When we write, there are stories that don’t make it into the final draft. They may not support the argument of what we are working on, but we are unwilling to completely let them go. This glimpse of life about the island of Ithaka is an example of one such story that didn’t find a place in a larger piece on Greece I’m working on, but remained with me since the brief encounter nonetheless.
One ambitious morning I rented a bicycle, and with a book and a notebook set out for a beach a mile or two down the road. Here I listened to my breathing while watching clouds pass, noticed the change in the complexion of my skin under the sun. When hunger called, I pedaled back through the woods at the water’s edge to a breezy taverna, and took a seat as the only patron at a waterfront table. I took out my notebook and for the first time in some time, started to write a poem. It began with the dark boat ride to the island; I got lost in trying to recreate the stormy sea on the page.
Right before a gust of wind blew over my completely full glass of white wine, a man from the next table started calling out, softly at first. I was concentrating on the page. Finally he started waving his arms to get my attention. After several days surrounded by a foreign language, I adapted to not listening to the sounds around me. The arm waving pulled me from my thoughts, and I recognized he was speaking English.
“Hello, hello, what are you writing? So intensely?” He asked, in a British accent. “May I join you?”
As the two only English speaking people at the taverna, I could hardly say no. He brought his beer over to my waterfront table, smoking and telling a story about spending the summer traveling between the Greek islands, playing gigs on his guitar in the evenings for money. He seemed to be running away—and not only from England’s weather.
He finished his last slug of beer and confessed. It was his daughter he was trying to escape. They had a falling out. As he told his sad story, I couldn’t help but notice that we were surrounded by intense beauty.
Meeting strangers on the road is of travel’s great pleasures, but not all strangers make great company. After finishing my glass of wine, I politely excused myself, citing evening plans, and climbed on my bike to pedal back to the village. I left him staring into the water, and before I rounded the corner, heard him pick up the guitar and start to play.