Vexations and Conundrum – September 2023


Several years ago, my husband and I went on one of those small (50 feet) yacht trips with several other couples. Our destination was Turkey, and from there we were going to sail around outlying Greek islands. We would be gone for over ten days.

Our first surprise was that our promised sailboat had no sails. Sailors were in our travel group, and they were not pleased. After much ranting and consternation from our fellow travelers and poor explanations by the crew captain, a negotiated settlement was reached: We would not be charged for any wine on board the “sailboat” with no sails for the duration of our trip.

That night we had our first wine with dinner. This Turkish wine would have made a lovely vinaigrette. None of us could drink it. What a losing deal we cut!

Things progressed after this poor start. Our crew was dedicated, polite and hardworking, all male. The cook was particularly talented, so the food was outstanding. He was a Turk, and our cuisine was authentically Turkish, with much eggplant and meats, all with interesting spices.

The youngest and least experienced crew member was also the most handsome. His long hair was the color of black ink, and he was tall and fit, with beautiful features, and grayish eyes. He could have jumped from a white horse in an Arabian Nights tale. He didn’t speak much English, so his semi-silence (only limited phrases spoken) only added to his mystery. His name was Suleiman.

Each afternoon we would stop in the open waters and all take a swim. The women on the cruise looked forward to the occasions when our crew joined us, and Suleiman practiced his perfect dives from the side of the boat. We took breaks to line up in spectator fashion and expressed awe with each of his maneuvers.

One of Suleiman’s main duties was his capacity as official morning greeter. That is to say that he woke us all up at breakfast time. Each day he would knock on our cabin door. I would stumble from bed, hair all askew, and eagerly open the door to a vision of handsome perfection. He knew the words, “Good Morning!” and I would melt that my day had such a lovely beginning.

          The trip was filled with many fun adventures. Towards the end, our captain announced that we were going to have an evening party for Suleiman’s birthday. There would be cake, ice cream and dancing!

I was delighted and dressed up with as much sparkle as I could summon from my limited boat attire. I wore jangly earrings and tied a bow in my windblown hair. Boat dressing is challenging.

When we joined the group, dancing had begun. When it was Suleiman’s turn to dance, he performed a solo Turkish dance. I watched in awe as he did the slowest dancing imaginable. It almost wasn’t dancing. The moves were poetic and passionate. I was entranced. Then the tempo of the music slowly sped up to a faster pace and the dance built to a frenzy, finishing in a passionate flourish. The women of our party were breathless. The men were unimpressed.

“That was hardly dancing. I don’t know why you thought it was so special,” my husband huffed dismissively. “I’m going to read. I don’t care for cake.” He left the party and turned in.

The remaining passengers all sat to celebrate. I was seated next to Suleiman. I was excited and practically had developed a crush on him after the dance demonstration. Then the birthday number candles were placed on the cake. He was so young! My son was older than he was. Nausea washed over me with the realization I was having such lecherous thoughts.

Somehow I made it through the party, my elevated spirits gone flat. Not even wake-up service carried a thrill anymore.

I now counted myself among the pathetic older women who are entranced by youthful male beauties. I had crossed from sunshine to bleakness, with the simple revelation of a number on a cake.

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Katina Pontikes
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