Jorge awoke with the muzzle of a revolver pointed between his eyes. Nikos, his boss and and owner of the farm near Kardamyli he was working and boarding, looked into his eyes quivering with fear and shame. ÒYou little bastard," he said, Òyou ruined my daughter, a virgin.Ó
Jorge had done no such thing, though.
Before working for Nikos, Jorge spent years wandering the Peloponnese and parts of Northern Greece working odd jobs on farms and with fishermen. His eventual plan was to reach Piraeus where he had a cousin named Andreas his Uncle Theodoros had told him of who might be able to help him find work. In the meantime, in exchange for his labor, he would earn some food, shelter and a few drachmes to help him along his way. Over time, he was able to accumulate some small savings, which he remarkably was able to grow during his journey.
In Kastoria, he looked up the Jewish furrier Saul Menda he had met years earlier in Arcadia. Menda gave him a job cleaning and organizing his office and shop floor. During his time off, he would fish and walk along the banks of Lake Orestiada. In Ioannina, he marveled at the marble of Priam kissing the hand of Achilles in the Archaeological Museum and the minaret of the Fethiye Mosque. Returning to the Peloponnese through Nafpaktos and the Gulf of Patras to overlook the site of where the Battle of Lepanto occurred, he visited Mycenea and Epidauros on multiple occasions to study the ruins of the theater, the tombstones of Theron and of civilizations past. After visiting Mystras, he wrote to his uncle Theodoros and told him that he had visited his native village. Of the ruins of Mystras, Jorge shared, ÒI was taken by the magnificence of the past, but felt no spiritual calling, rather I was drawn by visions of its former majesty and wealth.Ó
During this time, he read his uncleÕs translation of the King James Bible countless times until the book fell apart paying closer mind to the Old Testament - an interest he took based on conversations with Saul MendaÕs brother Abraham, who was a rabbi in Kastoria translating the Torah from Hebrew to Greek. He later found a tattered copy of HerodotusÕs Histories discarded from a library in Kalamata, which he carried with him everywhere. He read and reread the tales of Thermopylae and Marathon, while the intrigues of Cyrus and Darius as well as the mystery and splendor of Egypt and the Danube ignited his curiosity for distant lands beyond Hellas.
In the Mani, at age 16, he found work with Nikos in the spring on a small olive orchard and farm just outside of Kardamyli. Nikos hired Jorge to attend to his flock of sheep and his crops. Nikos, a descendant of a family of pirates, had lost his wife Hera giving birth to their daughter Calliope who was the same age as Jorge at the time. Both of NikosÕs parents were killed in a vendetta between his family and another clan dating back hundreds of years.
He had stewed in anguish over the death of his parents and wife for his entire life. He never tried to marry again, even though there were several women in nearby villages who had found him appealing. Though he loved Calliope, his torment over losing his wife corrupted him. He blamed his daughter for her death and cursed God for taking first his parents and then his bride, leaving him alone to raise a daughter in what he perceived to be a man's world. Nikos had come to resent his daughter and violated her in forbidden ways as she blossomed into a young woman.
Calliope appeared after school for the first time while Nikos was instructing Jorge on how to attend to the olive trees. When she saw Jorge initially, she paused for a moment taken aback. Seeing her interest, Jorge grinned at her and she blushed with a grin looking away from him for a moment. Nikos saw instantly the attraction his daughter felt toward Jorge and became jealous and fearful. ÒGo inside, right now!Ó he said. ÒAnd, do your school work and prepare the lentils for supper!Ó
Embarrassed by her father, she quickly made her way back to the house, looking over her left shoulder to see the reaction of Jorge. Once Calliope had entered the house, Nikos turned to Jorge and said seething with sorrow and rage, "if you even look in her direction again, I will kill you with my own hands." Undaunted, Jorge looked him down eye-to-eye, emboldened by the honesty of his soul, until Nikos looked away.
Jorge labored intently for Nikos through the growing season. He worked from sunrise to dusk. In the evening, Nikos forced him to eat alone in the barn which he slept. After finishing his dinner, Jorge would go for long walks along the coast listening to the waves caress the rugged shore. During those jaunts, he would think about his next move in life and all that he had experienced to date. He sometimes would write to his uncle Theodoros in Arcadia asking him questions about scripture and his family.
After a particularly long walk, Jorge arrived back at the farm around midnight. On his way back to the barn, he found Calliope sitting on the ground crying. ÒCalliope, whatÕs wrong?Ó he said.
ÒMy father,Ó she said.Ó
ÒYour father, what?Ó said Jorge. ÒIf he finds you here, heÕll kill us.Ó
ÒI donÕt care.Ó
ÒWhat happened? WhatÕs wrong?
