On a tiny island in the middle of the Aegean, the timeless Greek-German enmity and connection assumes another dimension.
Prometheus dove into the sea with surprising impetus. Fearlessly and proudly, almost like the protagonist in a Baywatch trailer. However, it was just the indignation propelling him. The discovery of the banal inevitability of an addicted to surrender, Greek society.
The reason for his rage was the German occupation- five adults complete with children, inflatable armbands and flippers- of the rocky islet in the middle of the bay at Despotiko. It was the size of the tiny room Prometheus and Pandora were renting- for what really was a fortune, considering Prometheus’s salary- on Antiparos.
For the past two days, ever since the German tourists had found the mystic beach, they had decided the rocky islet was theirs and theirs alone. So just stayed there all day, taking up all the islet’s space and guarding it from any misguided French who tried to approach. The French being the only remaining tourists, as for the Greeks they didn’t even attempt to; they just stood gaping at them on the beach and pretended to be – or were – uninterested. Until Prometheus came along. That day.
He reached the rock after a fifteen minute fast swim. Tried to climb onto it. The Germans stood around the rock’s edges.
“Nein”, they told him. An unyielding enemy army.
Prometheus tried to grasp at it and climb on. He couldn’t. The men’s feet were firmly planted on the only places he might’ve found to raise himself onto it.
But he kept on trying.
“There is no room for you!”, one of the women told him sternly, in perfect English.
Glaring at him.
“I will make room”, he told her.
Grasping one of the rock’s less jagged edges, Prometheus tried to get a firm grip.
And then a foot. A flipper- shod foot. A German foot. Firmly put down. On the rock. Brushing Prometheus’s clenched fingers. Almost landing on them. Almost, but not quite. Almost but not exactly there.
And then another foot- the other’s pair. Hovering a little above the rock’s surface, ready to be placed on Prometheus’s fingers. Exactly there. Not almost. But quite. There. On his hand.
The moment careened. Prometheus, half in the water, half clinging on to the rock, as if for furious dear life, waited it out, feeling like a loser in a b-rated movie.
The German looked down at Prometheus in contempt. The Greek boy’s fingers one more provocation, an insult he would no longer take.
Hatred, scorching like the salty water blinding, drowning, a man at sea.
Then Prometheus raised his eyes to the man’s. The man looked down, willed into making eye contact.
They looked at each other, reluctantly at first.
In the eyes of the man, Prometheus heard words of poison and hate that politicians had emitted, distilling their meaning into the collective psyche of the people they governed. He saw the rage and shame for the past that would never go away no matter what, so why do we just keep trying? Let’s end the charade. We are just who we are- and we’re proud of it. And we’ll become the greatest nation in the world again! We already are. So there. To hell with parasitic Southern Europe, to hell with Europe, to hell with the United States! For we are Germany! We will no fund your deficiencies.
Prometheus looked at the man. In their eye-contact something incohate and liminal. Now he understood.
What happens when regret and guilt and atonement get to be too much? When does expiation become an interest rate of a capital that now longer is, has ceased to exist- at least in the eyes of the Bank?
The answer was standing right in front of him.
Prometheus kept clinging. To the rock of rocks. The islet of final destination.
Shivering, for a cool breeze was causing his half- submerged, half- exposed body, to shudder involuntarily.
But he didn’t. He didn’t let go.
Looking at the man.
Willing him to remember. And the man did. Remember.
The memories started flooding back.
Lazy noons of endless summer days spent eating watermelon in the sun, on the magical shores of all the Aegean islands his parents had taken him to when he was little. Playing with Greek boys his age, learning about the Gods of Olympus at school, Homer, The Iliad and the Odyssey. And the sun, oh the sun, that was like no other. That lit up his entire world. The sun which gave his imagination color, sustaining him throughout the long sunless days and frozen nights of his homeland, in Hamburg.
The endless recrimination was absent from these times, from this country- although he had learned in school, that Greece had been amongst the hardest hit by the Nazi invaders; for the Greeks never stopped fighting. Never stopped resisting. Even whilst whole villages were wiped out by Nazi commanders who later became UN personalities, standing for world peace.
But in Greece, he had never been a “German”, that burden of collective guilt he would no longer bear. He had been just another little boy, a cute little blond blue eyed boy all the locals cooed over as if his native coloring was a wondrous accomplishment. He was just another “foreigner”- xenos-, eating watermelon, by the sea.
One foot hovering, above Prometheus’s clenched hand.
The hand that wouldn’t let go.
Then the German foot came down. Ubooted but nevertheless, unmissably Germanic.
Still, a few steps away from Prometheus’s fingers. Allowing the Greek boy vital space to climb onto the islet, if he so wished.
That was everything Prometheus had wished for.
He climbed on, just sat there, on the islet’s edge for a moment. Reclaiming the islet, in quietness, for all who wished to climb onto it.
It was no man’s alone.
It was all of theirs, to enjoy.
They all sat there for a few moments. In the middle of the sea, everything was fresh and possible. The pungent odor of enmity swept in the wind to become part of the sky blue that paints horizons out of illusions and lives when there is no longer any difference at all between the two.
Yet none of them could stay on there indefinitely. It was only a large rock, after all; a finite intimation of a time beyond enmity or indifference.
Inevitably, as the sun drowned into the sea, seemingly a few feet away, a motorboat appeared. Razing the waves gutturally, effectively, it broke the blue fluid silence and reached the rock in a matter of seconds.
Restoring the scowls to their demeanor, ignoring Prometheus pointedly, the Germans spilled into the boat in a fashion so orderly and intense, they now seemed like a bikini and wetsuit military parade. They sped off resentfully, their boat bobbing on the waves that had become white-crested, as if spitting them out.
Prometheus glowered back.
The harmonious moment gone, as if it never had been. It hadn’t really, since it didn’t have any enduring effect- wasn’t that what counted in the eyes of the world?
The breeze became cool with the smell of fall.
Just like that, summer ended. Fluidity turned into packed suitcases.
Entropy lurked around the corner.