I have been awake for 21 hours by now, but at least I am on the ferry. In the café I head straight to the bar, get myself a drink and collapse on one of the benches by the window which I have all to myself. It’s only a matter of seconds until I am in the horizontal, coat as a blanket, jumper for a pillow, ready to have a night-cap and then all is good.
I will be “home” in a little while, and will even get there by way of splendid three and a half hours of sleep!! ‘This is better than any business class air-bed’, I catch myself thinking. The wide, curving seats are the perfect spot for a nap.
I deposit my glass on the table and am about to doze off as one of the smiling waiters approaches.
The crew of the Diagoras must be among the friendliest in Greece – plus, they know me well. I do the trip Tilos-Rhodes and return about 20 times a year. In winter, a tall German girl who speaks Greek fluently (albeit gobbledy-Greek) sticks out like a sore thumb. So we’ve become friends or so.
The waiter stops at my table.
I nod at him and signal that, thanks, I don’t want anything as my glass is still half full. He shrugs his shoulders and whispers in the politest of ways: “Sorry, you cannot sleep, yet.”
“Well, it’s 11 p.m. and I’ve had very little sleep last night. When will I be allowed to sleep?”
“In an hour, maybe.”
I’m perplexed. “You mean, I have to sit here, upright, for an hour until I am allowed to go to sleep???”
“I am sorry. Yes!”, and off he walks.
I look at the man with the newspaper on the opposite bench to check whether he has heard that, too. He rises his eyebrows and mumbles: “Who cares?”, slides down onto his seat and closes his eyes.
“Indeed!”, I think and lie back once more.
I’m on a plane, flying through clouds, it is all dark and there is a gentle push on my left shoulder. The coat’s collar rubs against my chin and the touch on my shoulder is very soft, like a carress. I hear a voice that says:…
“Sorry! Sorry, miss!”
As I open my eyes I see two dark, very beautiful, very gentle eyes. The blonde lady to whom they belong lifts her hand of my shoulder and smiles: “We’ve reached the harbour, miss?”
I startle, reach for my phone, “Whatwchichwhere…?” and try to sit up, feeling very dizzy and worse than when I went to sleep.
“Oh, that’s alright. I’m going to Tilos”, I mumble and seeing that is only 1 a.m. am ready to fall back into dreamland when the lady says: “No, sorry, miss. You can’t sleep while we are in the harbour.”
Before I remember in which language this conversation happened, she has disappeared.
I try to sit up which is a challenge as little green dots dance before my eyes and swirl around the head of the man with the newspaper who seems to cope better than me, turning a page and looking very gathered and composed.
“What the f…?” I manage to ask.
The man looks up. “They want people to buy drinks, that’s it”, he says.
But I’ve had my drink. I “bought” this seat.
Greek ferries used to be full of families stretched out on camping mats, black-clad widows huddled up in their seats next to farmers with their goats tied to the railing. Well, the last goat I’ve seen in the passengers compartment has been a while ago – but it’s been during my lifetime. And goats aren’t the point here. Neither are picnics out of feta tins or BYO bottles of Raki – even though all of them used to be the familiar custom on Greek maritime voyages.
The point is that I have another 90 minutes to my destination, it is in the middle of the Mediterranean night, the café is half-empty, there are plenty of tables to sit and have a drink on and I am in the very furthest, darkest corner wanting to rest.
“In the days of the goats and beyond…”, I want to say. But I stop.
The smiling waiter approaches. He gives me an approving look as he sees that I am keeping myself propped up against my bag and switches the TV above our heads on. It shows a Greek Tourism Board ad, telling us that Hellas is the perfect country to relax, on a sea journey.
It is 1 a.m., I have another 90 minutes to my destination. I wonder whether they sell cabins by the hour these days – and grumpily vow that I will never ever book one.