BY SARA HENRY
Even at this hour, the island mountain shines like a grain of salt. Our girl is in the suite, lying on the couch in a white strapless dress, eyes open. She bought the dress earlier today with her mother, who’s still downstairs at the hotel bar. It’s 2 am in Mykonos and 7 pm in Connecticut. If she were in Connecticut she would be in her room doing homework. The door buzzes and she opens it, expecting to see her mother’s starving green eyes.
Instead, there’s a man balancing a silver tray on his right hand. He’s the skinniest man she’s ever seen, in black pants and a button down. His smile is skinny too. She doesn’t remember ordering anything, but lets him in. She’s drunk from the fifth night of visiting the bars, watching her mother flirt with the local men.
He sets the tray down and turns to look at her, his hands on his almost not-there hips. Now she remembers him. The bartender from downstairs. Her mother laughed into his olive-skinned neck while our girl ordered a gin and tonic. She liked the way that phrase sat in her mouth: gin and tonic on the rocks, please. Glancing over her mother’s head, he asked her how old she was, one black eye shut. Nineteen, she shrugged back. Nineteen is a perfect, rose-smelling number.
The bartender’s voice is high and slippery. He’s moving around her like a fish. He brushes her cheek, then takes her hand and leads her to the couch. He’s saying that she’s pretty. He’s muttering things that she can’t understand. Her hair twirls around his hand like a limp jellyfish. She sits more still than she ever has in her life. She’s sorry she lied about her age. For a second, she thinks she can hear her mother’s low laughter rising from eleven floors below.
Our girl won’t remember what happens next. She won’t be able to. She’ll remember the speck of dirt on the corner of the couch cushion. She’ll remember the way the wide leaves of the potted plant curl inward. She’ll remember the shade of white of the walls, and how it reminds her of eggshells. She’ll remember that the tray was filled with soggy feta cheese, which she despises. The details will be relentless, lining the inside of her head like stars.
She doesn’t know it yet, but our girl’s life will be different when this vacation is over. She’ll fly over the ocean back to Connecticut, but the couch will flicker like a candle behind her, calling her back. Her mother, head lolling to the side in the seat next to her, will never find out about this night.
Our girl will do odd things. She’ll turn every object in her bathroom sideways, and repeat the process if she makes a mistake. Mirrors must be crawled under or she’ll get bad luck for twenty years. Sleep will become a rare bird to be hunted. Teachers at her thirty-thousand-per-year private school will start calling at dinnertime, repeating her name like an incantation.
Her parents will not know what’s wrong with her. Her father will scratch his gray head and buy her a horse to show her that she’s taken care of. He’ll pay for after-school creative writing classes and the teacher will tell her that all stories have beginning, middles, and ends. Her story won’t be a story but a smattering of unnamable light.
She’ll try to remember tonight with every part of her body. The skin on her fingers will crack from hours in the bathtub, turning the clues over in her mind. Leaves, deep blue, a fly on the windowsill. The only things that will come back to her are the words Koreetsi mou, cobwebbing her eardrums. That salty hiss.
Her obsessions will get worse, until her parents’ concern congeals to something closer to hatred. The school will threaten unspecified consequences. Her mother, looking into her glass of pinot, will shake her head and wonder why a fourteen year-old who has everything in the world, whose mother takes her to magical faraway places, would be so ungrateful.
152 nights after this night, she will scream in the dining room. She’ll take a red-rimmed plate from the dinner table and smash it on the floor and shout I don’t want to live anymore, the cranberry sauce bleeding on the carpet. She’ll see the fear in her parent’s eyes and want to marinate in it. It will be in this moment that our girl will realize the terror and the wonder of it. What she’s capable of. That she has Mykonos inside her, each shard of the island another tiny unknowable thing, a thing of hard beauty that will destroy her house from the inside out.