The Hunter for The Perfect

Posted: April 6, 2014 in memories, opinions

outside the workhouse walls of industrialized society
beyond the state-indoctrinated vassal mindset_
this wonderous gift_ the teeming experience of Life itself
is imbued with an awesome magic and mystery
that should be every human’s birthright

the rules of daily life have not changed out here_
human toil is still rewarded with food and shelter
we wake we sleep _ we laugh and cry _
our emotional entanglements continue
filling every thought and heart and waking hour _
what has gone is the profit-driven relentlessness_
the exhausting rigidity
which shrouds our wealth of all possibilities
and stifles the asynchronous spontaneity inherent to our nature

back then i was in the fifth or sixth year of single parenthood
a responsibility both halved and doubled_ simultaneously _
our lives bereft of pretty much everything a woman would give
and locked just then in Dickens’ best and worst of times _
my Anglo-American son unrecognised by my own country
his father unable to live or work in the US
and in an old Greek farmhouse a mile outside of town
where our lemon grove ran all the way down to the sea
we lived alone

working three jobs was not working for either of us _
as the weeks of winter ran on_ month past month
all the events of recent years
which had chased us to this time and place
were finally gathering together to crowd in on me _
till one evening when i’d put him to bed
and still unwashed unfed and in my work clothes_
i tiredly sat at my tall full-sized architect’s desk
leafing back through the starkness of blank page after page
in the diaries i had so far kept religiously
recording the years of his childhood and all our adventures

to this day i am certain that’s what did it_
i lay my head down on my folded arms over the diary and the desk
and sobbed uncontrollably for what felt like hours _
i hardly moved from that position till morning
and the whole night was so inconsolably dark and lonely
even remembering it now makes me wary of that same despair
returning this very night to haunt my desk again

do not question this _
how we awoke or what words we shared
how i prepared us both for another day _
all i remember is overwhelming hopelessness_
my deep sense that somewhere on our shared journey
i had completely lost my own way

outside_ as we climbed on the motorbike to ride to school
bright sunshine had begun melting the clouds away to herald the ‘halcyon days’
a window in mid winter which_ according to legend
the gods had granted to the alkiones
to settle their nests and lay their eggs on the cliff-sides
without fear of losing either to a winter’s ferociousness
flung at their fragile bodies with wind and waves

the pervasiveness of that sunlight
was set to change the day completely
but on that morning the darkness in my soul had not altered_
lost in the short goodbye i gave my son
lost to the world and to my self as well

instead of waiting in the little taxi boat
to be caught up in local passengers unwanted conversation_
i chose to sit alone on the windy deck of the car ferry _
my destination away from work and towards some kind of salvation
browsing the meagre English language offerings in the island bookshop

tourist spots of the Mediterranean
are laid out pretty much the same for winter as well as summer _
the uniform code for cafeterias is a variation on
single leg tables with shiny metallic surfaces
set out in almost regular patterns
populated by plastic chairs moulded in unnatural colours
often roofed over by canvas awnings _
between these rows of chairs and tables
and the cafes and storefronts behind them
runs a thoroughfare wide enough
for smart looking waiters carrying shoulder high trays
to negotiate their way through a mainstream of window-shoppers_
gawking from one souvenir trap to the next
holding up the pedestrian traffic
while they work out the value of the coins in their hands
and where they lost their companions or their passports

i looked out along the wide empty thoroughfare
as the brightness of that sunlight dazzled the metal tables
piercing its way through gaps between the wind tugged awnings _
i could see the stark difference between winter and summer
in the absence of all those people _
that deserted scene was just fine by me
as i entered the dimly lit bookstore

