Walking alongside Val through the streets of Glyfada is a new experience. Her youthful gait is furthering my own. Keeping up with her pace is for me still achievable, although I find it stressing the muscles in my hip, especially the left one. Due to an accident falling from a retired racehorse is an experience I wished for to be without. My fall onto hard, rocky ground has been a painful experience at my mature age. I am still cursing myself to have fallen prey to a silly challenge I accepted from a hard-nosed business orientated and ruthless character with a streak for malicious pleasure. Of course that dawned on me much later. Flashes of mosaic thought began to reassemble to a greater picture.
“This wind blows all my hair,” Val said suddenly as strands of hair veered across her face. I enjoy looking at Val’s lively profile, with her cherubic lips pursed, when she senses my gaze enveloping her face.
“Your hair looks great,” I said, “the colour suits you.” She looked at me and smiled. At that moment a gust of wind blew my hair into my face. I had to laugh and she joined me. Evident that we had same thoughts, even same habits, like waving the blown hair from our faces. One could think of brother and sister, yet we were more like father and daughter, as I did not entertain a thought of Grandpa and granddaughter.
“How old are you?” The question took me by surprise.
“Well, I am over 65,” I said, not to give away my age, as I have a streak of vanity about being younger and most of the time I get away with it. So what?
“OK,” she says, you look younger.”
“Thanks for the compliment.” Well, she carried on and we started comparing our physical attributes. Strange usually it’s done with same gender friends, however.
“I am not happy with my hips.” Val frowned, clapping her hips.
“To me they look good,”
“Look it’s my bone, there is no fat here.” She stood in front of me pulling her coat aside and hitting her hips with her flat hands.
“Let me see.” I felt her hips for the first time, they felt good in my hands.
“It’s great Val,” I said and smiled.
“Yes, it’s my skeletal frame, but I like to have a slim waist.”
“OK, I think that is super, like an hourglass figure?” She gave me a big five.
“Well you’ll get there, if you only want to.” I smiled. We carried on taking the pace of walking up again talking about where we wanted to go in the first place.
“Let’s try the herbal shop first,” she said and I reminded her of the corner with Starbucks Café.
“No I meant I do not know which road it is from there.”
“OK, leave it to me, I know.” Val shook her head thinking I am bluffing her. But I had suddenly an intuition.
“It’s not about Starbucks,” Val said, but about what street?” She could be stubborn.
“OK, I will find it, if you let me.”
“Sure.” She simmered down. I like Val a lot, besides I have dreams about her, as she is my youngest Muse in years. She laughs as if I would have misunderstood her pulling her lips to that ironic curl, one of her characteristics, when she wishes to get a discussion about some matters that have laboured her too much.
I take the road I know and where I have walked many times and where H. has once taken me once to buy some green Chinese tea, which I like. Once we reached the spot of Starbucks, I continue straight ahead, as I recognize some familiar buildings and my gut feel tells me that I am on the right road. Val stops. “Hello,” she winks back at a woman standing in the entrance door to a shop. I waited for Val to finish her dialogue and looked up my notes about the herbal tea I wanted to ask for. When she said good bye to the woman, I joined her again.
“A former school mate of mine. I have not seen her for years.”
“I have the name of the herb,” I said, “do you have a pen?” I jotted down the name. “Where to now?” Val asked. “Why do you smile?” I had a gut-feel that it was the right street we advanced on.
“I can smell it,” I laughed and walked ahead. “Here it is,” I pointed at the shop looking at the opposite side to find a street name.
“Oh, it is…B.Georgiou,” Val read the slightly obliterated sign, my bad vision could not pick on exactly. She waited outside the shop smoking one of her self-rolled cigarettes, while I entered and talked to the shop assistant. She did not understand me well and I asked Val to speak to her in Greek. “Well, they do not have any of that type, besides she does not know it, as the name was not in Greek.” Val translated. We took our leave and the woman gave me a stamp with her shop’s address.
“And now let’s walk to Vodafone,” Val said falling into the paced rhythmic stride she takes to when aiming at another place to go to. The phone shop was filled with many people.
