Mother as wingman in Santorini, Greece
“OH NO YOU DON’T,” my mother said. “You’re not going to jump off from there.”
“It’s deep enough,” I said, teetering on the edge of the schooner, the Aegean Sea below. In the distance, the white-washed buildings clinging to the edge of the caldera looked like snow.
“I forbid it!” she said.
“Mom, I’m 35.”
“Then act like it,” my mother called.
I leapt into the sea.
As I climbed the ladder back into the boat, the sandy-haired stranger smiled at me and winked. I had noticed him as soon as we had boarded the sunset cruise. He had smiled at me then, and being my mother’s daughter, I smiled back. He didn’t look like the usual tourist — sunburned, tennis-shoe-clad, a face tinged with an expression of awe and indigestion.
“What do you think you are, a mermaid?” my mother asked.
“Maybe,” I said and smiled over to the sandy-haired stranger.
My mother caught me and said, “What are you looking at?” even though she already knew.
After a hiking trip up Nea Kameni volcano and a swim in the cloudy warm springs, the tourists were settled back in the boat, drinks in hand, and the sandy-haired man played the saxophone, serenading the setting sun. My mother and I sipped Greek wine, listened to the breathy saxophone, a sound both sassy and serious. The music of a clandestine love affair. Or so I imagined.
It was my mother who’d asked him to ride up the rickety cable car back to Fira with us, who’d invited him to dinner. It was as if she wanted to make sure somebody was going to have a Shirley Valentine experience in Greece.
But this proved to be quite an ordeal, considering Benny, the Albanian saxophone player, had a repertoire of about 10 English words. He could speak Greek, Italian, and of course, Albanian. I can speak Spanish, a language closer to Italian than English, so we managed on Benny’s Italian and my broken Spanish, understanding about 7% of what the other said. We made it through dinner this way, eating takeout gyros on a park bench. He invited us to have drinks later at Enigma, the nightclub where he worked.
“That Benny sure is nice, isn’t he?” my mother asked.
“I guess so. It’s hard to talk to him.”
“Did you see he’s missing teeth. In the back?” I asked.
“Don’t be so judgmental,” my mother said.