Walk along one of Crete`s boulevards and find Rethymnon`s Venetian city centre and harbour, with narrow streets surrounded by two or three store buildings painted in pastel hues. On top of the city rests “Φορτέτζα”, an ancient fortress squeezed on a large hill. Ma, Pa and I were about to discover its elegance, or rather its former elegance, by visiting the site. Ever since Ms. Beaver, my history teacher, told me and the rest of the senior year about Greek history, I was fascinated by its richness. I barely could hide my excitement when my parents announced they would take me to Crete for a holiday, to celebrate my graduation.
After a troubling history of occupations, re-building and destruction, “Φορτέτζα” consisted of a church, a mosque, some old store-rooms, a counciler`s house and the foundations of a few private houses – or what was left of it. Bricks, stones, dust, heat and remnants of buildings; Ma, Pa and I walked through it, wishing the sun would hide behind some cloud. But clouds were nowhere to be found.
The whole fortress area was enclosed by a wall. In the past, people had built small roofed rooms at every corner in the wall, large enough for one or two soldiers to watch out over the sea. By going in one of those rooms I found out they were air-conditioned! Three small holes for windows surrounded me, through which sea wind blew. The light was pleasantly dim after the dazzingly bright sunlight outside. I drew closer to one of them. It provided me a beautiful sight of blue sea and dark-brown rocks. Under the water surface, plants moved and corals danced. Cars passed by on the national road, that coiled itself around the hill foot.
And then I saw the man, waving, at me.
He was in a uniform but not one of the kind I knew from history class. He stood on two rocks, legs spread. The uniform fit tight around his slender body. It was wet, I could tell from the reflection, as was the man`s hair. He continued waving, frantically, as if something was wrong.
Now I should question whether he could see me. I stood behind a 30×10 cm window. From such a distance, he would be able to see nothing but a vanilla-coloured wall lined with small, shadowy lines and a few tiny gaps, as if a bricks were missing. Besides, the national road passed him in just a few meters. Wouldn’t it be much smarter to attract some driver`s attention?
I moved to the window to my right and looked at the spot from another angle. Only now the man was gone. Had he fallen into the water? Perhaps slipped on the rocks? I turned to the first window. There he was again. A couple of times I looked through both windows. Peering to the right one showed an oddly normal sight of the sea and cars passing on the road. The left one contained the man, a seemingly displaced figure but all the more appealing as he kept waving, desperately.
I lifted my hand and waved back.
A soft thud, in my head.
The man lowered his arms. Did he just smile?
Perhaps I should get Ma and Pa and show them the man.
I leaped out of the roofed room, entering what felt like an oven. The sun burnt on my skin and I tasted the crispy smell of sand. I looked around. Of course parents disappear into nowhere, like children when they are little and wander off, following their curiosity. Shouting would not help. It was way too hot for that and Ma and Pa probably went to the other side of the fortress, as did all the other tourists because I saw none.
I entered the roofed room again. Wind, not cold but at least cooler than it was outside, streamed aside me. My gaze darted around, through the left window, but I could not find the man. I tried the right window. He was not there either.
Unexpectedly I heard a shuffling noise behind me. I turned.
There stood the man.
He was exactly my height, but a little broader. Muscled, but by no means fat. Droples of water leaked from his black, curly hair and fell apart on his shoulders or the ground. He was shaven, his jaws and cheeks still boyish; he could only be slightly older than me. His eyes were dark, but smiled. So did his lips, not confident, but happy and shy at the same time.
My breathing changed. I knew him. I must. Because my cheeks flushed and my heart pounded in my chest so heavily I feared it might detach from my body.
He stepped forward, his rib cage up and down and his arms reaching for me.
I knew him and I knew he was nice and tender and here for me.
His eyes asked permission for a kiss. My brain got confused, but my legs already moved. The man did not speak. Neither did I. He was gently and hungry at the same time. When his hands touched my ties, he frowned at the sight of my shorts.
I helped him unbutton them.
I woke from a deep sleep. Wind drifted in and out the window above my head and softly pulled my hair. As I was sitting on the floor, I jumped to my feet and peered through the left window. Just sea, cars, rocks. No man waving at me. I checked the right window. It showed the same view.
My shorts and T-shirt were on. At some places under them, touches still slumbered. A heavy, but safely feeling arm around my waist. It was not really there. Not anymore. Though I clearly remembered how just recently my bare back was pressed against the wall between the left and middle window.
Close by, I heard a familiar voice. Ma, talking to Pa.
I hesitated, but then called: ‘I’m here!’
My parents showed up within seconds, making their way up some artificial stairs. Sweat trickled down my father`s nose and forehead. Ma had wet spots under her armpits. They both looked a bit tired, but not at all worried. For how long had we been parted?
‘What is in here?’ Pa asked.
‘Just a nice view’, I heard myself say. ‘And wind.’
Pa pointed out to me how no foam drifted on the water. Ma thanked the wind for its existence. I just took in the sea-rock-wave sight while thinking hard about what had happened.
When I followed Ma and Pa outside, tourists crowded everywhere. From the corner of my eye I saw a sparrow, his wings spread onto the musty ground next to the roofed room, the small eyes dark but empty.