I was on my way to a small island that a Danish lady had told me about. She had described it as paradisical, but she was a beautiful young woman and I suspected that a great deal of the world is paradisical when you are a beautiful young woman, but I, who am none of those things, was going anyway.
The last several days had been particularly tiring and I had not slept well the night before and had to be up from bed early, before the breakfast room was open, to get to Piraeus to catch the boat to the island. I felt slightly unwell and I was looking forward to napping on the deck in the fresh spring air with my sleeping bag wrapped around me like a down comforter. Then a young man with a boombox sat down near me and put in a tape and turned on the music.
Fortunately, his initial selections were traditional Greek music so that even though it might have been louder than I might have cared for, there was some hope that with focused meditation it might, like time in a dentist’s chair, be endurable, as the layout of the boat was such that there was no place I could comfortably nap that was beyond the reach of his music. So I drew on my inner resources and watched some blonde teenage girls and tried to ignore what was going on two meters from my left ear.
As I was going to a very small island, the voyage was a milk run, a slow progression from one tiny island to another. At Syros, loukoumi-sellers came on board selling their absurdly sweet confection. One of them told me the island was famous throughout all Greece for its loukoumi. I thought perhaps the loukoumi would settle my stomach from the coffee I had drunk at Piraeus, but it did not.
The traditional Greek music gave way to modern music: harsh, edgy, unfamiliar and unpleasant. Probably the sort of music they play in the elevators in hell when the car is stuck between floors.
I was by this time so stressed by want of sleep and the noise of the boombox and my general feeling of unwellness that talking to the loukoumi-seller had seemed an anchor to reality and when he left my mind began to entertain unsettled thoughts.
The young man with the boombox asked if the music bothered me. I answered that I liked the Greek music, but not the other. He nodded understandingly, but made no change to his music. I thought my reply was quite calm, coming as it did from someone who had been quietly calculating the plusses and minuses of seizing his pestilential machine and throwing it overboard.
There would be an awful fuss, of course, but physical violence would be unlikely. After a great deal of yelling, most of which I wouldn’t understand, I would eventually offer to pay for his drowned apparatus, which he would either accept or indignantly refuse. It would take about thirty minutes for everything to play out, and then my journey could continue in peaceful quiet and I could curl up in my down sleeping bag and go to sleep and wake up rested and healthy when we reached my island. It was a completely mad scheme, but I was not thinking clearly and of course I did no such thing. And this was fortunate as it turned out that the young man was going to the same island as I and would find a room for me there, invite me to a party and generally prove to be a fine fellow. I later wondered if he would get a chuckle if I told him what I had been considering to do with his tape deck, but I decided it would be just as well if I didn’t mention it.