Finding Our Way
After driving away from Evretou, Rena decided to commandeerJo's phone.
"We've got some signal! I'm calling Yurt-guy!" She jammed the numbers fast, held the phone silently to her ear, and then whispered, "Wait, what's his name?"
Turns out we were close. Enough so that he could see us from where he'd stood on a mountain several kilometers away. Maria panicked and clutched at my wrist.
"How is he watching us? Where is he?" And she looked wildly through front, side, and rear car-windows.
When we turned a corner behind a grove of trees, we lost connection momentarily. Coming out again, he said he saw us.
"Make a left and drive straight up." Rena had put him on speaker. "I'll come out and help."
Outside the gates, a scraggly dog with half an animal carcass greeted us. The yurt owner held him back by the collar and waved to us. We were quickly given a tour of the grounds--the stage where, on Friday, there'd be a gathering of yogis on retreat; the communal kitchen and lounge space with a fully stocked bar ("Thank God. I need a shot," Rena teased.); the composting toilets; and the yurts themselves, which were, of course, gorgeous.
What do human bones look like?
On the way up, Jo, Maria, and I had planned to do about a hundred things. Rent bikes, go for a hike, explore the grounds. There was even a great climbing spot nearby! (I worked at a rock wall in college and, everyday, I desperately missed the sport.)
Reality hit, though, and so did exhaustion. Our host planned to go to town and offered to pick us up food, which we readily accepted. Once he was gone, we claimed our spaces then did our own thing. Rena and Ang hung out in the communal lounge and took advantage of the wifi. Jo swung in a hammock with some much needed lazy relaxation, and Maria worked on homework.
I roamed the grounds. Took a few photos. They turned out pretty crappy thanks to the fact that I'd only brought my cell phone and my stereotypical-millennial-urban-outfitters-instant-camera. As I snapped away at the sunset, cliff-sides, and sleeping animals, I realized that I missed a lot more than just rock-climbing.
I used to be as interested in photography as drawing and writing. I used to buy books on the basics of exposure and research editing software. Not sure where I'm going with this, to be honest, but I guess it was one of those I used to love this moments. A little flashback to my past and how I've changed or stayed the same. There's nothing wrong with forgotten hobbies, but it was a bit sad. Like looking in the mirror and noticing you don't know how to tell yourself hello.
And because I'm #dramatique, I started to reflect on all my other changes. I started to question the growth of my joy, the set backs of my strength, the sense of my love--one question that had plagued me since arriving in Cyprus had been whether or not I was running away from home. I let my feet dangle off the edge, dry twigs and brush scratching my thighs. By the time the sun fully set, I still didn't have an answer.
Later that night we stayed up chatting. I'd had consistent deja vu to my favorite hostel in New Zealand (Waitomo glow cave adventure--finals week spent caving and studying in the common space with the fireplace roaring and a puppy asleep at my feet). We sat outside with at least ten tea-cup candles lit up across the picnic table to keep the mosquitoes away. Slowly, Ang and Maria drifted back to their bed, but I stayed up with Rena and my aunt, the latter of whom began to cry about the issues plaguing her house and the decisions she'll have to make.
(friendly reminder, this is the part of the story that's not mine to tell, so I'm sorry if the next paragraph is pretty vague)
Rena and I tried to give advice. There wasn't a lot I could say, though. This was my godmother, my aunt. The woman who moved halfway across the world and whom I'm not sure I ever forgave for that. I understand why she did it, but to see that it had culminated in the same doubts, fears, and hard-spots made the memory of her move all the more bitter. She left to save her life, landed on Aphrodite's island for love in a lot of ways, and it all just circled back to square one.
But in the middle of us talking--of Rena and I telling Jo that she needed to take charge of what she knew she needed--I began to tear up. My voice grew shaky, and I tried to level it back.
"You have to, Jo," I'd said, but it was all wobbly. "You have...have..." and then I couldn't stop myself. I cried into my hands. "I can't handle anyone else in my family breaking down."
Jo came around from the other side of the picnic table, and she was crying, and she hugged me, and so did Rena, and that's how the yurt owner found us: sobbing.
He kinda awkwardly put a bowl of grapes in front of us.
Though once it all settled, we spoke with him. He wasn't Cypriot and had actually moved to the Paphos mountains to start his dream--this yurt yoga extravaganza. Everyone had called him crazy, but he said he liked the sense of connection among travelers. That the quiet leads to reflection leads to self-confrontation. It was strangely wise? Especially since the exchange was tinted by mine and my aunt's ~*~Emotional Outbursts~*~.
To lighten things up, though, later that night I shared werewolf and vampire stories with my cousins in our yurt. They got scared, and we decided to spook Rena and Jo. All of us ended up talking about how easy it would be for the hostel owner to be a serial killer. Rena purposefully looked up slasher films on her phone while Maria kept asking her mom if the dog that had greeted us carried human bones. (I reassured Maria that, as someone who drew many human bones for her life drawing class, the dog was probably chewing on a goat).
I woke for the sunrise the next morning, and the world didn't feel new. My eyes were puffy from the previous night's tears, and my head fuzzy with unsolved problems. The cry had felt good though. I slept without nightmares--which had thus far been plaguing my stay in Cyprus.
As the sun rose steadily, washing the dry ground with orange and gold, I saw from where I stood--on my little balcony--my aunt in the hammock outside her yurt. She wasn't smiling at the sunrise, but she sat up and leaned into it, face turned upward.
We said goodbye to our host, and Rena even told him that she teased the girls about him being a killer. He took it in stride (???), and we packed back into the car.
And this is the part where I tell you about the Petra tou Romiou, right? Where I tie all the loose ends together in the culminating pilgrimage to Aphrodite's birthplace. Where we all face the goddess and tell her how scared we are of our own hearts.
Reality doesn't work in those kinds of cliches, though. We passed by the beach, but couldn't stay long. Admittedly, I got a better view from the highway. There's not a lot left to say, really.
But the Petra tou Romiou felt over and underwhelming all at once, balancing out to a serenity I was surprised to feel settle into my chest.
As we drove away, I looked at Jo, at Rena, Ang, and Maria, and Maria said something silly about "how can we last two hours without something to eat" and Angelique mentioned going to IKEA for some furniture and Jo and Rena told us a story about 48th Street, Queens.
The Petra tou Romiou was behind us, but I suddenly saw Aphrodite in the car. I didn't face a single goddess, but I faced the women in my family. Jo and Ang and Maria and Rena....
My mom, even if she wasn't with us...
There were about a hundred trite phrases I wanted to dribble: "strongest women I know," "she needed a hero so that's what she became," "girl power!" bla bla bla. We'd all just had the most emotionally exhausting past two days, and yet here we were...trucking on... laughing and joking. Really, my heart wanted to burst.
--it all boiled down to love--
and not the kind everyone thinks. Nothing was solved. Jo still needs to face her decisions; I still struggle to be there for my family the way a daughter should. By all respects....things still kinda sucked.
But, with whatever movie-cliche was happening, this love made me feel brave.
"Beautiful," Jo said, giving the Petra one last look. "A lot of tourists actually complain about it, though."
Figures. Add that to the growing list of things the expats and the twenty-somethings will never understand about Cyprus. They're too boozed out and looking for adrenaline. I guess they expected more, something vicious and all embodying of Aphrodite's tumultuous mythos:
The drama of love instead of its quiet strength.
"Well," I replied, "maybe they don't know her story."
From guides to rants.