I woke up to the sound of growling, but I was unsure if it came from my stomach or from Mourgo. My belly was empty from my slumber and the massive panther was laying with his head on my chest. I rubbed the fuzzy piece of skin between Mourgo’s eyes with my thumb, rolled out of bed and into the bathroom. I washed up by splashing ample water on my face and walked back into the bedroom to find Mourgo staring at me. “No, it is not the same,” I huffed at the panther. “Washing my face and getting thrown in water are totally different!”
Mourgo yawned in reply and curled up in my bed, apparently done with me. I heard a door close in the distance and walked to the main landing, expecting to find Luis. There was no one there, so I followed my nose to the kitchen where a note perched next to a covered plate. The message was from Luis, and it simply read, Enjoy your holiday and leave your phone on so we can find you.
I chuckled as the voices in my head derided Luis and his mother-hen ideology. I removed the plate cover, and the smell of oven-roasted chicken and potatoes instantly overwhelmed me. There was no doubt where the growl came from this time around. I grabbed my phone and messaged Amphitrite as I ate.
Dionysos: Are you ready, Pheephee?
Amphitrite: I am ready, Nisos.
Dionysos: Meet me outside in twenty minutes.
I finished eating and headed back to the bedroom to get dressed. I put on tan shorts, a light grey t-shirt, and donned my sandals. Comfort was very important on this trip. I grabbed a full billfold, stuffed an extra stack of bills into another pocket, and bounded out. I was downstairs and out of the building within minutes. I would have been faster if I had not taken the time to run the revolving door a few revolutions before jumping outside with a loud, “Weeeee!” How I love the simple things in life.
My thyrsos appeared in my hand, and I stepped off to the side, away from traffic and people. The sun was out, the breeze chilly but tolerable. I could sense life re-awakening after the deep sleep of winter everywhere around me. My smile grew as I watched Amphitrite make her way toward me. She was dressed in a yellow sundress with matching yellow flats. Her hair was in a ponytail, tied back with a ruby red ribbon, the same color she had picked for her lipstick. An oversized handbag and vintage 70s tortoiseshell sunglasses completed her look.
She ran to me. I picked her up in my arms and twirled around as if we were filming the dramatic I will catch up to you at the gate before your airplane leaves type of scene from a rom-com. Of course, that made her blush profusely, and that was fine by me. I enjoyed making my Pheephee blush. Who would not take pride in seeing a goddess turn red at your whim? I set Amphitrite down, but I did not let go. We touched foreheads and looked into each other’s eyes.
“Did you study the notes I sent you, Pheephee?”
“I sure did, Nisos. I am so excited!”
“And you are sure that you can make the jumps we need to get there?”
“Yes, love. You chose places at the water’s edge wisely. It should be no problem.”
Planting my thyrsos on the ground behind Amphitrite, I licked my lips and nodded. Our heads still touching and grounding us, I said, “Let us be off then.”
Nodding back, Amphitrite whispered, “Yes, let’s be off.” She closed her eyes and concentrated.
I felt a wave of water pelt us as if we were a tiny fishing boat caught in a storm, but the sensation passed as quickly as it came. When we opened our eyes, we were far from Olympus and standing right outside the seas-side town of Kouklia, just a few kilometers southeast of Paphos, Cyprus. We only had to walk a few hundred meters until the music became our guide.
I found the house I was looking for and walked past the open gate without bothering to announce who we were. I was never and always expected to show up to anyone celebrating Dionysia. No announcements, no names, no questions. Everyone was welcome, as long as they were friendly and respectable.
The celebration was already in full swing. There were two lambs and a goat roasting on a spit off in the corner. Wine was flowing freely, and men and women of all ages hugged and kissed me like we were long-lost relatives. Next to me, Amphitrite was attacked with equal earnestness, and I smiled at how some hugs from the younger men lasted a little longer than usual.
