Adelphos Through The Lens
I shut my eyes. The sun hadn’t yet risen and I couldn’t wait to be tucked into its blanket of warmth. I gazed over the waterside village of Elounda from my throne in the mountains. With a fresh orange juice in hand, an orchestra of cicadas filled the empty air with noise, a consecutive banging on my ear drums.
I had been transferred to Greece previously by the travel company I worked for. I had scoured the island of Crete for as many photographic opportunities as it provided yet my eyes never allowed me to bore at its views.
“Nina!” cried Kostas, but it was too late. My orange juice now lay in a pool of shame in my lap thanks to the constant drowning of my mind in its own pool of thoughts. At least my camera was dry. Kostas’ taverna lay amongst the mountain top vines and I visited every Sunday morning before the locals had risen. There was something special about your eyes opening before everyone else’s and strolling the empty streets, it made for the best of pictures.
I dabbed my lap with a napkin, rising my camera to my eye. My pupils dilated as I gazed at the world through a tiny view finder. The distinct click as the shutter went off left a feeling of reassurance inside as I knew I was capturing memories. The morning light was slowly beginning to murder the moon and I rose to my feet. Shouting a fond farewell to Kostas, I left a ten euro note on the table and left.
I walked slowly home, my camera swinging loosely from my neck on its black cord. I pulled open the door, cringing slightly at the peeling blue paintwork. A fresh vase lay on the table, fuchsia pink bougainvillea’s exploding over the edges. That signalled Eleni was awake. A rhythmic snoring seeped through the crack above the door to my right. I didn’t need three guesses to know that Manos would still be asleep. He’d been up making exotic cocktails of all colours for needy tourists until three AM.
“Morning Nina,” Eleni whispered as she appeared through the blue and white tiled archway.
“You have to look at the photographs I’ve produced this week, I’ve never felt achievement like this before,” I said, waving my camera in front of Eleni’s face.
“Alright,” she replied. “Can you wait until Manos is up, you know he’ll be gutted to miss out.”
I nodded, pulling a seat from under the table and falling heavily upon it.
I found Manos and Eleni on my first day in Elounda. They owned their own little bar down the street and I got chatting to them over a Pina Colada. They were probably wondering why I was drinking one at two in the afternoon but they both had one in hand by three. After I was given a permanent position here, I sold one of my old cameras and Manos and Eleni saved what they could from the bar. We put what we could together and bought our very own place near the water.
At eleven, Manos made an appearance. I already had my photos on screen, eager to flick through.
“Morning Ninny,” he shoved me jokily and pulled up his own chair. “Are you going to show us what you have to offer then?”
I flicked through the photographs. My very own mixture of pink sunsets and blue waters that were more pleasing to the eye than a rich chocolate cake is to the taste buds.
“You’ve done them proud this time,” he exclaimed. I grinned back at him. The sun had well and truly risen now and a lizard sat basking in its rays on our window ledge. Eleni had caught one in a milk carton once, it was all very exciting until I went to make a frappe and discovered Manos had hidden it in our fridge.
Flopping onto my bed, the peeling paint on the headboard was brought to my attention. It was just as lifeless as our front door but my fresh white bed sheets gave it a boost. A mosquito sat menacingly on my wall, its glare picking which of my legs it would bite into first. I slammed my hand against the wall, an unappetising brow stain was left in its memory.
I looked out of the window. The blue stretch of water tested my eyes to their limit as I squinted to view where it met for its rendezvous with the horizon. Its surface was only broken by the splashes of local children chasing a water snake.
“Nina? You should probably take a look at this,” Eleni announced as I took a seat next to her. She had been flicking through all of my photographs. Not just the recent collection but ones from even my first week on the island.
“Does anything look weird about these to you?” She queried, switching between a couple of Pano Elounda.
“Is the composition wrong?” I questioned, frowning slightly.
“No, don’t be stupid. Look here,” she pointed at the silhouette of a man stood amongst a group of local women.
“What about him?” I asked. Rather than reply, she slowly flicked through a considerable amount of photographs I had taken over my time in Greece. What I had failed to notice was that this man appeared in every single one of them.
My shots of Agios Nikolaos, he was there amongst clusters of tourists gazing at the lake. Spinalonga, he was there amongst the ruins of Crete’s leper colony. He even appeared in photographs of our trip to Zanté last month. He was never pictured alone, always in a crowd. I had never looked closely enough at the background to notice as I was always more captivated by the views than the people in it.
