“I’ve been a little too depressing on my blog lately,” I said to my friend Diane the other night. We were eating tacos at Esquina, and trying to decide if they were as good as we remembered.
“Huh,” said Diane, which meant something like You are not kidding, sister. “Maybe you should write about Greek sailors. That could be funny.”
Diane, alas, finds my predilection for Greek sailors to be amusing. I, on the other hand, am dead serious about them. My affection for Greek sailors is about as close to the sacred as I get. I devote long moments each day to thinking about a certain Aegean island on a certain day in the summer of 2001.
I think it was then. Events have intervened. Possibly it was another time, or maybe I made it up. I have a vivid imagination.
“You could talk about why you like Greek sailors,” Diane suggested.
I snorted. (I am not an elegant person, not even in person.) “Besides that they have strong backs?” I took a bite of blue-potato taco. Esquina has a proper name for them, but I can never remember what it is.
I had to think about this for a minute. Greek sailors are my happy place, but that doesn’t mean I’ve reflected deeply on why this is so. I merely take it as an accepted fact.
“Well, they don’t speak English,” I finally came up with. “And since I don’t speak Greek, I find them very restful.” The only Greek I know is ouzo. And atlas. Which doesn’t get us very far. Just far enough, you might say. “And if you do something stupid, all you have to do is smile, and you are immediately forgiven, and they fix it for you.”
“What else?” Diane is a former newspaper reporter, so digging is second nature to her. Even her e-mails are written in the inverted pyramid style.
“They go away,” I said, with an emphasis that alarmed the students at the table next to us.
“Ah,” said Diane, as if she had just worked out a Secret.
“I like that in people,” I confirmed.
“That explains a lot.”
“They also come back,” I said. “Go away, come back. You know.”
“Well,” said Diane, becoming immediately practical. “Since we’re in Kansas, which the last I looked is about as landlocked as you can get—”
“—Greek sailors are not easily attainable. I know.”
“So who else goes away and comes back?” She had the kind of gleam in her eye that suggested she was about to make an improvement in my life, so I changed the subject as quickly as I could, and distracted her with tales of nefarious editorial misdeeds (we’re both writers; this was easy to do.)
The thing is, I like my Greek sailors to stay firmly in my memory, where I can improve upon them as needed. When things get all dramatic and oh-my-stars-and-whiskers around here, which is approximately every three days, I just remember (or possibly imagine) an island in the Aegean, and the endless Mediterranean sky, and men with strong backs, and then I don’t feel so bad.
People sometimes encourage me to put “Go back to Greece” on my List of Things To Do Before I’m Dead but I’ve never quite understood that. I already possess the Greek sailors: In my memory, they will always be there, waiting for me, no matter how gray I get or the number of bunions on my feet. And I like to think that one sign of a life well spent is having enough good memories to get you through to the end.
But life is about going forward, not back. It’s about evolving and changing, not repeating. It’s about savoring and appreciating what you have and not plotting how you’ll get more.
Although that doesn’t mean I’d turn down the chance to say γεία σου to some old friends.