At exactly twilight I was restless and looking toward the evening, wondering what to do with it. For some reason I decided, firmly, that dinner tonight would be comprised of rice pudding. I don’t know why humans fixate on these things; we just do. Neither souvlaki nor revithia or even spanakopita would do, so I headed out of my studio to the little store on market street we call the 7-Eleven. There were other, closer places where it might have been found, but I wanted to see Kyrie Erica and and take the scenic route.
The mini mart has boxes of fruit out front and carries all sorts of the convenient necessaries that make it the perfect destination when you can’t be arsed to walk the extra 2 blocks out on the seafront to the grocery store. When I entered, kyrie Erica was sitting behind the counter, warmly lit by a dingy tungsten bulb over head. The radio was set to the evening vespers, sung in Greek, and kyrie Erica was crying.
These are the little details that ultimately form a larger whole – the other day, Maria was mentioning that Erica’s son has become a monk. This is tragic for Erica – monks in the Greek Orthodox church are in seclusion from women for the first four to five years of their initiation. The monastery on the hill above us doesn’t even allow female animals on the grounds. Jeffrey takes the male students to the monastery once a term, but the female students are absolutely not allowed.
So kyrie Erica cannot see her son for years, and every evening she listens to the vespers and weeps silently. I know this, because I have been here a week, and it is the third time I have caught her at it.
I stood silently at the refrigeration case and saw that there was no rice pudding, but I didn’t want to leave. Erica stood up and turned the radio off, wiped her eyes, and smiled at me, so I smiled back and then walked outside. All of the shops were reopening in the dim sunset light, putting racks of clothing out on the walk, standing in groups among bins of shoes and music drifting along the white streets. A little old woman in a black headscarf passed me and smiled. “Ti kanate?” she asked. I smiled back and responded that I was well, how was she doing? “Kala” she said, Good, and it is a beautiful evening. Poli orea.
I took the longest, windiest route through the streets, past the old school building, past the pirate bar, past the little secondhand bookstore that I’ve never caught open again since last November when I found a moka pot and a copy of Moominpappa at Sea, a beautiful book that I reread ten times over the course of the winter. I ended up out on the seafront, just as a huge red disk of sun was melting slowly into the slate grey sea. I stopped and watched the inexorable motion of the earth, and I texted Josh. “At this second, I am watching a huge red sun slide into the sea. Apollo’s chariot”. This is what technology does for people – it connects them to those beautiful moments across long distances, across hours of time. As I watched the sun sink away, he was beginning his morning on the other side of the world.
I continued along the waterfront – clouds were gathered grey overhead, and on one of the fishing boats, a group of raucous men were gathered around sparks from a welder. The were illuminated in sharp metallic bursts against the twilight, some holding bottles or cigarettes. A few stopped to look at me as I walked past. I moved on. The ocean seemed to be glowing against the sky, and I slid along the rough paving stones finally stopping at the grocery store I had tried to avoid earlier, for the long-sought after rice pudding, for tea. The store was full of people I knew, locals and students, and it took longer to greet everyone than it did to do my shopping. I liked that. I liked that as I walked home the long way, back along the waterfront, the cafes were full of music and crowded tables and that at every one, there was someone I recognized to say hello to.
It was finally dark when I got back to my apartment, and I ate my rice pudding with raisins sprinkled on top, drank my tea, and took dramatic portraits of myself to use as a study in painting class. All the while, Blonde on Blonde wheezed through my aging speakers.