March 25: Spring Break
Why didn’t anyone tell me Anna Karenina dies? She actually throws herself onto train tracks, too. That is seriously messed up. And really not helping matters right now.
It’s just like me to pick pring break for the onset of severe, acute depression. The enormity of what has transpired in the last week hit me full-throttle on the plane ride down here. Nikki thinks I’m a traitor. Jeremy thinks I’m a tease and a user. Luke thinks I’m self-absorbed. And right now, I’m pretty sure I accede with all three of them.
So just because I’m at the beach doesn’t mean I’m feeling particularly buoyant. I have spent my first three days here sleeping, watching TV, and laying out by the pool with my book. At around noon each day, groups of college kids, mainly guys, start coming by. They boisterously yell back and forth. I feel them looking at me, but they never approach. I’m hoping this can be ascribed to the depressed vibe I’m giving off, as opposed to me just being straight-up butt ugly.
My parents check on me, to give me reassuring pats. They take me out to dinner and grill me about why I’m so sullen. But talking about it just makes it worse, so I don’t. I’ve cried a handful of times, but for the most part I’m just numb. Being reclusive is weird like that. After a while, when no one can hear you cry, you just dry up. Last night, I finished reading Anna Karenina. Aside from being ticked off at the frustrating ending, I decided that the story is a decent metaphor for how I feel—like I’m sliding down a long slope, powerless, toward some unforeseen tragedy.
This morning, however, I woke up and the cloud had lifted somewhat. I stopped fixating on the friends I’d estranged. I got up, took a shower and put on my bathing suit. I went down to the pool again, but this time I went without a book, hoping, for the first time in days, to interact with the world. Unfortunately, it was only half-past-seven, so I was the only one there except a portly old man who was cleaning the pool.
I watched him sweep a long pole across the surface of the water, whistling to himself. For most people (myself included), this would be the most boring no-brainer of a job you could ever imagine. But this guy did it with such élan—skipping around the pool’s perimeter, smiling even as he cleaned the gook from the drains with his bare hands. I had never seen such a commendable attitude. I was sure that, if you pried, this guy, like the rest of us, could find reasons to despair. He just chose not to. It reminded me of a quote I’d once read by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “If you’re a street sweeper, be the Michelangelo of street sweepers.”
After a bit, the man walked up to me. I thought I’d been watching him clandestinely, without him noticing, but I should’ve known better. He was the type who saw things.
“Excuse if I am nosy, miss,” he said in broken English. “And please don’t take the offense . . .”
I smiled an easy smile to let him know I wouldn’t.
“But can you say how it is that such a beautiful young woman is down here all alone?”
I know. Sounds like a trite Dirty Old Man line. But there was something about his delivery, his whole bearing, which simply didn’t make it seem that way. “You’re sweet,” I said. I was even blushing a little.
“No, really, I mean it. Where I come from, a young woman like you would be swarmed.”
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“I am from Greece.” He said it with such pride. “A little village, in the south part. If you were there, I tell you, you would not walk ten feet without guys coming . . . from everywhere!” He laughed a few happy snorts.
“That sounds nice,” I said.
“Yes. But really, this I don’t understand. What is wrong with American men? Where are they?”
“Asleep, I guess. It’s pretty early.”
“But that is not excuse! I have seen you here before, in the day, and where are they?”
I shrugged. He shrugged.
“I cannot understand,” he said.
“To be honest, I don’t think it’s entirely their fault. I’m kind of alone by choice.”
“Oh,” he said, stunned. “I see. But why?”
“Sometimes guys are more trouble than they’re worth,” I said.
“Oh, no, no . . .” He started waving his hands around, as if swatting at an invisible bee. “This will not do. This is not life.”
“You read, yes? You are reader?”
“I will tell you something from my favorite book. You have heard of the Zorba the Greek, by Kazantzakis?”
“I think so.”
“In that book, he writes something that I don’t forget . . .” He took a step back and raised two fingers in front of his face, like a man about to say something noteworthy. “He says, ‘To live. Do you know what that means? To go out and look for trouble!’” He let out a big, bellowing laugh, then looked at me with his piercing brown eyes. “You understand?”
“I think so,” I said. “Yeah, I understand. I’m good at trouble.”
“That’s good. Remember that. It is something to know, okay?”
“Now I must go. I am not to talk to the swimmers. The boss, he knows how I love to talk. I will see you, yes? You will remember me?”
“Of course I will. How could I forget you?”
“That’s good. Everyone wants to be remembered.”
“What is your name?” I asked.
“I am Stavros. And you are called?”
“Ah, Francesca! What a beautiful name! A beautiful name for a beautiful girl to start off a beautiful day! Have the best day, Francesca! Go out and look for trouble!” With that, his closing line, Stavros grabbed his pool supplies and walked away.