Famagusta - Nicosia, October 2015
Stefanie is with us now. We’re on our way to experience a music night in Nicosia. She sits in the front seat of Katerina’s convertible. Katerina drives and I listen to both of them chatting in Greek. Sometimes Stefanie turns to me and translates. She talks to me about embryos, feminine energy, how she broke her leg, and how frustrating it is to be living in her parents’ house with a cast on.
We’re constantly told that French women have monopolized the je ne sais qoui quality for themselves. I’d say it’s Cypriot women who have got it. Or maybe it’s just these two wonder women. Stefanie is dressed casually but something about her says it’s never about the clothes, honey. Her long dark hair is put up in a bun to stay out of her rosy face. She has clever perceptive eyes that sparkle and dance in conversation.
I’ve been given her crutches to keep here in the back seat next to me. The fourth passenger in the car is my invisible anxiety. The girls are not aware of it, of course. The cause of my anxiety confuses me: I’m afraid of the male sex. Among other things.
I feel unsafe. And I keep it to myself. Katerina and I have been having a beautiful day today. Why is this here now? I sulk and fume. I just want this experience to continue to be blissful. Is that at all possible? Please? I beg my anxiety impatiently. But anxiety never listens.
After the light show on the beach last night, Katerina and I went back to Yaya’s and fell asleep on the bed with the windows open. Katerina insisted on sleeping without the AC on, which means that it was going to get warm during the night and I was going to have to cover myself with only a light bed sheet.
“I like to be covered with a blanket,” I told her.
“I don’t know. I don’t feel comfortable otherwise.”
“Is it a security thing?”
It did not sound like she was curious about it. It was simply an observation which sent me spiraling into self-consciousness about my need to always feel safe. Was I brought up to feel unsafe in the world? Or was I brought up to feel too safe inside a tight zone of comfort? If you were the type of person who could sleep with an open uncovered body and wake up feeling refreshed, does that mean that you feel safe in the world? That you are present? That you are in harmony with all that is?
Somehow I fell asleep, challenging my body to stay open underneath the light bed sheet*. The lull of the traffic outside and Katerina’s gentle breathing compensate for the lack of a weight on top of me.
We woke up at dawn and chased the sunrise, barely catching it between rushing to get into bathing suits and gathering our scattered things. A bag of grapes for the road and we’re off to Katerina’s cove.
It was a dark rocky cliff by the cerulean sea. We had to pick our way through a dirt path and down some harsh rocks. I was terrified of cutting my tender feet. I kept seeing pictures of my skin getting infected, unable to heal because of my diabetic system. Katerina wanted to feel the rocks as she climbed down. I wanted to feel them too, the sharp little stabs of pain with every step giving me a thrill, challenging the Earth as we tread it. But I kept my sandals on.
I stood at the edge of a rock, suddenly invited into a prayer of gratitude. I opened up to the sky wishing I could expand my body enough to contain it. The water lapped my feet, warm and cool and buttery. I raised my arms and held it all in an embrace. Katerina the mermaid was already in the water. She watched me with her head bobbing in the wavelets. I knew she was joining me in prayer.
We swam until our cup was filled. On our way back to the car, I wondered if the reason that people didn’t wake up this early is because they fear feeling the God Force stirring inside them. The they don’t jump into the sea, or run on a dusty pathway and fill their lungs with fresh air because their small scared little egos fear God too much, and I don’t mean that in a fundamental religious sense. Swallowed by God, by the Eternal Presence, is not how the ego wants to end up. Instead the ego stays longer in bed, day after day after day. When it does get up, it makes sure to gather all the thoughts necessary to play a redundant film that has no stop button as it goes about its morning routine. It makes coffee, and, so, continues for the rest of the day having secured custody of this human life.
What if we taught ourselves to be swallowed by the God Force early in the morning and let it carry us through the day instead? How taller and wider and more lush would our lives become? Many of us practice prayer early in the morning but how deeply do we practice? How openly do we connect and receive? What if, even when we wake up late and lounge in bed, we can still find that aliveness within us, so robust, red, pink and yellow like the blushing gala apple?
I slipped into Katerina’s space and she slipped into mine. We found a nice rhythm so that by the time we arrived in Nicosia, where her parents live, we meshed entirely. We spent the day walking and talking in the old town and eventually plopped into a precious little sofa by the window in a cafe and talked for hours about all things divine. And guys.
Now, here in the car, Stefanie and Katerina have slipped into a rhythm of their own, a familiar one that they must have shared for a long time. I retreat from engagement in the back. I’m dressed in my favorite green dress that makes me feel like I just came out of the tropics but I cover the slightly revealing top with a gray Gap zip-up sweater. Because I don’t feel safe showing myself off. This anxiety feels immature, unexplainable and I’m frankly tired of it. There are paranoias parading in the back of my mind and I pretend not to look at them. They’re the same paranoias that drove me to face my fears in Cancun (See Cancun Journal), the same paranoias I had in the middle of a breathtaking meadow in France. I’m not as high-strung as I used to be and I must admit some credit is due to myself for that but it bothers me that when we’re out to have a good time at a jazz night, I still suffer this malaise instead of being fun and flirty with the other girls. I swallow a ball of tears in my throat and tell myself to man-up! I leave the car and resolutely take off my sweater.
I watch the men in my peripheral vision. Are they going to catcall? Are they going to approach? What if someone comes up to us and tries something? It's a quiet street.
