On Trust or at Emplisi Beach

 

I was told there’s a beach on the other side of the hill. I walk up and down the main road looking for the bakery that marks the turn to the beach, asking occasional strangers for directions – all but last directing me in the opposite direction, which I put down to my failure to explain what I wanted either in Greek or in Italian – the languages those passers by happened to speak. After some 20 minutes of going back and forth I walk up a private road and chance upon a man who points me in the opposite direction to the one I was heading. His English is perfect, I trust no misunderstanding can occur this time. And I am right to do so. In a few minutes I see a big sign to a bakery, fumbling in my pocket I discover that I only have one euro on me – hardly enough to buy a pastry which I intended to do, so I walk past following the sign to the Emplisi beach – 400 m down the road. And a beautiful road it is, spiraling down, framed with lavish pine, olive and red magic berry trees. Soon in between the trees the view of the bay emerges, with a stunning white pebbled beach, and a dazzlingly white sanded bottom of the sea, the fluorescent waters radiating back the sunshine. I stop for a minute to take in the divinity of the view.

 

Down there, a few cars parked at the entrance, hidden away by the dense wall of trees, a few beach dwellers and a little bar at a distance – producing some rock music vibes. Even the music does not distort the beauty of this place, quietly rocking the solid rocks framing the bay. I stop appraisingly, to choose where to locate myself, away from the scarce swimmers. Yet, before I spot my place, I spot something unusual in the water – it is crystal clear, and nothing can be concealed here. The ‘thing’ I spot is a big red brown squid. I watch him and wonder if he’s alive as he’s right at the water edge and seems motionless, but then I see him flapping his fins and dipping in the sand as the lapping sea brings him closer to the shore. People start gathering around. They are trying to help him back into the sea. One woman attempts to push him back using her flap flop. But he only moves along the shore. I run up to the bar to ask for a plastic bag – I’ll fill it with water, let the squid into it, and take him out into the sea, where he belongs. There’s no one at the bar, I run back and people tell me that he’s left and he’s perfectly fine and fully alive. I walk along and put my towel and bag, remove my clothes, take the snorkel and plunge myself into the water. For a long moment I hover close to the shore, watching the water sparkling rainbows under me, reflecting on the smooth big pebbles. I then move on with big lazy strokes, my face down, immersed in the sea. Occasional fish passes by, colourful and plain, a peck of long needle fish, a peck of tiny little ones scurrying away as I approach. Water feels velvet, I now and then look up, absorbing the gorgeous view.

 

As I turn back, I see a big fish right below me – it’s quaint, and as it moves, I recognize my squid. He darts down to the bottom, digs into the sand for a second and surges up heading towards me, as if aiming to touch me, but just before doing so, he swirls aside, comes to the surface for a gasp of air and heads back down, back at my side. I slow down, my movement is quiet and languid. He’s now ahead of me and shortly disappears from my view, but soon he comes back, and is right next to me again. Every now and then he repeats that little ceremony: plunges down, touches the sand and surges up – his eyes staring into mine, two black beads – so expressive, his fins flapping, as if inviting me to stay. I hardly move, just float, watching him dance his little dance around, up and down he goes, yet staying all the while close to me. I stay as long as I can resist the cold and the goose bumps. I reluctantly say good bye to my squid and get out of water, spread myself on the warm smooth pebbles. I feel embraced – by the sun, this little magic bay and my beautiful new friend. I sit up to read some mantras, close my eyes, and mutter the words of gratitude. As I open my eyes, I see two snorkeled people close to the shore, one has a spear. I know it instantaneously. I shout – stop! I grasp my snorkel, run and throw myself into the water. I wave my hands and almost wrap the young man holding the spear with my body. It’s too late. I see that. I see my squid. I see the torn side. And as I’m trying to shield him away with my body, the man pierces him again. I gasp for air.

– Did you kill him?

– Yes. The man says, confused.

-Why?

– I spear-hunt.

Tears fill my eyes under the snorkel.  I get out of water, sobbing. A woman next to me asks if I’m alright – she was one of those who helped the squid back into the water.

I can’t answer, for I can’t breathe, again.


I feel the warmth of the pebbles under me, I see two black eye beads smiling at me, trusting me.

Emlisi