N A VERY NICE RESTAURANT IN ATHENS, A DISTINGUISHED-LOOKING GENTLEMAN WITH A SILVER MUSTACHE INTERRUPTED MY DINNER. The baby, in a plastic carrying seat, had banana all over his eyelashes and the recently renovated lip. Almost half of what went into his mouth dribbled out his nostrils. The man, with fingers as big as cigars, handed me his card: Michael Comninos, Attorney-at-Law. He towered over me, a well-fed-looking fellow, weighing about three times more than I did. “My brother, “ he said, in perfect English, “is the gynecologist to the queen.”
I wondered which queen he was talking about since I knew Papadopoulos had declared Greece a republic. Shamefully, I knew little about the history of Greece let alone its politics. All those royal names meant very little to me, unless they were on the pages of the National Enquirer
; which I occasionally picked up in the supermarket check-out. Everybody in Europe seemed to claim some kind of royal heritage or they had married their third cousin, twice removed, or one or both of their grandmothers was somehow related to Queen Victoria
; multiple marriages, sometimes forced for financial reasons- such as a dukedom for a parcel of land or a lake.
“Are you crazy?” she asked, when I told her of the invitation. “Those people could throw you off the boat in the middle of the Aegean and who would know? If they’re going to Turkey they could use you to smuggle drugs…
“You look like you need a break,” he continued. “We’re leaving for Turkey tomorrow and we’d love to have you come along. Why not come to the marina and see if you’re up for it? The owner of the yacht is the third richest woman in the world! I take care of all her legal affairs. She’s my only client and I’ll be there all afternoon. So come.” On the back of his business card he wrote the boat slip number.
I was running out of money and a little sick of living out of a suitcase. I’d just spent a harrowing week on a cruise ship in a cubby just big enough for a German Shepherd, and I still hadn’t found my sea legs. The sidewalk insisted on lurching with some inner ear disturbance from all the pitching and rolling. I was starting to miss my boyfriend, Paul. He had a way of keeping me in line, not that I needed it, of course. I think he liked me because I was a somewhat prissy. A Manhattan or two before dinner was all I could handle, just enough to make me a little outgoing, a bon vivant. I liked having a good time. He didn’t talk much, but was a good listener. If he knew I was even thinking of going off with some stranger, he would positively plotz.. “Rich people put their pants on one leg at a time.”, he’d once remarked... Those were the best kind to scam. The more money they had, the more they wanted more. Paul was a con man and good at it.
I was intrigued enough to ask advice of a Greek girl I knew from high school. I hadn’t seen her since graduation, but she’d married a manufacturer of paper products and was living in Athens. Bright and early the next morning, I went for a visit. The apartment she lived in was very nice, clean, and with lots of white space on the walls. They owned the whole building. We had never been close, but the fact that we were both Greek, and the majority of the kids in high school Jewish, gave us a bond, especially since we were both mothers now. She was a pretty little thing, shining with the glow of good health behind her olive-black eyes. Very kind and very good.
“Are you crazy?” she asked, when I told her of the invitation. “Those people could throw you off the boat in the middle of the Aegean and who would know? If they’re
going to Turkey they could use you to smuggle drugs… If you do decide to go and get arrested or something, I’ll get my husband to call the embassy and tell them you’re an innocent.” She didn’t know me very well. I had a very dark side. Those tapes recorded in childhood take a lifetime to erase.
I’d been good so long, I wanted to do something outrageous like strip naked in the middle of Thessaloniki Square and jump into the fountain. Take lovers on 3 different continents. How could I ever be a writer, if all I had to write about was my ho-hum
life with a dysfunctional family? I could remember very little of my childhood. A certain numbness had set in somewhere around the age of three; since the baby’s birth it was as if I were walking around on auto-pilot