So, some of you, it seems, would like to hear more about the soap operatic drama that was the Incident in Greece.
Back to the story. It’s not a story that I particularly enjoy telling. For one, it’s not the most pleasant thing to re-live. For another, it tends to provoke one of two reactions: that it can’t possibly be true (var., that I’ve undoubtedly exaggerated the story), or that it had to have been brought about by my own actions. So I tend to begin from a defensive position in relating the story, which makes me uncomfortable.
But my defensiveness is not just indignation at being doubted. I’m defensive about the story because the suggestions that the story might be exaggerated, or that it was somehow my fault that the incident occured, touch a nerve. Because I’ve asked myself those same questions over and over since it happened. From the moment I got on the plane out of Athens I’ve been asking myself whether what happened really happened, and whether I understood correctly what happened.
The rough details, as outlined in the comment that I appended to that post:
It’s really not all that interesting – I wasn’t snatched off the street or anything. It was just the result of some bad decisions. I’d met Creepy Creepopolous on a flight to Europe from Vancouver – tho’ he didn’t seem remotely creepy and anyway, I thought he was *gay,* I really did – and we hung out in Amsterdam for a while and then kept in touch over the following year. When I ended up between paying gigs the next summer, he said that he could get me a job on Naxos (where his family lived and ran a number of businesses, incuding the island radio station). When I got there, there was no job, my passport was taken from me and locked away in the same room as the telephone, and I acquired a thuggy Greek ‘bodyguard’ who got between me and any and all English-speaking persons. Creepy declared his love and spent days insisting that I would really be happy living on Naxos rather than in Barcelona and that I just needed to give it a chance and refused to let me a) contact anybody, and b) leave. The lock-picking, window-leaping escape I noted in the post; I’ll save the descriptives for another day. Nothing happened to Creepy that I know of: the Greek authorities weren’t interested in anything other than ensuring that a ‘tourist’ be able to get off the island; Interpol couldn’t really do anything without the co-operation of the Greeks. I was told that it was almost certainly a sex-trade slavery thing, but I really think that Creepy was just that – creepy. And lonely.
The facts are what they are – the false pretenses concerning the job (which were admitted to shortly after I arrived), the withholding of the passport and travellers checks and any and all means of communication with the off-island world, the bodyguard, etc. – and they all add up to BAD. I absolutely was held against my will. But it seems so fantastic and weird and unlikely that anytime I think of the story, I have to go through the facts like a checklist, just to make sure that it really happened the way that I thought it did.
The second issue – was it somehow my fault? – is trickier. This is, I’m told, a totally normal response to certain kinds of trauma. But still: I was barely 20 years old, trotting alone around Europe, heading off to the Greek islands for a phantom job on the word of some guy that I barely knew. (One note in my defence – I let everyone know where I was going and, on the advice of my parents, who were not at all keen on my adventures, I checked in at the Canadian consulate in Athens when I arrived to inform them that I was there. These actions later proved crucial.) But, again, I might have exercised more prudence. I know that I didn’t ‘ask for it,’ but didn’t I expose myself to the risk?
And. I suggested in my comments to the post that if Creepy really was infatuated with me in the creepiest way, I had no idea. But this is another thing that I have interrogated and re-interrogated over the years. Did I know? ‘Cause if I did, wasn’t it irresponsible of me to treat that so lightly? I’ve said that I thought that he was gay, and this is true: when we met – well before the age of the metrosexual – he was all ‘girl, I love your clothes!’ and ‘is that a BCBG skirt?’ and full of stories about how he had been working in a hair salon on Robson Street in Vancouver and full of compliments about the style of my hair (which, yes, still had the bangs, but this was the early nineties, people, so sue me.) No straight male of my acquaintance at that time could tell BCBG from GWG, nor would they ever say anything more about my hair than ‘grr, argh, pretty:’ noting that the BCBG skirt was really an Azzedine Alaia knock-off and that my hair had razored layers would have been unthinkable. So, I identified him as Safe Male. No Sexual Threat was virtually stamped across his forehead.
