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Ida & her Magic Camera - Part IV
by Nikos Laios
2016-05-07 09:30:54
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 Ida & her Magic Camera - Part IV

It had been two weeks since Stavros took his fishing boat out onto the seas, sailing the length and breadth of the Aegean and his thoughts were held in the depths of the liquid blue floating in solitude. He ran his hand over his two-week growth as he steadied the steering wheel in the cabin with his other hand. The seagulls flocked and circled above under the chalky blue sky, diving then hovering over the white flecked waves plucking morsels from the sea. The ocean heaved, seething its furrowed brows, green brine churning, droplets of sea spray splashing his face through the open portals as the stained metallic prow of the boat cleaved the foaming waves.

laios01_400_02He turned the knob on the old tape deck and turned the volume up on Satie's 'Gnossienne' compositions evoking images of the ancient dancing ladies of Knossos. Lyrical and haunting impressionist musical notes falling from the piano like limpid, lucid drops of water splashing into the deep blue waves, falling down into the depths to Poseidon's cave like trailing glass-like bubbles. He revelled in the majesty of the ocean, at the mystical power of the sea that has captivated seafaring Greeks for Millennia, and that also captivated his imagination as a boy from the moment he had read the Odyssey. As the rumbling, rolling salty waves scrolled under the hull, swelling over the deck; the prow rising and then deeply plunging slowly into the flowing currents and swells. Stavros imagined that when his time comes, that he would like to die on the ocean and be tossed into the sea for the whispering currents to pick his bones gleaming white; to rise and fall with the waves like all the other Mariners whose bones are resting in the ocean's keep.

He had filled his boat with fish and was on his way back to Thessaloniki, he could see the white tower in the distance as his boat chugged onwards to the harbour. When he arrived, he moored his boat at the docks, emptied the hold at the local fish markets and decided to head straight for the Iguana Cafe as he was hungry; hungry for a plate of steak and chips, and a game of chess with Father Achilles if he was there. A gust of wind blew and shook a nearby tree and several green leaves flew off the boughs like a flock of birds in a swirl falling slowly to the cobblestones. Stavros captured these small magical, ephemeral moments and stored them up in his memory, for this is what his vocation as a fisherman had taught him; that in life there is no destination and to believe so deprives one of these small existential baubles. Those moments of collected lyrical experiences that enrich life, for in the end Stavros found that the journey itself is the destination. He liked walking through the streets of Thessaloniki where his training as an archaeologist enabled him to see the fossilised pre-existing urban architecture in the current city, for Thessaloniki has been in continuous habitation since its founding in the ancient times. The blood of his ancestors flowed in his veins stretching right back to the population of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, with that most famous of Greek warrior kings - Alexander the Great  - as its leader,  member of the Argead clan and Captain-General of Greece.  He took the long detour home through the city; past the Arch of Galerius, the ancient Agora, the Rotunda and through the labyrinthine streets towards the southern end of Thessaloniki harbour, to the Ladadika, to his neighbourhood.

He found Freedom square opening up before him and he walked on right past the fountain and stood in the doorway of the Iguana Cafe, then walked on into its rustic glow. He scanned the cafe and found all the familiar faces there; Joubert behind the bar playing an old Sinatra record with the crooning notes of 'My Funny Valentine' floating over everyone, and in the corner he saw Father Achilles with Professor Caruso playing chess: 'greetings Father Achilles,' he said smiling.

'Look what the cat brought in....greetings my boy, greetings,' answered Father Achilles.

'Good to see you father.'

'Looks like you've been out to sea for a while my boy,' said Father Achilles as he studied his eyes, so alive and wild, and filled with energy.

Father Achilles gestured to Professor Caruso sitting across from him: 'aah yes, we’re having a little game of Chess here.'

'Don't let me interrupt you father, I need to order something first from the kitchen,' said Stavros.

