I left Athens for Santorini, hungover, bleary-eyed and bleating out directions to my cab driver who dialed his wife on his cell to translate. The Blue Star ferry ride took nine hours. I sat my backpack down in the economy section and collapsed in a chair. Elderly men were swinging and clacking their komboloi worry beads and shuffling a deck of cards at the table next to me. One of them was wearing a cabby hat and a tight knitted sweater pulled over a round belly. He smiled at me. I drifted off and awoke to a little grandmother with her hair pulled in a bun putting my feet up on a chair to rest. She patted my legs and nodded to me while rattling off in rapid-fire Greek.
I pretended like I understood. “Efxaristo.”
My lethargy vanished by the time I was travelling from the port to my new digs at Caveland. My insane cab driver drove at an incredible speed up the side of the cliff, switchbacks and hairpin turns no discouragement for passing others in the process. I didn’t care; the landscape kept my attention. The caldera, a perfect broken ring of volcano, jutted out of the sea as if guarding the lost city of Atlantis. Truthfully, it does. There are secrets everywhere.
My home for the past couple of weeks has been inside a cave. I rented out a private room on Airbnb, figuring I’d seek solitude between the earthy walls of an old winery. Instead I found myself striking up a kinship with the couple taking care of the hostel, Milly and Dan, and then a young Israeli lawyer named Inbal. One night we indulged in cheap 2EUR plastic bottles of white wine, cigars, and went to a nightclub where youngsters painted their faces skeletal white. We walked home vowing to change the world.
They’ve since moved on, and I’ve become the Caveland ghost. I wake up in the mornings and brew some coffee and then sit outside at the stone table in the courtyard, the dogs sunning themselves at my feet. People come and go, and still we connect. I stayed up drinking wine and ouzo last night with a Canadian musician and her daughter. Paid sorely for it today.
I’ve covered all of the sites. I climbed to Ancient Thira and explored Akrotiri, the Minoan town wiped out by the eruption. Hiked the caldera’s rim to Oia, where the traditional homes look like melted butter and windmills turn in the breeze. The first time I laid eyes on it all I had to blink back tears. So long I have waited for that precise moment, and it was exactly what I expected. Everything in Greece is what I expected. I felt my soul pulled to the earth, my heart open, my happiness all encompassing and real. On the walk back with Milly and Dan we chatted for hours about everything with the sun setting behind us and nothing but the horizon waiting ahead.
Now in my last few days on Santorini I spend my time taking people to my favourite restaurant, Tsipouradiko. The man who runs the show knows me by name. I spend all my money on food. Bacon-wrapped chicken souvlaki. Pickled anchovies. Grilled calamari with lemon dressing. Lentils with sun-dried tomatoes. Steaming bowls of bouyiourdi. Fried feta drizzled in honey and sesame. Fava bean spreads. Mounds of halva, gloriously strange halva.
Another night I found myself at Kyria Niki, listening to fiddles and bouzouki. Men and women filed out onto the dance floor one at a time, dancing the Zeibekiko dance. The waiter came along tossing napkins into the air, popping bottles of champagne and pouring cheap carafes of wine. An irreplaceable joy warmed my body on the cold walk home.
I feel myself changing and shifting, unwinding and unclenching and releasing. I practice yoga and have given up my mascara wands, my eyeliners and my steampunk necklaces. My pajama pants are riddled with holes, and I find myself…free. Free from failed relationships and a stagnant career. Free from wondering about men and thinking about men and worrying about men. No desire, none in my body. I am sexless and unburdened. No hope for a Stavros and no need. I. Am. Free.