I arrive quickly only to depart again slowly as the rain falls. I wait in a cafe and the sun blind hours turn the sea into grey smoked glass. Piraeus is a steel and concrete circus of dancing splashing trucks where invisible ringmasters direct the show, fumes rise while cars idle waiting for a turn to cross the pools of rain and up the ramp into the deep belly of the boat. Dappled light in red and white reflect a slow applause on glistening tarmac.
Ferries, large and small, get dwarfed by cruise ships bigger than buildings offer up a horizon tiny porthole windows, towering in the same white-dirt-colour as the apartments that line the harbour. I don’t know where the city ends and the sea begins. Everything outside plays tricks in the rain. Pedestrians like me board the bus and lurch together past each ferry as it readies for departure in the hours ahead. Gate upon gate yelling another destination in neon lights; Patmos, Kriti, Astipalea, Paros, Thessaloniki, Aegina, Rodos. Take your pick. Each island a series of events yet to happen. A dice to roll.
The bus chugs past the empty warehouses and car parks, past the closed cafes, past the closed ticket booths. The man next to me asks if the bus ticket is free and I stutter some words that might not make sense, so I say sorry to him. To myself, for every word I haven’t yet learnt. We go past the long lines of bus shelters. In the rain its hard to believe people lived there. But now there’s no sign of them. Each day they were jolted from sleep by the angry noise of wheeled suitcases and reversing trucks. They sat beside everything they owned, holding on to heavy blankets and battered bags, water bottles lined up at the end of a plastic bench. I can’t help but wonder what a person goes through to try to begin again in the smog and spit end of the city port like this watching people leave freely every day and not be able to do so yourself. Where are they now? What place did they end up now it is winter?
Only when the day has almost given up I see it. A jolt of sun encores with a single gold streak across the winter sky. If the prisms of a rainbow are made after the rain I can’t find it. No pot of treasures, no basket of hope. The sun ends the day without fanfare. By the time I’m on the ferry the only sight on the horizon is the dark billowing kind of cloud, bending into loops of grey and somewhere out there a factory burns (the alert tells my phone vital facts – keep windows closed, stay inside). As we sail into the ink black outside I can’t tell where the city ends or where the smoke begins or where the sea touches the sky at the horizon. Or even if I need to know what is beginning or ending as everything, always, seems to be both.