David had just completed school when he decided to take a break from his busy, bustling life in London and begin travelling the world. Being from a family of four, where his father worked at the country post-office and his mother was a teacher in kindergarten, he was the sort of guy who had done well in life so far. He was expected to support his family once he got himself a fancy job in mainland London. His sister was younger to him and was still in high school. David had taken up odd jobs from time to time during his schooling, sometimes, delivering pizzas and at other times bar-tending at local Irish pubs. He decided to invest all his savings into travelling for the next few weeks, as he knew, deep down, that travel was his only solace. Within no time, it was time for David to say goodbyes and leave for his solo-trip where he wished to find something that he was looking for. He still wasn’t sure what.
David reached Athens one sunny afternoon, and once reaching his hotel in Downtown Athens, he began chalking out his plans for the rest of the trip. The first day was uneventful, where David left for Monastiraki in the evening – It was the local Greek flea market of sorts – He roamed around the marketplace on foot, pausing here and there to listen to the local sellers, tasting kebabs and souvlakis and striking up conversations with complete strangers. This is what he loved about travel – He could be anyone – He could be anonymous – He could talk to strangers, listen to their stories, tell them his, but all the time knowing that this experience was momentary. There was something about this temporary experience that was maddeningly addictive to David, as though it meant, living this experience without commitments.
After his night out around town in Athens, David boarded the early morning ferry to make his way to Mykonos – The islands and the island life is what Greece is all about – And he was about to have one of the best times of his life.
He checked into a little shack-like hotel in Mykonos – The island itself was so small that it had only about thirty taxis in total – A total stark contrast from the concrete jungle that London was all about. The hotel was extremely cozy, and its cobbled steps led you right to the blue waters of the beach and the golden sands.
He met Arianna during lunch that day, and he knew the first time he saw her, that he would never be the same guy again.
Arianna lived in Mykonos, a small island in Greece, also known for its crazy parties and beautiful beaches. She had lived here all her life – Her parents, who owned a little eatery in the main Mykonos town, saved up some money for Arianna’s studies. But Arianna was a smart and vivacious girl, and sometimes, she wondered if Mykonos was too small a place to hold her dreams. She wanted to be a fashion designer, and being in a town that held hundred odd families, most of whom archaic, understood little about fashion or design. Therefore, to put her dreams into perspective, Arianna decided that she would have to go to Milan and study fashion, for now, all she knew about fashion designing was through the old magazines that she would save from the trash in the hotel. Arianna worked in the shack full-time to save money and apply for school in Milan.
When David walked up to the bar to have a quick lunch, Arianna was busy tending to another customer. She finished with them and approached David. Even though she had met a lot of tourists in her life, having lived in a town that run only on tourism, there was something different about this tourist, she thought. Perhaps, it was David’s good looks, or his mischievous smile or maybe it was the way he winked at her while he said hello.
“Hi, what can I get you?” – Arianna said, a little intimidated.
“Hello – I would like some grilled salmon with sides of veggies and a glass of wine, please.” – said David, unable to look away from Arianna’s doe eyes.
Arianna was responsible for manning the entire bar, which meant that, she would take orders and custom make the fresh food all by herself. In a small shack like this, they liked keeping things simple and did not believe in overcrowding the property with extra staff.
David sipped on his glass of wine and waited for his food. It did take more than fifteen minutes before the food was served. By this time, it was almost four in the afternoon and most of the other guests had left the bar.
“The fish is so fresh – It’s perfect, thank you.” – said David, unable to think of anything else to say.
Arianna smiled, and asked, “So, what plans do you have for the evening?”
“I was thinking of getting out of the hotel and maybe go to the beaches – I have heard that Paradise Beach is quite fun.”
Arianna agreed, a little taken by his Brit accent and despite herself, falling a bit for this stranger tourist.
David finished his lunch and went back to his room.
He partied all evening at the beach while Arianna, as usual, stayed behind the counter of her bar, sometimes mixing Cosmopolitans and at other times, chatting away with the regular guests.
