A few years back, after a week on our own driving around mainland Greece, Adam and I took a small yacht cruise amongstthe Cyclades in the Aegean Sea. There were only 23 other passengers, and we were both excited and a little nervous to travel with a group of strangers for the first time.
Within a half-hour of boarding, we were swept up in the animated/relentless monologue of a fellow passenger, a small, 60-something woman with short white hair, bright pink lipstick, and a permanent glass of white wine with ice. It was almost impossible to follow the thread of her narrative, but we were captivated by her ability to talk faster than the human brain could churn. For the next several hours, she chattered on almost constantly, only occasionally allowing other folks a word in edgewise, until the sun slipped below the glassy turquoise sea and stars began to wink in an indigo sky.
This entire time, her slim little slip of a husband sat patiently beside her without saying a word, only occasionally staring off at the horizon line or catching someone’s eye to shyly smile.
We sailed all night to Santorini, greeting a lavender-peach sunrise with a stop in port. We almost skipped off the boat, thrilled to take a tram up a legendary cliffside. We were happy to let the chatty woman and her husband go ahead of us, relishing a bit of quiet. We couldn’t wait to see Akrotiri, the pre-historical museum, and the island’s unusual, protective coils of grape vines.
What we didn’t expect were Santorini’s cats, which roam every corner, staircase and sunbeam. We both love cats, but I, in particular, never miss a chance to pet them on our travels. I soon noticed that every time I stopped to greet a feline, there, too, was the woman and her silent spouse. She would practically shriek over each new kitty, while he would simply adjust his faded white fishing hat and clasp his hands behind his back, rocking on his heels and waiting.
The third time we doubled up this way, his wife set down a kitten, beamed at us and said, “Isn’t this just wonderful?!” before tearing off towards a shop full of painted pottery. Her husband paused a moment, smiled at us, and pressed one finger to his throat. In a strange, low, robotic voice, he said only:
“See. You. At. The. Next. Cat.”
We stood stock still, stunned. He wasn’t a hen-pecked husband — he’d had a tracheotomy.
His 16 hours of complete silence in the face of his wife’s constant patter, a boatful of strangers, the deep blue Aegean, and finally reaching the red cliffs of Santorini suddenly became clear to us. He’d merely been saving his energy…to nail a punchline.