Stavros motioned over to Joubert, ordered a plate of steak and chips as he sipped a schooner of beer that had been brought over to him and silently studied them. Caruso sat with arms on the table and hands forming a steeple as he considered his next move. He had only met the fellow a few times through Father Achilles and had talked with him a few times and had summed him up and frankly had no time for him. Caruso was in his late 50's, always wore a scarf wrapped around his neck and his scalp was covered with a comb over. He had been a professor of philosophy in a northern Italian university, but had lost his position due to his rabid Christian religious beliefs which clashed with his academic objectivity and had now settled into a casual teaching position in Thessaloniki. The plate of steak and chips arrived and Stavros ripped into the food with relish as he listened in on the conversation between Father Achilles and Caruso.

'Yes, I agree with you Caruso, the EU is in a fine mess, a fine mess indeed, but I'm not sure if what you propose is feasible,' said Father Achilles.

'Look here Father, what we need is more of Europe, not less, we need to be faithful to the vision of the fathers of the European project,' answered Caruso.

'What the hell are you talking about my good fellow? What vision and who are these fathers of the European project? You miss the point completely, the EU is a glorified economic trading club that got out of hand and took itself too seriously, and its leaders in Brussels now harbour aspirations of grandeur via the political union of Europe. It will never happen...and this business about 'fathers of the European project' ...Caruso, there are no fathers...it was just a project hatched by the allies after World War Two and then actualised by the French and Germans to protect their interests and  resurrect a warped version of the Holy Roman Empire. While in the meantime, all the everyday common people of Europe have been fooled and are suffering for it, with Madame Merkel pushing their Germanic austerity on everyone; causing untold suffering and misery ,' answered Father Achilles.

'So you're telling me that Greece would be better off leaving the EU and reverting back to the Drachma? Asked Caruso.

'....well, I have to tell you my good fellow, that before the Euro and the EU, things were much better in Greece frankly, the state and people managed much better, people were much more humble in their aspirations and their needs, so yes, I think Greece would be much better off and should leave this cursed Union. Where twenty eight nations with different kinds of economies and capabilities are all tied up into the one straight jacket of a single currency called the Euro? Absolutely ridiculous my dear fellow! All economists outside of the EU laugh at us in that each nation has given away their tools and economic levers. In effect, tying their own arms behind their backs, while making the cost of German goods cheaper to export to the poor indebted EU nations, with Germany on the other hand asking these same nations - after having bought German goods - to submit to austerity measures, thereby killing demand and economic growth!' said Father Achilles.

Caruso rubbed his face as he considered what Father Achilles said and also his next move, while Stavros had eaten his steak, most of the chips and was mopping his plate up with a hunk of sourdough bread. Stavros listened in on their conversation, which mingled with the laughter of the scattered crowd in the Iguana and the savoury vying aromas and flavours; veal parmigiana, French onion soup and spinach pie that were being brought out to the tables around him. It was late afternoon and Father Achilles and Caruso continued to talk on about religion, identity, politics illusions, and on each point Caruso was getting hammered by Father Achilles. Caruso believed that religion and a European identity were inseparable, that religion should be at the central core of the European project and vehement attacked anyone that dared questioned religion, and was especially protective of the Old Testament. Stavros was nearly finished eating and was slightly tired and wanted to head home for a nap before going out on the town at night, and listed to the last remnants of the conversation.

laios02_400_01'My dear fellow,' said Father Achilles; as a priest myself, I value my religion highly of course, otherwise I wouldn't have become a priest. But whether a person chooses to believe that Jesus was just a man and a prophet instead of a god, or whether another person on the other hand chooses to believe that he was a god....big deal my good fellow! Religion is a personal choice my friend, and let's be frank about something about the Old Testament...a load of rubbish in my opinion...the world made in seven days...Noah...really? Do you think anyone believes these Jewish myths seriously? We priests frankly put up with this rubbish as its required liturgy, but the good stuff my friend, the marrow is the New Testament. We are slowly outgrowing our usefulness and one day, we will be like the priests and priestesses of Apollo, we will fade away because man will not need to believe anymore. But in the meantime, people need a structure of some faith, religion or illusion if you like, to dispel their inner fear of floating in a black meaningless universe. If that's the purpose we serve, then so be it my good fellow, and secularism is just the growing confidence of man starting to believe in himself and rightly so. Remember Caruso...Christianity was never meant to be taken literally, the Gnostics had it right after all, but after Nicaea, we became nothing but a ridiculous myth. Jesus, Zeus, Apollo, Buda, it's all the same. Remember this bible saying, 'The Kingdom of God is within you?' Father Achilles jabbed at his heart as he said this and laughed heartily at Caruso who stared wide-eyed in horror at him.

