In the evening, Marco and I take a long, slow walk around Kolonaki as the sun is setting. My neighborhood is quiet, steep, cobblestoned. Some parts are narrow and rambling and old, some are lit up, gilt-edged, gleaming with signs for Prada and Gucci. There are trendy new restaurants and the older tavernas, like the one where I work. Young people are drinking cappuccinos at the coffee shops, tourists are taking endless photos of the sunset. I have tried to make this city home.
We decide to walk up Mount Lycabettus. It’s often part of our morning running route, but then it is an opportunity for hill work, not a site for its own enjoyment. Tonight we take a leisurely pace. Children from a family of German tourists scramble up the hill around us. We stop to admire the intricate patterns on the doors of the church on Lycabettus, delicate black tracery on glass, illuminated from within by warm golden light.
“These old churches almost make me wish I were Christian,” I tell Marco.
“I see what you mean,” he says softly, his eyes traveling over the shape of the church, the little white dome on top and the crowning cross.
On an impulse we decide to have dinner at the restaurant near the summit. “I’ve always wanted to eat here,” I say.
“Then let’s eat here,” Marco says, shrugging. He stops. “Let me treat you.” “Sweetheart. You don’t have to.”
“Let me. You’re always paying for stuff and cooking for me and taking care of me. Let me take you to just one dinner at a place you’ve always wanted to go.”
“Okay,” I say. I’d say my Arab ancestors were turning in their sandy desert graves, but surely those venerable old men have long since abandoned me. I am head over heels for a boy less than half my age.
Our breath is duly stolen by the view at our table, placed right at the edge of the mountain, beside a low stone wall. It’s twilight, and every moment the light flees, bleeding from the sky. That has its own bittersweet significance, but then, as the night grows blacker, the lights begin to glow to their fullest perfection. The neighborhoods are tiny handfuls of houses, each block outlined with veins of dark green summer trees. The lights are coming out like the stars we cannot see, like the lanterns the white-shirted waiters come out and set on each table. In the far distance we can see the softness of the sea, in the middle distance the magic radiance of the Parthenon sprawled on the acropolis.
“My God,” Marco says. “I will remember this view for the rest of my life.”