It's early June of 2006 and I am lying on a large flat rock. The sun is beaming down upon my out of shape frame, causing beads of sweat to drip from my hairy chest and belly. I watch on, in a mixture of fascination and contempt, as the droplets turn into a mini stream, which runs down my torso and forms a well in my belly button. I use the fingers of my left hand to periodically flick the well empty, whilst the fingers of my right hand turn the pages of my book. It is with tragic irony that I am reading, "A Picture of Dorian Gray", a novel obsessed with fading beauty. Fortunately, there is not a soul around to witness my unsightly, but necessary actions.
That, this cove is secluded is certainly no coincidence. After spending a week surrounded by people that I shared no common interest or desire to be with, I decide that a day of complete solitude to end my holiday, will do me a world of good. You see, I am always the first to advocate solo travel and have been, ever since my first sojourn alone, back in the late 80s. Nobody, to tell you what to do, no hesitation over who likes what and who does not, no arguments over money, nobody to tell you when to get up etc. Of course, there is a trade off. Nobody to share the experiences, nobody to take photo's of you, and often, more hefty accommodation bills. However, this trip has not been great. Insecurities in myself, compounded by a cold, have resulted in me becoming more insular than I have become accustomed.
The few days I spent in Athens this week were nice enough. Of course, one feels an overwhelming sense of fascination when wandering around the birthplace of modern civilisation. "Oh, yeah" - look over there the Acropolis, "wow, there's the Parthenon", and so on and so forth. Contrary to what I had been led to believe, I even liked the look of the city, with it's many hills and it's winding streets. The pollution was kind of bad but I had been forewarned and it was not as bad as I expected. But, for me something was missing. I just wasn't feeling my alone time and although I sporadically talked to people, I could not find anybody that really aroused my interest.
Athens was followed by a ferry trip to the beautiful island of Santorini, one of great natural wonders of the world. Once again, it was beautiful, and the hiring of a scooter to transport myself around the island, temporarily lifted my dark mood. But this holiday just was not happening for me.
From Santorini, I caught a ferry to Ios. Upon docking, I was picked up by a minibus and taken to Dimitris campsite on the other side of the island. I have been on Ios for 3 days now and realise that this is not the place that I want to be. A verbal assault on some idiot who decided it was funny to kick a live octopus around the sand (much to the amusement of the other beach bums), alienated me from the rest of the party revellers. Solitude sounded like the perfect answer. "Voila", or whatever they say in Greece - here I lie, in my secluded glory. Well, me and Oscar Wilde.
I am officially the worlds worst sunbather. I have the concentration of a ADHD kid on a pint of orange juice. Half an hours gone and I have read the same 2 pages of Dorian Gray at least 50 times. Emptying my belly button has become a bit of a bind, so I decide to eliminate this process by swimming instead. My rock is literally a foot drop into the warm, blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The following routine ensues - sunbathe 5 minutes, read 2 pages (same 2 pages), jump in the water, rinse out belly button, maybe have a piss and then get back on my rock.
Over the course of the week, my body has started to become a nice shade of brown. I don't care what anybody says, a golden suntan makes a person look much better. Why do you think we all get sex on holiday? I observe that the region which is covered by my shorts is still milk bottle white. I start thinking, how nice it would be if I could have an all over tan. No more, milky white arse. By this point, I have been in the cove for the best part of 2 hours and as of yet, I have not seen so much as a crab, never mind a person. I am pretty sure that I am safe. Tentatively, I ease my shorts down, my head spinning from side to side, exhibiting the behaviour of a man that is carrying out a criminal act. With one final pull, I toss my shorts to the side in an act of self rebellion.
Wow, how wonderfully liberating it is, to lie starkers, starfish on my rock. In my new state of nakedness, my concentration levels are at least doubled. Finally, I am able to complete my 2 pages of Dorian Gray (actually this is probably down to the fact that I am sweating less in my natural form and therefore I am relieved of belly button duty). I close my eyes and absorb those amazing feelings of exhilaration as the sun soaks into your mind and body. Life is perfect, how could anything ruin this day?
Of course, this being me, it does not take long until this last question is answered.
It starts with a groaning in my stomach, which soon turns into spasms. Typical, that this happens just as I am feeling peaceful on my rock and my usual fidgeting has started to dissipate. I am feeling far too relaxed for all this. Don't get me wrong, I love shitting as much as the next man. If I was not feeling so perfectly relaxed, and circumstances permitted, I would enjoy nothing more than dumping my load. I try to ignore the bowel irritation for as long as humanely possible, but it soon it becomes apparent that it is not going to go away. Within a very quick period of time my pleasure receptors have switched from joy to pain and I am darting for the Mediterranean Sea.
I am not sure if I'm spurting diarrhoea before I hit the water, but I sure as hell am as I submerge. For the second time in 15 minutes, I am feeling quite liberated and I must say, there is something to be said about depositing straight into the ocean. But wait! What is this dark shadow that is following me around? and "what the fuck" is that tickling sensation around my posterior? 'For Christ's sake, I can't believe it'! There is a swarm of fish literally eating out of my arsehole, as I spurt. Hastily, I head for the sanctuary of my rock. I never was a great swimmer, but today, propelled by an arse full of fish - I am the man from Atlantis. I positively leap out of the water onto my rock, after single arsedly doing my bit for the biodiversity of the whole region.
I lay face down on the rock. My heart is pumping, the heat is bearing down on the back of my neck. Thank god, I've escaped! Who knows what fate a man could suffer at the mouth of a thousand fish. But wait! something is not right. I feel that something is not right. I am gripped by a new fear. Slowly, I turn my head and, lo and behold, there is a pleasure cruiser not 20 yrds away. Worse than that, a congregation of people are standing on deck looking in my direction. In shame, I lay my head back down on the rock and wait till the boat is out of sight.
I can't be sure, but I think they may have just witnessed the whole sorry spectacle.