Mykonos by Bryan Andrews tells the story of Jacques, a South African who is experiencing difficulties – difficulties in his relationship with his wife and children; difficulties in his relationship with his work colleagues; and difficulties in his relationship with God. To give himself some relief from the problems and some space to work through them, he runs away to the Greek island of Mykonos.
This excerpt published by permission.
As he walked to the bus station the next morning, Jacques knew exactly where he was heading. Many of his clients had told him about Paradise Beach. It was beautiful and although it was crowded during the season, it definitely lived up to its name. As the season hadn’t officially started yet, with any luck, it wouldn’t be too busy. From a shop near the bus station, he bought some fruit, cheese and a bottle of water. After the big breakfast Mrs M had given him, he didn’t think he would need anything else.
The beach wasn’t quite as deserted as he had hoped it would be, but he found a secluded corner, spread out his towel and settled down for the day. He knew that nude bathing was permitted on the island and could see quite a few naked people on the beach but couldn’t bring himself to strip down further than his Speedo. He read and dozed in the sun and cooled off in the sea when he got too hot. When he’d finished his book, he walked the length of the beach, the water from the ebbing tide swirling around his feet. It was quite a cosmopolitan crowd that was enjoying the Spring sunshine. Most of them looked as if they were just emerging from the long European winter and their skin had taken on a rosy tinge which would probably be painful the next day. By contrast, tanned by the South African summer sun, he could have passed for one of the locals who spent most of their lives out of doors. A few of the folk he passed smiled at him and he smiled back but didn’t feel the need to turn the smile into conversation. He was happy with his own company and for the moment, didn’t want the pressure that came with making new acquaintances.
He was almost back to his towel when he noticed the young man sitting near it. He was good-looking and very well built – Stella would probably have called him a hunk. He was also totally tanned and totally naked. The man smiled as he approached. “You shouldn’t leave your things unattended on the beach. They tend to disappear if they are not watched.”
“Thank you,” said Jacques, not quite sure where to focus his gaze. It would be rude not to look at the young man while talking to him. But the prospect of staring at him, legs splayed and leaving nothing to the imagination, cut across his conservative South African upbringing and made him feel decidedly uncomfortable. The trace of a smile which touched the corners of the young man’s mouth said very clearly that he was aware of Jacques embarrassment and that he found it amusing. Focusing on the man’s face, Jacques forced himself to ‘fit in with the local culture’ and act as if nudity was perfectly natural.
“I should know better,” he said. “I’m always warning my clients not to leave their bags unattended. I should be practicing what I preach.”
“Your clients? What line of business are you in?”
“Travel. I’ve sent quite a few passengers to the island in my time.”
“From South Africa?”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“I recognised the accent. It’s quite distinctive.”
“Yes, I suppose it is. Although, if you told a South African of English descent like myself, that he had an accent, he’d be quite devastated. We all like to think that we speak the Queen’s English. From your accent, I’d say you were British.”
“You’d say wrong. I’m Myconian, from the island. I live in the town.”
“But you speak an impeccable English.”
The man chuckled at the look of confusion that crossed Jacques’ face.
“My father was British. Aristocracy, I think, although he would never talk about his family. Came here about thirty years ago, met my mother and stayed. Insisted that I should have a proper education. Sent me to Eton as soon as I was old enough to travel on my own. I believe there was a major fight with my mother, but the bulldog temperament prevailed and I got an English public school education.”
“Like Prince William…”
“A few years ahead of him. Although he was there when I left.”
Jacques decided that it was time to go. It was almost four o’clock, he’d had enough sun for one day and he wasn’t entirely comfortable talking to a stark naked man. By contrast, the man was totally unselfconscious and continued chatting while Jacques collected up his things.
“Which hotel are you staying in?”
“I’m not in a hotel. I’m in a B&B.”
“Really?” remarked the young man. “What’s your landlady’s name?”
“Mrs Mavrokordatis. Do you know her?”
“Of course I do. Everyone knows Mrs M. She’s got the best B&B on the island.”
“I must be on my way,” said Jacques. “The bus is about to leave, I think.”
“See you around,” replied the man. “Here on the beach. Or back in town.”
Jacques only just made the four o’clock bus back to town. It was pulling away as he came off the beach and he had to run the last 100 metres to catch it. As he rattled back to the bus station, he thought about the young man on the beach. A touch of envy rose up in him as he speculated on his life on the island. He must have a wonderful, carefree existence, being able to spend afternoons on the beach when he felt like it.
As the bus pulled up at the station, Jacques shook off his reverie. If he was going to retrace his steps back to his lodging, he would need to keep his wits about him. Passing a bookshop, he went inside and searched for some English books. The selection wasn’t great but he had finished the one he had bought at Johannesburg Airport and didn’t fancy the prospect of having nothing to read. He eventually bought three and then found his way back to Mrs M’s.