I remembered this time of the year, 2011. I came back from England in April, for Easter. I was working there as a babysitter for a Lebanese family. At the end of my Easter holiday the family decided that my help isn’t needed anymore. So, there I was, unemployed in May. On my birthday I didn’t see anybody. Kept my phone closed. Everybody knew I was supposed to go back.
I learned the bad news and I told my brother about it. Actually, it’s improper said. He felt it. He asked me what’s wrong. I told him I won’t be going back to England. He told me to go have a barbeque with friends, anyway, it was already scheduled, and then we will sort it out. See, this is the thing about my brother. He feels when I’m going through something. And he helps by acting normal. This is his super-power. He lifts people up.
After the sad news I decided I won’t tell my family. I’m talking about my grandfather, who raised me. So I decide to stay out of reach in my mom’s apartment. She was in Spain anyway. So I hid there for almost a month without anybody knowing what I’m doing. Depressed and lonely. 24 years of age and I don’t know what’s going on with my life. No income, no support. Till one day when somebody saw me going to the supermarket and told my grandfather about it. Then I had to come clean.
I tried to find a job in Romania but everything was shit man. Salary will not cover rent and monthly expenses. So I found a job in Greece. I applied. They took me. Here I am, mid-july on the bus to Athens. Took the ferry to Crete. I was on the ferry looking at the stars and imagining a fairytale. Clear moon on the mediteranean sky. 8 hours with the ferry and I reached the port. Heraklion if I’m not wrong. From there I had instructions on how to reach the resort. I was supposed to be a waitress in a big resort in Crete Island.
I reached the port and looked for a bus. My last money went on the bus ticket. And guess what? The bus took me to the wrong place, even though I had a long conversation with the driver about my destination. It took me to the wrong place and, given the fact that I was in a completely different country, I decided to go back to where I arrived and take another bus, that will hopefully take me to my destination. Good plan, but, as I said, I spent al my money on the previous ticket. So here I am, where I started, but with no means of going further. You know what I did? I saw a bar, I went in and I invented a story on how I lost my money and I need somebody to help me find my way to the resort.
I still see the image in front of my eyes. I am at the bar chatting with a young bartender and she keeps on asking me how I lost my money. Between us is a jar on which is written “tips”. I glance at it while I’m talking to her and I feel she doesn’t believe me. Probably she thought I need money for drugs or something. Tears dance in my eyes, and she feels it. She opens the “tips” jar and gives me the money for my trip. You don’t know gratitude the way I know it. You don’t know how my heart exploded in that moment. Strangers. Strangers will sometimes do more than somebody you know for a lifetime.
I went on the bus again and this time I reached my destination. 5 pm in the afternoon. I was supposed to be there at 2pm. I tell reception why I’m there and they call the manager. A Spanish guy. Ricardo if my memory helps me. He takes me in his office and asks me about my trip. I tell him the reason I was late. He’s very calm and gentle. God bless him. He tells me about the schedule and all work related details. He tells me that my uniform is ready and that there’s a shuttle that will drop me to my accommodation, in a village nearby.
I thank him and I’m happy I made it. I’m ready to go. He stops me. He asks me if I’m hungry, if I have money for food. I am embarrassed, but yet I admit. My voice strangled. He looks at me, he opens a drawer, he takes 500 euros and gives it to me. I am reluctant. He tells me to take it for now and it will be deducted from my first salary. I told you, you don’t know gratitude the way I know it. You don’t appreciate people the way I do.
We shake hands and he sends me away with the driver to my accommodation. I have no words to thank him. The ride to the accommodation it’s a local tourist train. Like the toy ones. The sea on one side, mountain on the other. Beautiful Crete. We reach to the accommodation. A 2 or 3 storey building. I am on the ground floor with one of the chefs, Polina, a Greek girl. She was never home as I, later, found out.
I didn’t realize it at the moment, but, when you go out of the building, the sea it’s a few meters away. There’s a secluded little beach with rough sand. Old people go there. There’s fish in the water. The small ones, the type that eats your dead skin. The elders are in the water letting the fish do their job. Over a pile of rocks, on the left it’s a proper beach, with long chairs and umbrellas. A few pubs and music in the distance. But I prefer the secluded one. Also to the left, uphill, there’s a small church, where later on I went and cried my sorrows away.
Beautiful church, with glasses full of colours. I went there to pray, to think, to cry. To cry my loneliness away. I still remember those day. They’ll never leave me.
I started work. I was a waitress in the lobby bar. And, man, how many glasses I broke. We had the coolest manager. After duty he will give us shots of tequila and then he’ll take us to the city to dance. I made friends. People that I still remember, that sometimes I talk to. I advanced from the lobby bar to the mexican restaurant with Argiro. I don’t know how to write her name now, but she was like a mother to me. From there I went up even more and I reached the VIP restaurant. Because this is what I do, I get better. Except when I don’t fully understand what my job is. But when I know what I’m supposed to do, I’m the best.
In the VIP restaurant I met the funniest and the kindest chef. Manthos. He made my life easier only with his presence and his words. We talk from time to time. Manthos if you read this, you should know how grateful I am to meet you in this lifetime. You are one of the good ones.
Dimitri, the hotel chef, you should also know that I respect you so much. You’re the coolest. A team I will never forget.
Then the season ended. Rain started. I was one of the last to leave. Only a few guests in the hotel. They’ll close for the winter. But that summer was one of the best in my life. I can never forget the rides I was taking with the toy train to work. Sea on one side, mountain on the other. Shepherds and sheeps. Dogs guarding them. Exploring when I had some free time. Mesmerizing green and blue sea. Skinny dipping at night. Beach parties. Bike rides. Sangria, home made, on the balcony. You can never know the happiness I lived that summer.
You don’t know gratitude the way I know it.
It’s all love and late night writing shenanigans. Peace!