Windy today, although the sun stands still, burning its intensity through the treetops. His long legs carry him far, quickly. He remains within his inner world, barely noticing what is happening around him. It is a good thing that nothing much is happening around him. He never sees the rickety swings blowing and stretching against their chains. He never quite realizes how stupid this is. Being out at 6:30 am. He knows it, yet still does it. Just another miserable day that is just the same as the last one. He looks down at the ground and contemplates. He’s tired. He’s running out of the strength to even get up everyday, so why exactly is he here?
It was rather funny to watch and observe him: Carlo freshly showered, shaven, primped, in his crisp suit and shoes contrasted against the dingy stale streets. Sharp contrast between street performer travelling through town with the circus: he, the mime, playing for his bread. His pants a little bit too short, his waist a little too high, his suit rather strange and odd. Jacket was shorter than it should be, almost bolero style, tie razor thin and sharp against the stark white of his shirt. The fog was even resting against the surface of the streets, and as he walked through it seemed to part, and he was like a god coming out from the strange world beyond. Plaster walls all around falling apart, terracotta roofs contrasted against the weary state of the dwellings. Clothes still hung out on lines from the day before. Dogs wandered looking for scraps of food that they weren’t getting from home or wherever they came from. It is approaching 7 am as Carlo comes upon the village square. He passes one house and hears a male voice yelling over Italian opera blaring away, both loud enough to be heard on the street outside. Carlo smells the bread from the bakery and coffee from the cafe across the street. There is a sullenness to the scene, and Carlo feels right at home. One would not guess that though from his outer appearance. His insides match the outside world.
He decides to have a smoke before entering the cafe. He leans against the wall as a scooter whizzes by. The fog seems to be rolling around him as he stands there. He sees a woman crossing the street from the bakery. As she walks past he says, “Ciao,” in a rather deep voice. He blows out smoke so as she looks and responds back. It’s as if the smoke and fog have overtaken him. He is suddenly slightly embarrassed. He smiles at her, thinking to himself, “What a strange little town”. Almost seems too terrible and mysterious a place for a woman like that. His first thoughts anyway. He wonders where she lives and what her story is. She must live out beyond the hills of olives and vast farms, away from this place. I’m sure her husband could only so much as deserve her. He better appreciate her obedience.
He stomps out his cigarette and enters the cafe after her. Not immediately though. There are several rooms inside. Some dark, the back ones stuffed and overcrowded. The front room is scattered with horse hair chairs and an old brass bar, gleaming and freshly polished. The place smells well cared for. The owner sits waiting, with his reading glasses on reading a newspaper. We may just be his first customers. The bell on the door rings and yet another gentleman walks in. His heavy boots sound across the floor as he enters.
The man sits down next to the woman he met outside. Carlo’s own boots ring across the floor as he takes his rightful place on the other side of the woman at the bar.
“Caffe” he mutters under his breath.
He puts his foot up on the footrest and stands in place, facing her. He glances her way. To Clarissa, his eyes look a little high and distant. She also notices the icy blue of his eyes. She is halfway through her own coffee. She wishes she hadn’t been so lax in her dress today. She is wearing a grey long sleeved athletic tee and workout pants. She glances over at the guy again and is slightly ashamed. He looks like he is dressed for a party or something. She worries her American-ness is showing through her carefully laid facade. She had meant to just stop at the post office and go home.
