Sitting at a coffee shop, across from Conor, we are both attempting to get work done. He’s diligently writing up a bid for a plastering job. I’m looking at photos, trying to work on my next post, but instead I have started thinking about all of the many adventures we have embarked on together. I’m suddenly transported back to when we first met.
“Does anyone want to walk back with me?”
I looked him up and down, this self assured twenty year old from St. Louis, with a cocky grin and perfect jaw line. I was skeptical. I pretended to be intrigued by the scene across the square as I weighed my options. If I said no, I would be playing it safe and taking the metro back from Monastiraki to our apartment building to go quickly from Point A to Point B. If I said yes, I would have to deal with this arrogant guy, but I’d be walking alongside the ghosts of Socrates, Pericles, and Solon, through the beautiful ruins of an ancient culture, among the passionate people who symbolize its reincarnation each century.
I had always dreamed of studying in Greece, but it hadn’t been a smooth journey to get there. I had left for the airport early in the morning, after staying up all night to pack my last minute essentials. My backpack was filled to bursting point, literally. When I arrived at my gate, the ticket agent stopped me to tell me that my bag had exploded and the crew had collected my things into a giant plastic bag. I immediately had an image of my carefully chosen clothes, shoes and accessories strewn across the tarmac in the explosion’s aftermath. I silently said a prayer that I would still have underwear when I arrived in Athens, thanked the ticket agent, and found my seat.
I had just settled in when the flight attendant approached me. “Oh boy, she’s here to tell me that my shoes launched a rebellion against the plastic bag…” But no! She told me that I had been upgraded to Business Class, thanks to my dad.
When I reclined in my delightfully large and cushy new seat, I couldn’t help but hear the conversation next to me, between a man and his cell phone. I can only hope that he was a doctor, because he used the term “cervical bleeding” a little too flippantly for casual conversation. I spent the next hour trying to get that image out of my head.
When our plane arrived in London, I was greeted with the news that there had been snow of catastrophic proportions in England. The ground was covered in at least three quarters of an inch and it had been causing delays all morning. My task along with the thousands of other stranded travelers was to spend the next few hours close enough to the screens to know from which gate I was departing. All of us waited impatiently for our moment to pounce. When my flight appeared I followed the swift moving current of globetrotters to another terminal and my new gate.
One uneventful flight later, I had arrived in Athens! I grabbed my plastic garbage bag of clothes off the carousel by the makeshift handle made from tape, split a cab with a couple fellow travelers, and set out to see the city I had so longed to visit.
The smell of lamb and pork souvlaki, turning and browning on the spit, interrupted my thoughts. The savory meat, warm pita, and zesty tzatziki…although I had just eaten, my stomach decided to pretend it was a lion.
I stared ahead to the teenagers dancing to a Greek pop song. I had never seen so many a-symetrical haircuts, nor considered that one might wear black cotton joggers, a white v-neck, and a fringed houndstooth scarf. Athenian fashion was more than a little perplexing. Did we, in our preppy American dress appear just as odd?
I looked around to the newly renovated metro entrance, but was sidetracked by the snow white marble strewn across the luscious green grass that was once Hadrian’s Library. Neighboring these ruins was an old Ottoman mosque later converted into a museum of ceramics. From there my gaze floated to the scarves made of vibrant silks and cottons, peeking out of shops. The scenery was as perplexing as Athenian style. Both are cobbled together and shouldn’t work, but somehow, in this timeless city, they do.
Shoppers and vendors were weaving in and out of the side streets, engaging in their own paso doble, possibly forgetting we were in Athens, not Spain. Vendors courted the tourists, first pursuing, then waiting for the shoppers’ response. At the slightest positive sign, the vendors marched forward with purpose. Let the haggling begin!
I took time to drink in the Greek Orthodox church, sunken a few feet into the ground, wearing a hat made of terra-cotta tiles. It seemed to dig its heels in, as if to say “change all you want, but I will remain.”
I took one more glance around Monastiraki, still amazed to be standing there. The nerd inside of me shivered with delight as the layers of history comfortingly hugged me in this foreign land. I was finally here, in the shadow of the Acropolis, its white marble beckoning me to look deeper, explore more, take a chance.
That’s when I decided to say yes. Why not spend time with him if it meant discovering more of this historic, intriguing, dynamic city?
Little did I know that at that moment I was saying “yes” to getting lost for six hours in the neighborhoods of Athens. I was saying “yes” to falling in love with this handsome, self assured boy. I was saying “yes” to walking alongside my future husband as we weaved our way through these ancient streets. I was saying “yes” to the first of thousands of adventures the two of us would take.