To Greeks, the body was sacred after death, though apparently not before. When a doctor figured a patient was going to die, he got to work cutting him open to see what made the human body tick. At time of death, anatomical investigation concluded. The hope was that the doctor had garnered greater knowledge of the inner workings of the human form. I don't know about you, but this makes the Hippocratic Oath a little less convincing for me.
Meanwhile, Athens was buzzing with the smoothest-talking men I've ever encountered. I wasn't sure if they were trying to screw or swindle me. After a long day of museum hopping and pub crawling, five o'clock hit hard. My mom and I, who were backpacking through the mainland together, were starving. We went looking for a watering hole with some local wine, where we could eat our weight in Kalamata Olives and Tzatziki: a creamy yogurt and cucumber spread. To our frustration, all the eatery doors were closed.
As we walked down a narrow alley, despairing because Greeks eat so late, we saw a shirtless man in a black apron, frantically pointing at a rooftop. At first we thought he was a lunatic, with his disheveled black hair and wily eyebrows. We almost spun around. However, we soon realized he was trying to solicit us for his restaurant. It wasn't quite open, but with competing establishments all around, he wanted the earliest customers. “Oh mom, can we go?” he asked, grabbing my startled mother's arm.
Before I could protest, he snatched my hand as well and dragged us up two flights of stairs to a rooftop garden with a magnificent view of the Acropolis. The afternoon sunlight pierced holes in a thick blanket of clouds, hitting each wine glass on the white tables. He trotted off, jerky and awkward, to fetch free shots of Ouzo.
When he returned with the anise-flavored aperitif, he had slapped on a pressed shirt, but had failed to button it with tufts of chest hair springing out. “Try it,” he said while rubbing his elbow against mine, “You're in Greece you know.” Mother made a sour face. "Mom," he groaned, "what's the problem?"
The next thing we knew, he was getting downright cozy and sitting at our table. “You wanna know my name?” he asked. We didn't answer. “Well, I'm … Catastrophic baby!” He pointed at me, “Yes, that's my name.” He was a Greek Austin Powers except with worse teeth.
We ordered food and wine: the perfect excuse to get him away from our table. As soon as he left, Mother poured her Ouzo on a plant. The neighboring rooftops were still empty. Waiters waved arms over their heads and whistled for our attention. Catastrophic flipped his hand at them as if shooing off a fly.
He brought us an appetizer, which was not exactly what we'd expected. Everything looked a day too old. We ate only the olives enthusiastically by bobbing for them face down on the platter. Pretty soon he was back at our table saying “Mom, I want to ask you … ”
“Stop calling me that. I'm not your mother.”
“You can make me a photo with her?” he asked (meaning me).
"Sure," she said, raising her eyebrows and smirking in my direction.
Mittie Babette Roger is from Louisiana but lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University and authored the book It's Better to Visit the Shaman Without Questions to Ask. She travels the world volunteering to help disadvantaged children and promoting Blue Iguana Tequila to empower serious drinkers.