13 Jun A Boat on the Aegean: Ferrying to Crete
Outside, the wind is the only cold part. The air itself is tepid, like warm water surrounding our skin. People congregate on the upper deck, above us, where a covered bar and benches provide a blockade from the wind. I love the isolation of the lower deck, especially on the narrow side, where we are the only ones.
The lights of Iraklion twinkle like grounded stars, inviting us to recreate their myths. We are travelers, passengers, in the deep moving gulf that opens into the Mediterranean sea. I can’t help but think what a powerful source the sea is, and that we are at the mercy of its every whim. The ship glides like a rubber ducky. There is no sense of disruption: the waves, their consistency, the movement toward a blinking light, our silence, and the sound of the water slapping the sides of the ship as it moves.
The sky is purple, almost black now, infused with white tendrils of spilled milk. As I look closer to the horizon, the colors change from purple to blue to a yellowish-green and finally to orange. Orange halos always appear closest to the source of light, like planets.
“Would you like to hear a story?”
“What kind of story?” She asks.
“A twisted one.”
A story can begin in many places. It is always a question of how far back you want to go in the chain of causes and effects, because something always precedes the action, no matter where you begin.
“Crete had a mythical king, named Minos.” I told her. “Minos worshipped Poseidon and asked him for a sign. Poseidon gave Minos a white bull, but the bull was so perfect that Minos couldn’t bear to relinquish it. He replaced it with an ordinary bull and, of course, when he sacrificed the stand-in to Poseidon, the god got pissed.”
The wind builds strength, blowing strands of lemony hair across her face.
“To get revenge, Poseidon made Minos’ wife fall in love with the bull. She suddenly had an uncontrollable lust for the animal. She thought about its immense whiteness incessantly, until one day she asked Daedelus for help with the embarrassing predicament. He said maybe if she had sex with it once the cravings would cease. However there was a biological problem at hand, which is that the bull wouldn’t copulate with a human. So she wore a life-like cow suit to trick the bull …and it worked.”
“Yes. Well, to make matters worse, she conceived. The offspring was the Minotaur, half man, half bull.”
Mother sips her tea, blinking into the wind. I zip my hoody up to my clavicles to block the growing wind. The island mountains glow refracting their light off the water.
“Naturally, Daedalus was a criminal for helping create the monster. Further, Daedalus knew its embarrassing origin, as well as the blueprint for the labyrinth he built to house it, so Minos placed him under house arrest with his son Icarus.
“But Daedalus devised a means of escape. He engineered wings from a wooden frame covered in wax. From a cliff beside their home Daedalus instructed his son Icarus how to fly. Of course, Icarus paid little mind. He flew too high. His wings melted and he plunged to his death.”
Mother looks over the edge of the railing, the water making slurping sounds, as if viscous and climbing the side of the boat. She cringes, goose bumps shining in the moonlight.
“Now, Minos had a son and a daughter …”
“Oh yeah. The Athenians killed Minos’ son. So, as a peace pact Aegeus, the king of Athens agreed to send 14 children every full moon equinox to feed the Minotaur. But Aegeus also had a son, Theseus, who he included in a sneaky solution to the Athenian sacrifices.
“Too much?” I ask, grazing my hand over the salt spray on the railing.
“No, it’s fascinating.”
With the black night above us, I talk on. The lights of Iraklion grow brighter.
“Aegeus told his son if he succeeded in killing the Minotaur he should raise white sails instead of black. When Theseus arrived he met Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, who fell in love with him. She taught him a trick. When he arrived at the labyrinth he tied her red yarn to the entrance and unraveled it as he walked.”
Mother’s eyes move with mine. Mixed languages dance on the deck above us. The night has become colder, wind whipping around the ship, the voice of night. Iraklion is enveloped in a throbbing, orange glow.
“The plan works. But on the way back to Athens, they stop at Naxos, and somehow, he forgets his new girlfriend on the island. Ariadne, in her anger, places a curse on Theseus’ memory. He forgets to change the sails on his ship. When he arrives at the Athenian harbor, Aegeus sees the black sails and in his grief jumps into the sea.”
Though the ship has moved a great distance, the moon still finds our faces. It drapes over our expressions, our silver plated skin. Why is fear liquid? Why do heavy bodies sink in shallow water?