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Letters to Domai

Dear DOMAI

My first confrontation with a completely naked female body took place decades ago in a small provincial Greek town. Even the beaches were not much to speak of in terms of opportunity, since the first bikinis made their appearance in Nauplion a few years afterwards.

Until electricity was introduced in rural Argolis in the mid-fifties, irrigation was provided mostly by mule-operated bucket chains and, in more rare occasions, by diesel pumps. For the younger generation of my readers, here is how a bucket chain worked: A large sprocket that carried the buckets was mounted over the rim of a well. The chain consisted of semi-cylindrical buckets that went face down into the water and emerged, full, from the other side. The sprocket was meshed to a large horizontal gear which in turn could be rotated by an axle that pointed upwards. On top of this axle a large beam was fastened which extended as far as the stone wall around the mouth of the well. To this end of the beam either a mule or a donkey was harnessed and, by walking around, the animal provided the motion that operated the bucket chain. The water coming from the well was either stored in a cistern or went directly to the canals that irrigated the fields. In early summer afternoons when everything else was still, one could always hear the distant clanking of the ratchet that hindered the gear from turning backwards as it dropped between its teeth.

As children we used to replace sometimes the mules just for the fun of it. It was more fun to give the axle a couple of turns for a drink of fresh water than get it from the kitchen. We also used to drop watermelons into the wells for cooling in that age that didn't know refrigerators yet. We picket the fruit in the morning and dropped them into the well. When we retrieved them at noon they were deliciously cool.

I was at the estate of my uncle Panos. He had two daughters, Christina and Georgia. Christina was just a couple of months older than me while Georgia, being three years our senior, was considered an adult. Christina was a real tomboy and she was one of the very few girls that preferred the company of boys. The two of us were close pals. On that particular day we had happened to be the only youngsters in the entire estate. After lunch, when the adults went to take their siesta, Christina and I went to continue our play. In the depths of the estate there was an unusually huge fig tree from whose branches we had suspended a swing. After a few turns at it we remembered that there was still a watermelon in the well near-by. We gave a couple of turns to the shaft of the bucket chain and we were surprised at the fact that the watermelon kept eluding the buckets. Usually the fruit got caught very easily as it was moved about by the eddies and currents that were generated by the rotation of the chain. I thought that the reason might be the size of that particular well which with its thirty-odd meters was at least twice as deep and twice as wide as the other wells in the estates of my grandfather.

After we had hauled about a ton of water in vain, my cousin declared that she would go down to fetch the fruit herself. It was a kind of sport anyway to descend into a well by using the bucket chain as a ladder. It was a game from which I used to refrain for two reasons: First, stepping upon the rim I used to get fits of acrophobia. Second, I got dizzy at the sight of a dark mass of water (though I loved to swim at night.) Christina knew this and this is why she didn't even ask if I wanted to go down myself. She stepped upon the edge of the well and from there she jumped onto the buckets taking hold of the connecting steel bars. Then she started to descend, stepping from bucket to bucket. Soon I heard her swearing and I saw her climbing up. "I got all wet!" she exclaimed as she surfaced. "I would be soaked only half-way down!" The reason for this was that the buckets had a number of holes at the bottom for the water to escape, so that if the chain remained stationary for a certain period of time the whole chain would be empty avoiding thus the one-sided loading of the sprocket. With the chain still almost full, there was a real torrent of drops that spread like an umbrella down into the shaft.

I was not prepared for what followed and I almost fainted. Christina removed her dress and she spread it on the wall of the cistern in front of the well to dry. Wearing only bra and panties she began anew her descent into the shaft of the well. Still in a state of shock and utter disbelief I followed her hungrily with my eyes. Though we had grown up practically together, I had never seen my cousin in such a revealing attire. In those days my female relatives from the villages after entering puberty went bathing separately. This custom was so strict in the villages (Nauplion, though a small town itself and only a couple of kilometers away, was quite progressive in this respect) that even Christina, though a revolutionary of sorts in other ways, had to succumb to it. If you take all this into consideration, you may begin to appreciate my surprise not only at seeing my cousin almost naked, but also at the ease and naturalness with which she had undressed in front of me, not a child anymore but a young woman. And I had seen nothing yet.

