Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Twilight Years of Life (07/02/09)
TITLE: Building Ruins
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Sometimes I shake my head at my own behavior. Like what kind of Wisconsin blonde travels to Greece alone and pretends her name is Alessandra? The dumped at-the-altar kind. That’s who.
He called me self-centered.
I was brazen from the moment I deplaned on my solo honeymoon and caught the glance of two young men, twins it seemed. I dropped my eyes just so, smiled just so, and they hailed a cab for me.
The next morning I spotted them leaning against a reproduction Doric column outside my hotel. I sipped coffee across the street under a terrace wrapped in the fragrance of bougainvilleas. Their Mediterranean skin contrasted with the white of their shirts, buttoned low. I waved. They waved back. I sighed. I could feel my self-esteem being fitted back together, piece by piece, as if I’d been made from Lincoln Logs.
Again, I saw them as I wandered the skeletal remains of the Parthenon. Shoulders back, I sashayed across the North Slope to the temple of Athena Nike where I became transfixed in the midst of real columns. Spectacular. The grandeur of clean lines crafted with a superior vision was obvious in spite of the towering decay. It was particularly evident on this side of the Acropolis where the commoners had worshipped their gods directly. Less pomp. Magnificence in simplicity.
My wedding had been elaborate enough for Cinderella’s second coming. Awesome in every detail—yet missing the requisite groom.
I poked around the Parthenon until it was time to clean up and don a red off-the-shoulder number I wouldn’t have had the nerve to wear in Madison County. A fantastic night awaited. Greeks don’t need holidays; life itself is cause to celebrate.
The strains of lyres synthesized with disco beats along the labyrinth of streets of the Plaka, edging the foot of the Acropolis. Various languages mixed with the music. Whenever I heard English, I checked for hideous black socks.
“Yiasou!” The greeting came in stereo. The brothers appeared on either side of me, matching my confident stride.
“Yiasou,” I laughed back, caught up in being recognized half a world from home.
“We show you nice club for dancing, yes?”
“Yes,” I laughed again. The Plaka was the king of all block parties. Mother always said safety in numbers.
A couple of hours later, I was in trouble. The two brothers had morphed into a group of men buying me ouzo that turned milky white in water. I staved off the drinking by dancing, but their gyrating sweat closed in. Being the center of attention was having its drawbacks.
One courtyard over, I caught the craggy eyes of a man wearing a crewneck t-shirt under a short-sleeved Oxford. I prayed he was wearing black socks. I wasn’t sure he’d understood my plea before olive skin blocked my view.
Then I saw something not described in any of my guidebooks. A cloud of slivery white slowly rolled toward the street before u-turning back toward me. Corded hands tapped invisible drums, while Dr. Scholl’s kicked out at odd angles. The mass split up and wedged itself between me and my over-zealous suitors until I swayed alone with a very senior group of American tourists.
Score one for the geriatric ward.
I spent the next six days with Walter, Sally, Conrad, Arlene, and the rest of the group from Grand Rapids—Walter, the young one at 76, in charge. A different world for sure. We moved in s-l-o-w . . . m-o-t-i-o-n.
On a cruise from Athens to Hydra, Conrad sprinkled naps into his stories of faith and military service. In Delphi, Sally related her tale as if on a loop. Over and over I heard how she’d cared for her ill husband until he passed away.
Histories and sights and warm milk mingled.
I met them in the twilight of their years, not the apex—just like the extraordinary ruins surrounding us. Yet all the beauty, the majesty was theirs. Is theirs.
On our last day, we visited Hadrian Gate—the boundary between Old Athens and New, and it occurred to me that one day I would be old.
What would that look like?
So much depended on how I chose to build the structure to begin with.
That’s when I wondered what Lucas was doing.
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