The port was awash with crowds, bars, fast food and buses with engines running. Traffic. Fumes. Heat. Hassle. What on earth was she doing here? In her head she could hear his disgust at the colossal cruise ships out in the bay and his opinions on tourist traps and unreliable ferry services: ‘Call this a holiday!’ It was just as well he wasn’t actually here. ‘Let’s go island-hopping!’ he’d said but now….
The ferryboat’s eventual arrival distracted her. She knew perfectly well what to do; she’d already survived two weeks travelling to Sifnos, Antiparos, Paros and back to Santorini and had actually managed to strike up conversations with strangers, but she still kept hearing his words. ‘Find somewhere for your suitcase.’ She did as she was told. ‘Where are you going to sit? How about the cafe?’ She took in the crowds at the counter and decided to ignore him. ‘You can’t get up there- you know you’re always falling!’ He’d meant well but she’d stopped listening. She had to learn to please herself. The boat was already out in the Aegean by the time she had negotiated the stairs and managed to shoulder open the door and escape onto the top deck. Fresh air and space. At last.
A three-hour crossing. She had intended to read the novel she’d downloaded onto her iPad, but the setting sun soon put a stop to that. A dazzling display; blood orange, gold, crimson and coral, magenta streaks in an inky sea. ‘Just like The Odyssey!’ she thought, smiling to herself.
On a nearby table, four Greeks sporting gold wrist watches, smoked, laughed, drank, played cards. Their wives chatted at the next table, texting, bantering, bringing up trays of drinks. Even if he’d been with her, it wouldn’t have been like that. They’d have sat reading or sketching in silence; they had been content with each other, only speaking when something needed to be said or when he wanted to tell her something. Not that she had always listened even then. But it had been a companionable silence, not this continual nagging. Why was he doing this to her now? She knew he was gone, but he was everywhere.
A song burst; four men in harmony, singing some haunting lament as they threw down cards one by one. And then the women joined in; shrill and feisty, determined to be heard. At that point, she had to escape. Hidden in a quiet corner, she finally lost control; wept. ‘Ridiculous thing to do!’ she heard him whisper. She took no notice.
A breeze was stirring; the lights of Heraklion wavered like specks bobbing in the distance. As she watched them grow bigger and brighter, she felt calmer, focused on the lapping of the waves: it slowly dawned on her that, given time, his voice might begin to fade, and she might start to live again.
Decades ago, Dorothy Burrows taught Drama and wrote plays and the occasional short story. She won a few awards. After years of working in a museum, retirement is enabling her to enjoy creative writing again. Walking in the countryside and memories of a coastal childhood often feature in her poems. She tweets as @rambling_dot
Photo credit @desipris at http://www.unsplash.com