This new series of posts are meant for those who take their SF&F reading seriously and do not want posts of a page at a time
Although I find it relatively easy to love people, it took me a long time before falling in love (at 20 years old, in 1988) for the first time, with Dominique. As is my nature, I fell head over heels, to the point of totally selfless adoration. Made all the classic mistakes, put her on a pedestal where she could not live. She left me about a year later for the first guy who told her how worthless she was...but let me start at the beginning.
I guess I was lucky to have reached the age of working at a time when there were big changes, as the markets in Europe, where I lived, became more competitive. Until then, the only way for a young person to climb up the corporate ladder was to wait for someone else to move up or die. Companies believed only experience and age counted and ignored such things as talent and ingenuity. Then in the seventies and eighties the policies changed. Now youth was seen as an asset. The fresh attitudes and the daring of the young was seen as the new way for companies, in all sectors, to grow faster than their competitors. Then the internet was born and it mainly became the province of the young. Programming became the new target for school leavers, each of them dreaming of writing a new program that would make them multi-millionaires, but, in the early years, relatively few who were artistically talented grabbed the opportunity to carve a niche of their own in a new market that would soon be desperate for them.
I had spent a large part of my latter childhood and adolescence in London. Luckily I developed a strong interest in computer graphic art, a natural extension of my love for sketching and painting. While in school I was a loner with few friends and no interest in sports. My fascination with painting led me to trying my hand at computer graphics and I discovered I love the freedom offered to my imagination, while also not being constricted by lack of funds for purchasing all the materials usually required for producing pieces of art. By the time my formal education ended I had already begun to make a bit of a name for myself among online amateur artists. I was also happy to help out the local small stores and businesses who wanted to have a site of their own, but could not afford the professional fees. I had thought I was being foolish and soft and did not tell my friends that I often did work for free.
Being ignorant of how the market works, I was surprised when I learnt that I am beginning to make a name for myself within the community and customers began to search me out. It was to be expected that a company created by young entrepreneurs would tempt me into joining them. They were small enough not to be rigid in their rules and I was mostly allowed to ‘do my own thing’. It was a wonderful environment for me to serve my apprenticeship, where I learnt some of the most important aspects of becoming an artist - how to look at my work with a critical eye and the self-discipline to reject what did not meet my own standards, even if I was in love with it.
Nearly three years after school, my only close friend Nicko, while visiting his family in Greece, showed some of my work to a friend of his father. Next thing I knew, I had a ticket with an all-expenses-paid trip. I met Mr Georgiades and we seemed to hit it off right away. Although of latter middle-age, his ideas were fresh and his dreams of creating a Greek multimedia company struck a chord in me. He did not patronise me and neither did he talk like a businessman, his enthusiasm for his projects captivating me. I loved the idea of being part of a new creation, seeing a dream brought into reality. Next thing I knew I was living and working in Athens.
Nicko, coming from a wealthy family, steered me into choosing an apartment close to Kolonaki, at that time an exclusive area where snobs congregated. He soon had introduced me to his friends and took me to the best night clubs and I felt I was living in a fantasy world. Because Nicko would introduce me as an artist, none of his snobbish friends ever questioned why I should be included as their companion or taken to their homes by Nicko. Nicko’s family regularly invited me to their home for a meal on weekends, knowing I would not have to go to the office in Piraeus, which is in the opposite direction, and then Nicko would take me with him to the clubs he favours or to the parties he was invited to.
It was at their home where I saw his sister again, who had grown into a very pretty teenager since I had last seen her. I’ll need to return in time to when I was still a schoolboy and Nicko was inviting me to spend the weekends with him and his family at their Mayfair apartment.
The father of Nicko had taken me with his son from boarding school for the long week-end to stay at their Mayfair apartment. Saturday was a wonderful day - just being out of school would have qualified it as a wonderful day. I was not used to eating in such expensive restaurants, so I was feeling a bit uncomfortable, but Nicko made jokes about the other patrons and soon I forget my awe and unease. When the meal was over the little daughter, Dominique, asked for a crème brullè. When she learnt that I had never even heard of this dessert, she insisted I order one also. Although I had talked with her before, the sharing and discovery of such a wonderful dessert soon had us chatting as close friends, despite the disparity of our ages.
On Sunday the father and mother had to visit Greek friends for business and for social reasons. Nicko asked to go with as he was friends with the son of the other family. As they would mostly be talking in Greek, I decided to stay at their home alone. Dominique did not want to go with and asked to stay with me. As her nanny was also staying, they agreed.
I watched a bit of tv, got bored and went to see what Dominique is doing and to ask the nanny whether I can make myself a sandwich. Dominique was pleased to see me and shyly asked me to play with her. She was so pleased, when I agreed, that it made me feel good. I soon realised that since she is the child (I thought of myself as more or less a grown up), I had to play the games she wanted to play and I actually had some fun as she so was so cute and so precise in every detail of her make-believe roles. We had lunch and the nanny told Dominique she was going to lie down for a while, and to call her if she needed anything.
Dominique told her Roberto can get her anything she needs, he is very big. We grownups laughed and I returned to our games. We were sitting on the carpet and I was instructed to lie down and shut my eyes, as part of the game. I did so, waiting to be told to open my eyes.
Suddenly I felt Dominique lie down on top of me.
“I love you Roberto, thank you for playing with me. Nicko never does!” and she hugged my neck, half choking me. I was a bit embarrassed but I hugged her back, as I was also touched. It felt nice to be holding her, so I rubbed her back, massaging it as I used to massage my mother when I was a child, before she died. Soon I was more naughty in my massaging of her and she enjoyed it.
She told me I am wonderful and that she loves me. Staring into her eyes I softly said I love her and then told her it must stay our secret or else I would get into trouble with her brother, who would think I am a sissy, if he hears. She hugged me and that was all the promise I felt I needed.
