Midnight Train to Athens

Midnight Train to Athens

Athens Odeon
“…She was an actress on her way back to the Odeon….”
     A young Greek actress sits, in anguished solitude, at a bar on a midnight train home to Athens where she performs nightly at a Greek theater. The man is returning on a train from a conference where he was the main speaker. He too is lonely, his home in Athens as empty as his life.

It was a midsummer midnight on a bullet to Athens. The air was sticky. I loosened my tie and sipped slowly from a bottle of ouzo in seat 22 by a double window. Fading lights, like florescent fireflies, flickered past from distant villages as the train whisked through the dark countryside tied to its ribbon of steel.

The conference over, I was heading home, the limelight scattered now, just comet dust on the edge of silence. I could see the barren garden, the empty cottage, my solitary bed. The divorce had sent me spiraling into a maddening chaos that had blinded my heart to life’s joys. I tasted the pending loneliness in the ouzo fumes. I tossed the empty bottle aside lost in a subtle despair. My head spinning, I wished the train would speed on through this nightmare and release me somewhere in a borough of New York City, but I knew better.

It was in the midst of this midnight melodrama, that I saw her. She was moonlight on a Greek barstool. Her ring finger, minus the ring, stirred languorously a pink daiquiri in a shot glass. The Blue Nile three-stone diamond winked a sad tale quarantined beneath a Scotch tumbler 8 inches from her hand. Her eyes, lost in hot contemplation, bore traces of some ancient Greek tragedy yet to be discovered.

She rose and showed the conductor her ticket and then jabbed at the daiquiri with pointless attacks. She saw me staring. She quickly adjusted looking away. A bar clock chided her, the second hand clucking, clucking, clucking.  She looked at me again, this time driving recklessly without brakes, her stare cliff bound.

I trembled, wondering her intentions, then flagged her down and hitched a ride to the barstool beside her. The bartender winked. He slid another daiquiri across the marble top and waved off the cost.

She wore a black lace scoop neck dress that had my number in the lace. She was an actress on her way back to the Odeon where she performed nightly beneath the stare of the Parthenon. She spoke broken English; I spoke broken hearts.

She toyed with her pearl necklace. I leaned in slowly and touched my lips to her cheek. Her hands found me, reading the sorrow in my face I had hidden from the world.

My fingers followed the pearl trail. She sighed in Greek. She leaned forward her knees touching mine. “Se thelo,” she whispered as a tear trickled down her cheek. “I want you.” Pocketing the Blue Nile, she sucked the life out of the daiquiri, took my hand and led me like a lamb down the train’s corridor to her room and into a steamy midnight reverie that was Athens bound.

One of my stories in Teatime in Old Havana: Romantic Interludes in Exotic Places (Vol 1).

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