You could fill a Greek taxi – those little, yellow ones – with the girls I met in Salonica, then bumped into on the Acropolis. You could do it, but you wouldn’t want to. Too many girls in too confined a space.
Gelda was Dutch. Jade said she couldn’t stop talking about me. We met in Salonica, then – you guessed it – bumped into each other on the Acropolis. In case you didn’t know, that’s the large rock in Athens with a temple on it. It can be romantic, but I had to attract someone sooner or later. Gelda’s enthusiasm intrigued the others, the English girls, I mean, the ones who weren’t infatuated with me. At that precise moment, Jade and Joy.
We moved on from Gelda, and talked about the Parthenon.
“It’s one of my five favourite buildings,” I said. For the girls, this was something new. I was being serious.
“What are the others?” Jade asked.
“King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the Duomo in Florence, and the Taj Mahal.”
Jade fell silent. She didn’t have to tell me, but she hadn’t been to most of those places. What about the buildings I didn’t choose, the other piles of human genius which I’d looked at, mulled over, and then discarded? She hadn’t been to most of those, either.
It was a deep conversation. Deep and satisfying. It proved that I could bother Jade without even trying. It depressed Joy as well, about the Parthenon.
“I can’t see what’s so good about it,” she lamented. “I must be missing something.”
“Yes,” I said.
“It’s just a matter of taste,” said Jade.
“Good taste and bad taste,” I observed. Then I turned to Joy: “You’re supposed to be the clever one.”
“I resent that!” she barked.
“I’m just comparing you to Jade. You were nice to me when we first met. Jade ignored me.”
Depressed joy. That’s an oxymoron.
I answered an advert for a private tutor. It was a Greek woman who wanted some English conversation. She asked me to talk about Graham Greene, an author I had never read. Her apartment was in the city centre. I was on my way to our first lesson (there was only one) when I saw the two girls. As soon as Jade heard where I was going, she said: “Is your shave good enough for her?”
Jade was annoying, but she had noticed my appearance. I thought about it for a second. Perhaps she noticed other things as well.
Her question, of course, had been purely insulting. Like the Acropolis, which we all stand on once in our lives, Jade was a romantic stone.
We were learning Greek at the university. One day, I saw Gelda and didn’t say hallo. She looked hurt. I had talked to her before, at least twice, in two different cities. She must have wondered what the problem was now. I thought about it for a second. She wasn’t ugly. When she spoke English, something cute happened, which only foreign girls can do. Her accent was so slight you nearly missed it. If you didn’t know that she was Dutch, and could speak perfect English before the age of nine, you’d think she had a cold. I decided to be nice.
A few days later, I saw her again. She was walking up the stairs in front of me. Unfortunately, Jade and Joy were there. They were due a laugh.
“Do you want to have dinner?” I asked. I just meant Gelda, cute with English words.
No,” she replied, and hurried on.