“Fuck,” Val swore, as she uses the word regularly, if annoyed.
“These are my written verbs,” I showed her my notes that I am carrying around with me at all times to learn the Greek language to her method of teaching. She is a wonderful teacher and I like her a lot. Val and I go on well with each other and perhaps we might even become best of friends. Where do we stand? Teacher and student, doctor and patient, artist and model, well I have many scenarios I have painted in my head with her as my protagonist. However Val is in a serious relationship and yet she flirts with the possibilities love offers at so many levels. I enjoy exchanging opinions with her about any topic. We queue at Starbucks Café, ordering for her mocha with fresh cream, while I stick to filter café. The barman wants to know where I am from and we joke about nationalities. Finally settled down, we relax with Val’s famous self-rolled cigarettes.
“What is love?” she asks starting a conversation about an abstract theme.
“There are many aspects of love,” I replied. “I want to draw you,” I said, but Val murmurs something about a portrait of her granny, I supposed to do for her.
“Let’s see.” She opens her smart phone and just a few seconds later she has a definition about love on her screen. However there are many forms of love, from compassion to erotomania. Of course the Greek words are from Agape to Erato, from idealistic love to physical love and I am all for free love, pure and not bound by any rule, not predetermined by scheming thought or any tainting influences whatsoever. Val reads me the definitions from the Internet’s encyclopaedia, while I think about the passionate lovers Tristan and Izault, I have been fascinated with all my life, until I have experienced a similar situation myself. But then that is embedded in my brain and chiselled into the granite memory of my soul. As granite is unchangeable through millennia of time, the message will never be eroded. Is love embodied in the granite blocks of Giza? Have the gods left the imprint of their souls back for us humans to understand most important messages about our lives on this planet?
“Ah, here you are!” Val greets her girlfriend, a young, blond and good looking woman with an explicit Joie du vivre. “Hi,” she extends her hand and it feels soft and firm in mine. Her exuberant style of talking takes over. She is fluent in English.
“Excuse me for comparing you, and I don’t mean it as an insult, but as a compliment.” Oh here it comes, I think, some grandpa thing. “Not at all, carry on, I am curious.”
“You remind me of Anthony Hopkins,” she smiles and I think aloud: The silence of the lambs? But she carries on in her overflowing mode, “No not at all, but rather Howard’s End.” Oh, I have suddenly some strange connotations of love and death, thoughts that follow me since Ana’s death. She is interested to know my relationship with such questions and I tell her my position. I observe her way of talking and imagine her being nude and wonder what her reaction would be to a man making love to her. She would be a great model. Suddenly she excuses herself for visiting the ladies’ room. Val dons a pair of dark sunglasses and says “What do you think?”
“You know you look like ‘Lolita’ with them.” Her face suddenly changes.
“I am not a whore.”
“Well I do not mean that, I mean the shape of your glasses look like hers.” I wonder why she has such disgust for sex workers or physical love. “Listen just don’t rush to judgements that fast.” I don’t have to explain to her all aspects of society, but it seems I have to lecture her about all aspects of love. However it’ll be another time, but I have an immediate thought about the online definition.
“One aspect of love is not mentioned.”
“Which one?” She reacts fast.
“One aspect of a poet’s love that is necessary creating great poems.”
“Longing!” I say and watch her face. Val says nothing pursing her cherubic lips and remaining silent until her friend returns. The girls talk about shopping and presents for X-mas. I smoke a cigarette Val has rolled for me. I wish to linger on my thoughts. Her friend seems restless and wishes to go. “Let him finishes his cigarette,” Val says.
Finally we break up and walk toward the shops along Metaxa Avenue. The girls bade me good bye and we kiss in friendship. I walk to the close by station and take the tram for one stop, wondering what will become of such a friendship and why Val introduced me to her friend, who acts superficially. Maybe we’ll meet in future again and the girls will model for me together. The painting Demoiselles d’Athenes that’ll be my homage to Picasso is at the back of my artistic mind.