Athens has a great nightlife.
The narrow streets are filled with tiny bars and cafes. They spoke in side conversations in Spanish throughout the night. Ricardo was very reserved; Abel was much more wild. I met them in the elevator of this eclectic little hostel with a rooftop view of the Acropolis. As the elevator headed down to the ground floor, Abel asked if I’d like to come out with them.
We spilled out onto the streets of Athens. The first bar we tried Greek beers- Fix Hellas. The second, a bottle of Greek wine- Thema. There are so many bars in Athens, by the time we walked into the last one of the night, we had probably had enough. We finally strike up an English conversation with two Greek girls at the bar. Students. The music was loud so I took the opportunity to stand close and lean into one of the girls. I felt warmth as I got a smell of her hair. Honey and white wine. At least that’s what I imagined. She kissed me on each cheek on our way out. That was night number one.
Abel was from Mexico City and a physical therapist of sorts. Over the alcohol he says: “If you never read different things or travel, you never have new thoughts.” He proclaimed he was not afraid to die because he had already faced death four times (he was keeping count). As a teenager he trained as a bullfighter. An actual bullfighter. He was gregarious and talkative, and as we sat there in this music filled bar and his stories kept pouring out, I too felt unafraid. “Hypocrites!” he said. Mexicans complain about the way Americans treat them, but turn around and do worse to the migrant workers and immigrants from El Salvador and Bolivia who come to Mexico.
As we headed back to the hostel, I stopped and looked up at the glowing Acropolis on the hill. There it stands, two thousand years later. As we arrived, two American boys were checking in. Jason and Paul from the great state of Minnesota. There come flickering moments throughout my travels where I do not wish to see my fellow countrymen. One of the boy’s nodded at me, and I barely acknowledged the gesture. Little did I know that Jason would make a tremendous impact on me and this trip.
Two nights later, I’m with Jason at a little place down the street. Abel and Ricardo had left Greece. The dorm room was dark, and I was lying there when I noticed Jason awake. “I’m not tired at all,” I say, and we end up at this little place. It’s the Greek Carnival and the people on the streets pass us with masks and bloated plastic clubs. A masquerader turns his devil mask on us as he strolls passed.
Jason believes very much in that single, all mighty God. I think there came a point where he wanted so desperately to believe in something. He tells me his prayers are his release. I think of the Gods we create to soothe the plague in our minds. I never worry too much about God, only the process of dying. The trick, I tell him, might be to find God in the world as it is, absent of all this doctrine written for people by people at the time they lived and tried to understand the world. Up the road at Delphi, the poor and sad and sick would climb to see the oracle and try to find comfort in their “fate”. In a strange way, it’s kind of beautiful that humanity has tried so hard to understand.
The next night the three of us- Jason, Paul, and I- sit on the roof of the hostel and stare up at the Acropolis on the hill. It’s a sight one would never tire of. Jason asked us if we had any moments lodged into our memories that changed us. He told of a dream he had the night before his mother finally disclosed of her cancer. She was sick. Dying. He turns to me and asks: “What moments changed your life?”