The market, Salonica

The market, Salonica
The market, Salonica

Friday, 8 March 2019

It looks like pee

We were leaving Esfigmenou. In the reception area, a monk appeared and called me with a forefinger. Terry raised his eyebrows. I followed the monk. He knew what he was doing, if no one else did. He had a stoop and scuttled off in his black robes like a beetle on some key, insect task. It was only a few steps, to a tiny room with a table against the wall, nothing more, and no window. The monk shut the door behind us.

The others waited, but they were standing there in their walking clothes, with a traveller’s purpose, keen to go. I wasn’t long. When I came out, I said, “He asked me for dollars.”

“We thought he was going to rape you!” Terry chuckled. He also sounded relieved. Why did the monk choose me? Did I seem the biggest tourist, the most likely to have dollars, or the least significant, the least likely to object? Pick the weak off first – it’s what lions do, and beetles in their own fashion. What the monk tried was wrong, the black market, but it wasn’t so bad. We thought he was going to rape you! You didn’t think too much.

Sometimes, Terry spoke up. The night before, I’d rinsed my shirt to get the sweat out. I draped it on a chair between Terry’s bed and mine. In the morning, there was a pool of water.

“It looks like pee!” he said, not in his chuckling voice. For someone as gentle as Terry, it was almost shrill. He didn’t want the blame for what I’d done. He also disliked mess. Water wasn’t pee, but it was inappropriate, not all the time, just now, in its current position, a bit like Terry.

On the path to Vatopedi, we heard an odd noise. Terry was unsettled.

“What was that?”

“I thought it was my stomach,” I said. We’d had beans for ‘breakfast.’ Terry had warned us, half-jokingly, about flatulence. He stopped walking now and beheld me.

“You know,” he said, as if to himself, though everyone was listening, “I think Graham’s rather wonderful.”

A lot can happen on a country walk. We saw a lynx on a high slope, escaping from view; an elongated cat with different ears. The young man said, “They roam wild here.”

“Roam wild here,” echoed Terry. He turned to me again. “Graham, would you mind carrying my bag?” He watched me take it for a few steps, then said, “You must be as strong as an ox! So thin, too.”

Then he walked off with the young man, animated, as if their conversation was enthralling. I glanced at Bryan. He was hurt. Terry had forgotten us.

It was spring. That’s something beautiful. I mentioned herbal tea. Bryan replied, “It’s an abomination!”

We rested on a patch of grass, all four of us, and dozed off in the sun. When we woke up, I said, “I hope no one’s been…interfered with.”

Terry chuckled as he always did when I made that kind of comment. The young man grimaced on cue but laughed when Terry said, “No, unfortunately.”

Terry twisted an ankle on the path. It was his light, canvas shoes, Bryan said; they weren’t appropriate for the stony track, for the mountain. He said it politely, though he disapproved. Terry left early on a kind of ambulance boat. The young man left too. There was no point in staying.