My Sunday ritual soak at Hotel Royal Palm, high on a hill overlooking the beach at Citera. The indoor pool, fed by a boiling fumerole, is the size of a tennis court, divided into deep and shallow sections. Almost invisible wisps of steam rise from the surface of the slightly green-tinted water. Two stainless steel railings are by the steps. Below the surface they gleam. Above, a pale white crust covers them. The minerals in this allegedly healing brew are radioactive, and taste of salt. The ancient Roman aristocrats who visited here loved it.
I close my eyes. I feel the delightful relaxation of weightlessness. My thoughts wander.
I remembered my long session with the professor yesterday. In a discussion of T.S. Eliot the learned man turned to the subject of memory. And of course I was keen to hear his views on it, especially as they might apply to my theory of Vittoria’s amnesia. In my mind her forgetting all things Italian was beautifully metaphoric.
“Memory,” the professor said, “creates our sense of self. But on the whole our recollection of the past is fragmented. It’s revised and shaped by our awareness of the present.”
“That seems another way of saying we remember only what we wish.”
“But there is more to it. For instance, if a woman learns her husband has been having a long-term affair, then all her memories of the marriage are instantly transformed.”
“So then memory is malleable.”
“Certainly. It also evolves over a lifetime. By the age of thirty a man has had experiences that are significant. But only at fifty does he see their long-range consequences.”
“Which is how we acquire wisdom.”
“More accurately, it’s how we fashion our personal myths."
“Convenient lies about ourselves!”
“Oh, no. Not falsehoods, but a comprehensive expression of our reality. One that speaks more to our hearts than to our minds. We all seek to generate a conviction that our beliefs are true, or ought to be.”
“Seems we’re getting close to what writers and poets do.”
The professor nodded. “Yes. T.S. Eliot captured it nicely:
‘…This is the use of memory
For liberation—not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire and so liberation
From the future as well as the past…’”
* * *
After my soak I dress and go to the terrace. The waiter brings me my usual: Espresso doppio con latte caldo, e dolce.
In my notebook I write what I remember about trying to help Vittoria regain her memory. Of me.