I had been so starved of love, that deep inside me, I felt, for many years, that what happened between little Dominique and me was very special and I never allowed the memory to fade.
From this time, to the last year of school, my father did not contact me once and none of my letters to him were answered. Feeling that he did not want me affected me badly, eroding my self-confidence. The older I became, the more aware I was of how unnatural his silence is and I came to believe that it was not him who is responsible, that I must have done something to make him not want me. What made it worse was that there was another boy from Kenya and he would return to his parents for the longer holidays. When he would return to school, he would confirm for me that my father still has his farm and lives there. During my last year at school, he gave me the news which upset me the most. He told me that my father sold the farm and has moved back to the U.K. The fact that he did not call on me proved that he really does not care about me, that he does not want me as a son. I could not understand why and it was this that hurt the most. I do not know why I did not confide to Nicko about my father moving to the U.K. without letting me know, and how I felt about my father. I do not recall it being a conscious decision, maybe it was because I felt ashamed.
If I had not had Nicko as my friend, and if he had not continued inviting me to his home for long weekends and holidays, I am certain I would have come out of my teenage years with far more damage. The truth is, it was not Nicko who helped me the most; it was the easy acceptance by his parents and the way they treated me as almost a son of theirs. They even wanted to take me with for the long holidays to Greece, but they needed my father to sign his permission and the school only had the address of solicitors, who claimed my father would not answer their requests for his permission. I grew to love both of them and whenever I felt the worst about my father not wanting me, when I was tempted to give in to the bitterness which waited just around the corner, I would tell myself that Elia and Claire love me and they are much more special than he is, so it means I must be more special than he realises.
As I grew up and went through my teen years my interest in girls was the normal interest of a teenager. I was drawn to girls close to my age. My preferences included long slim legs and arms, slim body with nice apple or even apricot shaped breasts (to continue the fruit analogies, not melon shaped ones, I was not drawn to those) and I was ridiculed by others of my age when I admitted to them that I found one of my strongest turn-ons are the eyes and long dark hair of girls. Despite my teenage interests, Dominique remained, in my heart, as my special girl, the only girl I was truly fond of.
I think the innocent experience with little Dominique is going to influence me for the rest of my life. Because I had loved her I had cared. Because of her, I believe I saw women as fragile creatures to be loved and cherished. All that I learnt from her was to influence the way I looked at and treat all women. We are made by the people who cross our lives at key moments. I was lucky indeed.
I did not see Dominique for a long time as she only sometimes came to London with her parents when they visited Nicko.
My first few years after school were exciting in some ways and because of that, also rewarding, for I threw myself into the work I loved and my style and technique grew stronger, maturing faster than I would have if I had been apprenticed as a youth by a company. I was concentrating on my art, meeting other artists, and I discovered that I may lack a little in technique, but everyone, including other artists, told me I have a creative imagination. It became more obvious once I transferred my interests (temporarily, I told myself) to the internet - creating web sites for a small fee, as I have already mentioned. A company searched me out and offered me a job.
Within the first five months I was given a raise two times and I enjoyed my work, since I was also offered a lot of positive feedback from the management. During this time I tended to meet Nicko more often at night, when we would go out to a disco. Now and then I would be invited for a meal by his parents and they would give me a very warm welcome and their interest in my news always seemed genuine.
At the rare intervals when I met Dominique, I saw her change into a teenager, her body shooting up and her limbs shooting out in all directions. We stayed close friends. However long it had been since I’d last seen her, soon as we were together again I was immediately warm and comfortable with her. Then for the year or more just before moving to Greece, I did not see her.
I should correct any misunderstandings I may have caused; I was no saint, devoted to my art and ignoring all the young beauties London is filled with. Just like all the guys, I hungered for more girls than I was able to go out with, but I also did open myself for a lot of ribbing, for I would make criticisms about various girls which sounded entirely irrelevant to the main cause of the chase - sex. I would complain that this girls’ fingers are too short; that one, her arms too hairy or the legs too thick and muscular.
Bertie, a fellow artist, came up with a dare which turned into a competition. He demanded I paint the portrait of my ideal girl. I agreed to do so if the others also do the same and then all the portraits to be judged, not on artistic merit, just on who has created the best and most divine of ideal girls. I did not realise I was being set up until I saw that the ugliest and crudest of the portraits won the competition, with mine being judged the worst. I have chosen to view it as being a great win, for I believe the judging was done exactly in inverse of the truth. I did not copy any girl, but long afterwards I did come to realise that much of my inspiration came from Dominique. Despite this, my feelings for her remained those of a friend and brother.
I moved to Greece and when I was invited for a meal, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she is no longer the gawky girl who had been all elbows and knees. She was now a beautiful teenager. A slim, beautiful Greek Madonna with dark almond eyes. We found we were still good friends, comfortable with the company of the other. On weekends I was usually invited for lunch and I would spend most of the day at their home. Over a period of months I came to feel once more that I am part of the family and Dominique the sister I’d never had. She confided in me about boys and those myriad problems teenagers have with friends and family. When she was wrong, I told her. When it sounded as if she was right, I tried to advise; but whichever, I supported and encouraged her to dream and expand her mind. I would sense that Nicko is amused when he would hear me trying to encourage Dominique to read and use her bright mind.
Although Alki had convinced me to work for him and he was a friend of Elia, I did not meet with him often and at work the head of my department was an Englishman called Freddy. The two of us got on together just like oil and water. First of all, he disliked my way of working. I’d not ‘make work’ just to appear busy, as I only work if I am feeling inspired. Once I have an image to work towards, I do not sit and meticulously map my design. I work very fast, sketching out the most important of the features of my design, and only then do I sit to work in detail and colour. Because I already have the skeleton, my work goes quickly and often I’ve done, from first drawing to the last one, my page within one day.
