On Santorini in Kamari village there lived an elderly man who must have been at least 80 or 90 years old. He always gave me a very nice smile whenever our paths crossed on the way to and from the cafenion on the little plaka above the main road in Kamari.
He was very tall and slender, and frail yet elegant with his cane and a white mustache trimmed just right, and he wore the typical Greek man's clothing of the time -- slacks, long-sleeved white shirt, buttoned-down vest, and a sweater, and that little dark-blue cap so often worn by fishermen on the Greek islands. You could almost say he was debonair, but he had nothing of the air of a raconteur, and anyone could see that he was a true gentleman.
In order to reach Kamari's small square one had to walk up a broad inclined path of jagged cobble stones. Running along the concrete-paved square on two sides there were small white-washed buildings, connected at the end, like an L. In the corner where they joined was the little cafenion belonging to my friend Vangelia's family, run by her father, Tasos, and her mother, Sofia. It had only two small metal tables painted with shiny white enamel, and I would often go there and sit with them to pass the time or eat a little feta with olive oil or sliced tomatoes on bread. At the end of the other arm of the L, there was another tiny cafenion with only one table where my gentleman acquaintance was a frequent guest. None of the buildings in between seemed to have any function, so the square was very quiet. And every day, in the afternoon, my tall elderly friend would walk up that precarious path, very slowly and carefully, using his cane with dignity, holding himself erect but not austerely, stepping among the cobble stones.
He was always greeted with approbation by his elderly compatriots. And there, three or four of the older ones would pass the afternoons together, sipping their coffee and usually playing cards or tavli, laughing and teasing each other and telling stories from the past. My knowledge of Greek was not sufficient to permit me to know what they were saying, and I so often wished that I could be a fly on the wall and understand their many stories.
One afternoon in early October as the low sun cast a warm glow over the whitewashed walls, my friend calmly approached in his usual manner, slowly coming up the path. Another older man, already seated at the little table outside the cafenion, looked over his shoulder, then leaned forward and began to tell a story, and all the other men began to laugh in an uproarious fashion. Well, you know what that kind of laughter is all about. My friend stopped as if he had been slapped. This only caused his friends to laugh harder. He turned around and walked back in the direction from which he had come, in the same erect and dignified manner as always, but with the laughter of his friends following him. And I did not see my friend again.