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Folegandros (standard:drama, 3108 words)
Author: Charles RudolphAdded: Jan 22 2004Views/Reads: 3008/1937Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
The first thing Heinz loved about Esther was her eyes. When she removed her sunglasses, the light gray turned magically emerald

Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

She hesitated, feeling awkward, but really wanted some.  "That would be

He chose a table and held a wooden taverna chair for her, an act she
acknowledged with a little smile.  A boy slipped between the low 
branches of a meopera tree, and Heinz ordered the coffee in Greek.  He 
turned to Esther.  "So where in America is Lexington, Kentucky?" 

"It is in the South."  She avoided his face. 

"Ah, near Florida." 

"No.  Not near Florida.  Not near the sea." 

The boy brought the coffees, and Esther stirred the black liquid in the
small white porcelain cup.  "You do not know America?" 

"No.  I have been there only once.  We flew a charter that stopped at
Bangor, Maine - a very lonely place.  Then to New York.  It was a 
business trip and not very pleasant.  I was happy to return alive."  He 
took a sip of his coffee.  "And what do you do in Lexington, Kentucky?" 

She glanced his way.  "I am an academic." 

"And your field of study?" She looked up through the branches of the
meopera tree.  "Philosophy." 

He raised his eyebrows.  "Very nice." 

She smiled.  "When I tell that to people, they usually become

"Yes.  High intelligence frightens most of us."  He sipped again.  "Have
you been there long?" 

"One year, but I do not think I will stay."  She kept looking up at the
branches.  "It is a good university with a good department, but I need 
more cultural surroundings.  My previous position was at the University 
of Toronto, for ten years, a place I loved.  But it was simply time to 
move on." She decided to chance a longer look at him, but his face 
began dissolving into Uncle Abba's.  She turned her head away sharply. 

He leaned towards her.  "Is something wrong?" 

"Just a momentary thing."  She avoided his face.  "And you, what is your

"Oh, it is not exciting.  I manage an office in Athens for international
cargo traffic, a British company."  He paused.  "So what has brought 
you to this little island of Folegandros?" 

Esther told herself she should close the conversation.  She could not go
on avoiding his face.  Yet there was something so softly attractive 
about his voice and his manner.  "I am taking a three-week vacation in 
Greece, which, curiously, I have never visited before."  She was 
looking down into the dark residue at the bottom of her cup.  "From 
Athens, after seeing the antiquities, I flew to Crete, which I adored - 
especially Phaistos, even more than Knossos.  Then a ferry to 
Santorini, which was lovely to look at, like a moonscape,  but so 
crowded.  I wanted a smaller island, so I took another ferry here, to 
Folegandros, arriving two days ago.  It is exactly what I expected a 
Cycladic island to be." 

"Here in the chora," he said, "it is as elevated as Thira in Santorini,
also with beautiful views, but much less visited, even though 
Folegandros is just being discovered." 

"Then I am glad I have come in time."  She dared a glance at him.  "And
you, what brought you here?"  She looked quickly away. 

"The Flying Dolphin." 

Ester's eyes followed an attractive young couple passing by.  "And what
is that?" 

"A hydrofoil from Paros where I have a house." 

"How lovely.  What kind of house?" " A beachhouse for vacations and

"Actually, I was thinking of making my next island stop at either Paros
or Naxos, depending upon connections."  Her peripheral vision caught 
what she thought was a dimple at the edge of his smile. 

Why couldn't she handle this? 

"A stroke of fate," he said.  "You have traveled north from Santorini,
and I south from Paros to meet here on Folegandros."  He finished the 
remainder of his coffee with slow pleasure.  "So what have you been 
doing for two days?" 

She looked beyond the meopera branches up toward the dazzlingly white
monastery near the top of the highest hill above the chora.  "Yesterday 
I climbed the path up there."  She pointed.  "Have you done it?" 

"No.  I am not fascinated by monasteries.  Last summer I climbed the
hill, worse than this, to the monastery in Amorgos.  I was exhausted by 
the heat, and then, because I was wearing shorts, they made me wear a 
flowered skirt to cover my legs.  I felt like a hula dancer."  Again 
his soft laughter.  "Then the tiny interior of the church was dark, 
crowded, and uninteresting."  He studied her profile.  "And today, what 
are you exploring today?" 

"I plan to take the eleven-fifteen watertaxi down at the wharf to one of
the beaches on the south side of the island."  She looked at her watch. 
 "Which means I must go back to my room to get ready." "That was my 
plan also." 

She opened her purse for drachmas, but he had already placed a bill on
the table.  "The coffee was my idea," he said. 

"Well, thank you."  She closed her purse. 

"Perhaps I will see you at the wharf." 

She dared another quick glance at him, and her eyes filled his heart. 


