Paranoia in the Cradle of Western Civilization (cont.)
“Let me introduce you to some of
the regulars,” the old man says as he ushers me to
The regulars include a female bartender
and two additional women who appear almost on cue
and surround me as I sit down on a bar stool. They
are in their late thirties and adorned in provocative
clothing and excessive makeup. The two women on my
side of the bar appear to have spent a little too
much time in a tanning salon and seem to be taking
an unusual interest in me.
“So you are here on vacation?” the
“No, actually I’m here on business,”
I begin lying again.
“Do you want to buy us a drink?”
“All of you?” The bartender nods
and the woman standing to my right puts her hand on
my shoulder, “No.”
Perhaps they misunderstood me, as
the bartender starts pouring three glasses of brandy.
She offers me a drink, which I decline with an insincere
“I don’t drink, actually.”
“So what is your business?”
“I’m a minister, in town for the
big ministers’ convention.”
“You’re pretty young to be a minister.”
The bartender asks what I have done with my time in
“Mostly, just praying.”
Several minutes of 50% fictitious
and 100% banal conversation pass. The ladies finish
“Do you want to buy us another drink?”
The no gets lost in translation,
and the three empty glasses are topped off with top-shelf
“I’m going to go now,” I mumble.
“Stay. Stay. Stay.” The bartender
grabs my wrist and sweetly reminds me that they have
only just began to get to know me. “Are you sure you
don’t want a drink?”
“Have a soda or a juice, free of
I reluctantly ask for a coke, and
the bartender reaches into a mini-fridge behind the
bar and pulls out a small, half-drunken generic cola
bottle and pours the contents into a lipstick smudged
highball glass over ice.
“So, do you have a girlfriend?”
“Actually I’m happily married, I
love my wife very much, and I miss her terribly.”
Hookers aren’t ones for subtly,
and I am met with a barrage of questions as to why
my fictitious wife has not accompanied me to Greece.
I begin to play with my glass out of anxiety.
“Do you get lonely at night?” the
woman with her hand on my shoulder purrs. I realize
that I have involuntarily begun to drink my soda.
As I continue to parry their intrusive questions with
vague answers from a moral high ground, the two hookers
begin to grow disinterested and petulant. I begin
to wildly imagine the possibilities of what other
than generic cola might be in my glass.
The old man yells something in Greek
to the two men at the table who proceed through a
door into the back room.
“I really have to go.”
“Alright,” the bartender says, “we
just need to settle your bill.”
“You said the coke was free.”
“You bought six drinks for us, that’s
63,000 Drachmas ($180 US).”
“First of all, I didn’t buy you
any drinks, and how is it 60,000 Drachma?”
The bartender pulls out a laminated
sheet listing the prices of their drinks. The first
15 types of brandy cost roughly $4 a glass. They were
drinking the last one on page, which cost $30 a glass.
“I actually left my wallet is at
the hotel,” which was a particularly egregious lie
as several hours earlier I had misunderstood the Greek
ATM and accidentally withdrawn close to $2000. I also
had on me: all my ATM and Credit Cards, a driver’s
license featuring my current address and my passport.
“Why don’t I come back tonight with
My new friend the bartender informed
me that they break the fingers of people like me.
It was clearly some kind of thinly veiled threat.
“I might have an ATM card on me.
Why don’t I hit an ATM and I’ll be right back?”
“I’m going with you,” sneered the
And we walked out the door and casually
proceeded down the stairs. When we reached the ground
I began to sprint wildly, ducking and shimmying through
alleyways, franticly trying to misdirect anyone who
might be in hot pursuit.
But no one was on my tail.
I’ll never know if I could have
out run the old man, as he never took chase. The last
thing I remember is him yelling that he knew where
I was staying, which he didn’t because I had lied
about that too.
After a half hour of what I deemed
to be sufficient evasive and protective maneuvers
(which included self-induced vomiting in a McDonald’s
bathroom), I found my way back to my hotel. I lay
in bed writing letters to my loved ones in the very
plausible event that there had been rat poison in
my cola. Mtv Europe blared in the background. I waited
for the poison to kick in, made my peace with God
and went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning
at 5 am, checked out of the hotel and took the earliest
possible ferry from Piraeus to the Greek Isles, where
I spent a lovely week on Mykonos wading in the Aegean
Sea, eating marvelous food and glancing over my shoulder
every five minutes.
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