A short story
I was watching the boats ropes being untied from its bollard on the quayside, instructions were coming over the loudspeakers on the stern, in my camera only three frames from the last 36 film were left, in my wallet was enough money for a pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee. Once again my summer vacation on a desolate Greek island was ending. The return journey back to the port of Piraeus would last more than 15 hours. My first concern was sleeping space. I was walking around the boat to find an appropriate space and at some point I found a nice corner next to a staircase. I laid out my sleeping bag and sat observing the people. After a few moments, I put the camera to my eye, but the thought that I was down to my last 3 frames made me put it down again. The boat departed and the Sun came into my frame and everything became wonderful silhouettes.
I got up and made my way to the bar to buy some cigarettes and a coffee with the last of all I had left, should I take it now or maybe save it for later? Being absorbed by this profound thought I was blocking the queue so I moved away, hesitated and was about to go back (should I get the coffee finally?) but the people in the queue behind didn’t allow me to rejoin where I had left, I had to wait again… at the end of the queue. Turning around to take my place, I heard a female voice.
– Would you like me to get anything for you?
– Aah Thank you very much, a coffee with some milk.
– Uhm… a Frappe, yes.
I must have looked very lost, both surprised and lost at the same time. After a while and with the coffee in my hand. We introduced ourselves to each other.
– Takis. Thank you very much, how much did it cost?
– Please, my pleasure, it’s on me.
We started chatting, Nadia was also returning from her summer vacation back to Athens and back to work. I asked her to join me in my corner where my sleeping bag was to drink our coffee together. Time passed very pleasantly with her. Her voice had a warm character which I found very soothing.
– I am travelling with my friend, who I have left alone for quite a while. I should find her and we may catch up later for another chat.
– Go, I’ll be around here somewhere.
And she was gone. I began to play with the camera again. I lifted it to my eye, framed a shot, and back down again, the 3 last frames made me hesitate. A person caught my attention; I had him in my sights for a very long time, snap… I got what I wanted, my remaining frames had became two now. I became restless and got up to go for a walk.
Wandering around I soon found something to relieve my boredom, a guitar. I mustered a smile and asked its owner if I could borrow it a while. I sat and started strumming the guitar. People began to gather around, Nadia came with her friend, offerings in the form of beer and wine began to arrive and the atmosphere became warmer and warmer.
The man who kindly lent me the guitar was a member of a band whose members were all aboard the boat as they were returning from a summer job on the island. Slowly everybody began to join in with our little soiree’. We now had a bouzouki, an accordion, a toubeleki drum and a female singer. The company grew increasingly. I left the guitar for a little while in someone else’s hands, I wanted to eat and drink something from the many offerings… not to go wasted. I sat next to Nadia who was still singing, she had a wonderful voice. At some point she told me:
– I must find a place to sleep tonight.
– Why? Haven’t you found anywhere yet?
– Come with me then to my corner, there is plenty of room and we can fit easily.
– Uhm… do you think that I am trying to fool you around?
– I am going to arrange it and come back again.
They gave me the guitar again. The feast continued. Nadia came back.
– All is good; I’ve set up my sleeping bag next to yours.
– “Lay your mattress for two, for you and for me …” I sang my reply.
– And when are you planning to go to bed, sir?
– Uhm… first I have to finish the repertoire, ma’am.
– Oh we are saved now! We will get to Piraeus and you will still be singing!
– Nah, just in a bit…
– Okay I’m going, I feel a bit sleepy…
– Okay I’ll come in a little while too…
But the mood of the people would not settle for “a little while” and a little while became two hours. I eventually went to lie down too. Nadia was already sleeping. I fell asleep looking at a little piece of heaven.
The next morning I woke up facing a beautiful smile and a coffee.
– Good morning, we will be arriving soon; we have enough time for a coffee.
– Good Morning!
– How long did ‘in a while’ last night?
– What hmm, you think I am foolish? I told you that you would be singing until we got to Piraeus!
– We haven’t even arrived in Piraeus yet. Nadia, are you becoming a bit desirous?
– Yes I have, do you have a problem with that?
– No, not at all!
– I’m going to see how my friend is doing and I’ll be back. Wait for me and we’ll leave the boat together.
– Ok, I’ll be waiting for you.
– Are you going to take care of my sleeping bag?
– Yeah, I’ll pick it up, don’t worry.
– I’ll leave my bag here, don’t get lost!
– Not gonna happen.
I got up, picked up the sleeping bags and watched the people. I began once again to play with the camera, two more frames left, probably one; I will save one for Nadia. Nadia didn’t come back. I waited until the ship was empty. After a few years n Aegina island, I gave the sleeping bag away to a Dutchman whose own had been stolen. Inside her bag there were hair clips and a pocket camera 110, with a used film. I thought it would be too intrusive to have it developed. I would come across it from time to time whilst moving from one place to another. Sometime after 20 years, I finally decided to have it developed. I retrieved the photos but the colors were awful, a reddish tint dominated. There was me, in all of them. Just as I was at the age of 21, playing the guitar and singing with a smile surrounded by people, faces tanned by the summer, smiling. Some are fuzzy; in some I have red eyes from the flash… or perhaps maybe a glint of what could have been.