When the white, wooden caique was filled with passengers, it pulled away
from the wharf of the tiny harbor of Karavostassis, a thousand meters 
below the chora.  Its noisy, vibrating engine propelled it past 
grottoes in the ocher cliffs. 

Heinz had joined Esther on the wharf, helping her take the long stride
over the boat's gunwale.  Now he was sitting beside her on the 
vibrating wooden bench, unable to see her eyes behind her wrap-around 
sunglasses as she watched the passing limestone formations sink into 
the turquoise sea. 

As the boat approached the first beach, most of the passengers prepared
to disembark. 

"Shall we go to the one across the cove?"  Heinz asked. 

Esther looked over at the small crescent of sand with a taverna part way
up the hill.  "Yes, let's do that." 

At the beach, more pebbles than sand, she unrolled her straw mat,
removed her shorts and tank top, leaving herself in only a bikini 
bottom, and headed directly towards the sea. 

Heinz, spreading his beach towel and removing only his shirt, admired
her wiry body, the dark pointed nipples, the good legs.  He had not 
admired a woman's body in a very long time.  Any thinner, he thought, 
she would begin to look unhealthy, but for a woman probably in her 
early fifties, she was lovely.  He watched her dive into the shimmering 
water and surface into a graceful crawl stroke. 

Soon he joined her, using a breast stroke to where she was, far out,
floating upon the sea which was meters deep yet perfectly clear to the 

Realizing his presence, she dived, resurfacing nearby into the sun with
a glorious smile that caught his breath.  "So marvelous!" she called,  
"So perfect!  There is no sea like the Aegean!"  She dived again and 
swam off. 

When he rejoined her on the beach, she was already supine, well-oiled,
absorbing the sun.  He spread his towel nearby and took a paperback 
book from his bag.  During his reading, he took frequent glances at 
her. After another swim, they made their way up to the taverna for 
lunch, taking a table with blue chairs beneath a pergola covered with 
fuchsia bougainvilla.  They ordered a Greek summer salad, kalamaria, a 
half-bottle of water for her, a Heineken for him. 

"Do you enjoy traveling alone?" he asked. 

"Yes and no.  I like being free to go wherever I want and to leave
whenever I feel like moving on.  Yet sometimes I wish for company."  
She tasted the soft white cheese atop the salad.  "This is not feta, 
but very tasty." 

"Have you always traveled alone?" 

She put her fork into a slice of scarlet tomato and held it before her. 
"It has been eleven years since my divorce, so now I am quite used to 
traveling alone.  Every summer I return to some part of the 
Mediterranean.  It's in my blood.  To Israel, Spain, Italy, Corfu, even 
Cyprus.  Now, finally, in 1996, at the end of the century, I  have my 
first trip to the Aegean. I have waited too long -- it is glorious."  
She tasted the slice of tomato. 

"I would like to visit Israel," he said. 

"Really?  Germans rarely visit." 

"I am not your typical German."  He looked at her, wanting his eyes to
meet hers.  "Why do you always avoid my face?" She looked towards the 
sea in silence. 

"Can you tell me?" he asked softly. 

"I have always avoided Germans.  It has been easy in North America, in
my work.  Easy even in traveling.  I simply keep a distance." 

"You hate us so?" 

"Yes."  She continued staring at the sea.  "You murdered my parents
before I ever knew who they were." 

"I was born in 1947, after the war.  I was never a Nazi." 

"And your parents?" 

Heinz also gazed at the sea.  "Yes, my father was an officer.  And he
still has some of that mentality.  But not my mother.  I return only 
for her birthdays.  I do not like it there."  He paused.  "Please 
believe me." 

"When I look at you, something terrible happens.  I begin to see the
face of my uncle twisting in pain, telling me again the stories of men 
in boots and armbands who came to our house in Dresden when I was an 
infant - clubbing my father, seizing my mother, dragging them wailing 
into the street, loading them into the van of a truck, tearing them 
away, never to return." 

Heinz's body tightened. 

Her eyes were cold and gray.  "Then a month later they took my uncle and
me to a death camp where we survived only because he was a violinist 
who played Mozart and Beethoven to entertain the Nazi officers.  I 
remember nothing.  Somehow Uncle Abba made it in 1948 to Israel, when 
it was young and idealistic, and I grew up there with much happiness.  
My only sorrow was the stories Uncle Abba told me about the Germans - 
and now I see his tortured face in yours." 

There was a long silence. 

His hands shook as he lit a cigarette. 

She turned her face to his.  "You should not smoke, you know." 

He returned her stare. 

She did not see Uncle Abba. 

He sighed.  "What can I say to you?" 

She saw his brown eyes, the wave of his receding brown hair, his soft
expression of pain. 

