My Greek vacation is over. It was exactly as I wanted it to be and splendidly so. I got to rest, and for two weeks I was living a lazy life without having to worry about anything. It might sound lazy , but lazy was what I was aiming for. My routine was to wake up late in the morning, more like noon actually, have breakfast, read for a couple of hours, go to the beach to swim, sunbathe and read for 5 hours, then go back home, take a shower, eat a fantastic meal cooked with care and love by my mother, fall into food coma, come out of the coma, go out and drink, then go to bed and sleep a deep sleep for twelve hours. I would call this dream summer life.
One night I drove to the other side of the peninsula half an hour drive away to see a couple of friends. It was a hot night, the air still with no breeze, even at the beach bar we were at. I was talking with my very good friend and her husband, and then another friend came over. I hadn’t seen him in ten years, he very much looked the same. We were all sweating profusely in the intense heat, but he was the only one whose skin was completely dry. We immediately decided it was something wrong with him, though secretly wishing we suffered from the same condition, at least for that hot humid night. After some time a couple that my friend knew came to the bar and she introduced me as the girl who now lives permanently in Boston and have deserted her (we used to be very good friends before I left Greece for good.) Then the guy told me that he lived in Boston in the mid 90s and he went to Emerson. He lived on Marlborough Street in the Back Bay, and then he started asking me about the bars he used to hang out at, and unfortunately most of them are now closed (or most likely now operate under a different name.) That was interesting. Small world I thought, I am 4,000 miles away from Boston and I’m talking about it with somebody who knows the city well. I could sense some kind of nostalgia in his words (maybe it was because he was reminded of his carefree college years), together with a little bit of regret, as he never got to visit Boston again.
We were drinking our mojitos and gin and tonics, and at some point the barmaid started pouring us shots of tequila. The truth is I am afraid of tequila. The worst drinking and hangover of my life happened because of tequila shots (after several hours of drinking other things, to be sure,) but I always associate tequila with a two-day recovery to sobriety. But I managed OK with that one shot. And then it was another. And then another. And then we were reminiscent of that summer of 1999 when our drink of choice was Sandeman port with… ice. I know, I know we were effectively destroying the port wine, but it tasted good like that. And it was sweet and we could drink a lot and only after hours would we realize how drunk we had got. So somebody ordered a round of port shots. Great. And I think it all ended with a round of Jack Daniels shots, but I wouldn’t know for sure.
It was great to chat and catch up with friends. I wondered what time it was. I looked at my watch, it was 2 am. Time to get going, I said, I had to drive back to my place. They suggested I would crash at their place “Are you sure you’re OK to go through the mountain?” “I’m fine,” I insisted and off I went. I was feeling good, a little bit too happy and smiling a lot, but pretty good overall. I took the left turn and started ascending the mountain. It was pitch dark. Two o’clock in the morning and no other cars were coming or going. The road was not wide enough for two proper lanes, so I constantly had to pay attention to see if anyone is coming the other direction to make sure I pulled all the way to the side.
It was just me, though, alone driving on the mountain. There was the moon in the sky, but it was muted, clouds covering most of its face. I opened the window to get some breeze going on. The car I was driving was a 15-year old Fiat, with manual transmission and no air-condition. I turned the radio off and I could hear the sweet sound of the engine. The car handled the hairpin turns well. I managed well, too, with the constant downshifting and upshifting, RPMs rising and falling. Since I was the only one on the road I decided to go faster. It felt good, the road all mine, I was the driving queen of the mountain. I had driven this road so many times, yet it was still exciting.
For a second I took my eyes off the road and slowed down a little bit. I looked to my left. Dark black mountain peaks were silhouetted against the dark sky. Tree tops, outcrops I could not really tell. As I was driving by, it looked like the terrain was undulating around me. How long have these mountains been around, I wondered. They looked stoic, they looked wise, for a second there I wanted to go closer and explore. The headlights of the car were only shining straight ahead; at my sides there was heavy darkness and silence. Noticing the contrast between the headlights and the darkness, I felt like I was intruding, disrupting the nocturnal peace. I kept looking out to my sides. It looked like the mountains were moving and growing. The silhouettes were gradually transforming into ancient beasts, mythical creatures with ten heads and twenty arms. My heart started beating faster. I almost felt threatened. I felt like I had to get out of the darkness as fast as possible. I put the window up. I didn’t look out to the sides for the rest of the way. At a moment that didn’t come fast enough, I saw the first house lights. My heartbeat got back to normal. I put the window down again. In five minutes I would be home, go to bed and resume my lazy routine.