Freddy is a very talented designer; but he can only take the work of lesser artists and turn them into something perfect for the customer of the site ordered, but even then he needs to take his time and each line is slowly drawn, studied and so on. He has a wonderful eye for colour and he would make small changes, sometimes large ones, so as to achieve a balanced look. The problem was that they were technically perfect, but had no soul; the balanced work is not always the one which has any depth to it.
Things came to a head on the day he took one of my designs and altered it. He had done this to all my work and I was not willing to allow him to alter one more pixel of my designs ever again. I also did not see why my work and original designs should be presented with his signature instead of mine, just because he held a more senior position. I controlled my temper so as not to give him any warning and at a time he was absent, I entered his computer and deleted all copies of my work and then, doing the same to my computer (having previously burnt them onto CD’s first) I sent my resignation directly to Alki, with copies to the accountant and to Freddy. Alki ordered both of us to his office.
Alki, using a reasonable tone, perhaps meant to placate me, pointed at my resignation and asked, “What caused this?”
I pointed at Freddy. “He is the head of my department, you should ask him first.”
I tend to notice details more than the larger signs, and I saw the point of his expensive ballpoint press into my resignation, but his voice and face did not betray his irritation with me. “Freddy?”
“He has not explained his reasons, apart from what he says in the letter, so I don’t have any idea.”
Alki asked, “Have you had an argument with him, or has he argued with anyone else in your department?”
He shrugged, “Not with me and I have not heard of anyone else causing him trouble.”
“Are you overloading him with work? I have noticed he has designed more sites than anyone else this month.”
“I do not allot the work Mr Georgiades, I place on the board details of our orders and only interfere if two or more artists choose the same order.”
In case there is a question as to why I was acting in such an unreasonable manner, which I admit was the case, I should add one detail I have left out. A couple of weeks after starting work, one of the programmers, a Greek named Lefti (Eleftherios), privately warned me about Freddy. He told me of a couple of underhanded ways in which he had made other artists look like they are not doing their work and they had been fired. He told me that Freddy does this to those who have talent and are a threat to him. I had no wish to become another victim of his, so made my own underhanded plans…which I felt were working out exactly as I had wanted.
“Roberto, I think it is time you provide an explanation? I do not want to lose you, but if you are unhappy and insist on resigning, I will not demand you keep to the contract - but I would appreciate knowing what the problem is.”
“I think my problem is that I am not a team player. Mr Georgiades, you asked me to join you because you felt I had the kind of unique talent that could attract more business, you did not warn me that you only want someone who can draw a basic concept for Freddy to clothe according to his abilities as a draughtsman. I would prefer to return to my previous employer if that is the case - at least there, if the head of my department felt I could improve my work, he would explain to me what I have done wrong and what he thought I should or could do to improve my design. Often I made the changes, but if I refused, I did not have my work changed by others without my consent. Since your head of my department does so with everyone working there, I honestly do not think we can work together, so it is better I leave.”
Freddys’ voice rose in outrage, “I have never done so - back your accusation with even one example, you can’t because you know it is not true.”
Alki was about to speak, but he saw my smile and nodded for me to answer the charge. I was careful to keep my tone reasonable, “Freddy, you are a competent workman, but you are neither an artist, nor exceptionally bright. Your work is with computers and yet you still think that if you press the delete button, what you deleted is gone. All my work has always been saved by me onto a CD and when I learnt what you did to my predecessor, who used the same computer as me, I used some forensic programs to recover some of the original designs of his which you had deleted. Kyrie Georgiade, if you will allow me to use your computer, I will show you my proof.”
I was only halfway through showing him both copies, of the artist and what was used for the customer, when Freddy told Alki that he is insulted by his listening to me, instead of to him, the head of the department, and he walked out after verbally resigning. Alki just stared at his retreating back for a moment and then nodded and asked me to continue.
The next day he asked me to join him for lunch at his club at the Zeus Marina.
“I examined all the before and after artwork on my own last night and I have a question. Robert, perhaps Freddy did not improve on what he pirated, but neither did he make it uglier. I am not condoning what he did, but what I do want to know is, apart from him stealing your ideas, is anything else bothering you?”
“This is going to sound crazy…I am not upset because he stole my ideas - I am upset because he killed the souls of what I created.”
He glanced out the window, nodded to himself and looking back at me, he told me, “I agree, Roberto, I am promoting you to head of the department, with a large increase in your salary. You may choose the new artists when you see the need for one.”
I put down my knife and fork. “Alki, may I speak to you as the friend of a friend, not as an employee? This must be one of the worst ideas you have ever had. At the meeting yesterday, I began by telling you I am not a team player. I cannot be if I am to be creative. If you need someone for a management position, choose the right manager for it, not me and, hopefully, not an artist, just someone good at managing, but with an eye for good art. All I ask is that I be free to create as my Muse chooses.”
“Roberto, point is taken, but please keep in mind that what you are doing is commercial art, it is not meant to be fine art.”
“I agree, it has to be practical and sell whatever the page is meant to sell, but if it is not fine art also, then all we will ever create are mediocre sites. I want our customers to feel their site is a work of art and give them the pleasure of knowing that their visitors will be impressed that they took the trouble to have a work of art created for them.” I gave a weak grin and shyly added, “Perhaps you could use what I just said in your marketing department?” He laughed.
I was moved out of the department and Alki would personally choose which sites he wants me to design and he often passed by my desk to look at what I am doing. He sometimes found me creating a painting just for the pleasure it gave me and he would ask me to send him a copy when I am finished, not for commercial exploitation, just for his own pleasure. With a boss like him, I will have to be a fool not to grow and improve.
During this time, I had secretly been learning Greek, only practising among strangers, hoping to surprise everyone some day and hoping it would make me feel I am a part of the life I was growing to appreciate and love. In the meantime, it meant that people spoke more openly before me, thinking I do not understand them. It was not the purpose of my deception, but I was looking for the right opportunity to let them know.