When they returned to the beach, Heinz watched Esther collecting stones
at the water's edge. 

He joined her.  "What happened to your marriage?" 

Surprised, she tossed her head.  "I made a mistake, and yet it turned
out well.  A quick and careless marriage.  I was twenty-five and he 
twenty-six, a rich American Jew who swept me away, taking me from Tel 
Aviv to his fast-track life between Baltimore and Miami.  He was 
charming, but really a little boy." 

Heinz frowned.  "Yet you say it turned out well?" 

"We divorced when I was thirty-six, and I redirected my life.  I
suddenly reveled at being my own person.  First, I returned to Israel 
to reclaim my earlier life, but it was gone, all changed.  In one 
decade, the land had been transformed from a Zionistic vision into a 
militaristic camp."  She shook her head.  "I did not belong." 

Heinz watched her let little stones trickle through her fingers. 

"So I enrolled for a degree at the University of Toronto, suddenly
loving my life as a middle-aged student, devouring philosophy.  I did 
so well that I continued on as a graduate assistant, then a lecturer, 
and finally an assistant professor - loving it all.  Yes, I 
rediscovered happiness.  So it has all worked out."  She looked up into 
his face with a smile, her emerald eyes alive. * They dined that night 
at a taverna recommended by the young proprietress of their hotel who 
wore a diamond in her nostril and seemed to enjoy the way Esther and 
Heinz had befriended each other.  The taverna was away from the busy 
little platias of the chora, and they shared orders of moussaka, lamb 
with aubergine, and a large potato stuffed with greens, garlic, and 
cheese, also consuming two kilos of homemade wine gently flavored with 

Returning to the hotel, they took chairs on the veranda looking down
upon the isolated lights of fishing boats on the dark sea, then up at 
the stars brilliantly alive in the equally dark firmament.  In the 
silence, the proprietress brought them glasses of brandy. 

"We talk only about me, as if you had no background."  Esther spoke to
the dim outline of his face.  "Are you married?" 

"I have been, but like you, it was not good - worse than not good."  He
sipped the brandy.  "I had a German wife who almost convinced me that I 
was homosexual." 

"How could that happen if you were not?" 

"By degrees.  By continually telling me.  And telling others.  We became
strangers, and then she took her case to lawyers as a basis for 
divorce.  It made me very withdrawn and hateful of myself.  Even my 
family turned against me, especially my father."  Heinz half-smiled.  
"I was the only case I know, who, instead of coming out of the closet, 
put himself into the closet." "How terribly strange." 

"Yes.  Very strange.  It was then I left Germany and took the job in
Athens, developing a friendship with a man, a Greek sculptor.  We never 
lived together, were never lovers.  I simply enjoyed his company, his 
personality, his work.  Still I found it confusing and assumed it 
reflected some abnormality."  He shrugged.  "I accepted it as fate." 

"You speak again of fate.  It is a weak and dangerous philosophy that
makes one abdicate responsibility." 

"I hear the professor in your voice." 

She smiled.  "So what happened?" 

"For years I went on that way, very subdued, waiting for something to
erupt in my feelings, merely drifting.  My boss assumed I was 
homosexual, telling me not to let it interfere with my work, which, of 
course, was never a problem.  So I lived in a world of shadows, never 
sure of who or what I was."  Heinz leaned towards her in the darkness.  
"You know, I have never spoken about this before." 

After a silence, she said, "Continue.  Please." 

"It was solved for me when my friend found a real lover, another male
artist.  Suddenly, I was free.  After almost twenty years of curious, 
uncertain relationships, I was finally disconnected - and free." 

"Did you seek then to be with women?" 

"Yes.  But nothing came of it."  Heinz laughed.  "I decided I was of a
neuter gender." 

"And that is how you feel now?" 

"Not now.  Not this moment."  He wanted to tell her how she made his
feelings surge, but they sat silently in the stillness. 

"Tell me about your house in Paros." 

"I am very happy there."  He looked at the stars.  "Athens is impossible
in the summer, so I go during vacation and weekends.  But I also love 
to go in April and May when the island is covered with wild flowers, 
then again in September and October when the climate is so sweet.  I 
love to hike the beaches and breathe the wild thyme that covers the 
dunes, to read, to care for my garden.  My pleasures are simple." 

Protecting the flame of his lighter in the warm breeze, he lit a

"That habit doesn't seem to fit you." He hesitated, then ground it into
the earth beside him, the embers drifting away. 

"Such a beautiful evening."  She inhaled a long breath.  "There is
jasmine nearby." 

"Yes, there is." 

He reached across, placing his hand upon hers.  "When you leave here,
you must visit with me in Paros.  Would you like that?" 

She let his fingers sink softly into hers. 





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