by Christos Antonaros
If that Sunday were a Friday, it would have been Friday the 13th. However, in retrospect, I wonder if what we call “lousy luck” is responsible for every inconvenience that happens to us. And if there is bad luck, when does good luck happen? Does Lady Luck indeed frown or smile on us?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a superstitious man. I grew up in a country whose culture places superstition at its core. If a black cat walks in front of you, then spit on your chest three times. Never walk under a ladder. If you feel dizzy, or you have a stomach ache, it’s not because of dehydration, or the fifth coffee you had today along with the twenty cigarettes. No, it’s the evil eye. The one your grandma can take away after she chants and spits on your face, or by dripping oil in water, or burning nine clove seeds. You call the names of those whom you believe gave you the evil eye until a seed bursts, which in turn means the name you gave to that seed belongs to the culprit. I never really believed in those things, but they became part of my daily life as I grew up. They reside in my consciousness, nearly inherited from my parents. Even today if I see a black cat, I spit on my chest three times. I don’t walk under a ladder, and if someone talks about cancer, then I knock on wood three times.
Come that unlucky Sunday morning as I watched the torrential rain blurring the view outside my windows, I blamed Lady Luck, and no one else. It was the beginning of the soccer season; and there can be no soccer without a referee. However, the rain was not the unluckiest event of that day, and the day was still young.
Jacob woke up at 5:10 am and shouted “Dada” three times before I heard his calling. I stood up, put on my pants, and walked in the darkness toward his room.
Strike one from Lady Luck: a puddle of pee; which was a thoughtful contribution of my eleven-year-old King Charles spaniel, Lucy.
Lucy was the most expensive purchase Jan made before we bought our current apartment. Lucy usually doesn’t pee in the house, but on that early Sunday morning she decided to pee on the rug, the kind that doesn’t clean easily (carpet cleaners charge three hundred dollars to clean one spot of urine). Who would have told Jan that cleaning up after Lucy would be more expensive than the dog itself in the future? I wiped Lucy’s mess, I washed my feet, and the moment I entered Jacob’s room, he was fully awake. He stood in his crib laughing and calling, “Dada.”
Lady Luck’s second strike: Have you ever tried putting a ready-to-play toddler back to sleep?
A quick and straightforward answer: don’t try! And if you do try, you should know by now that it will take you more than an hour. I slept again finally at 7am and was woken up at 7:30am by Jacob and Lucy, both hungry. Unfortunately, only one of them able to pee in his diaper. Jacob’s regular nanny’s husband had his birthday, so I had to call our backup nanny, Rocio. Rocio came, and I began driving to the field.
Strike three: A flat tire.
My first soccer game was at 10am. The rain kept pouring. When I arrived at the soccer field, I tried to park in the regular parking lot, but it was full. I had to park on the street.
Before I go any further, I would like you to know something about me, Christos.
I got my driver’s license in 2017, but I had never driven a car before. Never. For the first 35 years of my life, I walked, took the bus and occasionally a cab. Athens is not the best place on earth to be a driver. Traffic is terrible all the time, drivers are rude and furious all the time. Parking, as a matter of fact, is a gift sent by Lady Luck. So, Christos, as a new driver, is not skilled enough in parking his car. The moment the car struggled to turn right, I knew something was wrong. Immediately, I got out of the car and went to check my front right tire. Flat, ripped, gone. A lady who had just parked her car behind me came to see me.
“Oh no, you have a flat tire? The iron grate must have done it!”
Oh yes, lady, the grate did it, absolutely. It was its fault. Not mine. Fuck you, Lady Luck, I thought.
Strike four: Roadside Assistance.
Roadside assistance answered my call only forty minutes later. Let me remind you, it was a Sunday around lunch time. When I finally got to speak to the kind-but-bored lady behind the phone, I thought she was about to solve my problem; wrong.
“I can’t find your reference number, sir,” she said.
“How is it possible? I have my card right here.”
“I am sorry, sir. I can’t find your name or your reference number, anywhere.”
I hung up and called Jan. Some friends from college had visited her at Houston last night, and her voice tone showed she had a good time.
“Hey. You won’t believe what happened to me,” I said.
“I got a flat tire.”
She asked me how, and I replied that it was the grate on the curb that did it. She pretended it wasn’t my fault. Nonetheless, if anyone knows my weakness in parking the car, it is Jan. I had to park at the hospital every Thursday when we were going for her Chemo, but I didn’t have to do parallel parking.
“AAA can’t find my name. Have we renewed the contract?”
“Yes. Let me check with them. Maybe I need to put your name in it. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
My hero warrior-queen solved my problem within minutes, and the second time I called for road assistance took me only fifteen minutes.