Christina reached the surface of the water but instead of grabbing about for the elusive watermelon which was nonchalantly floating close by, she took the opportunity of her being undressed to take also a little swim. I saw her splashing about, her body sparkling on the black surface of the water. After a few strokes along the periphery of the well she reached eventually for the watermelon which she put into the bucket that was nearest to the water and then she stepped onto the chain herself. "You can turn now!" she yelled, her voice reverberating loud and deep within the shaft. I began turning the axle, fast first, then slowing down and looking expectantly for my cousin's head. I stopped turning when the watermelon cascaded into the cistern, by which I gathered that while I turned, Christina must have stepped backwards allowing the fruit to come first. I saw her climbing the last few buckets and then she stepped upon the sprocket and reached for my hands. I pulled her over the rim and she almost landed into my arms.

What followed then was so unexpected, so extraordinary, that I have never managed to come to terms both with the experience and its aftereffects. It is like trying to focus your eyes on an ultraviolet rays lamp: First you cannot, and second you know instinctively that if you insist you will hurt your eyes permanently. Lying on my grandfather's old iron bed in Placa last Saturday night, I realized for the first time that I had been frightened of even thinking about that scene that I had witnessed nearly three decades back. Though I had been abroad for close to fifteen years, I saw Christina regularly, at least once every summer. In spite of the fact that we have always been close friends, I have never asked her about her motives, her feelings in respect to that episode. Listening to the scops owls howling away and feeling the warmth of the kitten against my chest I resolved to ask her as soon as I saw her, which was bound to happen within the next days. I felt that we both of us now in our forties, both with grown up children, we might tackle at last an incident that has intrigued me for over a quarter of a century.

Here's what happened: As Christina stepped down from the rim of the well, without the least trace of modesty and as if it were the most natural thing in the world, she removed her brassiere and panties and spread them on a raspberry bush to dry. Then she sat on the board of the swing that hang from the fig tree and asked me to break up the watermelon and pass her a piece, which I did. Throughout the whole incident my personality was split. One half of me reacted like a somnambulist in deep trance, while the other registered, absorbed rather, the scene, and tried to appraise the situation which was the cause of this schism. Though we were both the same age and I considered myself an adult already (or nearly an adult, let's say,) and in spite of the fact that my female coevals were women in my eyes (most of them were also in fact, physically at least,) I considered the possibility that Christina was perfectly innocent, absolutely unaware of the effect that the sight of her stark naked body was having on me.

She was fully developed. Until that moment I had not even suspected that women had also pubic hair which she displayed from every angle of view in the next half hour as she changed positions on the swing, watermelon juice dripping on her breasts, belly and thighs. The possibility that she might be doing this on purpose in order to tease me did not even enter my mind in the course of that afternoon. It did so for the first time only years later but I rejected it almost immediately on the grounds of my cousin's behavior otherwise, both during and after the incident. I must mention that her behavior changed abruptly in the next year when Christina did start acting like a young woman in ways of dressing, in her manners towards boys and men and so on, though our relationship remained essentially the same, only adapting itself to our particular age throughout the years.

After relishing her portion of the watermelon (I had hardly been able to swallow mine,) my cousin tried to brush away the juice by spreading it evenly all over her body, and then she stepped upon the board of the swing, standing upright and holding the two ropes in her hands. In our games this had always been the signal for the partner to start pushing the swing, which I did.

I have almost gone mad reminiscing about that scene: A tantalizingly beautiful, ripe female body, arcing towards my devouring eyes every second or so. A pair of maddeningly round buttocks, goose-bumped in contrast to the rest of Christina's absolutely smooth and tight skin, swinging toward me at eye level. Maybe I would have gone mad after all if this had gone on for a while longer, but then my cousin proposed that we change roles. I cooled down a bit as I took my turn on the swing with Christina pushing. I couldn't see her as she pushed from behind and this saved me. After she grew tired it was time to go back since the others would be rising from their siesta.

- Serge


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