By the time we arrived at our hotel, my mind was spinning with excitement at my imagined ‘game’ and eager to learn more about this Mystery Man. I immediately broke all of my rules about not learning more about the real life people who inspired my characters, and went to Google, entering in the key words that I had used many months ago to find his picture in the first place…
“dark hair, blue eyes male, actor or model…”
But no luck…his picture was nowhere! I didn’t know his name because the banners that I just saw were all in Greek, and Nikos the driver did not bother to tell me either. The curiosity about him was eating at me. I had to know more about him! So, I went down to the lobby of our hotel, where an impeccably dressed, elegant blond woman sat behind a desk next to a sign that read, Guest Services. She was speaking on the phone in perfect English with a crisp Australian accent, when another woman-who-could-be-a-super-model walked up and called her Desi.
Oh! Was this the same Desi that I had been emailing back and forth so many times leading up to this trip? Almost immediately, I felt embarrassed. God, what does she think about me and all of my crazy requests? I’m pretty sure that most guests here were not as high maintenance as me. I also felt really out of place here because I was so focused on the logistics of the research for this trip, that I gave my appearance and clothing choices very little thought beforehand, and in just the short time I had been here, it was obvious that Europeans vacationing in Athens dress a little more formally than we do in America.
I was a fish out of water, wearing cut off shorts, a plain white t-shirt, running shoes, no makeup and had a camera around my neck. My whole appearance screamed “I’m from America”! And here I was hoping to fit in at least a little bit so I could win the trust of the locals and find out how people really live there. Wishful thinking! My sense of style was totally inadequate to fit in here. I had duct tape covering a broken strap on my purse, my hair was a mess, I was very pale and weighed a little more than I usually do. Not my best look!
As soon as Desi was finished with her call, she turned her attention to me. At first she didn’t recognize me, but then as soon as I mentioned the book I was writing, a big smile formed on her face and she knew exactly who I was. She called her assistant, Afroditi, in and they both gave me hugs, as if we were long lost friends. I instantly felt at home, and at ease. Desi had to go, so Afroditi sat and talked with me for a while. She was so friendly that I decided to confide in her about my Mystery Man. After I finished the story, she was as excited as I was to find out who he was.
So, we sat at her computer and scrolled through a variety of photos of Greek pop stars that fit my Mystery Man’s description…dark hair, blue eyes…male…and after only a minute, there he was up on her screen.
But again, his name was in Greek, so I couldn’t quite catch how to spell it. She wrote his name down in English for me on a sticky note: Kostas Martakis.
“Oh!” she said low and quiet, “It’s kind of a secret, but sometimes he comes to the bar or the restaurant here.”
A few minutes later, Desi returned, and when we relayed the story to her, she recommended that we should see him perform at a nearby club. I had mixed feelings about this because it felt like I was cheating the ‘game’ I had set up for myself. The rules for my game were that I needed to run into him randomly. Okay, so if I intentionally pursued him, by going to see him live at a performance, then this wouldn’t count as a ‘sign from the heavens’, but I was completely fascinated. How could I pass this up?
As Desi looked up the dates of when he would be performing next, a frown crossed her face. She looked disappointed for me as she said, “He’s not performing in Athens now…” I asked where he was performing? At that point, I was so excited about this cool adventure that I would have flown overnight to see him perform, wherever he was in Greece.
But then she said, “No…he’s not performing anywhere now. He’s taking a break. They don’t sing all the time.”
I think my face fell because she gave me a hug, but I’m not sure she really understood how important this was to me. She probably viewed me as some star-crazed fan, when in reality, it wasn’t that I fancied myself to crush on, or obsess over, Kostas Martakis like a fan would. To me, he was a teenage boy on my wall that I wrote about…and I am a much older woman who likes much older men (like my husband!). I knew nothing about him or even heard his music before.
It was more of what Kostas represented to me. This was a sign about my future and what I was meant to do with my life. Was this book really my calling or not? In retrospect, I was putting a lot of emphasis on this little ‘game’ that I had created in my head. If I were back in the United States, I never would have done anything like this…but my sister was really into it, and we were feeling carefree and looking for adventure…and so, why not?
