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1999 - Saloni Mediterranean

Helena Spyrou

Helena Spyrou is a writer, publicity and promotions person. Her work has appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines, including Visible Ink, Going Down Swinging, 3RD Magazine and Inside Indonesia Magazine.

She has been an organiser and publicist for literary events, human rights fundraisers and conferences, including a fundraiser which attracted 200 people, at Brunswick Town Hall on 30 October 1998 for Inside Indonesia Magazine to raise funds for Indonesia's economic crisis and East Timor's independence.


Dancing by the Matala moon

by Helena Spyrou


This story was read at Saloni Mediterranean, March 18, 1999.

The truck turns into the main street - wide and dusty. Two utes and one taxi are parked outside the only open cafe in town. The driver, keen to move on, hastens our exit from the back of the truck.

This is Mires. In the middle of the day, in the middle of our journey, and it is too hot. The haze hangs over us like a veil concealing our fear.

We go the sea. The water is cool and deep blue. I lie in the shallows and watch him sit cross legged with a white scarf wrapped like a turban around his head. He's looking beyond me, beyond this sea and south to the shores of Egypt. Perhaps his dreams carry him further, to his next destination in the Antipodes. He keeps his distance these days.

I've come with 'a mean ol' daddy' looking for the Matala moon, which I will not see and the wind from Africa which I will not feel. My mother's roots and the minotaur have not enticed me here.

I turn my gaze away from him and wade into the sea. Try to imagine what lies in its depths. I dive in and down. The salt water burns my eyes, and I peer into the infinite, the darkening. Will I find Atlantis? Or poor Icarus sleeping on his charred wings? Will Aphrodite swim across from Cyprus and give me back my passion?

I reach the surface for breath, stretching to catch the air. I catch him lying on the sand, arms outstretched, offering his white skin to the burning sun and remember the love he had for the soft curves of my brown body.

Here we are looking for the labyrinth. He's looking to travel new paths and hopes I am his golden thread

In the afternoon, we head back to town and I begin my visits to each of the six cafes in the main street, looking for the man with the work. The locals, insulted by my trespass into their male domain, like to tease and play games They pretend they don't understand my question, even though we speak the same language. We're desperate and I play along.

Here in this place, he needs me.

By early evening we're finally introduced to the man with the vineyards, the man with the work. The man who looks at my friend and asks if he has ever done any work in his life, 'so tall and skinny what good is that to me?' The man who winks at me and suggests that I could have it easy if I acknowledge the signs. We call him the 'hard' man. And so our working life in this small town in Crete begins.

For the first few months we sleep on the back verandah of the local church. We sleep under the stars and at dawn, we are woken up by the silent presence of the two resident monks who look at us as they smoke their morning cigarette. We wait till they go inside the church and then quickly rise, roll up our sleeping mats and head off to Dimitri's for coffee. There we get picked up to go to the vineyards. We travel on dusty roads, in the back of the ute, in the morning air.

As each day passes and the locals get used to our faces and hear good reports of our work, we become the 'nice' couple, the 'compatriot' and her 'hardworking husband'.

But each day I dodge the 'hard' man's advances. Each day I work harder than I need, to gain the respect of the women working with me. Each day my I watch my lover's knees buckle under the weight of the bucket of picked grapes. His pride will not abandon him.

In time, we're offered a 'better' place to stay and we decide to share this large broken down house with the other workers.

Three others, to be exact.

There are Marie and Roland. Marie and Roland are a couple.

A couple of tormented tormentors. Marie and Roland like to play games. Marie and Roland like to entice and tease each other. Roland is 'mad' about Marie. Marie is bored with Roland. Marie likes other men, especially young Zoran.

There is Zoran. Zoran is an Adonis.

Zoran likes Bruce Lee. Zoran visits Dimitri's cafe to watch kung-fu videos every night. Zoran flexes his muscles. Zoran has lots of ego. Zoran is scared of drugs. Zoran is scared.

Now. Here we all are. Working for the 'hard' man. Downing ouzos and retsinas at Dimitri's everyday. Going down to Matala to score 'cause we're so bored. Here we all are. Mocked and tolerated by the locals.

And here we all are in our squat one afternoon. Keen voyeurs of each others' lives. Marie and Roland provide the entertainment with Zoran unwittingly involved.

That afternoon, Marie takes Zoran to be her lover. She takes him up the stairs to the bed in the loft above the living area. That afternoon, Roland is at the cafe plying himself with ouzo. Hes thinking about how much he wants to be with Marie. That afternoon, Roland stumbles in to the squat and hearing him, Marie descends the stairs wearing Zoran's shirt. She moves across the room to offer Roland a welcoming kiss. His punch sends her across the other side of the room. She gets up and staggers to the mirror on the nearby wall to inspect the damage. She is pleased. She licks the blood, from her cut lip with her tongue and throws him a smile. Young Zoran, scared Zoran watching from the bottom of the stairs, makes a timely exit, without his shirt.

Here we all are. Watching pain. Here we all are. Paralysed and unsure of what to do, as if doing anything would matter anyway. Here we all are. Waiting to move on.

So we do.

In time this pain moves inside both of us too. Just under the skin. Now when we touch, our skin melds and we tear at flesh each time we move away.

Who clings to who? Who is the one in need?

'I will leave you', you say. 'Don't bind yourself to me.'

I want to say 'you're afraid' but I don't say a word.

I remember you.

I remember how you wrapped me in passion and carried me to your lair. Your little hidey hole. Your secret place.

And I became mystified, intrigued.

There, in your haven, we swirled in days and nights of sweaty haze. There we smelt each other's flesh and let our tongues move across hot skin exploring every curve. There we took each smile with a kiss believing it to be bliss.

There we fell back into the air and as silence came, we listened to the rhythm of our breath and caught the final sound.

I remember you.

I remember how you said come and be with me.

Come.

And I did.

The last time before you left, you gave me the Matala moon on a card and a kiss that wanted to, but barely dared to touch my lips.


Helena Spyrou, 1999.

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