“The good old times, they say. When people were dinning under candle light, marrying once for ever after, had no mobile phones or computers. The good old times, when they had no antibiotics, vaccines, access to education, information. But I guess that’s not such a romantic thought now, is it?” he said, looking at Spinalonga approaching us, as the small ship was happily sailing, full of tourists. The tiny island floated on the zephyr sea of Crete. Small houses in the colour of sand, surrounded by a high wall. A fortress on the highest point, some pine trees too, breaking the monotony of the golden colour of dust. It looked like an abandoned resort, charming, quiet, exclusive. Difficult to grasp that it used to be the exile island of the damned.
“First an ancient fortress, protecting the Cretan cities from raids. Arabs, Venetians, Ottomans, they all claimed a piece of this land. After several Cretan revolts against the Ottomans, Crete became an independent state and was then reunited with Greece. When leper stroke in the Mediterranean, Spinalonga was turned into one of the biggest leper colony. It stayed open until the end of the 50’s. Can you imagine that, it was just fifty years ago.” Now he was talking to himself, not to me. I signed and looked around. People were coming closer to listen to his free history lecture. I hated it when he did that.
In the beginning it was charming, impressive. Oh, how much my baby knows, what a sophisticated extraordinary young man. Some months later I was thinking I might as well go have a drink alone with my tablet open on Wikipedia, instead of going out with him. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate a discussion on history, biology or politics. But he was lecturing all by himself or to his spontaneously created audiences of random curious people. I didn’t remember him starting a conversation with me not even once, never letting me express an opinion or a different view. I smiled awkwardly as a retired lady gently pushed me to come closer.
There we were, standing in the line for our tickets under the burning sun. “You know what, I think I am gonna seat down and get a coffee”, he said. “You go ahead and roam around like you like to, I’ve seen it already anyways”. Not waiting for an answer he just left me standing there, surprise and indignation painted all over my face. So typical of him to just bail on me like that, making it sound so normal.
I took my time and walked all over Spinalonga. The narrow destroyed streets, the low-ceiling houses. Small and well organised exhibitions of the island’s history, pictures of the leper community, the primitive medical equipment. The path passed through the village and then continued around the island. The fortifications, the abandoned buildings, the small church. All calm, all empty, save for the tourists that were posing in weird body postures now and then. I walked away from the crowds and climbed at the only hill of the island. The shadow of a tree. Blue horizons. Small tourist boats floating around. Pure joy.
I found him at the only café, next to island’s port. Blue tables, straw roof and chairs, ice tea. He was chatting with the owner’s wife, financial crisis and all, no political alternative, how the youth keeps leaving the country. He looked at me and smiled. “We are over” I said. Before he could utter a word, I turned my back and walked away, almost floating in the blue air, a huge weight off my shoulders. Free again.