How lucky of me, right?
The tow car was two hours away – I wasn’t expecting earlier, anyway. Most of the time spent waiting, I spoke to Jan. We talked about her last day at MD Anderson, how much we couldn’t wait for her to come back home. She made jokes about my day or her night the previous evening. We were having fun even though we were separated by eight states. Maybe it wasn’t a bad day after all.
I came back home at 6 pm, with a new tire installed on my car and heavy, wet clothes. The tire shop, the only one I found open on a Sunday, was only five minutes away from the soccer fields. The guys who worked there stayed overtime for me. I felt guilty, but mostly I felt lucky despite my earlier grumble about Lady Luck. I felt even more fortunate when Jacob ran into my arms screaming joyfully, “Dada!” When Jacob was finally asleep, and after I had taken a shower, in my silent living room with the sound of rain playing in the background, I had plenty of time to think about luck.
Jan and I met by luck.
We met after a series of coincidences. During my childhood and adolescence, I spent most of my summers on my parents’ vacation house on a small island across Santorini, called Ios. Two of those summers, I worked for a watersports company. One night, after a long day at work, I decided to go out and have a drink instead of staying at home and doing my occasional reading and writing. I chose Katogi, an underground, walk-in bar-restaurant that served my favorite drink: rakomelo (like moonshine warmed up with honey and cinnamon).
Jan was on vacation with a friend, and they both had already visited Santorini and Mykonos. Her friend was dating a guy back in D.C., and she missed him, so she decided to return to the U.S. Jan decided to stay in Greece. Jan chose Ios out of three other islands to spend two days and one night before she sailed back to Athens for two days, and then back to the United States. On her first night at Ios, as she was walking the narrow white streets, she asked three different people, in different locations, where she could go to have a drink and dinner. All three of them recommended Katogi.
Did Lady Luck smile on us?
The day of our engagement, Jan had a series of unfortunate events. It was a year after we had met, and it began with a three-hour-late flight. Consequently, when Jan landed on Santorini, every boat sailing to Ios had already gone. Because of the long trip, her phone was out of battery so she couldn’t call me. I was waiting at the port of Ios, watching boat after boat opening their hatches, tourists walking out of them, but Jan was nowhere. When she arrived at the port of Santorini, she plugged her phone in at the welcoming center and called me.
I had planned to bend the knee that day and ask the big question, but it seemed at that moment that I would have to wait. My big Greek family back in my parents’ vacation house should have to wait. They would have to throw the engagement party another day. Jan, however, shared the same eagerness to see me. She didn’t know what I was about to ask her, at least that’s what she says. Maybe she is lying, but even if she is, I don’t care. It’s a good lie. She ended up paying a fisherman to give her a boat ride to Ios, but she could not have known that the fisherman was planning to leave her on a beach thirty miles away from the port. When she jumped in the seawater, carrying her luggage, she saw a sign that took away any frustration or worry; a tavern, with my name on its sign.
Did Lady Luck smile at her? Maybe, but it was not a full smile. Perhaps a childish, playful giggle.
The day of our wedding was the luckiest day of my life.
There was a lot of drama, but it didn’t matter. The second luckiest day of my life was the day Jacob was born. There was a lot of drama preceding that day, too. But, seriously, when happiness concludes, bad luck becomes nothing but a bunch of meaningless events.
The unluckiest day of our lives was the day Jan came out of the bathroom and told me she had felt the tumors. One large node on her left breast, and three smaller nodes underneath her left armpit. Then came the news: it was breast cancer, triple negative, stage 2C/3A. Which meant that the disease had metastasized in her lymph-nodes, ready to infest the rest of her body.
Did I cry?
Was I scared?
I was terrified!
Did Lady Luck frown on us?
Don’t let me start on her.
But on Monday, September 10, while I was waiting for my next class, Jan texted me a video. Her hair was longer than the last time I’d seen her. Her face was pale despite the heat in Texas, but she smiled, as always. She wore a cute flowery shirt and blue jeans. I could still see the red marks from radiation. She stood in front of a white wall with her left hand holding a little golden bell. I pressed play. She rang the bell three times to show she was cancer-free. People behind the camera began clapping and cheering. She cried happy tears. I cried, too. I am crying right now. I wanted to be there, but Lady Luck, a toddler, and my academic life kept me here in D.C.
Jan is back home now, and cancer-free. Her next appointment is on October 1, 2018, with the plastic surgeon in MD Anderson hospital, in Houston. Then, she has appointments every six months for the next five years. Jacob still wakes up calling “mama.” Lucy still pees on the rug. But, you know, we are healthy, alive, and happy.
Thank you, Lady Luck – you are fantastic.