"There's no comparison to Homer. He was way before everyone. He wrote 'Odysseus' while the other people were ... banging their heads with sticks." - my friend, Constantinos Gerardos
I enjoyed Costas' enormous laugh immensely while I was in Athens.
One night, he and I and Katherine - a Greek girl who'd also been at our university in the U.S. - sipped whiskey in his apartment and started telling of high school mischief. Costas began a story: "When I was in school, I used to have this fake hand. And I used to stick it out of my coat. It looked like a real hand, but it was fake ..."
And, of course, he burst into uncontrollable laughter. His white balloon-head with short fuzzy dark hair swelled a munchkin-gleeful red and spurted giggles. I loved all this, and I also laughed without control. We eventually heard the rest of the story, but it would've been good enough without it.
I didn't enjoy myself so much when Costas and Katherine weren't around. But, another sweet time period popped up when I met Viki.
I was selling stories, when I spoke to a twenty-year-old working in an empty cafe. "M'aresei na diavazo," (I like to read) she said, and invited me to a hot chocolate.
We sat. She said she studies something I didn't understand, something related to "fyta" (plants) and "fagoto" (food). I quickly asked her why the Greek word for a "rose" is "triantafyllo" (literally: "thirty leaves"). She said it's because roses have thirty leaves. Wow, she really knows her stuff! She added that there are other roses, however, with forty-eight leaves.
This foodplantiologist-to-be was called Viki. She was thin and littler-than-average, and she differed from other girls in that she seemed calm and comfortable and collected. She wore a snug sour-apple-green turtleneck sweater and powdery pink cheek-blush. Her hair was like fallen leaves, caramel on top and black on its underside. When Viki wrote her name for me in the local alphabet, however, it looked like: "Biku."
She liked camping and had been with friends on my favorite Greek island, natural Allonisos, in the summer. She disliked Athens and planned to move after school to Crete, where her mother's from.
But, the best thing I can say about Viki was that she laughed when I didn't expect her to. She sat on the other side of our small table. Often, I said something without expecting a reaction, and she brightened up the room with her happy laugh like a little sneeze. Hers was a wonderful, free laugh.
She spoke most excitedly about her good friend who paints. This other girl had painted a picture Viki proudly tatooed on her shoulder-blade. Viki said they always got out of Athens together on the weekends.
Our conversation lasted nearly two hours. Viki said happily she'd met an Australian guy once, and they'd all gone out together and partied the whole night.
I planned on giving her the three stories I sell. But, she insisted on paying, said "Einai yia kali tyxi" (It's for good luck), and gave me five Euro's. We would see each other the following day to play Scrabble.
The next day, Viki made me a proud story-seller when she said she'd laughed a lot reading my writings. And, in an empty cafe, I played a cunning game of Greek Scrabble. I used the twirly-whirl letter to spell "fevgo" (I leave) for 36 points, and used the omega to spell "xorio" (town) for 33. Poor Viki was stuck with a bunch of ipsilons and epsilons and omakrons.
My lead was commanding. I asked, "Ti kerdizo an nikao?" (What do I get if I win?)
"Ti thes na kerdizeis?" (What do you want to get?)
"Ti ESY thes na kerdizeis an nikaeis?" (What do YOU want to get if you win?)
"Den tha nikizo!" (I'm not going to win!)
I looked through my bag and found a hat as a potential prize for Viki. The conversation topic returned again to what I would win. "THelo ... ena filaki." (I want ... a kiss.)
"Kalo," (All right) she said like an arrow, keeping her happy smile.
And suddenly, I was a lot less interested in playing Scrabble. The game sputtered to its end, and
it was time for a "filaki". Viki had soft and welcoming cheeks, but her little juicy pink mouth was a bit stingy. I couldn't believe I'd spelled XORIO for just that!
- just kidding. Hey, a filaki's still a filaki. Viki gave me her home phone number, and we were supposed to do something with her friend and her friend's boyfriend on the weekend.