One hot Saturday the family and I went to the beach. I was amused by the fact that the Greeks actually count how many times they have been swimming and Dominique was trying and hoping to have a larger total than her friends. Unfortunately I do not enjoy swimming and though I am dark-haired and do not burn easily, I do not like lying in the sun. It seems such a pointless and artificial exercise - or lack of it. I decided to sit in the shade and do some sketching, just for my own gratification, not for my work.
As the family started off for the beach I heard Dominique say, in Greek, to her brother, “No, I am going to sit with Roberto. It must be very boring for him sitting alone.” Nicko answered that there is nothing stopping me from joining them and she angrily replied that he always expects me to do what he wants, that Nicko never tries to do something I want.
Suddenly, for no reason I could understand, I felt my heart racing. As she came and sat by me I looked into her eyes, large chocolaty brown almond eyes, and knew that I was absolutely and completely in love. The rest of the day, the rest of the week and the next months were pure sweet torture. I was aware that there were a lot of things against my love for her. She came from a well known wealthy family. I was an unknown. She, and her family, saw me only as a friend. She was too young. And the most important of all, her parents were already trying to introduce her to the sons of other wealthy or powerful friends, hoping to increase and cement their sphere of influence. For all that young Greek girls seem so modern, it still happens amongst the very wealthy, as it does among the very poor.
I don’t know whether our childhood friendship of many years ago in London subconsciously encouraged me to feel she wanted me, it was definitely not a conscious attitude. By now I thought I was a little wiser to the ways of the world, but I was still naïve enough to dream. She was far too beautiful and popular, too many well-known jet-set guys were after her, yet, if she resisted them, logic warned me there was no way she could want me, while I also hoped she did resist them because of me. I cannot tell how many times my hopes soared because of an innocent, careless word and how many times they crashed.
I am a bit of a nerd and not very daring, so it was a silly card game we played that brought things to a head more than eight months later. She lost and the penalty was that she had to give me a kiss. We stood behind the curtains by the glass door to the veranda and trembling slightly I reached for her face to give her a soft kiss that would not betray my feelings for her. The next thing I knew her lips parted and we were locked in a long breathless kiss. I was certain that for her to be kissing me this way she must love me. I could not bear to let her go. She stepped back with an embarrassed giggle and was quickly gone back into the room where the family started laughing and teasing us.
That evening she phoned me, as she often did, but this time she sounded very serious and asked me to meet her at the Edelweiss café the next afternoon. I hardly slept that night, amazed by her courage and certain she is about to inform me she loves me.
I can hardly say what happened that afternoon. I was in a sort of daze, my heart was hammering and I felt as if I was not totally there. She took hold of my hand and told me she realises I am in love with her. She really does love me and does not want me to be hurt. She told me she finds it very confusing, because she cannot say she is in love with me, but she loves me so much that she is not sure of what she really feels. Would I be patient and still be her friend in the meantime. I admired her courage in confronting what was obviously a problem for her, but I was in such a daze, everything she said seemed to melt into each other. When I left all I could really remember was the part where she said she is not in love with me.
Once I had spent the night thinking and re-thinking, torturing myself with a despair I was almost deliberately creating, I realised I could no longer keep going to her house. To stop without reason would only be another form of my making an unwelcome declaration of my love, or cause an upset to people who have only shown me kindness, warmth and hospitality. It seemed to me the only way to handle this without hurting the feelings of the family, was for me to return to London.
Alki did try to convince me to stay, but he must have sensed my desperation, for he agreed to a trial period of three months. If I ever recover and can return to Greece, I’m determined to make it up to him. I made arrangements with the accountant at the office for part of my salary to be paid directly to my landlord, as I did not wish to lose my apartment and the accountant promised to see to my telephone and electricity accounts. I was touched by his helpfulness and brought him a bottle of whiskey and a kilo of pistachio nuts as a thank you gesture.
Four miserable months passed. If any of my prior acquaintances knew I was in London, none tried to search me out and I spent all my time alone. I missed Greece, I missed my friends there and the warm, friendly way of life. Most of all I ached to see my Dominique. However, I knew it would be a catastrophe for me to return. I heard news about her from Nicko, about her new big love, about her decision to become an astronomer and about how she misses me. I heard from my boss Mr Alki Georgiades on a regular basis. I still got my work done, sending it through the internet to his office, but he kept up the pressure to get me back to Greece. He kept saying my work from London lacks the sparkle, the fire I’d shown before, I must come back to Greece where I would re-discover my talent. How could I tell him that it is Greece, where my love is, that saps me of my visions, my creativity. That all I can see, all I can sketch, is the madonna face I love.
My tiny flat was overflowing with my sketches of her and useless pointless poetry. I slept with my most precious treasure, my memories of moments with her, torturing my dreams. This led me to imagining her with other men and I raged and ached for her. Poems of tortured emotions were written and thrown away. I would get up in the middle of the night to write, a stupid and pointless compulsion, as if finding words to describe my pain in original ways would relieve me of one iota of my pain.
I was often amazed at how I would feel what I had written is brilliant and then the next morning it would sound really vapid, stupid and void of all talent. The truth is, I fed my misery as if it were something precious, proving to me how much I love my sweet Dominique. Since then I’ve often wondered why it is so easy to write poetry, whether good or bad, about pain, and so impossible to write about happiness. At least with painting, I am inspired and can paint when I am happy.
The office phoned to tell me that Alki is coming to London and he wishes me to have supper with him on Thursday night. I confirmed I would be glad to see him, even though I dreaded the purpose of his invitation - I was certain he would do his best to convince me to return to Athens and feared he might press so hard that I am forced to resign.
As I waited for the day to arrive, I formed and re-formed arguments as to why I should stay in London for the time being, but by Thursday morning I had chosen the best one. I would make no excuses and only tell him that if he wishes me to resign, I will do so. Otherwise, he must allow me to work from London until I feel I can be comfortable in Athens again. I also resolved to refuse to answer any questions, asserting in my best British manner that it is personal and I do not wish to discuss it.
