September 23, 2002. Dear Jack: I’m tempted to shut down my weblog because I’m getting fed up with what some people send my way. Here are a few words from “Larry” in response to my musings about Vittoria’s long-established practice of running away.
“James Stephens: I admire your ability to maintain your commitment to a woman who by all appearances has so little regard for your feelings. There's no point in asking you what Vittoria does when she disappears for weeks on end; even from a distance it's painful to consider. I am often struck by the remarkably thin line between someone being a blessing or a curse. Which one is Vittoria really to you? I’d guess the latter.”
I might have responded by saying that after a great deal of careful thought over the past several years I’ve finally concluded that Vittoria has good and sufficient reasons to disappear. Every time I thought her motives were mean, or vengeful, or spiteful I was proved wrong. Yes, I know, it’s hard to believe. But she remains the most guileless woman I’ve ever known.
Well, to be fair to this chap there’s a lot that I haven’t yet revealed. Why am I holding back? The primary reason is that Vittoria—as you know—reads everything I write and would hit the ceiling if I exposed her too honestly, too fully. She’s entitled to a few secrets, isn’t she? But then on the other hand if I don’t paint a complete picture, folks like Larry will get the wrong impression. I suppose there’ll be no harm in elaborating on what I’ve already written.
Two or three weeks into our relationship Vittoria said that I would never fully understand her. I asked her why. She replied that she has always kept most of the “real” Vittoria hidden. “You might figure out 50 percent,” she said. “But not any more.” Of course I saw it as a mystery, which I’d solve if I worked hard enough at it. We’ve both always enjoyed intellectual challenges, haven’t we Jack?
Not too long after our first few sexual encounters—which by the way were the most sensuous and delightful I’d ever experienced—she announced it would be a good idea if we did not speak on the phone or meet for a week or two. Which disturbed me. I needed to know why.
“Trust me,” she replied.
But I needed a full explanation. Actually, I needed reassurance that she wasn’t changing her mind about us. I didn’t want to lose her, because…well, I’d taken a long drink from that ancient Greek love spell cup they’d found in the necropolis in Lacco Ameno.
“You can tell me,” I assured her. “I’ll understand.”
“It’s PMS,” she replied. “You really don’t want to be around me. I might say something we’ll both regret.”
“What’s so funny?”
“I’m sorry. I guess I’m just relieved it isn’t something else.”
She gave me a hard and cold stare. She picked up her bag, pulled out the keys to her BMW. “I’ve got to go now,” she said.
“Wait. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
Later Colly explained that her mother’s PMS symptoms go way beyond irritability, short temper, or bitchiness. It’s truly debilitating. She gets severe migraines, which last two or three days at a time. Also nausea, depression. When these attacks come, she locks herself in her room and lies on her bed in darkness. She can’t bear to hear anyone’s voice. What makes it worse are the bizarre thoughts that creep into her mind, which explains why she often says so many really hurtful and nasty things to people, even those she loves. It gets so bad that she thinks she must be crazy. There can be no other explanation. She believes—knows for sure—that if she were ever to tell anyone what goes through her mind, they’d lock her up in an insane asylum. So she works hard to disguise all the symptoms, and she’s found that an even better tactic is to hide until they go away.
“What does her doctor say?”
“Tylenol,” Colly said. “Extra strength.”