Sherri Moshman-Paganos

Sun Dappled Yellow

The waves were gentle in Idra, the sea turquoise and clear.

When they call her name, he kisses her, and she tastes his salty lips. The nurse, unsmiling in her brisk white uniform, leads her into an examining room. It smells like antiseptic. She wrinkles her nose. The window is open a crack, a hint of a breeze, no air conditioning. 

 “Now, off with your clothes and put this on,” the nurse says, tossing her a soft candy pink paper gown.  She piles her clothes on a chair behind a curtain and shivers, closes the window. “Lie down,” says the nurse, “and wait for the anesthesiologist.”

In Idra, she remembers, they spread their towel on the rocks and lay there, then descended the little ladder down to the tranquil sea.

The donkeys, tethered at the port, waited patiently to carry tourists’ luggage or boxes and supplies. They were led all over the island, weighted down with whatever needed carrying.

The door opens. “Now close your eyes, take deep breaths,” the anesthesiologist tells her. The cliffs looked down to the water, and the sun burned their faces on their walks around the island.

After the injection, the sea in its brilliant blue, gives way to the darkness of sleep, the sun dissolves to  heavens full of stars.

In the waiting room, no one made eye contact.  He was holding her hand. She released it, touched the back of his head where it was shaved for the Army. They looked into each others’ eyes. “It had to be,” he says. “It had to be,” she repeats, looks down. “But to happen on my birthday.” She shakes her head, tries to smile.

In Athens nearly two months. It’s his first leave from the Army. For three weeks he vanished, because she has no phone, and new soldiers are forbidden to take incoming calls. Even if she’d gone to the kiosk to one of the heavy red phones to put in a taliro or 5 cent piece, she couldn’t have talked to him. To get a phone in your house – you had to wait years and years.

She awakes groggy and angry hearing the nurse say “Deep breaths now.”  What had happened, flushing, scraping, who knows, as long as it’s now over and she can try to forget.

Those waves, Olympia’s Rooms to Let, just two streets up from the port. Olympia gave them the attic room with its view of both the port and the mountains.

“After you get dressed, I’ll give you instructions,” says the nurse, and fetches him from the waiting room so they listen together. “Take these pills now,” she says. “Anti bleeding. Morning and evening for two weeks. “Don’t be alarmed, they’ll turn your urine to bright yellow.”

Sun dappled yellow like the color of sponges from the Idra sponge divers.

In the taxi she leans her head on his shoulder.

“How about that doctor,” she said.

“What about him?”

“Didn’t I tell you, when he saw the positive test, he asked me, ‘do you know who the father is?’ I wanted to strangle him when he said that.”

“It doesn’t matter. He didn’t mean anything with that.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Shh, don’t talk, you need to rest.”

In her garcionera or studio apartment, he settles her on her sofa that turns into a bed and goes and buys her a tiropita. Her tears fall on the cheese pie.

He holds her. “You’ll be better.”

“With my bright yellow urine. Sun dappled yellow.”

“Not everyone can have such a color.” She manages a weak laugh. He rummages in his backpack. “For you, agapi mou. Happy birthday, my love.” He holds out a little box wrapped in tissue paper. Inside it’s a little silver necklace with two hearts.

“It’s beautiful.” She wipes her eyes.

It’s his last day of leave; he has to be back in Lamia that evening. He kisses her goodbye and gets a taxi to the bus station. On this warm summer night, she imagines him with the windows open on the bus as it passes through Attiki, past the Marathon reservoir, through cotton fields, he had described to her. She didn’t realize so much cotton grew here. Up to Lamia. An old tired town she pictures it, but not far from the sea. “When you visit in a couple of weeks,” he told her “we’ll go swimming.”

After he goes, a cramp hits her and she doubles up with pain. In her quiet world, she has a TV with orange trim, showing only black and white. The two government channels go off at midnight with the national anthem sung in the background as you imagine the blue and white of the Greek flag fluttering above the turquoise sea.

Dozing off, she dreams of violent waves below the rocks. She’s trying but she can’t reach the ladder. Fighting the waves, she is swimming all alone, under a yellow sky.

SHERRI MOSHMAN-PAGANOS is a poet and writer, and former educator, based in Athens Greece. She has had poetry included in the GW Review, SNReview and Remington Review among others. She publishes a monthly travel/culture blog and is the author of two memoirs: Step Lively: New York City Tales of Love and Change, and Miss I wish you a bed of roses: Teaching Secondary School English in Greece.

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