The Animal Kingdom

The Walls Have Eyes

I eat alone on Corfu.

Correction. I eat alone all across Europe, in tavernas and trattorias and bistros and little canopied cafes and gelato stands and usually, I like it. Being Mysterious Girl Alone. Scribbling in a journal or reading a book. Glances at curious waiters.

But in Corfu, something changes. On this strange island full of teenagers that has a 24-hour bar and a weekly toga party. Being alone loses its mystery, changes shape, becomes something sinister. Like being the only woman at a nudist beach.

On a cinderblock wall in the cafeteria, someone tacks up a collage of photos — done on poster board and replete with magic-marker captions — of the last booze cruise. All the girls are topless, mouths open, arms around each other, reclining on sand, having a really great time. And while my second and third thoughts definitely involve questions of responsibility and self-respect, my first one focuses squarely on the fact that I have better breasts than all of these women.

I order a gyro and fries and it arrives oily and with veggies of suspicious quality. The fry cook, who gets flirty and inappropriate with every other girl in the line, says nothing to me. Maybe it’s my refusal to make eye contact or smile, to play the game. Or maybe.

I am in high school again.

I sit with my gyro on the porch and within seconds, something is nudging at my ankles, lured by the smell. A dog — a rust-colored mutt with stubby little legs — wants my lunch.

Greece is overrun with stray dogs. You see them everywhere — lounging under benches in public parks, splayed across the ruins at the Acropolis. In some places, signs warn against feeding them, but mostly no one bothers. Upon arrival at the hostel, I vow not to give any of the local dogs — a mangy pack of regulars who doze around the hostel grounds — any of my food.

Why be part of the problem.

But this dog. Her coat is dull and filthy and her teats are rubbery and low-hanging under her ribs from the dozens of puppies she’s nursed, but her eyes flash with life. Her ears perk into perfect little triangles when I speak to her.

Feeling lost, sadder than I ever thought possible in such a beautiful place, I sense a kindred. I do only what I can. One by one, I feed her every single one of my fries.

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