When I eventually called Viki's house, I did so nonchalantly as if in America. But, Greek families are close, and often leery of outsiders. Viki's mom wasn't warm to me, and it didn't help I spoke with an accent. There's a lot of racism towards foreigners here, mostly directed towards Albanians and Asians or Africans.
Athens wasn't a very nice place, really. One thing I disliked was its long and tiring public transportation; people ride the subway for up to forty minutes, but strangers don't talk, and 90% of the people don't bring books to read. It's almost as slow to get around by car. And the city and its people have aimed to make everything and themselves dressed-up and fancy, while few things are clever and fun.
The inter-gender relations are very bad also. Many slick selfish guys lie and connive to get sex, and so the girls are leery of any guy they haven't known a while. Here's a brief comparison of some of the societies I've seen where romance has been reduced to sex:
In England, many females don't think of it as a problem to be sexually promiscuous. Girls are very often sexual agressors. There is little sexual fear, and the two couples interract openly. However, there is still pride over "who" one sleeps with, so people aren't friendly to those who aren't good enough for them. I would postulate that this "freer" sexual exchange harms both mentally and physically, to both genders.
In the Czech Republic, females also accept sex and can be agressors. The exchange isn't as free as in England, and the girls, especially, get bored young of the bachelor's life and seek monogamy. I think the romance, and life in general, would be more creative and exciting if the people slowed down and enjoyed kissing.
In Argentina, guys don't want girls for less than sex. Females lose their hope for love and excitement for romance at an early age. Some walk with heads lowered, not wanting to make eye contact, and maybe even depressed. However, when girls go out and drink, they may eventually give in to super-persistent guys.
And in Greece, the girls have fought back. They guard their self-respect and take a long time to give in to a guy's desires. However, they spend hours making themselves up, because they all want those guys who'll have longterm monogamous relationships with them. This battle between contrasting desires creates an inter-gender environment that offers little joy, and dismal prospects for anyone not ready to tie him/herself to someone, or at least lie about it.
You can only laugh freely with someone you trust. VIki came as such a pleasant surprise because, perhaps, I'm used to the girls here not laughing much with guys. Maybe she'd met a nice Australian; maybe her friendship with the painting girl had saved her from being hurt.
Of course, there are other examples of selfishness here. You can see it in ...
1. how Greek wives are treated: they slave in the households, get yelled at and taken for granted, and age quickly.
2. how dogs are treated: they're bought for protection; they get leashed to short ropes; they're given food and water but many are otherwise ignored; many are abandoned by owners; and they bark their unhappiness.
3. how the nature is treated: people don't like to clean up after themselves, and there's a lot of litter.
4. how they drive: people like to race, and it's okay to endanger others. And you should see where they park! Not only will they park where they shouldn't, but they'll park where they shouldn't and simultaneously four feet from the curb! You see this so often, all you can do is shake your head and say, "Malaka!" (Wanker!)
Many young Greek girls have soft and sweet personalities. I feel that much of the present society's crappiness - the desire to consume, the stressful business competition, and all the complaining - could be somehow alleviated if the mens' sexual desire wasn't so overwhelming.
Okay. So, I don't love it here.
I'm worn out. I've never put so much energy into a place and gotten so little in return. My time in Greece has been two things: tiring and challenging.
Not having a stable place to stay nor a phone has made it difficult for me to make friends. I guess that should've been pretty obvious.
I also could've helped myself financially by working harder while in Athens. But, I stupidly didn't. My dreams in Greece somehow never get realized. There's a peninsula called Mt. Athos, where all the buildings are monasteries, where the monks live as if six-hundred years in the past, where only men can visit, and where geniuses supposedly abound; but, it seems I won't make it there.
Viki and I never did meet up on the weekend. And Costas and I said good-bye. I had to try my Greek luck somewhere else. Hopefully, the "kali tyxi" Viki wished me won't fail now.
Much thanks to Costas for the place to stay again!