When Alki arrived at my address, he did not send his chauffeur to call me, nor did he hoot, as some of my friends might have done; he came to my door himself, and when I opened the door he handed me a heavy shopping bag. “I know there are certain foods of Greece you must miss and they are not as fresh in London - and their prices are exorbitant. Some of the products should be placed in your refrigerator, do it now, I’ll wait.” As I did as he ordered, I could not help smiling when I tried to imagine a British boss doing something as thoughtful as this. I realised exactly how thoughtful he had been when I saw what he had brought me. I had not been aware that he knows I love chocolate marbled halvah and some other Greek chocolates made at certain small patisseries. As for the pistachio nuts and pasatembo, I don’t know anybody who does not love them.
I asked whether I should put on a tie, worried he might be taking me to a private club, but he waved my questions aside, telling me to remain comfortable, as he wants me to enjoy the evening. He then laughed. “Anyway, if you did wear a tie, I would get suspicious and wonder who has been doing your work - no artist I know wears tasteful ties.”
I was interested to see that he had not brought me to a private club or restaurant, he had chosen a very well known nightclub (that almost looks like a theatre), with strippers and a dance show which was meant to be sexy, or at least, titillating, while the food is usually mediocre, since guests are meant to spend their money on booze, which is far more profitable for them. It was my first time at such a club and I was impressed by the girls and the glitter and at how much they must have spent for decorations, but otherwise, I was just glad Alki had taken a table close to the stage and I would not have to put up with a cross examination.
He did not mention my returning to Athens even once, nor did he ask why I prefer to be in London, not even between the dance routines when it was possible to talk. He remained warm, relaxed and a wonderful companion and host who was obviously doing his best to ensure I enjoy myself. The little he did say about the business was more general than specific, with him expressing his worries as to how he can anticipate the market, perhaps some day even influence it, instead of following others. I offered to send him emails with whatever news I feel could be of use to him. When he got up and left the table, I thought he was going to the toilet. He returned and leant over me.
“I am leaving, I’m no longer young enough to stay up until the morning hours. Roberto, I have paid the bill and my car will be waiting to take you home when you want to leave.” He looked around and smiled as a young woman approached us. “I have also arranged for this lovely young lady to be your companion for the night.” He whispered in my ear, “Though I have paid her for the night, if she pleases you, perhaps twenty to thirty pounds would be a nice gesture?” Before I could say anything, he was gone and the girl was sitting at my table.
Of course she wanted a drink - it is what she is paid to want, isn’t it? Then we went to my apartment and she smiled when she saw my double bed, so I guess she had been having visions of having to spend the night on a narrow single bed, with my knees and elbows sticking into her after the sex. Look, I know I’m not really funny, but I am trying to deal with my description of the evening with a slight patina of humour, for I am going to have to write about something no male likes to write about.
She must have been at least eighteen to be working at the club, but she had that small town sweetness which made her seem younger, more like sixteen, which helped me imagine she has not had a vast amount of experience for comparing me to. It was a bit unnerving when she immediately undressed, eagerly telling me that I may have the whole night paid for, but there is no reason why we should delay in starting…
Ten minutes later I had given up and told her to go to sleep. She started telling me not to feel bad, it happens to many men and I couldn’t help thinking that sensitive men (who have paid before starting) who end up impotent, must feel like a real bargain to her, but I stopped her and offered to call a taxi and pay for it if she would prefer to go home.
She turned around to face me, her fingers softly touched my cheek and she said, sounding so very young, “If you wouldn’t mind, what I really would like is if you would hold me to you while I sleep.”
It turned out that I was right, she is a small town girl. Though I had not noticed any accent, she told me she is Irish. She spoke of how bad things are there, especially in the small villages, and how she dreams of returning to resume her life back home, maybe even get married and have kids. She told me of how scary life can get and she just wishes more men were nice like I am. I pretended to misunderstand and joked about how it must be nice to have men who are impotent, but she told me I am wrong, that many men get nasty when they can’t rise to the occasion. I made a couple of jokes, told her I like her and putting my arms around her as she spooned, I told her to go to sleep. It took me much longer to fall asleep, giving me the time to make the decision that I will never pay for sex, for I realised that even if it had worked out, I still would have ended up feeling sad. I don’t need to pay for sadness, I’m good at it on my own.
As I said, four dreary months had passed and just a couple of weeks after seeing Alki, I got a phone call very early one morning. It was Dominique.
“Roberto, I miss you. I have been thinking a lot and I realise I love you. I want you to please come back.”
“Are you saying you are in love with me?” I waited with baited breath.
“I’m not sure, but I know I love you and need you. You are my best friend. Please come back, I’ve been so miserable without you. We can go out together and I am sure I will find out that I do love you the way you want.”
Damn! Half a promise so that I could not say no, but she just had to be so honest. Why couldn’t she just say she was in love with me? Better half a chance than no chance, so on that lick of a promise, I returned to Athens and to the only year of real happiness and the most exquisite pain I had ever felt till then.
From the moment I walked out of the aeroplane and the resin-and-thyme scent of the Greek air touched me, I felt how much I had missed Greece. There had been two Greek families, with a bunch of small kids on board and they had been loud, making noise the entire trip, but they were noisy in Greek and it felt as if I was being welcomed back home. With the scents now combining to the sounds of Greeks all around me, I wondered how I had expected London to help me deal with heartbreak, surely the frenetic pace of Athens would have kept my mind off my problems more successfully than London can?
At home I only rushed to have a shower, get dressed and take a taxi to the home of Dominique. Strangely her parents never said anything about my absence and only asked whether I am well. Their welcome was as warm as ever. Dominique was all dressed up and maybe she did not want me to say anything to her parents, for she grabbed my arm and said we are leaving. She reassured me that she has already told them we are going out, for me to tell her all about my stay in London. Dominique drove to Vouliagmeni and parked by the beach. I thought it best we talk in private so that I know where I really stand with her.
