An Opportunist Is BornbyWhisky7up©
He hadn't been here for sixteen years, so he was unsure of the way. He remembered the road began to the left of the church and that it was narrow. But who knows what changes there had been? At least the church was still there - but when did a church ever get demolished? This was the old town; at least that's what the tourists and the holiday reps said. It occurred to Steve that there was nothing particularly old about it; except perhaps the church and that didn't seem especially old. Steve allowed that compared to the resort centre – my God that garish street! – this area was older so he wasn't about to object. A taverna to the left seemed familiar and then on four rickety old chairs sat the old women in black. Somewhere in the back of his mind he recalled something about widows remaining in black, almost in permanent mourning. These women looked the same as all those years ago. Steve wondered if they were the new batch of widows or could they be the same ones? They sat seemingly perplexed at the flood of tourists going by. It was as if time passed them by. Maybe they had ceased to age as a result and they were one and the same or four and the same. He half expected to be greeted as an old friend.
On he went. There was the restaurant with the rooftop terrace where he nearly lost the cap of his tooth on the one night they hadn't eaten at Kristallis. Steve was grateful for the advice he'd received from his dentist; that tiny piece of chewed gum had held it in place until he returned home and was able to get it fixed. Wasn't there a house somewhere on the way, belonging to some local dignitary? Perhaps a lawyer or doctor. Ah yes, that must be it, not far now! And there it was, the main building on the right where the waiters emerged with plates precariously balanced as they carried the meals to the diners across the road. It looked exactly as he remembered; those same blue chairs – though this should not be a surprise, given that so many tavernas in Greece have them – and the flowers. Then Steve heard the music.
As he took a seat he wondered if the sound was from the very same tape as last time. Why shouldn't it be, it wasn't new then, except perhaps now it was a CD. Within seconds of sitting down he felt the familiar irritation of the chair sticking into both legs just behind his knees. It was just like back then, except there was no one across the table. He hoped the food would be as fantastic as before! He was never an intellectual but he remembered a character from the 'Peanuts' cartoon strip saying Thomas Wolfe (he thought) was right "You can't go home again." Steve always took this to mean, you cannot relive something from the past. But it didn't stop people trying! Sixteen years ago he first tasted fried eggplant. He'd tried it numerous times since, at so many Greek tavernas; whether the menu called it eggplant or aubergine, it was either soggy or too crispy. At Kristallis it had been perfect, and it was this evening too! Whoever Thomas Wolfe was, he obviously hadn't been talking about fried aubergines!
There was a commotion across the street; a minibus had pulled up and excited school children were running to their parents – of course, the school run! Steve noticed his waiter greeting a child of about ten. He was a younger version of the waiter, obviously his son. The scene sent Steve's mind racing back; He remembered the older children of the taverna's waiters were allowed, or even encouraged, to help at the tables, performing minor tasks such as clearing used plates or delivering the bill. Astonishingly the ten year old looked so familiar. Was it possible the waiter was one of those boys all those years ago? When Steve mentioned this to the waiter, the man looked at him carefully and stated it was possible!
As Steve was sipping his wine, he noticed the waiter speaking to an older man; the younger one held what appeared to be a small card and he was pointing in Steve's direction. The other man approached and spoke "Signomi...excuse me, I am Milos. My son, Dimitri, was correct. Look!" He held the card out; it was a photo, the Polaroid kind. Steve was amazed as he immediately recognized it as himself and his mother at the very same table. Obviously it had been one of those occasions where tourists have a photo taken by someone who hopes to sell it. But why had they kept it after all this time? Milos explained they had always been used to people returning night after night, sometimes even one year to the next. But, they remembered how we had dined for five nights running, disappeared for one night and reappeared at the end of the week on the last night.
Apparently, the waiters all had their various theories as to the mystery of the sixth night. It became a bit of a joke, but on the final night none had the nerve to ask and they'd been in the dark ever since. Dimitri, having cleared the table had kept the photo, but he had forgotten it until tonight. Steve explained that it had been their first trip to Greece and having had great meals each night, merely wondered if it was just the place they'd chosen to eat or if it was everywhere. They tried somewhere different for one night and, having been greatly disappointed, returned to Kristallis for the final evening.
"Ah," said Milos, understanding. "But where is your mother tonight?"
"I'm afraid my mother died last year; I have been visiting many of the places we were fond of."
Milos offered his sympathies. At the end of the meal, Milos and Dimitri came to the table and said there would be no charge for the evening. They offered a toast to Steve's mother and Dimitri offered the photo. An embarrassed Steve took it.
On the way back to his apartment, he checked his watch, 11h30PM. Only 9h30 in England, he thought, as he inserted his card at the telephone stand. He heard someone pick up at the other end.
"Guess where I ate tonight?"