Stavros wiped his face, got up and slapped Father Achilles on the back, looked at Caruso and said: 'God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?'

'Nietzsche, very good lad,' said Father Achilles.

'Listen here Caruso, man is becoming god and soon will have no need of any others. So if people want to believe in and cling to Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, Apollo or Jesus in the meantime, let them.....that's their free choice. As a Greek I like the traditions of the Greek Church and attend the major festivals and find solace in Byzantine chanting, but ask me to believe in outlandish Jewish myths? Not on your life!’ Said Stavros. He looked through the window and pointed to Mount Olympus: 'every nation has its own myths to believe in Caruso, and we Greeks have our own myths,' Stavros said. He slapped down twenty Euros on the table and walked out and headed home for a nap before the night's revelry; he had two weeks of sea salt and the smell of fish guts to wash off from himself but first had to call the gang to confirm, and first called Ida who confirmed where and when they should meet.

'Yes darling, at Club Elysium at ten o'clock? perfect my dear Stavros, and you advised Joubert? Yes, yes, see you all then,' as Ida pressed the end call button on her mobile phone and threw it on her mauve couch. It was late afternoon and she also decided to take a nap so that she would be fresh for later in the night; she closed the blinds and fell backwards into the couch as she listened to a Bob Marley cd playing from her micro stereo system. She had a rather disturbing solemn week and hoped that a sweet nap and a good night out would make her forget about her cares for at least one night.

The day fell and the stars rose and Joubert, Stavros and Ida all slept well and were refreshed and they planned to go to Club Elysium which was located four doors down from the Iguana Cafe. They Met at the Iguana and headed off down a small side alleyway next to the Iguana and turned right at into a rear laneway behind the shopfronts and walked to Club Elysium. Stavros wore black pants, a tight Nautica polo shirt and his silver Longines watch with some hair gel glistening in his spiked ginger coloured hair, while Ida wore her favourite cocktail dress; a Givenchy black dress with a swirl of silver sequins, while Joubert wore his Levis, red t-shirt with an image of the Rolling Stones emblazoned on it, and his black beret. Externally, Club Elysium was a nondescript place with portals for windows and steel doors back and front and entering the club was a different experience.

They swung the door open, paid the cover charge and entered a deep room with another floor located in the corner on a slightly lower level. The room was shaped like an underwater cave, with mock-stonework and stucco finished walls washed in a deep blue; and into the walls were embedded sea shells of different shapes and sizes all luminous with glow-in-the dark paint: yellows, greens, blues, reds and pinks. While fishing nets hung from the ceiling, as anchors and rusted steel mechanical parts were randomly placed around the room, with neon signs advertising different alcohol drinks: Pernod, Absolut, Heineken with the aroma of oriental incense wafting through the room. The whole room vibrated with the heavy beats the DJ was playing; New Order's song 'Blue Monday' as the crowd danced in a mesmerising trance, heaving like a wave up and down. Stavros, Ida and Joubert got to the bar as they heard a particular line of the song's lyrics: '....I see a ship in the harbour, I can and shall obey.....' They had several drinks, and several more drinks and danced with madness on the dance floor all together all night under the flashing laser lights, pumping music, sweating masses and oriental incense. They were all there together to let the cares of the outside world wash away cathartically, shed their troubles like dried caterpillar skins; cleansed by the baptism of music,  energy, and by each other's company. The revelling was epic and Dionysian in nature; they popped some ecstasy and snorted lines of coke and danced with an eternal smile as the coloured lights washed their faces in innocence. Through the ritual of dance, they cleansed themselves, cleansed their cares and troubles of Europe away for that one night. A few hours had passed and Ida rubbed her temple and needed to go outside for a brief walk and asked Stavros to accompany her.