She came into my arms and we kissed. I held her, my body on fire. But even stronger was the feeling. ‘This is it. This is what I want, this is who I belong with’. I felt whole for the first time in my life. My feelings were a fact of life; there was no way I could ever live without her.
My hands were shaking, my lips were shaking as I kissed her eyes, her nose, her lips. Gently, softly I kissed all around her lips, softly sucking and licking her upper lip, her full lower lip, the corners of her mouth. It was as if I was giving adoration to my god. I felt her tremble in my arms.
Looking out of the car window she whispered, in a low voice, “Can we go to your home?”
A flash of electricity ran through my body and I was that young boy sharing such extraordinary beauty with my little friend. I was jubilant, she does love me. I softly stroked her leg, bent down and let my lips burn their way on her soft warm skin until they met her panties. I breathed deeply.
“Dominique, the way I feel now, it may not be a good idea.”
“Roberto, please. I want to be alone with you. I belong with you.”
This was heaven. She does love me. She wants me. Now because of so much love I found scruples I did not know I had. “Dommi, are you a virgin?”
In a soft whisper, “Yes”
It hurt to say it. “My love, I do not know if I can stop myself from making love to you. I want when we do, for it to be something special.”
She hugged me and looking into my eyes with love, she said, “With you it will be special. But I agree, can we wait a couple of months until after my birthday?”
“Yes, for you I can wait.”
“Good. Because I want to be with you. I want to lie in your arms and feel you next to me. I want to love you, but you mustn’t come into me. Can we go to your home now?”
When we got there, I took her straight to the bedroom. We lay on top of the bed and holding her in my arms I began to kiss her with all the love I felt. She immediately responded, her lips open to me. Once I had thrust my tongue in her I got even more excited at the thought that our saliva was being mixed, our bodies it seemed to me were becoming part of each other. I told myself it is no wonder it feels as if she is a part of me. As an artist, it is my excuse, so that nobody thinks I am weird; symbolism of all kinds have always been very important to me.
I kissed her face, her ears, her eyes and then I slid down until I could kiss her legs. Slowly I kissed and licked my way up, wondering when she would stop me. For that reason I moved up faster than I would have wished to. I really wanted to pay my tribute of adoration to her long slim legs. I was soon at her panties. I pulled them over to one side and my fingers for the first time felt her crinkly nest of hair.
I stopped, pulled back.
“Dommi, I want to see all of you.”
As I began to undress her, she clasped her hands in front. “Please put out the light.”
She did not resist my undressing her as I made it part of my caressing, with kisses and guzzling of her belly, trailing my lips down a barely discernible dark line of hair. By the time I was able to remove her bra she was co-operating. As I saw her lovely breasts, the nipples little coral pink coins, my hunger for them drove me frantic with need. I suckled the one then the other while my fingers cupped and kneaded the other, not too gently either. She cried out and I rose onto my elbows, contrite.
“Please Roberto. It is not fair. I also want to feel your body next to mine.”
Both totally nude, we lay next to each other. Her warm body, the novelty of feeling for the first time the body of a loved woman next to mine, the warmth and texture, the softness, I sensed were all something special; but even this first time, when passion should have driven out everything else, to know that this is the body of the woman I adore, that she is giving herself, her love, to me alone, because it is me she has chosen, this was to be treasured, each sensation to be tucked away and kept alive in my memory forever. I was convinced that never could such happiness and ecstasy, such awe, be felt again. As I fondled and passionately caressed her body, her hand, very direct in her need, reached for me.
I slid my way over, so that we lay head to toes. My hands pushed apart her thighs and I buried my lips. She kept her fingers around me, slowly sliding up and down.
I eagerly awaited, needed, to feel her lips welcome me in. When she did not, I tried slightly jerking my hips, but it did not happen. I realised she is put off by the idea, so I decided to take care of her needs first, hoping her ecstasy will overcome her inhibitions. It is a point worth recalling, she had admitted to being a virgin, but so was I. This was my first time in the arms of a woman.
Suddenly her hands were pushing my head into her, her rhythm was frantic, wild, I kept my lips glued to her, but it was too much too fast.
When her spasms were over I lay next to her, my penis and balls aching, but I did not know how to ask her. I also did not want to ask her, I wanted her to want me, to want to do it. I felt it was very important I do not ask.
Her cool long fingers softly stroked my penis. She pulled back the skin and her nails teasingly scratched at the head and around its base. Seeing she did not want me in her mouth I began to feel vulnerable. The sight of my penis, I imagined, dangling right in front of her face must be revolting her. She was only fondling me because she did not know how to avoid it after I had given her pleasure, after I had shown so much love for her. I felt my penis wilting.
As her fingers registered what was happening she hesitated and let go as I pulled away. I sat up, put on my shirt and went for a cup of coffee. When I returned she was under the top sheet, facing the wall and curled up. Bitterly, a hollowness in my stomach, I silently drank my coffee. I now knew with a certainty that she has changed her mind. She does not love me. I revolt her. Despite my pain, anger and other kaleidoscope of hurt feelings, compassion for my love won. As my breathing eased and I calmed down, her muffled voice betrayed to me she had been crying.
“I want to go home.”
I could not argue and I would not plead. “Alright.”
“I’m sorry Roberto. I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s okay. I understand. You don’t have to. I mean I don’t mind.”
She was silent for a while but I could see her shoulders were lightly shaking and I knew she was still crying. My heart ached. It was not her fault she did not love me, she had given it her best shot because she cares for me.
“Dommi, please don’t cry. You’re not to blame.”
“I’m so ashamed. I don’t know how it happened. I could die.”
