Updated: Oct 24, 2020
The same three sentences are spilling out from my mouth again and again as I wring my hands together. I’m given reason for pause only when I notice the reflection of the stars, so clear and so close in the sky, mirrored perfectly on the dark, wrinkled blanket of the sea beneath me. I didn’t know it was possible for stars to shine so bright. I also didn’t know they could move quite so quickly. I kneel on the side of the jetty to take a closer look, and it turns out that I am very right to doubt myself. They are not the watery sisters of the stars above, but bioluminescent plankton. The earth seems so very large then and for a moment, I forget to worry.
On Tuesday and Friday nights I venture out of my bookshop to cross the island and introduce the film showing at Cinema Paradiso. I spend my afternoon researching interesting titbits to tell an always varied audience where no two nights are the same. Sometimes I am speaking to forty eyes, blinking like jewels in the light. On more than one occasion I chat directly to just two souls, about to enjoy the intimacy of a private screening. Once I was handed the mic and told, ‘By the way, we’re going to live broadcast this to 30,000 people in Turkey. Good luck.’ The film that night was Topkapi. Try saying that when you’re nervous.
By now it’s no secret that I have a deep love for the written word. It’s the spoken that drums in me a gentle terror. I can talk perfectly normally, until I know someone is listening. Then it seems I have an outrageous talent for verbal errors. I become skilled in spoonerisms. I showcase my unbreakable affinity for ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. In short, when I am on edge I tend to babble, and not in a Richard Curtis charming kind of way. Those nerves drive me to pace up and down the jetty now, because tonight is kind of special. I say goodbye to the stars in the sky and in the sea, and I walk back to the cinema.
Tonight, in manner of Bridget Jones at the launch of Kafka’s Motorbike, I am introducing the person introducing the film. She happens to be a famous actress, one I greatly admire, and while I want to be incredibly excited about this pinch me moment, all I can think about is Bridget whispering ‘Mr. Tits Pervert’ to herself and offending Salman Rushdie. Mr. Rushdie isn’t here, but I would never doubt my capacity to mess this up that badly.
‘I’m really worried I’m going mispronounce your name,’ I tell her as soon as I see her. ‘Oh don’t worry,’ she smiles, an infectious one. ‘You can call me whatever you like.’ She begins to tell me about an event where someone did just that. If she’s trying to make me feel at ease, it’s working. I give my little introduction, all three lines of it, and wonder what I was so worried about.
The moon tonight is in our favour. It's just shy of full, and it hangs above and beyond the screen like a spotlight. I can hear the waves lapping back and forth all around me, somewhere behind the bush. We’re watching Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, and it feels quite fitting. If they made a film about Soneva now, I have no doubt I’d read the right lines.