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The Way we Spoke

By Demetri Raftopoulos

A soft buzz fills the grand ballroom. Waiters balance three—those more experienced, four—plates on their extended arms and set them down in front of guests wearing suits and dresses, filling their time with small talk before filling their stomachs with small appetizers.

      Other servers pick up empty champagne glasses and disappear into the corner of the ballroom, passing the band retuning instruments. The dance floor, a rectangle of shiny granite, is empty.

     The singer of the band, my grandfather, wears a black suit and a bouzouki strapped around his shoulder. He slides his left hand up the long neck of the Greek mandolin and swiftly rotates each of the six beige tuners while plucking away at the four pairs of strings. My grandfather has performed at more than a thousand weddings. Tonight, he selflessly volunteers to play a couple of songs on his granddaughter’s big day. My sister.

     I stand at the bar with a beer in hand. My sister and her husband sit at the head of the ballroom at an elevated table overlooking the empty dance floor directly across from the band. The drummer, seated behind my grandfather, lowers his hand and adjusts the height of the snare drum grazing against his bent right knee. Familiar faces scatter across the room. Some join me at the bar to order tequila shots. A shaker shakes behind me, ice crunches against tin, and waiters begin to clear plates. My grandfather takes a step forward and meets the microphone.

     “We have a special request from the father of the bride,” he announces.

     I shift to face him with my arm still raised, ready to toast, in a bracelet of cousins. Some of the tequila spills out of the glass onto my fingers.

     “I’d like to invite my grandson to the dance floor for a zembekiko.”


About the Author

Demetri Raftopoulos received an MFA in Creative Writing at The New School. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Common, Prairie Schooner, The Good Men Project, Cactus Heart, Critical Mass: The Blog of the National Book Critics Circle, and more. He’s an editorial assistant for Under the Gum Tree and a regular contributor for the sports website RotoBaller. He lives in New York and is anxiously awaiting his return to Greece.