We sat and ate, drank, and laughed, bathing in the love and acceptance practiced by all those who follow me. After the sun went down, I jumped to my feet, pulling Amphitrite up with me, and we danced. I felt the energy build, and the frenzy was not far behind. I closed my eyes in concentration. In the next breath, we were alone, standing on a column of rocks protruding from the water. Amphitrite gasped and slightly lost her balance, but I held on to her tight.
“Where are we?” she asked, looking around, the moon showering us in silver light.
“We are standing on Petra Tou Romiou, otherwise known as Aphrodite’s Rock, a little south of where we were.”
“And why are we standing on this rock?”
My answer came in a deep, long kiss, and Amphitrite let herself go in my arms with a soft moan. My hands pawed at the tiny straps of her dress, and I slowly laid her down underneath me. We made love on those rocks throughout the night. The passion only bettered by the animalistic frenzy that had been building within me. The sun peeked over the horizon to find us still naked, lying in each other’s arms.
We sat up and watched the light push back the dark, quietly enjoying the mixed balance of togetherness and solitude. Suddenly, I jumped to my feet and picked Amphitrite up in my arms. With a whoop, I charged full speed, jumping into the water. Pheephee screeched and held on tight all the way down. Once we hit the water, she wrapped herself around me, kissing me until I had no air left in my lungs. We swam to the surface and laughed and splashed at each other like happy little children.
Amphitrite swam up to me and wrapped her legs around me, a bright blush already blossoming on her cheeks. “So, Nisos. Am I to expect such a delightful ending to every evening during this holiday?”
I held on to her, my fingers tracing the curve of her spine from her shoulders down to the small of her back. “Dionysia is not just a holiday named after me, but a conduit of sorts. I am frenzy, and frenzy is me. The energy is almost like a living thing, and it must be released.”
Her eyes darkened for a second to my reply. “So was it just frenzy all that it was last night? Not love?”
“Truly, Pheephee,” I answered back with a smile, “you already know the answer to that question. Can you have love without frenzy? I know you can tell.”
“I’m sorry, Nisos. It’s just that it’s been so long since…” her voice trailed away as the statement hung in the air. I just held her close as the lazy waves washed over us.
Eventually, I leaned into Pheephee’s ear and whispered, “Are you ready for the next place?” She nodded at me, and we climbed back up on Aphrodite’s Rock to retrieve our clothes. With a mutual nod, we embraced and touched foreheads again, the thyrsos once again planted on the ground behind Amphitrite. A splash of a cold wave later, and we were gone.
When we opened our eyes, the sun was a lot hotter and the air drier, even though we could still taste the salt of the sea. We were standing in Takia, just south of Old Muscat, Oman. I could already smell the goat roasting in the air as another celebration to Dionysia beckoned us. The wine was scarce in a place like Oman, but the attitude had not changed. We ate and drank, and afterward, Pheephee and I walked hand in hand to Al Alam Palace, marveling at the colors of the gate and the flowers accenting the walls.
As we made our way to Al Jalali Fort, built by the Portuguese, the locals gave Amphitrite a few sideways glances, obviously not approving the bright and minimal attire, but one look at me, and they knew not to interfere. This was one of their few tourist attractions anyway, so they were not as shocked by it. We spent that night at Al Bustan Palace, pampering ourselves as best we could.
The next morning we found ourselves in Panama Beach. Not the one in actual Panama, and not even the one in Florida. We were sitting on the hot sand, watching the waves crash upon the rocky outcropping just north of Panama Beach, Sri Lanka. The surfers were out in full force, and I even got to ride a few myself. There was only one family celebrating Dionysia in the area, but instead of wine, they were running a small peanut farm nearby. They had passed the holiday on for four generations when the family migrated here from Samos.
When the night came, and it was time to retire, I stole Amphitrite away atop the rocks of Kudumbigala Sanctuary. Away from the eyes and ears of the forgotten monastery, Pheephee spent the night with her head on my lap. She watched the millions of stars, visible in the complete darkness until she nodded off. The sun had not come out yet when I woke her with a soft nudge and an even softer kiss. The next stop would be a big part of Dionysia, so it was time to move on. I held Amphitrite close to me, feeling the energy build once again, and the waves came to collect us.