“How well you speak my language!” Antigone said. Mike flushed slightly at the exaggeration. They sat at right angles to one another at the table outside the café, with the harbor in front of them.
“Anipsote ta podia sas.” Lift up your feet. He was too slow, and the water from a wave that had broken over the promenade swirled around his shoes. She laughed. She had a small straight nose, mobile lips, brown hair partially thrown over one shoulder. The eyes were green, large, and very slightly asymmetrical, like the Charioteer of Delphi. It was she who had motioned them to the café table after the tour, when he said he had some questions.
Water was seeping through the holes in his shoes. “May I ask you a question?” he said.
“Of course. Ask ten!”
He asked about the influence of Venetian architecture in Crete, but found himself stopped for want of the word for arch.
“Apsida,” she offered, and began an explanation. Was she married? He could not see her ring finger, but perhaps that meant something different in Crete. Or engaged? Or did she have brothers who lived in the mountains and kept knives in their boots?
“How did you learn English?” he asked. During the tour she had answered questions in at least four languages.
She answered in English. “I learned it from my bloodybastard cousin who lives in London. I am six months live in England. But I speak only street English, so I prefer to guide the French tourists. You are from America, Michaelis?”
“Ah, I see. I had to guide some Americans the other day, from a cruise ship. I had a mister in the group, he asked me where was the Cathedral of St. John. He thought he was in Malta!”
They had both finished their coffee. “It would be good to talk again,” he said.
“What are you doing this weekend?”
“On Saturday I’m going to the south coast.”
“And Loutro.” Then, before caution could make him reconsider, he said, “Would you like to come?”
“You don’t have a tour?”
“Not until Sunday.”
They exchanged phone numbers and arranged a rendezvous. He walked back to his apartment experiencing a serious case of astonishment. She was half his age. Well, perhaps two thirds. There was gray in his hair and his heart was not all it should be. He had more or less even features, true. But he was an impecunious teacher of English, who still had not decided what to do with his life.
He’d planned to travel by bus, but he rented a car, a little Fiat. She was waiting for him by the harbor, wearing jeans and a denim jacket and carrying a backpack.
“Is this your car?” she asked, as he negotiated the narrow streets out of Hania.
“No. I don’t own one. I’m trying to simplify my life. Like Diogenes.”
“Diogenes Laertes, the philosopher who lived in a barrel.”
“Ah, Thioyennis. And will you also give up wearing clothes?”
The thought of himself naked immediately led to the thought of her naked. “I haven’t thought that far ahead,” he said. “Tell me about that castle.”
She explained that the castle high on a hilltop on their right was built by the Turks in the 18th century as part of the defenses of the harbor at Souda Bay. The sea now appeared far down to their left. Two large gray navy vessels were anchored off-shore.