It has happened so long ago, its remembrance ought not have claim to it. Yet, the moment still visits me often in times of solitude or at night. Its memory still has an unaltered freshness and immediacy and gladness as then of years back.
I was still in my town back then in the prewar years-; Salonica a lovely tranquil city by the sea at the end of Thermaiko gulf in the upper Aegean.
I remember vividly it was June or July early evening. The smell of the jasmine and fresh earth were mixed together with the smell of the evening sea breeze. We called it lovingly, the “Lilac Hour.”
My neighborhood, as in other summer evenings, was teaming with life; mothers sitting together in front of their front doors gossiping incessantly while cleaning fava beans or wild herbs for the evening meal, enjoying the cool breeze.
The last village crier still around was announcing the ripeness of his watermelons stacked on his donkey cart: “Let’s cut them, let’s cut them open, I guarantee their sweetness, buy them, buy them!!!” he urged the people around him out loud.and somewhat un-poetically.
Animals roamed freely all mixed together; dogs, chickens , household goats. “For the children’s milk.” And the children! Oh the children !- myself among them, all zestful, exuberant, and scantily dressed. They were not having enough of each other’s laughter, games, or roughhousing on the warm, bare earth.
Yet, there was something else, still remembered, in the air amongst us, its memory mixed with that of the scent of jasmine and thyme. Its undefined presence was sensed infusing the roughhousing with extra intensity. It was secretively stared among us, unacknowledged while the roughhousing now becoming a little more exuberant and prolonged.
All of us; seven or eight-year-old boys and girls exhausted kept laughing, jumping and screaming in a cacophony of joy. It was Eros Matutinus creeping in.
Among them was myself- a thin, short, intense boy who was particularly zestful. I was focusing now as in the days past on Stella, a tall, lanky, waif with a graceful face who was full of angles and long, thin limbs and budding bumps here and there. We were the same age.
We were now sharing a secret acknowledgement of each other ‘s presence .a secret connectedness an unexpressed but strongly felt and shared : “I like you.”
That evening, we were particularly aware of each other as we were surrounded by the activities.
The night grew on and the mothers began crying out with exaggerated urgency in their voices for their children. “Anna, where are you? Niko, come home now. Yanni, come quick lest you face a green switch from your father.”
Stella and myself now stood alone close to each other face to face under the Acacia tree.
I suddenly bent quickly and daringly kissed her on the cheek as I was now flooded with feelings. My lips felt the velvety softness of her cheek smelling the scent of lemon flowers mixed with her body odor.
“I love you,” I uttered with a tremulous voice. She presently enveloped me with her arms and brought me close to her body for a few moments. Her incipient bumps of her chest were felt against the chest of my own body. Abruptly, she turned and ran to her door where she lingered turned “Me too, Niko.” She cried out. She then turned around and disappeared inside her house. I was flooded with an unrecognizable joy mixed with a guilty quivering, a vague but agreeable arousal. It was a moment of gladness, with me all night long and then its remembrance frozen within me for the years to come.
Either by luck or circumstance, I never met or saw Stella again. The memory has visited me often for all the decades past and still remembered as yesterday. It was a long, long, time ago in the Greek town by the sea.
The mind has indeed its own way of handling time and for recording and visiting it’s own felt, magic moments.
I often imagine she too is visited by the magic moment and if alive sitting now a little bend she remembers as she is minding her own cricking bones.