Carlo arrived in town a lot earlier than most would even think of rising from their beds. He needed to leave on the train to go back to Nice where he was living previously. He decided to have a cigarette before he goes in who knows when the next one will be after this the train ride is long and his addiction is strong, so he leans against the wall the side of the cafe next to the old shoemaker's place. That's the one that has its blinds down for the night. He kicks his boots against the side of the wall try to get the mud off them that he traveled through on the way here , when he cut through the back pass at his aunt’s home. Bella, they call her. He has a hard time with her so far, and it ruins his outlook on life because he is so meticulous and so careful about the way he looks and the way he presents himself. So in any event, this little bit of dirt was putting him over the edge and making him want to smoke more. As he is smoking looking down leaning against the wall, he sees a woman coming down the street over the cobblestones. She's wearing basic black pants, ballet flats, her hair is drawn up slightly, but she's beautiful and she's a natural and she's different than what Carlo is used to. She seems like someone he would want to talk to, someone he would want to sit down and have a coffee with. She crosses the street, looks at him, he says ciao under his breath, and she walks to enter the cafe door. He takes a few more drags off the cigarette and snuffs it out against the brick so that he could follow her into the cafe. He walks through the door and notices her at the bar. She turns to face him and he orders a caffe. Nice that he remains standing. He feels confident this way. With his foot up and looks at her deliberately trying to get her attention. Perhaps it's a little strange because it is so early and so it is so early and such a strange place to be at just before 7 a.m. but at the same time it feels right. It feels like a moment that should be salvaged and understood and seen as such. She looks at him, and he sees how beautiful that she is. Also her face seems sad and tired and weary in the way he can't quite put his finger on it, but she feels like a child in a middle-aged woman's body, and he wants to reach out to her. He has this need to reach out to her. Sucks that he himself will be the one to open up and talk to her, but that is the way it goes, and they start to converse and he feels comfortable with her, he feels like she is someone he's known for a long time. They chat for a bit as they drink their coffee, they share a laugh, and other more meaningful things and offers to walk her home. He still gets the feeling that she's sad. You still get the feeling that this was a moment that was meant to happen. And, he still gets the feeling that they will be friends in the future. He wishes that he could reach out to her, but he knows that it is too soon, so he offers to walk her home and his gentle gentlemanly nature seems to melt her a little bit, and he realizes that he did the right thing by offering. He notices her hair. It's almost her best feature, next to her curvy, soft figure. It's thick and it’s wavy and it’s like nothing he has ever seen before, and she ties it back in and a kind of loose tie, but it still manages to release from that constrictor and fall on her face and neck in long ringlets. It mesmerizes him. And the color is like a chestnut brown, lighter than a brunette, but very deep, autumn like.
They walk outside together and he places his arm through hers. He walks on the street side of the walk, and they cross the street together to go towards her house. Very light on the pavement, they both are. She for one doesn't walk like a bull in a china shop or for someone who could care less about how she is perceived. She attempts to walk gracefully, but yet her womanly figure is a little off, slightly awkward, and makes her seem a little heavy feeling, like her limbs are heavy and hard to maneouver. He talks to her, and she seems to respond well to him. She even coquettishly jokes with him, which is a good sign. He's not used to a woman of her age being even interested in talking to him, so it makes him feel good and feel wanted and feel like someone who is actually important. Although he has seen a great deal of the world, he still is rather naive and rather inexperienced compared to someone of her age. He can tell by her face that she's been through a lot even though he knows nothing about her. He wants to know more though. She tricks him into such an intense curiousity. She lives at the top of the hill and she tells him that her villa is up there in the village. The villa that she shares with her artist husband. He wants to understand more about her. She offers to have him at her house for a drink. He definitely will pursue this and his curiosity won't let him forget this offer of kindness. She feels to him like someone who will open, open Carlo up further than he allows himself to open up. He feels comfortable and he trusts her and it’s a very weird feeling for Carlo. He's used to being independent and on his own and not needing to trust others, but with Clarissa he feels like he has a chance to go beyond this, to go beyond this perpetual independence and perpetual avoidance of intimacy with others. She starts to slow down as the hill gets more steep. He had more energy than for the both of them combined. He has more energy than two people combined, so he needs to slow down and to allow her to catch up with him, but he's a gentleman and he would never walk in front of her. she has a nice kind of laugh that she wonders whether she ever laughs that much. It's almost like when she does laugh, her face, her whole entire face, lights up and is reflected by the happiness inside her. It seems to relax her to talk to him. She's a different woman than the one he saw on the street this morning. He takes her up to her villa and hands her off through the gate and says goodbye. He needs to go to the train now before it takes off. He is fully intentioned and has the greatest intention of seeing her when he gets back. He will call on her when he returns next week, and hopefully they are able to speak again. He, would like that very much. A lonely guy like him needs that in his life: someone to count on, someone to look forward to seeing, someone who won't let him down, someone who will be understanding, and not judging, not judgemental against him. He finally feels like maybe he belongs in this new town. Maybe he can settle somewhere, maybe can settle here. Who knows? Only time will tell.
7 am (some italian village undecided)
The streets are beginning to rise out of the deathlike coma they go into every night, not too much longer after dark. It is almost as if the streets need to loosen their stiffened ligaments after a night of bed pans and bed sore preventive measures. The 5 am sponge bath forces them awake unwillingly.
It is a small village of only about 5,000 people, so any kind of nightlife occurs within the confines of people’s property. There is only one bar in town owned by some Egyptians. We jokingly quip that if you end up drinking too much there, your liver will somehow wind up in a canopic jar and put in the vault in the back room. There are a few remaining decorations still suspended from the storefronts from yesterday’s parade, but other than that, the village is void of any kind of humanity. I walk quickly, gradually ascending the slight hill. The air is chilled, and I had forgotten my sweater when i left. It had been a long night filled with restless sleep and lack of ability to get comfortable in the flat Italian bed. You just never get used to these beds if you have originally come from America. Sleep last night stayed as far away as my childhood home.
