Escape by Sea: Shape of Salvation in Watercolor Tones.
I had forgotten how erotic it was, the dance of it.
The flame, the sound of the flint, that sustained hiss as the spark found sea-air to consume, the smell and the illuminated face.
A stranger’s face, always a stranger, as I don’t smoke cigarettes.
Though, when I’m offered one by an attractive man in the Mediterranean, I do.
On an overnight ferry from Athens to Thera, now called Santorini, and theorized to be the origin of the tale of Atlantis.
The moon hung swollen and bright. It was full on my birthday.
And now, the day after, sweaty and hungover, I was talking to a handsome man who was telling me about Santorini. About the tourism industry in Greece broadly, I had just enough Greek coffee and white wine in my system to animatedly and rhythmically play my youthful laugh at the right intervals.
I was feeling buzzy and exhausted and lilting with too much sugar and caffeine, tremulous and grateful for the swing of the boat that obscured my general unsteadiness.
He started to tell me about immigrants, the gypsies.
I began to feel anxious, uneasy and very slightly queasy, the perspiration on my brow was not being evaporated by the maritime air so much as coated with another layer of clammy brine.
The moon seemed yellow to me, like a jaundiced eye glaring, reminding me of my birthday revelry and its Dionysian decadence.
The swell of the ship on the undulating Aegean lifted my organs in their liquid enmeshment and my bones followed, missing a beat.
I had lost track of what he was saying.
I could smell the sea and the smoke in a veil that was both dryly, coarsely irritating and fecund, cigarettes and the bubbling broth that our craft bobbed in.
Our vessel was mammoth as ships go, but a mere sliver on the liquid darkness that seethed around us.
I saw the beaded water refracting the moonlight beside an emergency boat stored onboard, and I felt another lunge as my soft insides lurched before the frame of my bones ensnared their gelatinous charge in place.
Like an oyster set on a table roughly, the tremble out of rhythm with the buckling shell.
Brittle-seeming as any mollusk split open and sprayed with acid for the delectation of the Greek palate.
The smell of cigarette smoke was now noxious, the cologne and sweat of this man speaking to me; too close, the scatter of light on his neck which once seemed gloriously, luxuriously bedecked in hair now seemed bestial, rank and coated in chemical fragrance.
His mouth adorned with twitching bristles, overly near, overly familiar, overly grinning.
The people that come, many from Syria and now mostly Afghanistan, passing through Turkey, are tossed out like flotsam and jetsam, called gypsies.
The ethnic pride simmers between Greece and Turkey itself, the place through which these fleeing people cross to enter Greece.
One is apprised of this instantly upon asking for another Turkish coffee, please.
It’s Greek coffee, it’s Greek delight, get it right.
Even as a recent genetic discovery has shown similarities between the Greek and Turkish people.
Two sides of a related people sliced through with imaginary borders; people descended from the ancient Anatolian people of Asia Minor.
It astounds me that the modern demarcations of the Mediterranean and Near East lead so many to believe in rigid human categories, inviolate distinction.
I think of the clash between Israelis and Palestinians, so many warring cousins in the Mediterranean.
His closeness was becoming unbearable, so soon after leaving Athens, a city once decimated by the plague, and only now recovering from the pandemic thrust the idea of inescapable contagion into vividness.
I now thought of his breath as being unpleasantly near, though I had enjoyed its warmth only moments before.
Perhaps it was his statements alone that felt virulent.
As I wandered the jutting stone streets earlier that week, I imagined what it was like to live there when it was so ensnared in inescapable death.
On our way to Santorini, the idea of escape seemed so paramount to that place also; the volcano that engulfed the island in a doom cloud so fierce it painted the sky in death hues seen from Crete.
I imagined people escaping by sea, both from disease and unparalleled geological cataclysm, and I thought of what it must be like to have made it onto a boat. To see the shape of your salvation materialize in watercolor tones.
Though now, in this moment, people seeking safety are being turned away, thrown into the dark, ravening sea, both salvation and undoing.
The moon was slung so low it painted the small islands we were passing dark emerald and the water an inky cobalt.
He was still speaking, slow, measured, his obsidian eyes found mine — the color of the moon-drenched islands at midnight, gazing back blankly.
He seemed expectant, he had asked a question; a new twist.
“What?” I asked distractedly, verging on irritation. “You have a cabin, yes?” He said again.
“I have a cabin, yes.” I said, realizing that I did, reproaching myself for sailing through these waters that so many desperate people die in trying to escape whatever terror pursues them.
I looked back at the water, the still full moon seemed to show me in its high contrast the blackness of the water.
The dappled incandescence danced, dazzlingly deranged along the lip of each wave, a riot of light swept beneath a black swell, hypnotic.
“My girlfriend…,” he was saying, and it caught my attention.
Always, with me, if I could define a type that I magnetize, it would be one that needs to identify a girlfriend at some point.
So consistent, it’s comical.
I chuckled, more of a private throat reverberation — three low, quick hums.
Other people were now on the deck, drawn up by the insistent moon, heavy and sallow and pulling everyone’s insides along to her own private, low hums that move the tides.
I escaped from everyone below deck and into my chamber.
I bathed quickly, unsteadily, bumping my head on the wall of the bathroom.
Then drifted into bed, lucky to be able to escape my thoughts, on the sea where so many do not escape with their lives.
Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500-hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.