I was too deep within the grooves of my own misery to hear what she was saying. “Don’t be silly. You never said you wanted me as a man. You were honest all the way. At least you did try to love me, but I guess we will just have to stay friends only since you cannot love me.” I felt as if I was dying inside. After holding her in my arms as I had, her adored body part of mine, how would I live, how could I be with her just as a friend, knowing how close to heaven I had come.
“I did not say I don’t love you. I’m just so ashamed. How could I do it.” She finally turned and looked at me. “Oh Robert, what you must think, katourisa in your face and all over your sheets.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Katourisa.!! All this is because you think you weed?!” I was incredulous. I could not believe it. I was wrong. Oh god! I had nearly destroyed everything; nearly lost the only person I would ever love out of stupidity.
“But I did. I couldn’t help it. It was so strong, the feeling, it just came out by itself, like I was a little kid!”
I laughed. The joy was so sudden, deep and wild, I could not help it. “That was not piss. Oh god Dommi. It is part of what happens when you have an orgasm. I do not know what it is exactly, but is also very exciting for me.”
She sat up. “You are not angry with me?”
“Oh god Dommi. I’ve been thinking you did not want me, that you were sorry you came to me.” Suddenly my body shuddered. Her arms came around me.
“Roberto. Oh Roberto, I’m sorry. When you became small, pulled away and got out of bed, I thought you were disgusted by me and did not want me anymore.”
“I thought you were disgusted by me.”
“Why? What did I do?” She still held me and I lay down alongside her, feeling that divine softness again. She turned over, placing one leg over me and with her body half over mine she lay her head on my chest.
“It does not matter anymore.” I remembered the pain of thinking I had lost her and shuddered again. She held me tightly while I fought to regain my equilibrium. To have lost her would have been such a catastrophe I still could not adapt to the change. For no reason and without control I felt my tears roll down my cheeks. I knew it would not be a good idea to let her see them and surreptitiously wiped them away.
We both settled into a warm drowsiness. If she or I moved we felt the wetness of our skin, the sweat. I thought, our bodies even now are still exchanging fluids. I slowly tilted her over onto her back and my lips found hers in a desperate yearning. As we kissed, as I caressed her lovely body, her tender breasts, I felt myself stiffen. My hips began to search for her. Her hand reached for me again. She felt my penis, rubbed the head. The pain, the agony of my sensations finally burst within me and I felt myself boiling in hot spurts. She quickly pulled away, directing my explosion away from her.
We spent some time warmly cuddling while I caressed and kissed her. When, in the early hours, I took her home, I could hardly bear to part with her and we clung to each other for a while. As I returned home in a taxi, thinking I would have her scents to remind me of her, I found a deep weariness, a lassitude had overcome me. Lying in all I had left of her, imagining her warm sweet body in her own bed, I drifted into a deep sleep, happy at last.
We spent many evenings loving each other, many hours. Some weeks we could not seem to get enough of each other, loving again and again, trying everything we could think of short of my entering and claiming her virginity. As there were nights of passion when my sperm would dribble between her swollen labia, I convinced her to go on the pill. I teased her that the world does not need another immaculate conception, a virgin mother. We got to know each others’ bodies and what pleases the other. Sometimes we were happy to just spend the night in each others arms without any sexual passions. To talk and get to know each other as deeply as possible were also exciting. I delighted in her and impossibly I felt my love grow deeper.
If I had imagined what it would be like to have a loved one to share my life with, I think most of my imaginings would have dwelled on the lovemaking and ecstasy of knowing the body of another person at least as well as I know mine, if not better. What I discovered is that as important as our making love was, equally important were the times we went for a walk, sat at a coffee shop with the entire world revolving around the two of us; the first time we went dancing or for a meal somewhere we’ve never been so that it becomes ‘our’ restaurant. Even seeing some people take pleasure in our obvious love was more important than seeing other men jealous of me - though I treasured those moments also. Perhaps some of the most special moments of the beginning of lovers discovering love for each other in so many ways, is the way we dream. At that stage, our dreams are naïve and more beautiful than they ever will be again.
The months passed with me in a daze. My imagination was soaring off in new directions, Alki (Mr Georgiades) was ecstatic about my work. Since Dominique was college, I could not see her every day or night and I had no wish to go out without her, so I spent all my time working. One of the programmers at the office sent me a few urls of chat sites, telling me to check them out. It seems I am beginning to gather a following with chat discussions being held to analyse my sudden spurt of artwork.
I held my sense of humour on a tight leash when Alki repeatedly enthused about how Greece has inspired me. I should describe him, since he is an important part of my life. In a way, he is a funny sort of guy, he looks short because he is so wide, but he is slightly taller than me, swarthy, with a build that hints at great physical strength. He is however one of the most gentle men I have met. He is not well educated as far as schooling goes, but he reads a lot and has a deep love for poetry, art and ancient Greek drama.
He is known as an easy mark for a continuous stream of penniless writers and artists and he has admitted that if even one artist out of hundreds goes on to create real art, he feels all he does is justified. What makes him even more admirable, according to my way of thinking, is that he studiously avoids all publicity about his patronage of the Arts. The day he invites me to his home to be a part of one of his ‘art’ evenings, with artists of all persuasions joining to talk about art and criticise themselves, I’ll know that I have ‘arrived’ and am considered a part of the art community. The worst thing I could ever do is to even hint an interest to him, my dreams must remain private. I have not even let Dommi sense my ambition.
It was going to be our third month anniversary of the day Dommi had become mine and I wanted to make it special for her. I went to a very expensive and exclusive bouzouki club I’d visited with Nicko, and asked to meet the owner. Briefly, an explanation. They usually set out the tables in the following order: small for up to four people at the back with the front tables for groups of fourteen or more. I spoke to the owner and arranged a table in front for two. I asked and paid for some other special arrangements. I should mention, at the time this happened, the age of patrons was not as strictly controlled, it was common to see families at restaurants with their children also enjoying a glass of wine. Because alcohol is accepted as a natural drink, it is rare (comparing to my home country) to see Greeks getting drunk, unless they are drinking hard liquors because they think it is fashionable.
