May As Well Be Today
Yiannis snakes his way through the heaving taverna, and stands ready to take our orders.
“Busy night tonight?” I say.
“Is not bad for Friday. You know. There is music later. Dancing!” He smiles at Janey when he mentions the dancing.
Janey orders the fish, and I order the fish. In this restaurant, on this island, you’ll stray onto other foods and seldom be disappointed, but it really is a shame to miss out on the seafood. It’s a fishing village, after all. She has sardines most nights, and tonight no exception. I’m having mackerel.
Yiannis checks on how we’re doing with our wine, and tops me up from the bottle. He’d brought it over by way of greeting after we’d found a table and seated ourselves; a bottle of house white and two glasses in one hand, two menus in the other.
We’re regulars by now so he can take the liberty of pre-empting our drink order. The way it works in a place like this is that if you eat here every night for a week, you’re regular, and we’re nearing the end of our fortnight so we’re practically locals. We’d had the best of intentions to begin with, and discussed trying as many restaurants as possible over the course of our holiday, but this place got its hooks into us on the first night, and we never shook them out.
Our food arrives quicker than you’d expect, interrupting an energetic conversation we were having about a big news story from back home that’d managed to seep it’s way into our holiday bubble. My food is as delicious as I’d expected it to be, and Janey tells me that the sardines were as good as they had been before.
The second bottle of wine arrives as we eat, and we sit and chat and drink it over the slim and demolished remains of our meal. There is a pleasant buzz of conversation, in so many different languages, from the bustle of other customers around us, and it’s clear that everybody else is having as good a time as we are.
The restaurant sits at the top of a small bluff, overlooking a beach and the sea close by. You can hear the low rush of waves whenever there’s a lull in the sound of our fellow diners. This space is open to the night sky, ringed by lamps, and candles and lights at the tables and spread around keep us warmly lit. The sky is clear enough, and the moon so big, that you can almost imagine not needing the lamps.
The band is setting up, and there’s a chord of excitement coiling through the crowd. We already know that we won’t need dessert, but the staff here don’t mind you sitting and taking in the atmosphere, so we anticipate music and dancing.
We’ll be gone soon. Back home to our normal days. And on beyond that, our average, comfortable years playing out, frustrated and happy, with trips like this one to break up the time. If living in interesting times is a curse, we must not have upset anyone enough for it to happen, and I’m grateful for that.
From outside the ring of lights, and all this light within it, must look like an orange cluster of flame in the dark night. From where we’re sitting, it’s like a boundary, holding out the dark. We’re overlooking the water, stars and lights reflecting on the surface like we’re in space. We might as well be in space. This little flaming bubble of party, floating among the stars.
Janey smiles at me and I realise we’ll be dead soon. Probably not tomorrow, or even in ten years, but in the eyes of god or science it’ll be in a heartbeat. It could have happened yesterday. It may as well be today.
When the Buddhists say “life is suffering”, it isn’t what it sounds like. On a night like tonight, when I look at my wife, I’m at peace. Content. And when she smiles at me like she’s smiling at me now, I know she feels the same.
We sit and look out to sea, and what we see are stars.
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