‘the proprietor’ is probably best nomenclature
for the old gentleman_ ever present behind the counter
tall bespectacled and balding_ always in a suit and a tie_
the most English looking Greek i’ve ever met _
he’d not have looked out of place either seated or standing in a commuter train!
over two summers i’d heard him respond
in four or five languages to tourist questions
but though i had tried in English & Greek i’d finally given up as ‘lost cause’
getting more than a terse Good Morning from him

so on this_ my darkest of days i did not bother at all _
turned my back on him
perused the covers of Time and Newsweek
leafed through the pages of Scientific American
glanced at the photos in National Geographic _
could not afford any of them on this visit
i could not give a damn for them either

there was nothing worth buying
no thing worth reading_ nothing to inspire _
no thing worth thinking about except my own dismal hopelessness
reflected back at me from the blurred converging sentences
the two dimensional faces in grainy photographs

“i discovered a new word last night”

i ask you_ in all the universe
is there a better lifeline you could think of
to cast out to a drowning poet?

he said it in English
and since i was the only one present he was speaking to me _
without any concious decision i looked round and walked towards his counter _
“a new word” he repeated_ as though he could not believe it himself
for the first time ever i saw his smile_  the wonder and mirth in his eyes

“τελειοΘυρας” he said_ now beaming with pleasure

he paused before saying the word ‘teleothiras’ again
almost an incantation
“do you know what it means?” he asked _
before i could answer he gestured with his hand
his upturned fingers and thumb closing together
in a French Italian expression for exquisite quality _
and probably the most Mediterranean thing i’d ever seen him do

“The Hunter for The Perfect” he almost whispered
he paused again_ waiting for the phrase to dawn on me _

as soon as it touched me it blossomed
a lotus flower surrounding itself with endlessly merging mandalas _
the Wheel of Life revolving between Darkness and Light
where the only True Path leads us on a search for answers
the only Purity of Heart Mind and Soul
measurable in our dedicated determination to search ever further!

The Hunter for The Perfect_ i heard myself say

i asked him to repeat the word so i could remember it
and all of a sudden he was talking enthusiastically_
fast words spilling out of him_ speaking like a natural Greek!
he came round the corner of the counter and took my arm
leading me towards the door
telling me he would soon be retiring
speaking about everything while i dazedly listened
unable to assimilate what was happening so abruptly _
outside the store he stopped and he seemed to realise my shock
he was locking the door but he looked at me and repeated_ “τελειοΘυρας

he took my hand and raised it up_ joined to his
“‘Πες το!” he said_ “Say it!”
as i repeated the word he began to lead me into traditional Greek dance
we moved together along the deserted thoroughfare_ dancing!

i say it to myself now as i remember the moment
under the awnings as we moved_ dappled and dazzled by shafts of light _
i think i said the word over and over
or maybe it was just repeating itself in my mind
and all the while he was laughing_ grinning like Pan
and stepping the steps of the dance_ encouraging me to do the same _
together_ out from from under the the shade of the awnings we danced_
into the bright and blinding sunlight we danced!
we danced

………we danced

the last time i ever saw him
he was smiling brightly and waving goodbye
half-hidden in the glaring clarity of that amazing sunlight _
i wandered away from the tables and chairs
towards the row of little taxi boats bobbing up and down at the quayside _
i didn’t mind waiting with others or talking
i had been given what i was so desperately looking for
girded with The Hunter for The Perfect_ what darkness could haunt me now ?

back on the mainland
i took the motorbike and waited in the church square for school to finish
cold in the winter breeze_ squinting from the sunlight_
under the plane trees still stripped of their leaves _
i found a twenty drachma coin in my pocket_ by itself it_ worthless
and i still had no idea what we would eat that night _
a young gypsy woman came begging so laughing i offered her the coin
told her she could probably do more with it than me _
a reaction she wasn’t used to_ i’m sure
she paused for a moment_ staring at me suspiciously
before taking everything i had to give

after school we took the rest of the day just for us_
in the evening we visited friends who lived a little distance along the beach
where we talked about hunting for the perfect
and we dined on the fish they had caught that day

  1. maik says:

    i want to dedicate this story
    to every artist i’ve ever known
    lost friends from my past_ the people around me now
    and the artists i still hope to meet

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