You can taste here the salt on my skin, carried across by the breeze, deposited in places even whispers have not found. Hair matted into octopi locks you can plunge a palm into and be lost forever. My lips crack in the heat in a smile and between them is always a festive straw transporting Malibu lazily to my mouth. Ice clinks at the bottom of the glass and euros scatter on the small wooden tables that fringe the deck chairs. I turn to lie on my stomach, feet dangling at the ankle, book splayed at a forgotten page. The days are long and languid and we laugh, heady from sunshine and the intermittent coolness of dipping between the aqua sea. Constantly drowsy, mellow and sensual. My legs brown and their skin grows smooth in the heat. Toes trap sand. These Greek boys hang out, with smiles that transcend language. Barefoot we cross the island and eat with fingers sour fish bathed in olive oil. Lemon scented summer.
The tall blonde girl with perfect blue eyes, the bride-to-be and I: we walk up the hill at night. The sky above us is dark and violet like the squid ink in our bellies, the island below quiet save for songs somewhere in the distance. We walk to the 17th century chapel and stand in the courtyard giggling like schoolgirls, white wine drenched mouths, skirts whipped by the wind. Then we tumble into an embrace like three children. The stars are like pinpricks promising dawn. I am reminded now of how the girl who is to be a bride in 24 hours, ten years ago would walk me at night, just like this to English graveyards. How tame we have grown with time. From grave hopping to wedding shopping.
It is always cocktail hour here. Suspended minutes. White tulle dress billowing in the wind…a dolphin lost at sea…counting ferries on the horizon…the days melt into each other and one day I reach into my bag looking for those sunglasses that everyone says are perfect and I bring out instead my phone. I stare at it like it is an indignant seashell after a trip to the beach. Picked up at the time so lovingly, now simply a reminder of another place, covered in sand around the edges. I put it to my ear and listen for waves but I find none.
Remove the turquoise bikini, string-by-string, and you will find the tan lines like scars showing you where I have come from. Where I must go back to. But for now let’s forget. For now let’s pretend all that exists is this perfect balance of heat and breeze…this glow and the smell of jasmine under my balcony window where white curtains flutter diaphanous, and the door is always open, like two knees falling away from each other. “Come in,” they say. And outside the balcony at night on the right the moon rises as pale and yellow as the roses on the trellis. In the distance the next island glitters like a younger sister going for a prom. On this balcony there is a painting that is always is crooked, and there is always a towel drying. At dawn I stand very still, a silhouette against the light beam, and I bury my face for a moment in that very towel. You know the smell – of citrus and love, yesterday’s sunscreen and today’s sunrise…someone else’s cigarette smoke and the pine-flavour the air boasts…olives, mosquito repellant, flowers, muscle, salt. This…this is Agistri…and I no longer know how to say no.