Here’s the thing. I had no idea what I would really do if I did happen to see this guy; and quite honestly, I didn’t really want to meet him. I was afraid that his real life personality would differ so much from my character, Ever, that it would unduly influence my writing…and maybe in an undesirable way. I was only halfway through the writing of the book. So, I guess I was a little relieved that I wouldn’t be able to see him perform while we were there that trip.
It was mid-day, so my sister dragged me out to the beach. There were plenty of exclusive beaches nearby, but I was looking for a more local beach where my character Nick might take Helene on a date in my book, so Afroditi told us to check out a beach at a close by area called Varkiza. We hopped in a cab, and on our way there, my sister was teasing me, “C’mon … you can’t tell me that after all of these coincidences, you don’t want to meet him?”
“No!” I smirked. Just at the thought of meeting this guy in person, I tensed up to where I was nervous about it. Not because he was a star, but because the buildup we were creating inside of our minds was fun and exciting. We went to the café, ordered Greek salad and then proceeded to get into an argument with the waiter because there was no lettuce in the salad. “This isn’t salad!” I declared. He just frowned and stomped off. Clearly, I said something wrong. Maybe he didn’t understand me. (Actually, later in this trip, I discovered that a real Greek salad does not contain any lettuce…it’s chopped tomatoes, red onions, Greek olives, cucumbers with a tiny amount of olive oil).
As I was paying the bill, my sister whispered to me, “I think he’s here…!”
“What? Who…?” I asked.
“Shhhh…the Mystery Man!” she whispered in an urgent voice.
Of course, I did the worst thing possible and turned completely around to look. Yes, sitting there was a very attractive man who fit the description of Kostas. My pulse quickened slightly.
She socked me in the arm, “Could you be any more obvious!?”
This got the guy’s attention, which made him look up. My heart rate increased as his eyes locked onto mine. Oh God!
But then I realized…it’s not him. Psyche! Phew. My shoulders slumped with relief.
We giggled and laughed about this for quite some time. The waiter was about to kick us out, when we ambled out onto the beach. We had no regard for our silliness and were attracting some attention. I’m pretty sure everyone around us knew we were American. There were a couple of younger Greek guys who sat near us. They were friendly and we chatted about the US. We ordered some drinks, felt a little tipsy and pretty much out of it from the jet lag, as we lounged on the chairs sharing our usual ‘sister’ stories.
Sitting next to us was a rail thin mom who was almost effortlessly managing two naked toddlers on the beach. She seemed so calm and sure of herself with her kids, like it was easy. A sea gull swooped down and attacked a bag of food that sat on her chair, so we tried to scare the bird away to save her food. She just shrugged, batting her flawless eyelashes at us, completely unfazed about it. Geesh, I found myself so envious, wishing I could be like this with my son (sigh).
We were immersed in our silliness, laughing about something when I turned to my left to find an excessively attractive Greek man with a unique tattoo on his arm lounging on the chair next to us.
His tattoo really caught my eye because the image it created took my mind away somewhere else for a moment, which somehow, made me feel free. I guess I longed to feel this way…especially after I spent so many years feeling like I lived my life to help my young son, who had special needs. I needed to feel like this. This is why this tattoo stuck in my mind.
But this guy was unreal. I felt so self-conscious with him right there next to me that I had to cover myself up with my towel. He was that stunning. Wow. Was this guy a real person? Welcome to Greece!! Jenny and I laughed about it, totally enjoying our first day there.
Later that night, as we literally tripped into our hotel room, I suddenly had the urge to look up my “Mystery Man”, Kostas Martakis, on the internet. Now that I knew his name, the suspense was overwhelming me. I needed to know more, so I typed in his name and hundreds of pictures popped up for him. He’s a popular and very attractive pop star.
But then, my heart just about leapt out of my chest at what I saw next…
It was a picture of him on Instagram time stamped two hours ago. He was at the beach with a tattoo on his arm…the “unique tattoo” that caught my eye and made me feel so free. I didn’t even recognize him?! He looked so different in real life from the photo on my wall. Not a teenager anymore.
What?? C’mon! I must be dreaming. This type of thing doesn’t happen in real life. I had only been in Greece for eight hours and already seen my “Mystery Man”. There’s only one thing that can mean…
This was the sign I was waiting for…I was meant to write Protogenesis!!