Lesvos, where Greece keeps the clouds

Skala Eresou's pristine shoreline

Skala Eresou's pristine shoreline

(This is taken from a journal entry)

It’s raining on Lesvos – the first place we’ve been to where the sky wasn’t blinding. Olive and pine trees crowd the road as we rumble by on our way to Skala Eresou, birthplace of Sappho. Olive trees are one of the few trees I can actually identify. There were plenty at our house on Nelson Drive in Tucson, where as kids we would have Olive Wars, which consisted of us throwing olives at each other. It was very complex. I was in love with many of the neighborhood boys and once confessed my desire to one of them while we were up in the olive tree. He felt the same I know, but we grew up together like genderless blobs, and didn’t know how to relate to each other once romance factored into the equation. Suddenly, I made him nervous. He couldn’t answer the most basic questions and would no longer pelt me with olives.

After my confession, our friendship never really recovered. Thus beginning the long, slow slide of a life-long habit that I have of sexualizing friendships to disastrous results. I can’t help it. I fall fast and hard. As I’ve gotten older, I can mostly tell the difference between fleeting crushes, which burn like incense, faint and sweet, and the more worrisome ones – the kind that burn bridges. The beginnings all feel the same though, anxious, familiar, the warmth that only comes from wanting too much.

Western Lesvos was rendered barren by volcanic eruptions, something that Sappho waxed poetic about often. The olive trees have been replaced by a kind of moonscape, dry yellow brush and the occasional sheep. Much of Sappho’s life is speculation – it was the 7th century B.C. after all. I know that Plato dubbed her the Tenth Muse and that her poetry seduced the Greek leader Solon, who said of her verse that he wanted to “learn it and die.”

what a 19th century painter thought Sappho looked like

what a 19th century painter thought Sappho looked like

Once we got off the bus at Skala Eresou, we were greeted by more rain, boarded up shops and cats, cats everywhere. They run the town. And I think, Oh is this where the cat/lesbian stereotype started? Or is it just a perfect after thought? After wandering the puddled, cobble stone streets in search of any sign of non-feline life, a man in a white hatchback drove up and steered us toward a cottage, which we rented for two nights. In no time at all, we had locked ourselves out of the house and had to break in through the bathroom window by jumping through a hole in a ledge 8 feet down.  I felt very MacGuyver. Like when we arrived in Lesvos and Ellie’s sunglasses broke, but I fixed them with the arm of a paperclip, which was also a satellite radio station.

We visited the only place that was open, a mini market, and bought pasta, instant coffee, olive oil and wine. It stopped raining only briefly and we often got caught in the downpour after traveling just a few feet to restock our meager supplies. The stove was also a microwave and I had to tread lightly to avoid snails, wasps and the cats that came from all directions. Everywhere were remnants of the ghosts of lesbians past – signs that advertised reiki healing workshops, the soiled and lifeless limp of a rainbow flag, graffiti of two women symbols intertwined on a rock face by the sea.

Though the town was closed for business, it didn’t dampen my spirits until the last day. I dreamt of a romantic getaway, where I could promise my undying love to Ellie on the sea green shore of paradise. Instead, I was trapped inside a damp cabin with no heat, spastic plumbing and a girlfriend doubled over in menstrual pain. I couldn’t even walk the 200 ft to the beach without getting rained on or stepping in a puddle that ruined my last pair of clean socks.

I know I should embrace the stillness. I don’t know why the countryside fills me with unease. But I don’t find much comfort in the yawning hills or the life that teams from every crevice. I don’t delight in almost sitting on a wasp in the kitchen or the gauzy curtains that display us to whomever might be looking in. If I wanted to shower, I needed permission from the landlord, who said I must wait until 8pm.

I finished my book and will shortly finish this journal which will close one more chapter of my life without binding, and the maw that will open like the cracks in the streets of this town will rush in and rain down and I’ll have no choice but to sit here and wait it out.

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2 Responses

  1. Your journal entries are so well composed they startle me.

  2. That’s because I don’t post the entries composed entirely of expletives. Oh yeah, I have those.

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