We are in a taverna on the island of Meganisi.
My sister-in-law and her husband Pugwash, who invited us here for a week’s sailing, are busy ordering food from the menu, providing me with an opportunity to resume, in urgent whispers, the conversation I began with my husband earlier this afternoon, when Pugwash showed us our sleeping quarters on the boat.
I am very frightened of these sleeping quarters. I am frightened of everything about them: the look of them, which is very, very small, and the feel of them, which is very, very hot.
“I mean, I’m not, nor ever have been guilty of preciousness,” I whisper, “or any association with it.”
“True,” my husband says.
“I mean, I’ve roughed it with the best of them.”
“True,” he says.
“But roughing it is different from sleeping in a coffin,” I whisper.
“It’s bigger than a coffin,” he says.
“A coffin for a really, really fat person then,” I say.
“No one’s that fat,” my husband says.
“Let’s not split hairs,” I say, “a coffin for Pavarotti, then. Underground.”
“Below deck,” he says, “not underground. You’re not precious but you do exaggerate.”
“Look,” I say, “just because this looks and sounds like a first-world problem doesn’t actually mean that it is a first-world problem.”
“How d’you work that one out?” my husband says, “we’re on holiday, sitting beside a beautiful beach, we’ve got a glass of wine in our hands and we’ve just ordered lamb souvlaki. How much more first-world can it get?”
“It’s not a first-world problem,” I say, “it’s a global problem because no one, no matter who they are - whether they’re from the first, second or third world - would say ‘yes, please’ if invited to sleep in a coffin underground.”
“Below deck,” he says, “just drink your wine. That’ll take the edge off. In fact that’s the answer to the problem: drink enough wine now, then you’ll be fine later.”
“Do you want us to order anything in particular?” asks Pugwash.
It is difficult to muster enthusiasm for a Last Supper but I put in my request.
“A side-dish of those steamed mountain greens with fresh lemon juice would be nice,” I suggest, most strickenly.
The waiter has taken my death-row meal order over to the chef. My husband, Pugwash and his wife have produced a map and are planning the route our coffin ship might take over the next seven days.
I do not take part in this; I am drinking wine now so I’ll be fine later.
I am trying to work out what kind of drinking I need to be doing for this is a very specific case; we are heading back to the boat at 9pm, when I’ll need to be able to cross a narrow gang-plank but after that, I must be immediately and entirely comatose, so that I do not care at all that I am to spend a night in a coffin: it is not so much a fine line, I feel, as an awkward one.
Perhaps I need to drink fast. Yes, fast it is.
11pm. I wake up. There is dark all around me.
11.01pm. I cannot work out where I am.
11.02pm. I’ve worked it out: someone has put me in an oven. They have turned the oven up to gas mark 6.
11.03pm. Who can have done this? Gas mark 6 is much too high: it has caused my head to catch on fire.
I check my head for flames. I need to get out of this oven. My face is melting and I must save my hair. I hear my husband’s voice.
“What are you doing?” he says.
“CHECKING MY HEAD,” I shout, “MY HEAD IS ON FIRE.”
“Shh,” he says, “your head is not on fire. Calm down, you’re on a boat. Pugwash turned the fan off. He came in an hour ago. Apparently it drains the engine battery. I’ll turn it on again for a bit. Sod the battery.”
I have no idea what he’s talking about. I feel around for the oven door.
It must be here somewhere.
“What are you doing?” he says.
“Getting out of the oven,” I say, running. I find some stairs.
“Come back,” he says, running after me, “you’re not in an oven, you’re on a boat, for god’s sake.”
I am at the top of the stairs. There is air there.
11.06pm. Oh. There is sky up here. He’s right. I’m on a boat. And I’m looking for the gang-plank.
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