Two, three months went by without further word from Vittoria. Plenty of time for me to think about what she and her friend Giacamo were up to in Milan. I read her last note over and over again. It was good bye, no other way to interpret the words. I wanted to write to her, to negotiate, but there was no return address.
Then at three in the morning a telephone call. An echoing feminine voice in a heavy Italian accent. She said her name was Anna. Anna? Yes, a close friend of Vittoria, calling from Rome. Anna thought she should let me know what had happened. I sat up, turned on the light, tried to clear my head.
Vittoria was in a cab, heading for a photo shoot at the Trevi Fountain. A lorry broadsided the vehicle. When she awoke in the hospital, she couldn’t remember her name, where she lived. Her bag contained no identification. Giacamo and Anna and the other girls didn’t know where she was, until a month later when they saw Vittoria’s picture in the newspaper, with a caption that said, “Do you know this woman?”
They hurried to the hospital. Giacamo tried to talk to her, but Vittoria sent him away. “I don’t know you,” she said. “Leave me alone.” Anna was there a few days later when Vittoria’s husband arrived from America. Giancarlo rushed to her bedside. Weeping, he explained that he had come to take her home.
“No! Go away!” Vittoria shouted. “Who is this person?”
“He is your husband,” the dottore said. “He has documents.”
Vittoria looked at Giancarlo, and shook her head.
“How could I have married such a man?”
Nevertheless, she was obliged to go with Giancarlo. She had no choice. He was, after all, her husband.
A few days after talking with Anna I dialed Vittoria’s number.
“Hello, I’m James,” I said.
“James Stephens. Before your father took you to a monastery in Italy we were lovers.”
A long silence.
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“Not at all.”
“This is crazy. First a husband I’ve never seen before, now a lover. What’s next?”
“Let’s meet. We can talk about it.”
“Forget it. I don’t know you.”
“Just coffee. What would be the harm? I might help you remember something.”
“What was your name again?”