Dominique and I were dressed to kill. She was still young enough to be excited about being seen at such an expensive club. When we arrived, the owner himself met us. His friendly manner and casual use of my name seemed to impress her and she clung tightly to my arm, but her head was high and proud as he led us to our table. We were seated and the owner called to a waiter to bring us a Dom Perignon with his compliments. He told her that I have done him proud by bringing such a beautiful lady to his club. He patted my shoulder, grinning, and walked off. On her plate was a beautiful orchid corset which she refused to pin on her. She wanted to be able to see it.
We had a waiter at our table the whole evening, so the magic of the evening was not once marred by the usual difficulty of getting service. When the main show started, the lights went out and flame torches in metal brackets on either side were lit. Violins played in the background, then, down the fortress type walls on stone steps, violinists descended, playing their way to the stage. The main singer, a Greek woman who has been one of Greece’s favourite singers for nearly fifteen years, appeared. She sang mostly melancholic songs and our hearts were touched.
I find that Greek songs, their lyrics, touch my heart in ways songs in English cannot. When I had been in pain, before Dommi decided to love me, only a Greek song could bring tears to my eyes, releasing me from my hard-edged self-control. When a song has the fire of love and life flowing through it, the fierceness of an eagle when soaring high and the razor edge of a sword when love is betrayed, it lifts your spirit or sends you into depths where you can see your pain clearly, as if the words in Greek have a depth not found or sensed in English, their roots maybe growing out of our souls. If I could, I would study Ancient Greek, for surely it must be the heart, the soul of Modern Greek.
When the show is over, sometimes the singer will sit at a table. That will only happen if a well-known multi-millionaire or other famous patron of the club is present. I think Dommi nearly fainted when the singer came and kissed me on the cheek, greeting me by name. She sat at our table for a while and was very sweet, especially towards Dominique. By the time she left us I think she had become Dominique’s favourite singer. When we left at about four in the morning her cheeks were ablaze and even I could sense that she was aroused as I had never seen her before. Without asking her I drove to my home, in heaven at the thought her love for me has grown stronger, and wanting to show her I adore her.
For the first time she undressed me as we entered the bedroom. There was no cuddling, just a few wild passionate kisses and we were both in each others arms in a fierce abandon. As my hips began to move she suddenly arched her hips and sex so that the head of my penis entered her. I froze immediately, not pulling out, just waiting to see what she wanted.
“I want it Robert. I want to be yours completely - it’s nearly my birthday, we don’t have to wait.”
I kissed her, my heart glowing. “It will hurt the first time my love.” Instead of answering, her legs came together squeezing me tightly within her. She opened her legs again and with her hands on my buttocks she pulled me to her. Gently I pressed, expecting an obstacle. I hardly felt anything, but she gasped and I was in her. The passion flowing like fire in me was replaced by an awesome love for my dream girl. I ached to be able to show her how much I love her, how special it was for me that she had finally given herself to me fully. I lay there savouring in detail the feeling of her hot flesh wrapped around my penis. She tightened her vagina and relaxed it. The feeling was indescribable. She saw my reaction and realising the pleasure it gave me, or maybe it was just wonderful for her too, she began to milk me. I was soon not able to hold myself back and as the pressure within me mounted and I knew I was going to fill her for the first time with my seed, I ranted about my love for her, about how she felt to me, how I wanted to be inside her, that I was going to come.
She also moaned and groaned, cried out “I’m also coming. Come in me. Come!” and we both spasmed, the one raising the other to a higher level again and again as my fire gushed out of me into her. She screamed “I can feel it”. In a frenzy of passion and love I continued to rub and kiss and fondle her, even after my flaccid penis slipped out of her. She suddenly locked her legs around me and had a second smaller but drawn out orgasm. I could not believe this was my little Dommi under me, so wild and passionate for me. Truly it is the ecstasy of love which adds colour to the ecstasy of passion.
We lay together for a long time, just listening to each others hearts. The languid warm feeling as I caressed and held her were another beautiful part of our sex. I laughed suddenly and told her it was just a sudden joy at knowing she is now really my woman. She moaned a few times in Greek, calling me her man (andras - which is also the same word in Greek for husband).
We spent months learning again how to thoroughly love each other physically. Everything seemed perfect and whenever I was inside her I knew I was home and she said she felt the same. The less than perfect fact was that she never wanted me in her mouth, or if she took me, it was but for a moment or two. Soon as we made love and I had come inside her she would rush to the bathroom where she used a douche. I knew it was not for fear of getting pregnant. It seemed, or so I presumed, that when she was no longer aroused, once her passions had been satiated, she found the process and fluids of our bodies slightly disgusting. I hoped with time she will realise that nothing coming out of love can be disgusting and made patience.
As perfect as the physical side was, there were other small things that bothered me. I did not realise the importance of her constant doubts about my love, but it was an irritant. Whatever I saw as good or wonderful about her, she saw as not being real. She believed I only saw her as beautiful, as a wonderful and lovely person because I love her. When we had been just friends, my opinion of her had helped bolster her ego, given her self-confidence. Now nothing I said helped. She cried many times, saying I no longer loved her. I was so devoted to her, all my thoughts constantly revolving around her and I could not work out how I was supposed to show her how wrong she was. I never made love to her just for my own gratification. My pleasure was in seeing and feeling her paroxysms, of seeing her flushed face satiated, trying always to ensure we climaxed together, so that was not the problem. I saw it as her own insecurity, but was helpless at removing her fears, or what I perceived as her fears. Unfortunately, her fears were infecting me with vague fears I could not understand.
Αλέξανδρος Ζήνον Ευσταθίου(Alexander Zenon Eustace)
15th February, 2019
* posted on Steemit: 15th February, 2019