(C) Ted Kouretas 2018
It was hot as I weakly stepped out of the house. I thanked God for it being downhill getting there. It was almost 2 o’clock. For the first time in decades, I’d managed to wake up after noon. Like then, I ate quickly. Like then, I had stuffed tomatoes and peppers with potatoes and feta cheese. I ate hurriedly. Ravenously. Unlike then, I didn’t fsel refreshed. Unlike then, I couldn’t stand the heat on the other side of the door. Unlike then, I wasn’t planningbto walk over thirty minutes to the cool side of the beach. In fact, I wasn’t planning to wear my bathing suit. Unlike then, I had a tablet and opted to go to the cafe to use the Wi-Fi.
Some things just never change. I was still slovenly yet erudite. But then I was labelled a slut, even a sex tourist. Now, I was labelled a salacious old man; albeit I dressed better than ever before. “Ageism” I thought. “Fucking ageists”. Like then, I liked young women. Thailand passed through my mind but quickly went away as the heat hit my forehead. I was halfway down the first half of the hill. Like then, I swigged a big sip of cold water from my polluting plastic bottle. And like then, I put myself ahead of the planet. I don’t think that’ll ever change. And I still believe we all put ourselves ahead of anything. “Stop thinking, you idiot. You’re sweating enough already.”
I looked at my cell phone and noticed it was 34 degrees. Felt like 37. There was no shade available as my feet got scratched by the little thorns sticking out of the ground. Unlike then, it affected me more than it should have. My skin was really sensitive. I saw the main street just a few metres away. I turned the corner to head towards the beach cafe but I heard my name being called.
“Hey, Ted,” someone said, “in here.”
How could I forget? Το κέντρο (the centre), was the Sunday after-lunch hangout. It was the last enjoyable group activity before preparing for Monday. Thank goodness I was on vacation.
The music was rather loud; as loud as the owner could put it at this time of day without having some old lady call the cops on him. I could smell the freshness of wood as I walked into the coffee shop. My shoulders stopped burning and I gave in and had a big bottle of Amstel that I’d never finish. There were about ten guys in there and only three girls. Two of them were there with their cousin. The other one, a blonde woman in her thirtees named Elena, was alone. She’d just gotten off work. She told me she worked at the supermarket. She had a young son. Never said his age. She turned to her right so as not to blow smoke in my face. At least she was polite. Her face was not red.
Hennessey the Irishman was there. He was a strange bloke. You know, the good kind of strange. A bloke that keeps some of himself mysterious. Someone you want to figure out. I still don’t know his first name. I think no one in the cafe thatbday knew his name. He was the furthest away from Elena than anyone in the room. He had just finished rolling a joint. He had his Guinness in frontof him. Itbwas always a Guinness, as long as the store had it. If a store didn’t have Guinness, he would go through a brief history of the beer while the server would force themselves to act interested. Some hid when they saw him. Hennessey was 37.
My two friends were having beer and coffee. One of them was alternating from one to the other. I got nauseous thinking about it. The good thing on tjis day was that not one person was grounded enough to have a conversation with. A few were red-faced and ready to go take a long siesta. The two girls that were not Elena left with their two cousins. After about twenty minutes, there was just me, my two friends, Elena, and Hennessey left. Hennessey went further and deeper into his corner. I wish I knew what he was thinking.
Elena came closer to me. It was the usual search for information. Elena had come here on vacation, found her victim, got married, and then divorced him when she could. I even knew the guy. It made sense to divorce him. But I found it unfair she’d married him. Like then, I loved her position of weakness; her trying to see if I’d bite somehow into something. I don’t think either of us knew what. Every time I tried to move in she’d put up her shield, probably to not let the slut in her show. It’s one thing if they think it and quite another if they witness it. At the same time, I was trying to move in too often. Too quickly. “Stop looking desperate. Don’t be a fool.”
“So you’re giving up so easily,” she said.
“I’m not one for too much game, babe.”
She rolled another joint and offered me a toke. I declined. I poured my beer into her glass. It was just too damn hot. I joined my friends at the adjoining table. She slowly crept to the table, flirting with one of them.
It was 3.30. Everyone was leaving. My friend paid Elena’s bill. She looked at me, smiled in a somewhat defeated yet optimistic way, and was quickly on her way …. somewhere.
(C) Ted Kouretas 2018