“Who is that?” I whispered under my breath. My eyes were physically attached to the screen. Honestly, I don’t have a clue,” Eleni said, sitting back in her chair. Manos, having heard the commotion, made his way back into the room. He looked at us inquisitively before Eleni flicked through the photographs once more. I rested my head in my hands, unable to look or even come to terms with what my eyes were seeing.
“Oi, Nina,” Manos spoke softly. “Surely the only way to catch this man is to go out and take more photographs in the hope that he will appear once more.” My heart sank. I didn’t want to have to deal with this. I never intended on becoming a human photographer, landscapes were my forte. I didn’t want anything to do with this man.
“I’ll come with you of course,” he said, noticing doubt in my eyes. Eleni nodded in agreement. “We can bike down to Ag Nik,” Manos added. “I know you haven’t got your licence yet but you can get on the back of mine. It’ll be quicker than getting the bus.” I sighed, removing my memory card from the computer and placing it into my camera. Pulling my brown leather bag over my head I placed my camera into the front pocket and rose to my feet.
The world looked different from Manos’ motorcycle than through the camera lens. The smiling faces of strangers bled into a blur as the lit streetlamps formed yellow streaks across the sky. The buzz of the bike was complemented by a vibration of voices that wavered in the air, our speed too quick to distinguish what was being said. I preferred this mode of transport over any other, no windows hindering views around me. As we left Elounda, shops and restaurants were replaced by unbroken views of aqua blue sea. Unfinished buildings lay rejected and empty, a mound of bricks waiting for the colder months to allow workers to spend days cementing without the fear of sweating themselves to death.
Turning a corner, the harbour of Agios Nikolaos came into view. The streets were much quieter than usual. We had reached the time of day when locals would retire to their beds for a daily siesta before awakening in the late afternoon ready to face a night full of opportunities. I leant forward, speaking into Manos’ ear.
“The lake,” I said, pointing to our right. “Let me photograph the lake.” Turning right, we parked up and I clambered onto the ground. Nerves had set up home in the pit of my stomach but I smiled despite this.
Walking up some steps, Manos and Eleni followed me into a café with its own view over Agios Nikolaos’ Lake Voulismeni. A wide selection of multi coloured chairs were placed underneath the braches of a sheltered section. A large tree grew in one corner, its branches covering the roof. Its trunk had grown around a bicycle and it sat in its bed of branches. Small ornaments hung above us. A waiter brought a small plate of cucumber and olives, giving me something to occupy myself with.
“We have to look normal,” Eleni said. “Eat the olives and then proceed to get out your camera.” I nodded at her. One question had been playing on my mind but there hadn’t been a time to let it escape my lips until now.
“What will we do if this guy turns up?” I asked. “He doesn’t seem like the type to share a chat and a plate of olives with, or he would have done so a long time ago.” Manos smiled at me. It was slightly reassuring.
After I’d made my way through a handful of olives and two cucumber sticks I reached down for my bag.
“We’ll keep talking,” Eleni whispered. “But I promise we are keeping an eye out. We don’t want to appear suspicious.” I pulled out my camera, looping its cord around my neck and letting its body bounce onto my chest. Other than a group of women sipping at glasses of coca cola on a bench, nobody was about.
Click. The shutter went off. Manos and Eleni’s conversation faltered slightly, their eyes darting towards me. I pulled the screen closer, clicking the small button that allowed me to view photos. What the screen presented to me was not as I had hoped. It was a lovely photo of the lake, one I would have been proud of any other day. Yet, no man was in this photograph. Before flicking back to take another, my finger hesitated over the zoom button. I clicked, the bottom left corner of the picture filling the screen. Pressing the up and right button consecutively, I moved my way across the photograph.
“Aha,” I muttered, as I reached a spot centre-left. There he was.
“Where is he?” Manos asked. I looked up at him.
“Please don’t both stare at the same time, but he’s behind the water feature on the other side of the lake. I half of his head was on show when I captured this.” Slowly, we all looked at the brick fountain. It had a large tap protruding from its centre and a trough sat beneath it.
Without making any sudden movements, Eleni beckoned the waiter over and handed him a five euro note as a thank you. Waving her money away, he wished us a lovely afternoon.
We walked slowly round to the other side of the lake. As we made our way to the back of the water feature our hearts fell at the empty space.
