Friday, July 25, 2008
Three Short Lessons in Accepting What Is
The girl sitting next to me is shaving her legs.
She walks into the room gesticulating wildly toward the electrical outlet, unplugs one of the laptops, and plugs in a pink electrical razor. She switches it on, plunks into a chair, and epilates.
The room is the common room, and the chair is in the center, so anyone who enters — and there are lots of someones entering — can watch.
We are sitting here, a group of three or four of us reading. Or writing. Or surfing. And we’re waiting for her to maybe start on her underarms. Her bikini line.
This is how I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it’s time to go home.
After I snap at the Australian girl and her drunk friend about using my computer, I expect her to avoid me. Instead, she does something that genuinely humbles me, that not a lot of people would do if they had just been snapped and snarked at by the girl on the iBook.
She refuses to give up on me.
She’s a little scared at first, I can tell, like I’m going to bite her head off at any second, but then she just keeps talking. And talking. And before I know it, I’m talking back. We decide to go to Knossos together, to view the palace.
She talks about metal, which she loves, about the music festivals that brought her across Germany living in a leaky tent. About wanting to go to film school and breaking into the business with music videos. About Harry Potter.
Meandering through the ruins, it becomes clear that the walls have been concreted and rebuilt and reinforced according to the plan of the long-dead Englishman who discovered them, a wealthy archaeologist named Arthur Evans. Evans had ideas about the people who lived here, and he imposed those ideas on the rocks that jutted from the dusty Cretan ground. He invented and hypothesized and today, every plaque and description bears a gentle disclaimer.
Arthur Evans thought.
According to Arthur Evans.
Some people think he ruined it with his fake Greek-style columns, his rebuilt second floors and unauthenticated throne rooms. Others forgive him because he was working without much archeological precedent, and because exotification, for a wealthy Englishman in 1900, was more or less a viable way to view anything that was… not English.
For us, though, it is more a lesson in the History of History Lessons. At Knossos, there is the line between the authentic and the concrete, the imagined and the real, the people and what one man thought about them.
I want to leave after a quick perusal, disappointed, but the Australian girl stops me.
“We’ve come this far,” she says. “Let’s at least see the frescoes.”
The frescoes are, of course, reproductions. But they are vibrant against the dull rock, women dancing and a leaf curling over onto itself, a bull, men bearing a pitcher. A glimpse of what these people were. Of pigment on a wall. Of what was human, underneath.
“See,” says the Australian girl. “It was worth the ride, right?”
I cannot find a single reason to disagree.
They think I’m crazy because I write. That I’m lonely or overworked or a lesbian or all three because I’m not socializing enough. Not flirting enough. He’s all but said it to me, the guy who runs this place.
I write in the mornings and at night after the sights are seen and the towns are wandered. I wake up at crazy hours, fiddling with plugs.
I was in Italy, on an island surrounded by the bluest, bluest sea. And I was swimming from one side of the cove to the other in long, strong strokes, and all I wanted to do was write. To put words on a page, regardless of whether anyone read them and regardless of whether they were any good and regardless of my fear concerning both of those things. So I decided to let myself write. Even though it takes me away from the clubs, from the perks and charms of social butterflydom, from reality, from living in the NOW, like Eckhart Toll said.
And I wonder sometimes if this is why I came in the first place. To tell you a story.