Living in San Francisco meant I was used to walking hills. My legs might be short but they were strong and they carried me well. I walked out into a blazing sun and strode down the hill our house stood atop, connecting to a small winding road that connected to the small town that housed the taverna.
My rubber flip-flops smacked against the stones as I walked. Small pebbles ricocheted under my feet. Maybe I should have accepted Min’s offer to accompany me but the truth was that this wasn’t my fantasy come true and I didn’t want her to see my disappointment as she had with the house.
I was cursing myself in cadence with my steps. “Stupid Kate. Idiot Kate. Leave your comfort Kate. Fucking nutloaf is Kate.”
I was missing my apartment and my familiar surroundings. I thought Greece would be romantic and akin to moving to Napa. I was a fucking idiot. Nothing was familiar, even the air was different.
Few people were on the road and those that were didn’t hide their interest in me as I walked by. American idiot, they were probably thinking. Closer to 40 than 30 with pink streaks in her hair and ears jangling from multiple piercings; I was probably looking like Bozo the clown walking down their narrow road. Even my ankle tattoo must have stood out like the joke my life had become.
Daniel had given us a brief rundown of the town before he had loped off into the hot sun, leaving us bewildered and dazzled. The taverna was the only restaurant in the town. Breakfast and lunch were never served, people worked hard on Dyvos and were up early and would work in their gardens, in the olive groves until the sun was high. Usually midday meals were taken at home and people would sleep through the early afternoon heat.
“They come for late suppers and shared drinks,” Daniel explained. “Nyla usually only offered a choice of a few dishes but she kept the alcohol flowing. And she always looked the other way when some folks bring their own food, the folks on this island don’t always have extra.”
“But they always have community,” Min said softly.
Daniel and Min seemed to have an understanding that I was excluded from. It was the sort of thing that in my earlier life I would have been jealous; jealous of both that they connected in a way that left me out. Still … despite that understanding by the time Daniel left he had looked earnestly at me, his grin replaced by a look that later I realized had been nervousness.
“Maybe I can show you the market tomorrow or the next day. And introduce you to the wine sellers and everybody. I have to sail on Friday and be gone a couple of days and well, I mean…” He wiped his palms on his jeans and I saw his Adam’s apple bob. “Maybe you’d like to see my boat. I have some errands…”
“I guess I can’t call you, huh?” I shrugged. “I’d love the tour and introductions, thanks.”
We made plans and after I saw the sly smile Min tried to hide. I ignored it. Daniel was too young, too different and not on my plan of fucking up my life royally. However the taverna was number one on that list and I finally reached it, low on the winding street.
The town was almost like our new house: built on a square that circled out. A general store took up almost half the small area, Daniel had explained that they carried most of the tools, pots and pans, clothes and essentials the household would need. “They can order from the mainland,” he explained, “but it operates on Greek time. If you need it soon, it’s easier to go get it for yourself.” He ducked his head. “I can take you to Mykonos myself when I’m around…”
Min was prepared to ask him more but I interrupted. And he explained the town further, allowing me to recognize the butcher shop (although the sight of the hanging goat’s head with the Batman sunglasses was a distinct give-away). The butcher would take orders for his brother in law for dairy: “They make the most amazing butter…”
The taverna was obvious if only for the hand painted wooden sign above the door: Aristotle’s Taverna. Surprisingly it looked like the picture I had seen (I didn’t go into this completely blind). The front of the taverna was shuttered windows. I fingered the key in my pocket and took a deep breath.
Almost everything was exactly as it should have been. Large, square wood table took most of the floor with a combination of wood benches and mismatched chairs. Casks piled against one wall lay next to a large wooden table, perhaps used as a buffet?
The back was open with a half wall, the kitchen visible. A swinging door stood and was propped open. Sitting on a chair in the middle of the kitchen was a woman eating a sandwich.
“Hello?” I walked forward and she smiled widely at me. Her teeth were shockingly white in her tanned face. Her hair was cut masculine short and curled grey and tight around her head. Bright blue eyes crinkled in obvious delight.
“Shazam. Ka-boom. Hufflesnuffle flim-flam-flutter.” She didn’t really say any of those words but it was as if she did. I didn’t speak Greek and she didn’t speak English and my demands of “who are you?” and “what are you doing here?” were answered with very fluent gobbledygook.
It took us at least 10 minutes to understand that I was Kate and her name seemed to be Shoosh. While she was exchanging information with me (ha!) she had pulled out a loaf of bread from a cabinet and sliced a piece of it. From the innards of an old icebox came an old bowl which contained a brownish spread that went on the bread. It was placed in my hand with a happy nod.
“Hoomis,” she said.
“Hummus, okay.” I took a bite and enjoyed it immensely. The bread was thick and grainy; the hummus had a strong sesame taste. “So what am I doing here and what are you doing here?”
Shoosh nodded happily. She pointed at the bowl of hummus and then at herself.
“You made this?” Clarification dawned. “You’re the cook?”
Shoosh answered my unintelligible question with her own unintelligible answer.
“You know,” I said slowly, “I can’t afford a cook. I hate to do this when we first meet but you’re fired.”
Shoosh grinned happily at me and made gestures that I should keep eating. I did but I felt guilty as I enjoyed the food.