I pull into the camp around 11:35 pm in a two-door, manual transmission convertible called the Party Car. The Party Car is gray and has a charm hanging from its rear-view mirror – bear claws and the talons of some birds of prey. The talons kept catching on my gloves. The Party Car is a beautiful machine.
It`s a very dark night (though pretty much all of the nights are dark at Moria) and I see the lights of the camp. I hear drumming and stomping and shouting. I park right where the buses usually stop and turn off the car, making sure to lock it properly as the Party Car is borrowed.
I have been sick the last few days, and so I`m not expecting how empty the camp is. There are a few men gathered around a few fire barrels, but the noise is coming from the info tent, which I run up to.
The opening is jammed full of people clapping and laughing, facing into a circular clearing in the center of the tent, where two guys are dancing with each other, one tall guy with a black leather jacket and a shorter, pudgier guy with a purple fleece jacket that some how suits him really really well. There are drummers on the left and right – the drum on the left is louder. I don’t know if it`s a specifically Pakistani drum or not but it sounds flat and bright.
There is also a volunteer with a black guitar.Paris is at the door in his distinctive high-vis jacket.I`m glad the camp is empty tonight, he shouts over the ruckus. It`s true that this kind of cheerful, relaxed atmosphere wouldn`t have been possible otherwise.
I watch for a while. The volunteers are all on the outside of the circle, watching and clapping. It`s only refugees that are actively engaged. I have visions of jumping in with them, bridging that divide. There`s a lot of rhythmic stomping in this kind of dancing, you basically stomp in time to the beat and wiggle your hips, shoulders, arms in patterns.
I don`t know if the patterns are meaningful, but the whole scene is an obvious celebration of reaching Europe at last, in safety, with hope.
A new man gets into the circle, and the others bow out. He is small, around my size. He has black hair (like all of them) and a blue sweater with brown leather elbow patches. One of the sleeves is pulled over what is apparently a missing hand.
I realize that I am waiting for an invitation to join the dance, and that it won`t come. I`ve got to jump in on my own initiative, the same way I came to the camp on my own initiative.
With my coat and jacket and shawl and hat and everything else still on, I stomp in. The dancing one armed man looks at me, and stomps towards me.
I don`t know if the dance is a sort of competition, or what. But he locks my gaze and I try to copy him.
This man is in his element, all hips and booty, all elaborate hand movements that look like oil in water in slow motion, or sped-up movies of vines growing. I imagine his history, how maybe he grew up in a small village somewhere in the mountains and had his hand crushed by a plow, or maybe a falling stone, or maybe a land mine. His movements are definitely homoerotic, and I wonder also if in the gender segregated society he comes from this kind of dancing is a traditional role for young gay men.
I know so little about where these people come from.
Soon I get too hot to continue, and I retreat to take off a few of my layers. When I take off my hat, there is a lot of laughing – my shaved head is steaming.
It`s now 11:57 – three minutes until the new year. Because no one has a second hand, I start a stopwatch. We do the countdown. Everyone cheers, I hug everyone within reach. Etc, etc.
There were two other notable things that happened that night before I got back into the Party Car to drive back to Mytilini:
First, someone knocked over my cup of `voluntea,` my hot mulled wine. I took this as an excellent omen for my new year, having heard that when accidents like that happen it means the bad luck happened to the cup, not to you.
Second, Cassandra dropped a cup of diesel each into two fire barrels. These were our fireworks, and they couldn`t have been better.