"The moon shines on all of us,
It knows what we can not.
Binding friends together
With ribbons of forget-me-nots."... Anon.
That little poem was left on my message machine a few years ago by a friend I have long since lost track of. Oh Victree, where can you be?
The Moon. Luna. Selene. She's shining brightly tonight, bringing back memories of other full-moon nights.
I submitted a story to an anthology a couple of years ago, titled "One Full Moon Night in Athens". It was accepted. Lonely Planet was going to publish the anthology, a collection of stories for first-time back-packers to Europe. I was thrilled when I got the contract. Though it wasn't a lot of money, it was going to be published in a book by a reputable publisher. So I thought. A few weeks after signing and returning the contract, I got an email saying that they had decided not to use the story. Their 'target market' had decided it might 'discourage' travellers. Why? The story was a cautionary tale warning people about date-rape drugs. A true story about something that happened to my friends and I who are well-seasoned travellers.
It was a July full moon night in Athens, Greece. My three friends, a Finnish architect, a Danish linguist and a Norwegian classical scholar and me, decided to have a moonlight picnic up on Filoppapou Hill, which is adjacent to the Acropolis. We were sitting under the monument on the Hill enjoying the balmy evening when a strange character appeared in our midst. We'd seen him earlier down at the To Kati Allo taverna where we all hung out. He was a young man, European or American, with long fair hair, oddly dressed in a Biblical
costume. He apparantly was a deaf-mute and we had been told he lived somewhere in the caves on Filoppapou.
Curious, we invited him to join us, offering him our wine and food. In turn, he offered us his bottle of ouzo. All but my Norwegian friend A.B. declined. She took perhaps two or three swigs of it. We tried to engage him in conversation (it didn't take long to figure out he was probably faking being mute). Not long after, A.B. went to stand up and couldn't. She asked him what was in the ouzo. He laughed and poof! as magically as he had appeared, he disappeared.
The rest of the night and all the next day became a nightmare. A.B. was in extreme distress, paralyzed and vomiting, unable to move. I had to run down the hill to find help. Two Greek men assisted us carrying her down to the parking lot, half-way down the hill and called an ambulence. The trip to the hospital (where, we didn't know) and the hours spent there were like something out of a horror movie. The doctor refused to believe A.B. was anything more than 'drunk' even though we tried to explain she'd only had two or three swallows of the ouzo and obviously it had been laced with something potent, perhaps lethal. Several hours went by. They refused to treat her. I eventually phoned a friend who had lived in Greece for some years and who could identify the weird character from the Hill. He drove out to the hospital and insisted they pump A.B.'s stomach. Several hours later she revived enough to leave. We spent the entire day following this frightening episode trying to make a police report. Nobody wanted to listen. It had been obvious this character planned to drug and rob us and no doubt he was lurking around the Hill waiting for other victims. The Greek police simply weren't interested. All they would say was "We have strong drinks in Greece."
So, I wrote the story, a valid one I thought, to inform naive travellers of a very common risk, recalling what our mothers told us as children "Never take candy from strangers."
I think of that episode sometimes on full moon nights. But fortunately, not all full moon memories are so traumatic. I once had a lover who always showed up on the night of the full moon bearing a bottle of wine and a bit of exotic tobacco. We'd sit for hours talking. He mesmorized me with his stories. Khadar was Palestinian and could transport me to the exotic world of the Middle East. He became my Muse. For days after our trysts, I'd write and write and write. He used to tease me not to put him into my stories. I didn't need to. He was my story.
This full moon seems to lack some magic. In fact, it has brought some strange and melancholy vibes. Not only I have felt unsettled and edgy. Others have expressed similar feelings.
I stayed home all day today, did some work on my novel, tried to centre myself and regain my spirit. The cold virus is bringing me down and I can't seem to shake it. Then tonight I went off to my class and for awhile things lightened up. There were excellent stories read tonight, some very poignant, nostalgic. My students are starting to write from their hearts.
I was touched, almost in tears, by a couple of the stories, pleased too, that everyone was sharing, communicating with each other. This is so important in a writer's group.
I left the school feeling much better and decided to drop by my usual bistro to catch some jazz. But there wasn't any music tonight. The singer was sick with a virus too. I sat awhile with a friend who bought me some wine. I talked briefly to an actor friend I hadn't seen in awhile. Then I walked home in the chilly night with that big silver globe of a moon beaming down on me.
Then when I got home, the final blow to bring me down completely. I'm going to the Interior this weekend to visit my girlfriend. My son is playing at a Blues Club there and my daughter had planned to come down too, and had sent a ticket for my grandson to fly up from California where he goes to college, to stay at the same hotel as my son. I haven't seen my grandson for 8 years, since he was 11. He's a young man now, nearly 20. I had dared to hope that this time we might finally meet. So many times in the past things have happened to prevent it. So tonight, when I got home, there was a message that because he has lost his green card they have to cancel the trip rather than risk him being barred from re-entering the U.S. Once again, I will not see him. And sometimes I honestly feel I will never see him again in my lifetime. Needless to say I am devastated. I don't often see my daughter either. She said she'd let me know when she'd be there ('if'). I'll go anyway, and try to enjoy my weekend, but the anticipated joy of that rare family reunion has been denied.
I've needed this break, hoped it would lift my spirits. I wanted to reach for the stars, dance in the moonbeams. But I feel as if a big wave has just washed in and dragged me out into the depths.
"We are the music-makers,
and we are the dreamers of dreams,
wandering by the sea breakers,
and sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
on whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
of the world forever, it seems."
Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy, 1844-1881