My Greek Adventure
So far I have been just responding and elaborating on other writers’ stories. This is also response , but I think it is time I told one story of my own .
Most people realize the value of what they have had only after they had lost it. Not me , at least not in this case, the part of my life I had spent in Greece with Stelios.
I had never taken it for granted. I couldn’t have . I was not born thete, nor did I win it in any lottery. I still wonder how much in our life is desriny, or fate — ”kismet”, or karma ; how much is it free will and the choices we make ; or genetic disposition, a fall of dice, an astral alignement, or just a cosmic accident.
What I had was as close to the perfect life as I could ever imagine possible. I had two homes in the two most desirable places in Europe. One in Amsterdam and the other on a beautiful Greek island. I had a young , kind and handsome Greek husband . I had money. Not a lot by most people’s standards, but more than I ever had and quite enough to meet our needs. I could afford to travel several times a year to Athens, to Amsterdam and to Belgrade where my parents had lived. I spent my winters in India. And the ultimate luxury, my time was entirely at my own disposal. I could spend days in the row just lying in a hammock , reading a good book , if in the mood to do so. I lived in a small village right between the beach and the mountain. I had a large garden with orange, tangerine, lemon and plum trees. I had dogs, cats, a chicken and a duck. I grew my own vegetables and my own flowers. All these were a great luxury and great fun for a city girl like me. I was free, I had no debts, I was not alone , I was still reasonably young, I looked and fealt just fine . I enjoyed leasure and I travelled. Life was good.
Just as I got used to it — I kept it going for solid 10 years at the time — when it looked like my fortune was going to last, the whole hell broke loose and I had lost everything. Not gradually , but within seconds — as it usually only happens in the major natural disasters of bilical proportions.
My own “tsunami” happened on a beautiful spring morning in the early March. The island was vibrant with the oxygen descending from the mountain. Everything was alive and in bloom — pines , oaks , chestnuts and every other kind of a tree on this green and ferile island . The air was fragrant and the nature was in its full glory. Flowers blooming everywhere in all colours of the rainbow . It fealt great to be alive.
Stelios and I had one extra reason to celebrate that wonderful day. Our big dream was finally to be realized. We had found this fishing boat for sale. Everything was arranged: the repairs, the improvements, the engine was tuned and the price was agreed upon. At 3.00 pm the boat would be ready and would arrive to our village harbour. I had the cash, the 3000 euros that I had collected from the bank in the town the previous day.The papers and the money would change hands and the boat was to be ours. I had this silly desire to name it after me. Nothing could make me happier than to see my name on that humble old wooden boat! I remember — every time I saw a name of a boat , it would be a female one. I would always wonder whose name was it. Did the owner name it after his wife ,or mother or his first love from the days long gone? Anyway I fealt that would be a nice way to confirm the reality of my fleeting existence in this world. Somebody else would look at the boat one day and wonder who was this Ivana….
Both Stelios and I wete excited like children. For once, Stelios woke up before me and went to his parents’ house for a cup of coffee and a talk about the boat , about the fishing nets and such. I stayed in bed . Sleep would help the time pass faster until the time came to close the boat deal.
Around 9.00 am, my dogs’ barking woke me. Still half asleep , I threw on a kimono and went out into the garden. There waa a atranger in some kind of postman’s unifotm. “Madam, I have a package for you. Would you please sign for it?”
Hindsight is the most frustrating and useless perspective of an event. Looking back , of course, I could have known that something was not right. In our village thete are no street names and no house numbers. All mail gets delivered at the local grocery store, never to our homes and, besides , never on Saturdays. Empty words… Like a sheep going for a slaughter , like a Jew going to a gas chamber , I graciously obliged my “postman” and signed.
That was the fateful moment when my tsunami had hit me. After I had signed and actually held the package in my hands , the man made a step toward the gate as if he was leaving — I even just managed to ask him if he would please close the gate on the way out in order to keep the dogs inside. At that moment he makes this strange pirouette, turns back and grabs my hand! Suddenly out of nowhere, there are about 20 men in my garden and all over me!
Police. I am busted. The first sensation is this peculiar pain in the stomach. Then , the time slows down… Awarenesss of a disaster, competing with disbelief , with denial… Mentally numb. No panic. Adrenaline building up slowly , unnoticed. Amazing how the whole brain chemistry instantly transforms , reducing the shock , accomodating the extreme circumstance, preventing you from fully grasping the magnitude of what was happening. Just as well, because on that exceptionally beautiful morning, I had entered the gates of Hell.
At this time I was 48, Stelios 30 years old.
Loosing everything. How to describe such an experience? What are the measuring or comparative units? What are the reference points? What is the gradation? Loosing possessions, loosing freedom? Loosing control? Loosing love? Just for example : to some , freedom hardly has any significance at all. Some even experience freedom as a burden..
To be taken away suddenly and unexpectedly , against your will — it is such a weird ecperience. It took time even to realize how thoroughly and in which way it had affected every aspect of my existence. It is like undergoing a major surgery. First you surrender to a total anestesia — even your breathing suddenly belongs to somebody else. Then, once you are awake, you slowly start to examine your sore body for all the changes that have taken place . You are a bit fearful — but more resigned — it is done, after all — to late for fear… Eventually you realize that nothing is the same. You have been abducted by the aliens!
Back to my uninvited morning visitors, the “mailman”and his 20 colleagues. They promptly invaded our happy home and spent some hours turning it into a battlefield, the ground Zero. Under the circumstances , I could not think of anything better to do or rather , I could not think at all. I had retreated into the kitchen where I had mercifully found a bottle of Absolute vodka . Just awake , I steadily worked my way through the two thirds of it. It could have been pure water , for all the effect it had on me. Naturally — as I was already well on the way to some alien, far away universe . In spite of all the superficial , deceptive similarities between the two worlds, vodka turning into water was only a first sign of the differences that were alltogether much more profound, as I was soon to discover.
After having violated and desecrated every last bit of our possessions and privacy, somewhat frustrated to find nothing that would justify the mess and the destruction they had left in their wake, they commanded : “get dressed, let’s go!”
That was the last time I saw that home of mine and it was the the end of the good life ob a beautiful Greek island , I thought would last for a long time.
I had never fully recovered .My mother- in- law had plundered my bank account and a whole bunch of my personal stuff. Stelios and I eventually separated °¿ a couple of years later. I have been alone since. I still have my home in Amsterdam . My both parents have passed away recently , both within one year — 2015.. I still go to India in the winters. That is where I am, as I am writing this. I am 59 years old now. The only living reminder I have of that life on a magical Greek island is Jackie, my Greek beagle mix , one of our dogs that I took back to Amsterdam with me. She is 16 years old now. We have been together 15 years. That is In the meantime longer than I was with Stelios. With himI had spent 12 years. The other dog , Loukaniko, had died a couple of years ago, Stelios had informed me . He calls once in a while. I still speak Greek to Jackie , out of habit. I still like to listen to Greek music. I can’t help but wonder if I shall ever feel as content and happy, the way I fealt then , jusr before the flood.