“Nobody came out from the back of here,” Eleni said, walking around the bricks. “It’s not possible for anyone to leave without being in our eye line.”
“Give me that picture.” Manos said. I passed the camera and he too zoomed into the photograph. “I’m sorry Nina, but I reckon that’s just the tree’s shadow, not a head,” he said, pointing to where we were now stood on the screen. “The only humans in this photograph are those woman, the waiter, and half of my arm.” I scowled, snatching the camera back from him. I turned around, raising it to my eye. Snap. Snap. Snap. I kept on clicking. I don’t know whether it was out of anger or disappointment but the café we had been sat in was too nice to go unnoticed. I flicked back through the pictures I had taken, my eyes narrowing. Manos and Eleni stared in worry. Quickly, my eyes widened once more and I pushed the camera into Manos’ hands before running off.
My feet pounded rhythmically on the floor beneath as I retraced my steps. By the time I had reached the other side of the Lake once more Manos too was running in my direction.
In the last pictured I had taken, my lens had zoomed in on the café. The coloured chairs looked lovely with the purple flowers in bloom next to the tree’s leaves. The café was empty in this photograph, the previous drinkers having packed up and left. Only one person sat at a bright blue chair, a man. He was grinning at the camera with the same eyes that he was pictured with time and time again. The same eyes that he had looked at us with when he wished us a lovely afternoon just five minutes ago.
Thanks to my head start, I reached the waiter before Manos did. He was still sat in his blue chair but he now gestured to the fuchsia pink one opposite him. I was kicking myself for having not made the link earlier. Now I looked at him, I could clearly see that he was in fact that same man who had appeared in all my photographs. How ironic that I had stated how he didn’t seem the type to share olives and a chat for now he was doing exactly that. A larger array of snacks lay in front of him and I fell into my seat.
“Are you really a waiter?” I spluttered, unsure of what to say first. I gulped from a glass of water. My eyes glanced at the array of cutlery to the left of me as I tried to picture which one he would pick to skewer me with. Before he could answer Manos, with Eleni close behind him, sat down in a sickly green chair to my right. Eleni sat opposite him on her own lilac stool. The man laughed before speaking for the first time.
“My name is Sergio, but you can call me Adelphos,” he announced with a grin. Manos and Eleni’s faces lit up like the sky on bonfire night as they stared at each other.
“If this is some Greek thing that I’m not going to understand then please explain,” I stated. Shocked faces stared back at me. “Somebody tell me why this stranger has been stalking me for so long!” I snapped. “I’m not dangerous…“ Sergio began before Eleni cut him off.
“Nina,” she began, popping an olive into her mouth. “The name Adelphos is a Greek name with two similar meanings.”
“Which are?!” I asked.
“Adelphos means someone that is born of the same womb. A sibling.” Manos added.
I dropped the glass of water from my hand and watched it shatter in front of me. That seemed like an avid representation of inside my head.
“I’m sorry about the following thing,” Sergio said, offering a fresh glass of water. “I wanted to make sure it was you first. I’m a waiter here, this is where I spotted you first- taking photographs of the Lake. You look exactly as you did in the pictures that our father would send me so I googled your name after seeing it on your camera and found the work you do for travel brochures. I’ve been watching you ever since. It’s not easy to go up to a stranger and announce that you are their brother, the moment was never there. So I thought, if I could make you come and find me it would be a different story.” He stopped to take a breath.
My mouth hung open. I wanted to push my fingers in my ears in an attempt to hush the noise of the loud voices screaming in my head. The more I stared at him the more I could see myself. I could see my reflection in his eyes and my features in his face.
“But, how?” I asked. He smiled at me.
“Before your father met your mother, he lived in Greece. He once met my mother, Aella, and they moved in together. It moved awfully quickly. After spending a year together, I came along. At three months old our father was called back to England after the death of his own mother. His sister fell ill and he was never able to return. He met your mother in England and settled down there. Although he wrote to us regularly, Aella also met someone new. She and Dimitri brought me up and my mother and our father were only connected with memories. It is pure chance that we can finally get to know each other.”
I gulped down yet another glass of water in an attempt to digest what this man was saying. In a matter of minutes I had gained a brother. Without saying anything, I pulled Sergio into an embrace. I heard the shutter of my camera go off as Manos photographed the beginning of a new story.