ÒDonÕt ask me.Ó
ÒWhat do you want me to do?Ó
ÒYou can get me out of here. I know you will be leaving soon. Let me come with you.Ó
Back in the house, Nikos lay alone in his bed weeping, praying for forgiveness from his shame. He obsessively read and reread the story of Lot and his daughters in the book of Genesis attempting to justify his behavior. The next day he would repeat a familiar pattern of going to confession at the Byzantine St. Demetrios church, where Father Lucas would hear his anguish and pleas for absolution. Aghast with Nikos, Father Lucas admonished him bitterly. ÒI know, Father,Ó said Nikos. ÒBut, I read of Lot and his daughters in Genesis and think God will understand.Ó
To which, Father Lucas became irate charging him with blasphemy, saying ÒDo not twist the word of God for your own weaknesses of the flesh!Ó
ÒFather, I know,Ó said Nikos, ÒI am doing the work of Satan, but sheÉCalliopeÉshe just reminds me of my wife. I think of her as such.Ó
Hearing those words from Nikos, Father LucasÕs heart sank realizing that it may be too late to save Nikos. Father Lucas had become tormented with Nikos, praying intently on whether he should report him to the authorities or continue to provide reconciliation.
Nevertheless, though Jorge never knew exactly the nature of the relationship between Calliope and her father nor the pain she endured, he began to plan an escape for her.
On a warm morning in September, Calliope found a note from Jorge inside the coffee kettle she used to prepare breakfast for her father. Hearing Nikos enter the kitchen, she quickly slipped the unopened message inside her bra. After her father finished eating and went out to the field to supervise Jorge, Calliope opened the note, which read:
ÒMeet me at midnight after your father falls asleep by the barn. We leave tonight.Ó
That evening Calliope packed her things and made her way to the front door of the house. As she turned the knob, Nikos said, ÒWhere are you going, my love?Ó
ÒNowhere, just to get some air. You know how I like to go out at night to look at the stars.Ó
ÒDonÕt lie to me, apapi mou.Ó
ÒIÕm not, patera. I would never lie to you.Ó
ÒIs this where you are going?Ó said Nikos, holding up the note Jorge had left for her in the coffee kettle.
ÒHow did you find that?Ó
ÒI found it in your school bag.Ó
Calliope began to cry and ran to her fatherÕs welcoming arms. She confessed to him her intentions to leave with Jorge. ÒIÕm sorry, Father,Ó she said. ÒI donÕt know what I was thinking.Ó Nikos forgave her and told her to go to sleep and that he would settle the matter.
When Jorge opened his mouth to begin to deny the allegation of violating Calliope, Nikos cocked the trigger and told him spitefully to gather his things and leave. Jorge raised his hands and nodded his head in compliance as tears streamed down his cheek. When he went to put his shoes on, he realized that his money was missing. "If you are looking for this," said Nikos flaunting the bank roll. ÒI'm taking it for what you've done to my daughter."
A few evenings prior, Nikos had passed by the old barn where Jorge slept on a bed of hay. He had watched Jorge organize in his copy of Herodotus a small collection of post cards he had purchased from the various places he had visited as well as a roll of drachmes fixed with a money clip Saul Menda had given him as a departing gift for his work in Kastoria. ÒOne day, I can tell, you will need this," Saul said to Jorge. Nikos had watched Jorge place the roll in his shoe before going to sleep.
When Jorge began to protest the theft, Nikos became enraged pointing the gun at his four head saying: ÒIf you tell the police or anyone, I will tell them about what you've done to my daughter. And, she will collaborate what I say. No one will believe a little bastard from the country like you.Ó
Jorge gazed at Nikos, the tears drying from his cheeks. Nikos kept the gun pointed directly at Jorge, as Jorge made his way to the entrance of the barn. Jorge could see Calliope, NikosÕs daughter, at the window of the house with a helpless look of anguish on her face. Jorge looked at her with an expression of comfort and morose. Jorge began his walk back into the wilderness, vanquished but undefeated.
After banishing Jorge, Nikos would use the money he stole to stave off creditors momentarily who were threatening to foreclose on his farm. But eventually the farm fell into disarray after locusts destroyed a season of crops. A few months after that loss, Father Lucas lost all patience for Nikos and his continued violations of Calliope when she became pregnant. He reported Nikos to the police. Yet, when faced with the threat of losing her father, she told the police that Father Lucas was lying, and that Jorge not Nikos had left her with child. Although Calliope would lose the child in a premature birth, she stayed with her father her whole life until his death decades later, claiming, until her final breath, that the only man that had ever harmed her was Jorge.
© Anthoney Dimos