The stepped out from the rear door, turned left and walked up the rear laneway and then turned left again into the side alleyway of the Iguana Cafe. Ida lit a cigarette and blew a jet of smoke up into the air as she looked up at the stars poking through the clouds, and the tears rolled down her cheeks. Stavros saw this and wiped the tears with his fingers: 'O Stavros, it's all messed up, it's all gone to shit,' exclaimed Ida.

Stavros asked tenderly: '....what's the matter....what's happened?'

Ida's bottom lip trembled a little as the tears trickled down her cheeks: 'it's all gone, all gone....'

'What's gone?' Asked Stavros as he caressed her left cheek.

'My father, he's bankrupt, he's lost it all. Overextended himself and the debts kept piling up, and pilling up, and the spending kept piling up. The houses, the money, the apartment I'm staying in, all gone, all gone. I have to vacate the apartment in one month.....o Stavros, and my father...my father shot himself. Placed a revolver in his mouth and blew his brains out....he committed suicide the damned fool. It happened while you were away, and I waited to tell you in person. He couldn't stand the shame Stavros, he's become another statistic and he's left me behind all alone in this world...all alone....my god Stavros,'  She said, as she heaved and cried deeply, burying her head on Stavros's shoulder.

A tear welled up in Stavros's eye as he enveloped her in his arms and squeezed her tightly wishing he could bear the pain for her. He held and comforted her, giving her hairline a kiss, then her left cheek, then her right cheek as his hand caressed her luscious hips; running over the curves of her body. As he inhaled the scent of her skin and flowing golden hair, the beads of sweat and tears trickling down her neckline to her breasts. It started to sprinkle and Stavros said: 'we'd better go inside as its starting to rain and you'll get wet.'

'I'm already wet,' whispered Ida, as she grabbed him and kissed him passionately wrapped in his embrace; her conflicting emotions inducing powerful feelings within her. The wind caressing hair as a wave of goose bumps erupted down to the small of her lower back and down to her peach flavoured cheeks. Stavros responded and grabbed Ida fiercely, as she in turn grabbed at his pants with her right hand squeezing and massaging his cock through his pants. Ida then turned around faced the alleyway wall, hitched up her short dress over her ass,  as Stavros unzipped himself and fucked her from behind with deep, slow strokes, as she steadied herself against the wall with her left hand and arched her back to receive more of him. She bit her bottom lip hard and small drops of blood stained her lips, as she pulled her top down and let her firm breasts spill out and mashed them with her right hand, and pinched her erect nipples. At that moment, Ida and Stavros needed each other, needed their raw humanity. She needed to feel alive again, and to feel real and wake from the numbing stupor she had been in these past ten years; and he needed to lose himself in the warmth of authentic emotion again as it had been several years since his fiancé had died, and needed to open up that part of his heart to feel complete again.  They finished and held each other warmly and tenderly huddled in the dark alleyway against the wall of the Iguana Cafe, and Ida asked meekly: 'what will happen to me now?'

'You're not alone Ida, you have me, and our friends and we are your family now and will be there for you always. Now that you have shed your illusions, you will find your true self again I think, the  young innocent Ida that I once knew and once you start to shed your dead skin, you'll start to live a more authentic and satisfying life. When you open your heart, then you will see the world more deeply than you ever have before' said Stavros.

'.....do you promise? Asked Ida.

'Yes Ida, always,' said Stavros as the rain fell down, and they heard through the open window of the Cafe the voice of Father Achilles shout: 'checkmate!' As he was still up playing chess with Caruso, and Stavros and Ida both laughed as they held each other tenderly in the rain.



Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV

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