When David returned, it was sort of late. He asked for a drink and sat at the very edge of the deck from where you could see the entire island of Mykonos – By night, it looked even more beautiful, with little bulbs shimmering across the terrain, where tourists sit in quiet, quaint little restaurants, sipping on wine and gorging on local fresh produce.
Arianna walked up to him, and stood there – It took a while for David to realize her presence. And then, as if, they knew each other from a very long time, they began talking. It was as if Arianna was in some old memory, something that David could not recollect, yet he knew that she had existed in his past. He felt a sense of déjà vu. He began telling her all about his life, his family, his city, the places he has been to and the things that he has experienced. In turn, she told him all about growing up in a small town, how school was different than what he had described, about her big dreams to learn fashion and about the fact that he was the first tourist she had talked so much to.
They did not stop as the night drew in – It felt electric, karmic even, to talk to each other, to know each other as much as possible, for they knew that this was momentary – And David, who loved the temporary-ness of such experiences, immediately began hoping that this would last longer. Amidst the stars that had scattered the blue night sky, they fell in love – They kissed and made love – Their attraction was palpable. They knew they had a deep connection. Even while Arianna lay in David’s arms in his room, she thought to herself – Could she go back to the UK with him? Would he ask her?
They slept till wee hours of the morning, until Arianna had to leave and take breakfast orders. She left him sleeping and went out to get coffee. And just as the pot of coffee began brewing and filling the morning air with its roasted aroma, she left.
She called in sick that day. And left for the day.
David left Mykonos that afternoon, on his way to Santorini, after frantically looking for Arianna for hours at end, if not to ask her to come with him, but maybe, just to say goodbye.
Five years had passed. David now worked as the Business Development Manager at an investments firm in London. He got married only last year. He met his wife while completing his masters at university. They looked great together, complementing each other at every step of the way. When his wife, Jessica asked him to take her to Greece one evening, he flinched a little. Even though years had passed by, David had not forgotten that forlorn night at Mykonos – There was some sort of inexplicable enigma that he felt towards that night, something that was probably once in a lifetime – It was one of those things that felt better in your fantasies, and somehow the unreal factor of the experience made it even more sought after.
Despite his attitude, Jessica booked their tickets that summer for Greece. Once again, David roamed the streets of Monastiraki, just like he had five years back, this time with his wife. Just like last time, he took the ferry to Mykonos and walked through the same cobbled streets to reach the same hotel he had stayed years ago. He had booked the same hotel, because some part of him, still wanted to see Arianna.
Nothing had changed in this small island. Recession and world economy had nothing to do with this picturesque place. It was as if the fast-paced theorems of the outside world had been unable to impregnate the walls of this place and the lives of these people.
David put his things away into their room, as Jessica began unpacking her luggage to look for her swimsuit. It was a beautiful day to be spent outside by the beach near the bar. David left a little early, and reached the bar. There was no Arianna, instead, there was a gentle looking young boy serving the tables. He asked the boy about Arianna, describing her wavy hair and her large eyes, but no one seemed to know much. It was a long time ago, after all.
After lunch, as usual, David took Jessica to Paradise Beach, where they partied all night long. They slumped back to their hotel late at night and slept in the balcony under the starry night. Even the starry night had not changed.
Next morning, Jessica insisted on exploring the town and eating breakfast somewhere on the way. They took the bus to the town and got off at their spot. Jessica began looking at the souvenir shops as David picked up some sandwiches.
They entered a local grocery shop when Jessica complained of getting thirsty. She wanted to have some fresh fruit juices, as they explored around.
As David began paying for the purchases and looking for change in his wallet, he found himself surrounded by a familiar aroma, the scent of an unknown variety that had dominated his dreams for the last five years.
He looked up.
There was Arianna. Beautiful as ever, vivacious and breathtaking.
She looked at him, surprised at first, the expression in her face changing to elation.
And then the elation changed into something more. They felt the connection they had hidden away for all these years insurmountable – Arianna’s eyes were moist.
Everything was exactly the same.
But something was different this time.
As David walked towards Arianna with his wife, Arianna walked towards them with his four year old daughter.