I stop at the bakery to purchase some bread before I make my way homeward. I notice upon leaving, a young man languidly leaning against the side of one of the shops. The look on his face was one of a sort of petulant aggression. Like someone putting on a good show of fortitude and irritation, yet not quite coming close to the mark. Instead of coming across imposing, he comes across as more captivating, giving a sort of mystique to his persona. As I am walking past, he says “Ciao” in a lower voice than expected. His clothes are crisp and freshly laundered. He wears stunning black boots, a white dress shirt, and a thin black tie. His hair is shorn down into a punk-like spiked style, bleached blonde but with darker regrowth catching up with him. He has a lighter complexion and almost grey eyes that are set off by the paleness of his skin. He wears a long, dangly earring from his left ear with a shape at the bottom that I can’t make out. I notice his hands are large and rather strong and masculine, which stand in striking contrast to the rest of his physicality--he is androgynous. It was actually difficult to tell from afar what his sex is, but clearly “he” walks a fine line between the genders. He wears an obviously deliberate pout on his lips in order to appear lackadaisical. He does succeed while adding in a bit of sexiness and a lot of gaunt charm.
“May I ask you where you live?” he says in heavily accented italian.
I respond in my own awkward italian making me sound like a stuttering American fool, compared to the speed and finesse of which he started the conversation. In English he returns my awkwardness right back to me:
“Then I will escort you home, madam.”
He puts his arm through my own and leads me quickly towards the end of the street.
“Carlo”, he says and holds out his hand.
“Clarissa,” I respond and shake it gently.
His boots click and clack against the concrete of the road, making a high pitched sound that reverberates and echoes against the surrounding buildings.
“Don’t be angry with my italian. It knows not what it does.” I giggle, sounding a little childlike.
There is at best a 20 year difference between us, so perhaps, I was subconsciously attempting to narrow the gap. There is something about the Italian male though. Not just this one, but in fact, all of them have this bond that hold them together. I analyze him as a reflection of “them” and wonder why I am so drawn to them. He is different though, but I can’t quite place why just yet.
“I appreciate your chivalry, Carlo.”
“Chivalry is not dead, bellissima.” He grins and laughs; his grin a little lopsided and demure.
“I am new here. Freshly moved from Nice. I am living in the apartment of my aunt on Via Vardi. So this right here is in fact a true attempt to make friendship with you, Clarissa.”
“Well, it is nice to be part of your welcoming committee then, Carlo!” I respond warmly.
“I have been living here in this village for….well, I guess it has been almost 8 years now! It doesn’t seem that long at all. I live at the villa on the top of this hill. You can kind of see it through these trees if you look closely.”
“Most definitely beautiful. And the views?”
“Amazing! It is why we bought it. You will have to come visit with us some time. For tea maybe or a glass of wine in the evening. I would love to show you my home. I am a little too proud of my garden too, so you will have to suffer through that.” haha.
“And I am sure my husband would love to meet you as well. He’s an artist. Fairly well known and I am...well, I can know definitely that he will show you his sculptures. Our home is full of them. Both inside and outside. He is eccentric though. I do warn you ahead of time.” I smile.
“Aren’t all artists though?” Carlo responds coyly.
“Yes. That they are! I don’t think one trait can exist without the other.”
He smooths his tie down as we stop to cross the street. He turns to face me.
“Clarissa, it has been a pleasure to meet you and to talk with you.”
I notice he looks me directly in the eyes without shame or self consciousness.
“I know that we will come to be great friends.”
He grabs my arm again as we cross. The cars pass by as he hands me off through my gate.
“Safe and sound.” he confidently announces, turns, and tip taps his way back down the hill. He turns and tips his pretend hat. “Ciao, Clarissa.”
I tap in the security code and enter my lair.
“Goodbye, Carlo,” but he is already gone.
It was a cat at the end of his earring, dangling there. I just noticed that I had noticed it. Curious.
It is already 9 am when she arrives back at home. Two hours had passed since last she checked her watch at the bakery. It was an enlightening, albeit invigorating morning full of surprise and a welcome tension to her life. The damn bougainvillea needs pruning again. Richard had been told, but not enough it seems. He’s already snoozing on the couch on the balcony. That’s ok. She’d have one of his “Hermetic helpers” come work on them. That way, they can entertain him afterwards, so she does not have to. If Clarissa were a house, she would be a small rose covered cottage. One bedroom and a few small rooms. Only enough space for herself and the things she wanted to do and cherish. She wouldn’t ask for much. Just solitude and freedom. With that, she would never be discontent or sad or lacking in anything. She would not have to answer to anyone. Just like the cottage. Its only job is to blend into the woods happily.