Here, I feel obligated to remind you that I grew up being taught for years that men were dangerous wolves and that we fragile and helpless women needed to be covered up to be safe from harassment or even rape. It’s time that I left these beliefs behind, way behind, but they are gifted with talons.
We arrive at the music school. Katerina explains that this place was turned around into a rustic outdoor bar. I get a peek at the place, down in a quaint little alcove, sheltered from the street. There are twinkles lights hanging and wherever there are twinkle lights (or cupcakes) you’ll see me gravitating there.
Katerina and Stefanie start giggling because Katerina claims that she can carry Stefanie down the staircase. And she does!
The evening relaxes, or maybe I do. The music jangles louder than my anxiety and slowly I begin to feel the softness in my edges again. I let my hair down, in the literal sense.
Just in time, a gentleman joins us. Simon of the long Golden hair. He comes with his bike and his leather jacket and his eccentricity dripping from his fingertips. Simon is Katerina’s friend. He is half Turkish, half British. A Turkish Englishman. An English Turk. And he speaks both languages quite fluently with an impeccable accent.
I turn to this gentleman, very drawn to the way his sunburned face tells me how much he knows. It’s a wee bit intimidating at first, given that Simon is in his forties. I feel a little foolish talking to him about my experiences. But I see through our age difference and find an old soul who has traveled so much across this world, and in other lifetime, he no longer carries an identity. I don’t think Simon believes in reincarnation. I’m not sure what I believe about it myself yet but this man certainly wears layers of experiences that extend far beyond this life. And still he remains boyish. It’s very sweet. We talk about religion, film, Sufism, India and the possibility of camping on the beach in Karpaz, in the Northern part of Cyprus. It’s been so long since I talked so freely and openly, so non-stop, with a stranger before. I feel like I’m myself again.
As my intellect runs off with Simon, the music speaks to my body and I respond to the hypnosis. Katerina and I get up to dance to the curvy Latin sounds. Letting it all go… but for one bead of resistance.
“You’re a good dancer,” Stefanie says to me when we sit down, flushed.
With a thoughtful tone, Katerina asks, “Where you fully present when you were dancing?”
No, answers a voice inside before I can stop it. I realize I was a little self-conscious as I was dancing. Showing off maybe. Aiming to please. Aiming to seduce. It makes me wonder how much of our lives as women are performed to “please” someone, a man, other women, an audience. Why did I feel the need to please? So it’s either fear or pretend with us? Is that how men relate to women too? They are either afraid of inadequacy, or of getting hurt. Or they pretend to be “manly” or "charming" or "unbreakable" because that is what is expected. Where is the truth?
I open up to Stefanie. I tell her how I’ve been feeling this evening. I tell her my fears. I tell her some of the past experiences that led to those fears. We end up with an impromptu energy reading. I learn from her that she teaches Cypriot women to open up to their feminine energy and their sexuality. She pulls at me like an inevitable stream that gives me no choice about where to flow. Have I fallen into the right hands?
Katerina flutters close and pulls me out of my chair. She wants to show me something special. In a cozy anteroom off the dance floor, there’s a small art exhibit. There are chairs and tables here but no one has found this nook yet.
She takes me on a mini tour and we observe each painting and photograph like morsels of raw fruit. The art is made by various unknown individuals and is, therefore, honest and unpretentious. I feel surrounded by how genuine and by-the-people this place is. As we revel in that, an Argentinian tango breaks out on the dance floor.
“Oh look!” Katerina gasps. We look into the dance floor through the archway in the anteroom. A beautiful woman and her beautiful partner have gotten up to dance. I’m not sure if I really think they’re beautiful or if it’s just the passion and the intensity of their bodies moving.
We cannot go back to our tables because we would be interrupting the dance. So we grab two chairs and sit close to the archway to watch. The dance seems, from where we are sitting, like something that was orchestrated exclusively for me and Katerina to watch, framed as it was by that archway. Though this spontaneous dance is improvised by random people who were having a good time at the bar tonight, it felt like a synchronicity that opened up for just the two of us to watch the two of them.
The man and the woman cling to each other like they would fall apart if separated but each quite strong and poised in their own presence. Their temples touch and through that connection, passion pools downward and across into their limbs. He brings her this way and she knows to come before his arms need even pull. She leans back with the music and he knows where to touch her. He makes room for her to kick her heels, for her sculpted legs to spar with his. Their eyes don’t meet but they don’t need to. They feel. They communicate with intentions, lust and love.
It makes me wonder about what holds us back from feeling our way around the opposite sex with an open heart like this, with pure intuitive connection and love that transcends the needs of survival and the grunt of everyday life. What if we could just let go of our fears, doubts, reservation, pretenses, defenses, and opened up our bodies with the opposite sex? What made us like this? Why is it always a joust, whether it’s on a street, in a living room or in bed? What would happen if masculine and feminine both just…surrendered and danced?
“You know what I’m thinking?” Katerina whispers to me.
“This is the continuation of last night’s show.”
I smile. “The second miracle.”
* It was only later that I found out that there are weighted blankets made specifically for people who are prone to anxiety. So there must be some science behind my need for a blanket when I go to sleep!
Disclaimer: the pictures used in this post are not mine. The first picture belongs to Stefanie Nicolaou. The rest are taken from google images. I'm sorry for having to use them. I lost all the data on my phone after that trip so my own Cyprus pictures are gone. Thanks to all who are contributing pictures of Cyprus to me. If you have pictures you want to share please feel free to contact me in the comments sections.