Scroll down for the Patmos transcript.
Malibu! Look at the view! It’s a warm morning where I am. The sky is pale pink, the sea is almost blue. The rain this winter has caused every Ceanothus to bloom. Almost blue. Not like the one I planted in my Whitstable garden which bloomed purple, fleshy flowers. The Malibu garden is Fire Safe. They have cleared the brush and hoed the beds. The trees are almost fully in leaf. The tiny quail and their tinier babies search in the tilled soil for food. I don’t know what they eat.
Stephen, Kristian’s one time boy friend, sent me a collection of his writings that I have not had time to read. Kristian Digby. Where are you? I wish you were here. I wish you were alive.
I think that it may be Jean’s memorial today. I’m not going. It would be hypocritical. We were once friends. I want to remember what it was like to be his friend. Sit quietly with the memory. Too many deaths recently. Too many unnecessary deaths. Each time they tell me that someone else is dead I have to look at my own fingers and imagine them bone and parchment.
I want to find you the page in my diary when we were on Patmos, Phil and I, and we looked into the charnel house and saw the desiccated remains of… people. Tangled together, wearing their simple peasant garments. I couldn’t sleep. Phil splashed cologne around our bedroom. It soothed me.
It’s a beautiful day today. Best I concentrate on that? I felt the shame. Shame is like scraping meat off the bone. I’m writing about one isolated man being saved by less isolated men. Was this past year such a waste? This was the year when obsession became my higher power. Now I have a chance to know God once again.
Will I ever get home?
Here are the Patmos diary entries for August 1990.
I am with my darling Phillipa Heiman. We are staying in her mother’s beautiful summer-house overlooking the Aegean. We are lovers.
Wednesday August 15th 1990 PATMOS
The masseur said that I should wear something loose. I opted for my frog boxers, Victoria Whitbread gave them to me, green frogs hopping all over my genitals. She poked and prodded and soothed, she twisted my arms and legs, her breasts pushed into my face, “I hope I’m not suffocating you.” She said.
Her fingers glanced over the end of my dick.
“Your lymphatic system is now working.” she declared as my stomach rumbled for more cold chicken. She told me that, like many people, I had been frightened as a child and had reacted with my right side. This reaction has begun a slow deterioration of the tissue in the areas seized and now they were completely ‘blocked’.
After a fag break she told me that I shouldn’t drink, that I should do Tai Chi and should have six more sessions costing a further 3000 drachma per session. Thank the lordy for new age medicine! The alternative society has got it made. I am rushing back to London to learn anything I can to lay a few letters after my name. D.P. Roy Alternative money-maker. A.M.M.
As a final booster she poked me with an electric prod. Very nice.
Philippa returned from a walk around the village, she had been to a church service which, from her description, sounded delightful. We ate what was to be my last unfettered meal. We stepped, after lunch, into the hot afternoon.
Through the alleys, to the monastery. My spirits were high. We faced the wind together, holding her breasts through her thin silk dress, letting her feel my stiffy on her thigh, she said that the monks would be shocked.
We found a fig tree and picked fresh figs, they tasted of nothing. We found a pear tree and the fruit tasted of nothing. We saw an English couple removing their shorts under a very unshadeful tree on top of a windy promontory. Like the middle of a motorway, next to the rubbish dump full of plastic – not rotting, away from Xora there were plastic bottles, scores of them, strewn over the brown grass.
The hot afternoon my spirits are still high. I’m making a lot of jokes at everybody’s expense – mostly Philippa’s. She’s enjoying it, her period has started so she’s happy again, woe betide me if I’d mentioned this as a contributing factor to the tears. The tears were so terrible to see. I am a broken man when I see my lover cry. I see my mother and grandmother and aunts Evelyn and Margaret in her tears and I am a broken man.
We walked on, she wanted to see the graveyard which you can see clearly from the window in the drawing-room. I am sitting opposite that window, all I have to do is to stand up and I can see the graveyard walls, a couple of white crosses, the blue iron gate and some white box out-houses.
We went the long way round, over prickling grass and clumps of brown dry plants and plastic bottles rolling around on the parched earth by the Meltemi which is a wind, a wind called the Meltemi.
We found the gate. Most of the graves were new, some had photographs of old people. One old man sitting on his chair outside the front door. He looked like a loved man. A candle burnt in a tiny marble and glass casket. An eternal flame.
The graves were made, in this concrete covered place, of tiny man holes. A ring pull on top. We looked inside an abandoned tomb. These were obviously used over and over we concluded. We thought that the bodies rested here for a bit, with the flame and the photographs and the plastic flowers and the crucifix. We concluded that they would be cremated and scattered over the Aegean or the terraced island.
Our spirits high, we looked into one of the empty tombs. Under the concrete. A hollow waiting for its fill. Maybe it would be Petula (our maid) with her twisted hair and apron. Her bare, dead legs under the stone. Petula, Petula compromised because we rearranged the cushions, the red, gold and orange ikat instead of pink delicate John Stefanidis print. We’ve made the home ours now Petula.
Old Petula can rearrange the cushions under here. Under the stone.
We made our way to another gate at the back of the graveyard. We balked at an old coffin laid beneath a tree, we saw that it was laminated maple, birdseye maple effect. A birdseye maple effect coffin to be transported from the village to the hole, there to be cremated and the little old man to be scattered into the Meltemi and over the sea. Not a bad end.
