Mercy Street

by Amy Turn Sharp


 

I scout M by the dock and he raises his hand and smiles broadly at me.

I had wanted him to take me to Delos from the moment he started talking about it at dinner the night before. The island is very close to Mykonos via excursion boats- little fishing boats. Delos is one of the most important sacred sites in Greece he had said with vodka tongue. He blew thick smoke up in the air with force and his hands were always talking and his eyes were always swimming and I learned so much more than Lonely Planet all the way on silver planes flying to this island. I was like a shooting arrow to that little bistro table where we started to know each other.

We secure two tickets and hop on board the small ferry. The boat pulls into the bay and the choppy water is strong and the boat pushes back and forth and I realize this is not a smooth ride to Delos. It feels unsafe at times and I find myself turning my body towards M and our thighs push together and our elbows touch.

 

When we approach the channel where Delos sits we notice the sea calm down and I find myself relaxing.  M finishes telling me the story of Appolos birth on Delos.

"So there is this woman,"  he says with his thick fingered hands moving around my face like magnetic sticks that move my chin up and down and my eyes pop and dilate involuntary.

Hera- a woman scorned.

Leto that little slut.

And he went on as we rocked towards the western side of the island and he told me how Poseidon anchored the island with pillars of granite and little Leto went there and birthed the children. And in the end no one could hurt anyone because Apollo was so beautiful and with such powers that no one could resist him.

He was irresistible.

I like thinking that no one could resist him I tell M.

Fully aware of the fullness of my lips and that in the sunshine my eyes were light and beautiful I just stared at him until my eyes burned retina red.

Dolphins were jumping outside the ferry and we all laughed big laughs like they do in the movies and all around us happiness and complete disregard for the reality of the world shook and shook.

When we got to the island and found a small area to eat some lunch we were still laughing and the winds blew my thin dress around like paper. Meltemi is a word that I never forget. It sounded so pretty but it battered us those hot summer days. They come wicked out of the Balkans and go on and on.

M unpacked the small knapsack he carried and inside he pulled a small blue checked table cloth and two long baguette sandwiches. He handed me a carafe with tiny milk cups.

He had starched white napkins and he spread it out before me.

The baguette sandwiches touching my knees.

And later we did climb Mt. Kynthos and I showed him just who I was immediately.

I kissed him as soon as we got to the top. He may try and tell folks that he kissed me but I hold all the truth.

And we met a woman named Mercy later that night back on the island and she was so old and weathered in such a way that she looked so valuable. So lovely worn.  She took me aside in the tiny cafe and we smoked rolled cigarettes and drank ouzo and I told her that I was at home here and she told me I was only on a little journey. I was certain to leave an island like this because my soul was splintered she said without flinching.  And then she poured more liquid and we all laughed again like the movies and I sat on M's lap and kissed him like he had never been kissed and poisoned him with my love.

I thought about that a million times. Some crazy old woman telling me silly words.

Splintered soul.

But I did leave that place and that man and it could be a story just like everyone else's stories.

Only sometimes it's not and it has reverb in my ears.

I will turn decades and then half centuries and I will always wonder how many times it will be there.

Where is this woman? In the ground? Why did she plant things in my mind?

Tonight I  listen to Peter Gabriel and if I had magical powers I would call the wind- the meltemi - to come and rush into this house and spin papers and photographs and erase my memory.

The memory that is often like stroking a cat's fur the opposite way.