. I know what it looks like to lose someone you love; it looks like mum.
I love her. I love her. She’s the love that escapes me, my unfulfillment, my insecurity, my disconnectedness, my broken bond – she’s the one who always leaves me; she’s the life I didn’t live. I love and I’m in love and I want to be loved and I’ll always ask ‘αγαπάς με;’—do you love me? Do you? Do you?
1. When did you start to write?
I remember I was about 11 or 12. My mum got me a small black and red writing book.
2. Do you have a writing routine?
Yes! I wake up at 5am and write on 750words.com for about half an hour. This is free writing—I let anything and everything come out.
3. Give us a little background on this story. What inspired you to write it?
I wouldn't call it a story per se; it's part of the 750words.com writing I do every day and this came about/was inspired by a workshop I did at WRITE CY with Eleni Xenou. She asked us to go home and describe a place through the eyes of someone who had just lost a loved one. Clearly, I struggled with describing some place. I'm not good at pathetic fallacy, I find it a bit cheesy. I've also experienced losing people I love and going back to those moments of how it looks or felt was physically and emotionally painful for me. Eleni did tell us that we need to create characters and 'carry' them around with us wherever we go; the good thing with describing loss through someone's eyes is that I now have an imaginary friend with me. A middle aged man! he's got something to do with Pyrgos village in Paphos, he doesn't wear shoes and he holds his jacket in his left arm. He's lost someone too but doesn't really talk to me and won't let me see through his eyes or mind.
4. Who are you reading at the moment?
Jack Kerouac, ON THE ROAD (for the second time) and Anne Frank, THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL.
5. What writing projects are you working on?
I'm not currently working on something specific; I write every day and that for me is a project in itself albeit a very closed personal one. I'm also busy with work and my MSc but I'd love to have a bigger project to work on.
KATHY KATTASHIS is a graduate of The Open University, UK with a degree in English Literature. She is passionate about sharks, eating a plant based diet and changing abattoir walls (at least in Cyprus) from brick to see-through glass. Kathy is currently working in the accounting department of a private school in Nicosia as well as finishing an MSc in Human Resource Management with The Cyprus International Institute of Management. She believes in the importance of lifelong learning and takes free online courses with Future Learn and Coursera in various subjects ranging from the life of cancer cells (Henrietta Lacks is one of her favourite heroines) to introducing robotics; she wishes there was an easier way to gain knowledge and if she wasn’t eating a plant based diet would have loved to have eaten The Salmon of Knowledge.