LESSON NUMBER ONE: Nooo! You’re too fucking young to have arthritis!
You met a surgeon at the port on Santorini and asked him what you could expect from your old septic knee. If the pain was in fact from scar tissue (and not from the two common types of arthritis), would it increase with age, or would it just stay the same? Before you could finish your question, he shook his head sympathetically, “It’s going to get worse.”
And it has! Dammit! Okay, aching knee(s) after a long day of hiking with the bag is to be expected, but the right one seems achier lately. Throbs, grinds, bitches, and complains. Even the left one has been cranky.
But you really did a number on them on Saturday night, when you danced 7 hours straight at Ozgur’s bar in the company of approximately 20 Danish high school students.
Holy Christ, you are getting old. By the end of the night, you were sitting in a chair, holding your knees, rubbing your legs, wondering what had come over you—oh wait, you know—it was the tall 18-year-old boy giving you a lap dance you didn’t want. This kid just didn’t know how to take “no” for an answer. “Do you want to go and get a hotel room?” he asked, tipping sideways; he was the drunkest person at the bar, for sure.
What a proposition! It takes more than a lap dance to convince you. Kids these days…
You went to bed when the sun came up, got about 2 hours of sleep, and then staggered home like Bambi for over an hour. Your knees—yes, both of them—were on strike. You felt sorry for them, very guilty for your blatant disregard for them.
After all, they’ve been good to you—the right one, at least, despite your illness, holds up pretty goshdarn well, all things considered. And the left… you may have injured it 3 months ago during a workout; it’s a little tweak that keeps rearing its ugly head, but the knee always gives you fair warning.
But that morning’s walk home… they wanted nothing to do with you, and every step you took made you fearful for their long-term health. Slow down, lady. 7 hours is a lot.
LESSON NUMBER TWO) You are a dirty girl.
You’re aware of your tendency to have scum lines around your ankles (these come from working outside in shorts). Your ankles are far away, and reaching down to scrub them seems like a lot of work. You also only shower 2-3 times per week, and you usually don’t shampoo your hair, scrub your face, or anything.
So yeah, your standard of hygiene is lower than most people’s, but no one has really complained to you about being filthy or smelly, except for your feet after long walks.
When your wobbly knees did manage to get you home, you took your host’s advice and went to an authentic Turkish bath house.
When you entered through the women’s door (this was after you accidentally barged in on the men), you shifted awkwardly when the wet woman, wearing nothing but a pair of panties, appraised you. “Massage?”
“Yes,” you said, nodding with a shy smile.
This woman was slick and wet and naked and… and… standing there with her hands on her hips, tits thrust forward, smacking her gum at you, unable to speak English. But everyone got their point across, and the woman pointed up to a balcony where there was a little room. She gestured to herself, that is, to her nakedness, and intimated that you should do the same.
Maybe you miss those days in the gang showers at the Gilder boat house. Suddenly, getting naked in front of a bunch of other naked ladies was a challenge all over again. Maybe because this woman wasn’t just going to shower with you—she was going the bathe you.
After making a point of chuckling and parading your naked self in front of the other women to show them how tall and broad you were, the woman flipped you, massaged you, scrubbed you, soaped you, and rinsed you six ways from Sunday!
You wonder if she’ll call in the morning…
You saw, during the procedure, the sheets upon sheets and rolls upon rolls of dead, dirty, black skin that washed away from your body. Jesus Mary! You wondered if that was normal, or if you were exceptionally dirty—if the woman was accustomed to that kind of thing. Okay, maybe she was, but you have far more surface area on your body than the other women and therefore, more dead skin. Gross.
The experience: totally worth it. You emerged from the baths slick and clean. Too slick. When is the last time you have felt parts of your body glide so effortless against other parts?
The heat, the water, the massage, the pampering (albeit, somewhat rough, especially when she dug her thumbs in some sensitive knots, snagged your nipple piercing, and started cranking your legs into a quadriceps stretch—oh your knees!) made you ready to go back home and slip gently into a coma and recover from the previous night out.
LESSON NUMBER THREE) Your social side is beginning to bloom.
You’ve referred to yourself as an anti-social extrovert. You need people for energy and stimulation, but you don’t like socializing with them.
Something in you has changed. You’ve grown up a little, or maybe you are more practiced at talking to people. Maybe you’re better at finding the ones you like. Who knows? But your last two weeks have been exceptional. You’ve somehow stopped regarding conversations with strangers as a type of burden.
Alone, bitter about not having a travel partner, unable to camp without making yourself crazy from isolation, you’ve learned to surround yourself with people. You’ve learned to reverse your anti-social tendencies and allow people to do for you when your wiring demands: stimulate you.
Of course, not everyone is interesting. But you had goals for yourself on this trip, and the most important of them was to learn how to travel alone, and how to like it. You had to learn to use other people, not just the ones nearest and dearest to you. You told yourself that you needed to be more open to strangers, to allow them in, to open yourself to the possibilities they can present.
And that is exactly what has happened. Between Cheda and Spaso, Tianake and Dionysius, Onur and Madga, Ozgur, and all the strangers—the shop owners who recognize you, and give you coffee; and Veysel, who met you Saturday night and treated you to dinner and drinks at his restaurant the following Monday (then later, his entire apartment and all its amenities)—you have had a fucking fantastic time.
What was the change? How did it happen?
Maybe because a certain someone pushed you out of the nest…