Two months ago from yesterday, I arrived in Greece. My two-month anniversary. It seems to only be these special occasions that shake me awake and remind me time is real and it is passing: the day the workshop started, the day the workshop ended, my 30th birthday, my two month anniversary. And today, I journeyed to Kavala to inquire about renewing my visa, only to discover the process is not as easy as I thought. Barring a medical emergency, or a miracle, I will need to return home in 27 days. That sounds like plenty of time, but I know that in the next few weeks, time will not stand still or crawl slowly forward—it will feel like a tornado, a giant swirl of memories rushing through and evaporating into the sky as quickly as they came.
And I am not yet ready to leave. There are still experiences to have, the Greek language to learn, pages to write.
Tassos of Thassos keeps telling me that when I return to the United States, it’s going to be as though I dropped in from outer space. “It’s going to be like, ‘Wahhh!’” he says, wide-eyed. “Trust me. You will see.” But I’m not sure what will be more alien: me, or the country where I land?
In only two months, a place that felt like home even before I arrived has actually become my home. The people who work here are my family. I know how to set up and clean up tables, how to break down the restaurant at the end of the night. I know that on music night, my reserved table is the staff table because, “You are one of us now.” Everyone knows that during the day they will find me at the stone table next to a power outlet, my laptop charger jimmy-rigged with hairbands so it doesn’t fall out, and if the table is taken by real guests, it’s disconcerting for us all. I can hum or sing the songs that play through the loudspeakers, adding fist pumps and timed clapping to my favorites. The regulars from the big hotel and the locals know me by name and tell me I’m “number one” after I’ve hit the dance floor.
I’ve gotten into the flow of life where I write in the mornings* with a yogurt and frappe, jump in the sea in the heat of the day, return in the quiet late afternoon before the dinner crowd comes, go for a run alongside the setting sun, and mosey in for dinner around 10 p.m. And that’s only the beginning of the night. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen then: dinner guests who arrive at 1 a.m., past the kitchen’s closing, but for whom Tassos still sets a table; bottle after bottle of retsina and sprite as long-lost friends catch up; games of poker; fishing trips; feasting on lamb skulls; throwing chairs over balconies; and if it’s music night, forget about it. “We sleep in the winter,” they tell me. I guess I know what I’ll be doing when I return from outer space.
*the hour I consider mornings has changed considerably in two months.
Before I completely abandon hope of staying, I will explore a couple more possibilities, but I need to prepare myself for the separation. It’s easy to lose oneself in a place, especially if that place resonates deep within one’s soul. For many people, that place is here. I hope that no matter where I end up in the next couple of months, the story of what makes this place special will come out, that I will be able to share it with others, and keep it for myself—that if someday in the future time finally touches this island, the memory of what it was will never be forgotten.