But, but… I knew that he was a big fan of mine and I liked that. His letters were always full of praise for how smart and cool and funny I was. I liked that because, hell, who wouldn’t, but I also liked that because I was really quite miserable at the time. I was infatuated with a beautiful Catalan boy who I knew, knew, was chronically unfaithful, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to end that relationship for once and for all. So, so banal, in retrospect, but at the time, so, so painful: there were countless lamentations – written and sobbed – of ‘why why why can’t he love only me?’ I knew that I should pack it in and move back to Canada and go back to school but I just couldn’t do it: my parents had just divorced and I was confused about what I wanted to do with my life and the only things defining me at that moment in time were my (crap crappy angsty) writing and that god-forsaken relationship (which was fueling the crap crappy writing. If Simone de Beauvoir could be all existential about love, then so could I.) So when this other person, Creepy-who-was-not-yet-creepy, this person who thought that I was fan-fucking-tastic and super-cool and just the smartest girl ever offered me an out – come to Greece! work on an island! make new friends! – I thought, yes. (And also? I’ll show that cheating lying boyfriend. Eat. my. dust.)
So I went. And when Creepy declared his love – confessing that he regularly laid roses on the westward point of the Temple that was said to be the place where Ariadne had, according to local mythology, committed suicide over the faithlessness of Theseus, and that he had placed them there, facing Spain, for me (ew, ew) – my thoughts were, in this exact order, complete with curses: you’re fucking kidding me; ew, lame; seriously?; ew, ew, ew. And then: well, at least someone fucking loves me. And finally: figures that it would be a psycho freak. (He’d already started being weird: I didn’t have the bodyguard yet, but he had already taken my passport, etc, and had locked the phone away. So we skipped the whole, um, that’s sweet, but I’m just not into you that way thing and went straight to are you fucking serious? and that’s when things got bad.)
Years later, I saw Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos at the Met, and when Zerbinetta performed her coloratura about how the only way to get over a man is to fall in love with another, I shuddered. I did go to Greece to get over Catalan Boy; did some inner part of me seek out being adored, to make that process easier? And if it did, did that put me at fault, in part, for the incident?
So it is that the whole thing came to represent a whole host of insecurities and issues that I wish I’d never had. Had I been a more together, self-assured girl, I used to tell myself, I would never have gone to Greece. Nor, not incidentally, would I have languished in that miserable relationship in Spain and tormented myself about perceived deficiencies in my lovability. And so it is that I don’t much like talking about it, and that I have never considered ‘writing’ about it in anything other than a personal journal. (Because, too, hello? Banal. The torments of romantic youth leading to High Drama? Been done.)
My prevailing thoughts about the whole thing now tend, not surprisingly, to the maternal. How do I spare my daughter from the insecurities that sometimes lead women to do silly things? Can I spare my daughter from those insecurities? My parents raised me well, and loved me well. A surplus of love throughout my life to that point was not enough to provided me with a bullet-proof self-esteem. I know, I know – no self-esteem is bullet-proof, nor should it be. Humility, fragility and vulnerability are necessary parts of a good person, and I want my daughter to be that. But I want to protect her, too, and provide her with the means to protect herself: there’s a part of me that wants to ensure that she has the toughest outer shell, so that she’ll never get her heart broken, get hurt, or – god forbid – feel unloved or unloveable. Again, however, I know that that’s not possible, nor really desirable.
So that, I suppose, will be the test of my motherhood, and, of course, of Husband’s fatherhood: providing all the love and nurture that are necessary to build a resilient shell; to create every opportunity for our daughter to be both soft and strong (gah, tissue commercial cueing up here…), for her to be both fully secure in love and yet open to the storm that love can be.
And to keep her off Naxos.
Love and be loved well, WonderBaby.
And kick the asses of all others.