“Wait a minute,” Philippa says, “Let’s look through here.” I was on my way out, my spirits were high. I looked past the evergreen where she stood ahead of me. So beautiful! Her large smile and eyes sparkling out to me – all radiant and all mine. I don’t want her to go any further. I want to leave there and then, our spirits high, home to a plate of cold chicken and potatoes. Maybe our bed.
She turned into the other plot and I followed, ran ahead. Past a small, stone, white building, to a shack stacked high with coffins. Eww I said, how horrible, a shack full of coffins. I wanted to get out. I wanted to leave there and then.
“Look.” She said gaily, “Bones.”
I ran ahead to where she was pointing, I ran right up to what was undeniably a thigh bone sticking out of the ground.
“They’re human.” I said, my spirits no longer high, as high. Not hit rock bottom. Just a bone. We looked into a pit. An open hatch, like a cellar door straight into the ground. It was not just a bone, it was a whole man or woman with clothes on, maybe two men or two women or three, with their nylons still sticking to bits of dead flesh. With the sun on the white bone, the flesh torn away.
Fascinated, I looked into this death-bed, this corpse mine. Looked at the big bones, no sculls and it was occurring to us what the godforsaken truth was. There was no scattered ashes over the Aegean but this ossuary. We stepped back from the pit stuffed with bones and slippers and old nylons pulled over what was once a plump thigh. I retreated past the small white, stone building with steps that lead up to an open window.
“Look that room up there is full with these.”
I ran ahead, up the steps, my tee-shirt over my mouth. I didn’t even think about it, it was natural that I shouldn’t breathe the same air as the dead. I looked into my own hell. Through the open window into a huge room crammed with rubber shoes, cheap by any standard, the paper liners eaten by maggots. More arms and legs and ribs, all forked into this place.
Strewn into this terrible room.
I couldn’t leave it alone, I couldn’t leave it. I couldn’t pull down the tee-shirt over my face and run away. I couldn’t be sure that these weren’t donkeys or dogs somehow tangled up with jumble, that my eyes didn’t deceive me I needed to see a skull.
I stepped up higher so I could see past the mound of bones and clothes and shoes full of maggots. I looked past all this and into the face that confirmed exactly what we already knew, what I had to see and wish I had never seen. My spirits drained out of me, my anal sphincter winking in fear, my feet wanting to run as fast as they could from this Byzantine holocaust.
Phillipa, still smiling and flirting and dancing around. Her belly just about to empty its bloody dead contents into her knickers. The old man sitting by his front door, Petula the maid, her hair all snaked up around her head with her old, thin fingers. Forked into that room. This heaving room, where flies and rats can come and live off of the dead.
We walked out of the graveyard, past the blue, wrought iron gate and into the hot alleys and the afternoon sun. We trailed back home, my spirits drained away. My mind working on the image of death. We could hear the bells calling the faithful to their pews, to the holy water, to the Festival of the Virgin whilst the tangled remains of granddad, children, motorbike accident victims all hugged one another unwittingly in that terrible room.
Back at the house I fell asleep on Phillipa’s stomach. When I woke up I tried to make light of what we had seen. We couldn’t. My mind working on that image of death. We had a rather bright dinner with the French. I couldn’t eat much, the meat festered in my mouth.
I could see the grave candles burning from the night terrace, comets burning over our heads, my feet burning inside my silk slippers. The twins arrived, showed us photographs, we drove into Skala.
Phillipa went to church, I went to the bar so I might forget.
I drank. Sprayed with champagne. It was our table that drank the most booze, our friends who danced the hardest, our friends who fell into the sea drunk and all the time my mind is working out that image of death.
Into the eyes of death, a death’s-head, not facing me. Leading me into further horrors.
Olivier the sickly twin and I had a long talk about his girlfriend, what he felt for her. How he became her. I gave him a big hug because he seemed to need it. He stroked my face, he told me that he didn’t need to be ‘superficial’ with me. He told me that I was a friend. Sometimes I didn’t understand him because he used a language that only a twin can understand. A description of one life as two people. They are an extra-ordinary couple.
I went home to Phillipa. We drank tea and then they left.
I got into bed and great waves of fear passed through me, my mind working on that image so that the bones started moving. The dead sat waiting beside the front door, sat in the fridge disguised as roast chicken, the maggots danced inside the rubber slippers, the nylons gnawed by fat rats.
Phillipa felt me cold sweating there in bed, listened to my fitful cries and sprinkled perfume on the mat and offered me kind conversation and squeezed into my back. I fell, finally into an unfettered sleep.
PS We met the rich Greeks who are building their ‘luxury’ home next to the graveyard.
“Fantastic views.” said she.
Can you imagine who empties those graves? The man we see in the street? Maybe the tall, mad man we see in Vagelis – the restaurant with the garden. Can you imagine seeing the graves being exhumed? The contents pitchforked into that place? The man couldn’t sell the plot.
Phillipa returns yearly to Patmos but I never did. The beautiful house was sold. Phillipa and I split up on the way home from Greece and when we arrived in London Amoury Blow picked us up from the airport. I was all over the press. Again. Front page of the Evening Standard.
- Pretty Patmos – Pátmos, Greece (travelpod.com)