Reality Sets In

Kamares, Sifnos

How do you write about a place where nothing seems to happen? Last night we ate here. Yesterday we swam there. The coffee was good somewhere else. We just seem to pass the time. I feel like Seinfeld without George, Elaine and Kramer.

The other night it bothered me. It seemed like this was just a continuation of all the other times I have been here and that it seems unfair that the desire to be here when I am in America, is so much more intense than the pleasure of actually being here. The thought that all I was doing was eating, drinking, swimming and sitting made August seem such a long way off and I got a feeling of claustrophobia and total purposelessness. I felt like I should be doing something and I declared to myself that tomorrow I would rent a car and go to all the churches and monasteries to photograph the icons.

It's a hot and humid night. I'm feeling raunchy from drinking beer. The mosquitoes leave us alone at dawn but their allies, the flies, are quick to take their place. But the dawn is beautiful and I come to a realization. I don't need a purpose. I don't have to create or have something to do that I can cash in on in the future. My only purpose is to help Amarandi enjoy herself. What could be more important? So this morning we have a nice breakfast of fruit and yogurt and then jump into the water where we swim and play for hours. Then Tony shows up at the bar with a bag full of toys that his daughter had left. Amarandi spends most of the day content. At around four we walk over to Kambourakis where we have leftover fish they had put in the fridge for us to feed Amarandi. There is a little girl playing there. She is Margaretta, the daughter of Andonis Kambourakis and Amarandi had been transfixed by her a few nights before. Again she stares at her and when we sit on the edge of the dock, throwing bread to the fish, they start playing together. For two hours they play in the water. Margaretta does all kinds of stunts, daring Amarandi to imitate her. Amarandi, being two and a half years younger is reluctant to be so daring. Margaretta keeps up an incessant chatter and Amarandi repeats whatever she says. I think of Andrea and I saying to her, "Say Yassoo, say miti, stoma..." and I realized that this is how Amarandi will learn Greek. Not from our making her perform a word or two to show people how cute she is, but by gradually deciphering the babble she is now repeating. Andrea becomes excited when Amarandi turns to her and asks what Margaretta is saying. It is as if she has just realized the children are speaking a different language. Or else she knew it but didn't care until now.

Andrea goes back to the room and I stay and watch them in the water. Amarandi follows Margaretta into the sea up to her neck so I have to be ready to jump in and grab her if she falls down and swallows water. Every so often she stumbles or loses her footing and a look of fear appears on her face, but she regains her footing and carries on playing. This goes on for two hours and would have gone on for more if I hadn't convinced her to leave by telling her she can come right back with Mommy. She calls Margaretta her friend, a word I have never heard her use before.

When we get back to the room Andrea tells me that Lefteris wants me to watch the fourth game of the NBA finals at his mother's house in Exambala, the only place on the island that is high enough to receive that particular television station. The name Exambala comes from the Turkish occupation. In Turkish it means 'trouble at night'. All the radicals and poets used to live up here, drinking and carrying on in the cafes. It's calmed down some since then. We drop Andrea, Amarandi and his girlfriend Anna off at his brother's house while we go to see the game. When we turn on the TV the reception is awful, but luckily we have missed the game and just catch flashes of the celebration of the Houston Rockets. I had climbed a mountain to hear an interview with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. We go back to Lefteris brother's house and Andrea and I push a sleeping Amarandi down the road to Appolonia, the capital of Sifnos, where Lefteris picks us up on the way back to Kamares.

Today I made up my mind not to drink. By nine o'clock I know it's a stupid promise and have an ouzo or two with Tony. We then go to dinner with Anna and Lefteris at the Italian restaurant where Dario treats us to a bottle of really nice wine from his friend's winery in Trieste. He says it is not exported to America, only to Germany and gives me the guy's card in case I want to pursue a career as a wine importer. Why not? As for our "double date" with our friends, Lefteris reads a magazine until his food arrives and is done eating before our pizzas come. I spend the meal talking to Tony's brother Kyriakos at the next table about all the basketball players I knew from Chapel Hill.

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