It was 1974 and we were on our way to Greece. Christopher had arranged this holiday, although the three of us didn't know each other very well. Christopher the Greek god. Christopher's every movement reflected the stirring of his soul. His stature was proud. His features were radiant. I wanted to poke Richard's eyes out. We were competing for Christopher's attention. The way Richard swooned all over him left no doubt as to his sexual orientation.
We boarded the plane. We both wanted to sit next to Christopher. Christopher sat in the middle. We drank champagne. The wings of the plane shimmered against the setting sun.
Athens airport was hot. I fell down three steps of the escalator. I resembled a braying donkey, hoofs clawing at baked earth as I tried to gauge the whereabouts of the step with my one good eye. Christopher was too busy being flattered by Richard to notice.
We scoured Athens for a hotel. Eventually we were offered a twin-bedded room. We took it. We went downstairs to eat. Five men, wild and ugly, were drinking at the bar. One of the men jumped up and grabbed the owner by the collar. I told Richard to do something. He said he needed a tablet, and reached for the ridiculous little leather underarm bag he carried. The owner ushered us to a table. Water and ouzo were put before us. One of the men sauntered over and put his hands on Richard's shoulders. Richard froze. Christopher boldly introduced us all.
The man wore a T-shirt with a dagger dipped in blood on the front. His nose was short and broad. Richard sat like a caged animal. "The Kray Twins? You know the Kray Twins?" the man asked. Silence. Christopher coughed, "Yes, I knew their mother!" The T-shirt man cheered. The owner passed him bottles of everything. We ate bread, dolmades and koftas, and drank. We toasted Mrs Kray at least a dozen times an hour.
I do not recollect going to bed. I opened an eye. The other was swollen and stuck. It still had a contact lens in it. Cars were hooting, people were shouting, flies were everywhere. I leapt to the mirror. I squeezed out the lens popped it in a glass and glanced at the bed. It was Richard's solitary head I saw. "Richard, where's Christopher?" Richard hung his head low over the edge of the bed and was sick into his deck shoes. I grabbed a towel and a glass. I poured him water. He drank and crunched. Crunched? He'd eaten my contact lens. I began to howl.
The door burst open. Christopher, looking as though he'd spent the night at a health farm, declared the T-shirt man to be the best lover he'd ever had. He was now ready to travel. We eventually left the hotel: Richard and I in silence, Christopher singing the whole way to the ferry. .
I'd never heard of Mykonos, but at first sight I loved every inch of it. Our room had a balcony overlooking the sea. It all looked heavenly, but I was soon confined to three days indoors - my front was strawberry red and swollen.
On the fifth day Christopher and Richard suggested we go to a beach. I could lie in the shade. After a while, though, I'd had enough of the running commentary on the white sands, the beach cafe and the nude males, and set off for a stroll. I trod carefully. I was aware of scorpions and snakes. I sneaked on an old pair of glasses I'd found in my basket; they had one arm missing and one lens was cracked, but they would do. In the sharp white rocks I spotted a chameleon; it was both fascinating and terrifying. I bent down to observe it and my glasses fell off. I heard a strange noise from behind a rock. I peered round it. There I saw three naked men, lying on their backs. I backed away and fell into the snake- infested grass, where I screamed hysterically. The men swooped around me. I flapped like a penguin. They helped me up. My glasses were in that grass. I decided to leave them. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to see any more. I just wanted to go back to my room. I had no idea what I was going to write on my postcards.
I needn't have worried. There was to be no more postal service; no phones; no ferries. War had been declared between Greece and Turkey. All Greek males were to be taken off the island at dawn. Christopher and Richard looked dismayed.
Mrs Andronikos, the landlady, needed comforting. I followed her into her apartment. A table, bed and kitchen all in one huge room. Mrs Andronikos fed me. She brought me crumpled black-and-white photographs. She gave me a pair of her late husband's glasses. We drank retsina. We laughed. The sun set across the bay. Red rays poured into the room illuminating Mrs Andronikos's beautiful Greek face. She gave me coffee, strong and black. She was 77. I was 23.
At 6am, as arranged, I tapped on her door. She was ready for a week's leave - her daughter was taking over. Mrs Andronikos took me to a friend: a farmer who showed us round the island in his cart. We sauntered past chapels, hills and beaches. We trotted through little lanes. We ate tomatoes and goats' cheeses; I felt healthy, confident and alive. For me, the war was nowhere to be seen.
Returning, I ran straight to our room. I was looking forward to seeing Christopher and Richard. But as I pushed the door open I saw Richard lying on the bed, an empty bottle of pills by his side. He was still breathing. I shouted around the house. Mrs Andronikos put on a shawl and raced to fetch the doctor.
I waited outside the room as the doctor brought Richard round. I heard groaning, retching, slapping noises. Mrs Andronikos offered me another room, but I wanted to be near Richard. I left a note on the door for Christopher but he never returned. Richard wept. He'd given Christopher everything - his body, soul and cigarette lighter. After that, he spent each day on the balcony sipping soup. The war was almost over, and soon the ship would take us back.
Mrs Andronikos and I shared a last evening together. We ate, hugged, drank and laughed. Then we cried. She gave me a trinket and a tobacco pouch. I packed Christopher's things and gave them to her, in case he came back.
Mrs Andronikos and I promised to pray for each other and to write. I promised to return, and blubbed all the way to Athens. I never heard from Christopher again. Richard and I arranged to meet, but when we did so he was cold and distant.The friendship was lost.
Mrs Andronikos and I wrote all through the winter. I agreed I would spend the summer with her. I was making arrangements when a letter arrived from Greece. Mrs Andronikos had died. Her daughter had written to inform me that the guest house was to be sold.
No other holiday has compacted so many events as that one. Sometimes I stray back to the memory.
What had brought it to mind this time? My 18-year-old daughter had informed me that she and a friend were about to book a holiday together. What, if anything, did I know about Mykonos?Reuse content