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  • "Is someone playing an oboe?" I asked.

    Some sort of reed instrument jarred me out of my reverie. I looked over my shoulder to see a man, a boy, with a clarinet. A guitar, drums, and tambourine followed with equally young men behind and under them. They sank into the seats next to us on the train and hollered.

    "Hello!"

    One of my friends rolled her eyes and muttered over her knitting. Another friend read. The third looked out through the window, and I started typing. With my blurring vision, I didn't worry about catching one's eye. The boys laughed and asked for a photo. We kept our heads down. The train was too empty for four single women, nine teenage boys, and unwanted attention not to mention the musical instruments.

    I retrieved my coat and another's bag from the seats behind me. Someone on our side had mentioned our “items of value “so I pulled them. I apparently forgot the lemon cookies, though, and one of the teens returned them to me.

    “ευχαριστώ,” I said in my limited Greek and smiled at him.

    The boys were young and earnest, thrilled with themselves, and only slightly harassing. Other train riders registered varying degrees of amusement and disgust, and some women moved to another part of the train. When we stopped, more people left, and only a few of us remained. My friends. The boys and their instruments. An old, toothless man begging and a trio very scruffy little boys.

    Not all of the musicians fit around the table next to us so some stood in the aisle, laughing, shouting and playing. They started a new song next to my head, and I could smell the dirty teen scent almost as strongly as I heard the music. One of the scruffy boys slammed into me. He turned back, smiled beguilingly, and pointed at the roll of cookies.

    "No," I shook my head.

    He pointed again.

    “No,” I said emphatically as one of my friends reached for the roll. "Don't give him a cookie."

    "No?" she asked with a sly smile.

    "It'll be like the cats."

    "We can't cookie him?"

    Cats had benefitted from our breakfast table for days. My friends packed up pieces of meat and cheese for strays throughout Greece. At one point, they’d even thrown a bit out the window at a stray dog, and the term “drive by hamming” was born. (I suggested they try it with some of the urchins tearing through winding, whitewashed village streets.

    "No drive by cookie-ing," I said. "There is no by to drive and there are more kids. They won’t go away."

    Two of my three friends criticized my decision, but I held firm. They were my cookies, anyway, and I put them in my pocket. I dddidddn’t mIn my experience, to my understanding, neither begging, harassment, nor treat-eating were to be encouraged. It wouldn't make them go away. It wouldn't fix anything.

    "It was such a nice ride," a friend said. "How close are we?"

    "It's been almost five hours. We should be there soon."

    "I hope so."

    The music restarted.

    Really.

    Close.

    To my head.

    We did arrive soon, though. The next day, we would find them again on the train or they would find us. Later, a man on the metro would follow me with a guitar. By the time I got home, I expected my personal soundtrack, but it was somewhat lacking. Alas. Next trip.
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