First published in Trespass Magazine
Santorini can be a strange place. Perhaps it’s something to do with living so close to a volcano – the energy begins to send people slightly mad after a while. Here in Perissa, the village in which I live, people are wonderfully odd and after a while, the pseudo-locals that call it home for the summer, begin to become so as well. Consequently, the people one meets, and the experiences one has, when living on the island for the summer, come to form something of a hyper-reality. A hyper-reality that is very difficult to describe without lapsing into an episodic type of story-telling.
The other day I was sitting at the bar with my friend Steve telling him a story (that, previously, when I had told another friend, had made me laugh so hard I’d lost control of my nasal passages) and he said to me, ‘you should put that in your column.’ To which I responded with the old ‘angle’ lament – a series of anecdotes is not suffice, a thread is needed to stitch them all together. Well, ideally anyway; I cannot profess to always achieving such a thing, but I do try. Steve shrugged and suggested I do a ‘day in the life of’ style piece in which I could include all the completely bizarre moments that form my waking hours – that form the waking hours of anyone who lives in this strange little village. And so I have decided to buck the standards required to make a good column and indulge in the cardinal writing sin of a series of anecdotes with no real thread, other than that of being a little left of centre.
As you all know I have moved house a couple of times in the last fortnight, which has involved hefting a rather large bag (and several small bags) using a car, a scooter and the kindness of a very tall, rather vast Polish man who we shall call Savas. Savas runs the camping ground in Perissa and inexplicably has a large collection of road and water vehicles. He drove me to the cave house and when the time came to leave the cave house and return to the village I work in, he transported my things back down. Both journeys were accompanied by a soundtrack of very loud techno music (incongruous with the vehicle and my driver) and it was on the trip back Savas surprised me with a little treat of the beverage variety. Allow me at set the scene. It was twilight. We had parked outside the cave house overlooking the twinkling villages of Perissa, Perivolos and Emporio. Techno was playing softly in the background. Once we had shoved my bag into the boot and climbed back into the car, Savas turned to me and said, ’and now, I have something for you.’ It was then I noticed two plastic cups sitting on the dash. The techno pulsed on. He reached behind my chair and rummaged momentarily before producing, with a flourish, a carton of chocolate milk. I verbalised my delight (surprise) at the choice of beverage and we drank largely in a language-barrier-induced silence, Savas occasionally commenting on his love for chocolate milk and its superiority over more traditionally romantic drinks, like wine. And then we drove home, chocolate milk vessels rattling around on the back seat.
Then there was the time I found an unconscious man belted into his car in the car-park of one of the bars. At first my friend and I were concerned at his obvious intentions to drive at some point and so, in our wine-haze, we knocked politely on the door to wake him up and tell him not to. The fact he physically couldn’t drive was lost on us and our Good Samaritan cause. He awoke with a jolt and opened the door, mumbling something in Greek; the intonation suggested it was along the lines of ’I’m fine, leave me alone.’ Which we did, but not before noticing he was completely nude. Not a stitch on, bar his seat belt. My friend, whose Broadway baritone is not capable of a lower volume, turned to me and boomed, ‘is he naked?’ and promptly shut the door on his face. On it.
Chocolate milk moments have abounded this summer. In one particularly jam-packed day, I jumped off a 6 metre pile of rocks into water so clear you could see all the way to the bottom, watched an Italian scoot into a line of quad bikes (and nearly off the edge) then into a car (with my friend’s leg as an unwitting buffer) and gave myself such bad sunstroke quad biking home, I got the flu the next day. The other morning, a friend burst into our room and announced, in reference to two fellow workers who had embarked upon a romance, ‘so … they are officially on the run’ before pressing her face into a cold towel and slumping on the bed. And last night, one-toothed Dimitris motioned to a bar patron and said to me, ‘he tell me not to look his girlfriend. Malaka. I am man, I have dick.’
As the summer comes to a close, it has become apparent no one is really themselves on the island anymore. I’m not. We’ve all gone a little mad, subject to the whims of the winds and the volcano, mixed with alcohol and the sun and the unavoidable machinations of small-village life. We’re versions of ourselves. Everything here is so intense and so off-kilter, it’s difficult to keep a grip on oneself. But perhaps that’s the whole point. You have to let yourself go (really … go) in order to learn something new. When I figure out what it is – or, more aptly, when I figure out everything – this summer has taught me, I’ll let you know. And it will be more than the simple fact that men have penises.