July 15th, 2002

His True Nature

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Awoke an hour before dawn, made coffee. Sat here by the window and had dark thoughts.

What am I going to do with that girl? She insists she will schedule a visit very soon, once she gets that undisclosed medical problem taken care of, but I hear nothing from her about coming here, as if we never had the discussion. Furthermore she frequently goes silent . Days, sometimes a week, two weeks go by before she finally calls or writes.

But then that’s the way she is. Has been since I first met her. She responds to trouble or stress by withdrawing. Even though I tell her that talking helps. At least it helps me, since I just hate being kept in the dark about what is going on in her life. We’re lovers, aren’t we?

At first light I headed for the beach at San Franchesco. It doesn’t get crowded until later in the morning. Sunrise is the very best time to sit on the sand alone, to brood in peace.

I thought about the bizarre experience in America, when Giancarlo put on his nice guy act for her, complete with a flowers and candy routine. He figured that it would take a long time before she remembered why she took over the master bedroom as her own private space and told him to never come in there without her permission.

Naturally I thought Giancarlo’s true nature was the very first thing that she ought to recall. So I repeated to her the things she’d told me about him. Even showed her some of the e-mails we exchanged early in our relationship, when she wrote about her frustration trying to get out of the marriage.

“Oh, and by the way,” I said. “Do you remember that afternoon when we were in bed in my apartment, having a quiet conversation, and he showed up at the door? No? Well, he said I want my wife. Right now. I told him to get lost, and I shut the door. And then he started screaming and pounding like a lunatic.”
She shook her head slowly. “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember that.”
“You told me afterward that when you got home, he choked you, slammed you against the wall. You thought he was going to kill you.”
“That’s hard to believe.”
I stared at her. “Really? And why is that? Do you think I’m making it up?”
“He seems like a really sweet guy. He brings me coffee in the morning before he goes to work. He gives me money, tells me that I should go to the mall buy a lot of nice clothes. Whatever I want.”

It got worse. She told me about the night she woke up, crying. A really terrible nightmare. Giancarlo heard her, came into her bedroom, asked her what was wrong. She sobbed that in her dream she was in darkness, and some terrible monster was chewing up her belly, and she was bleeding to death. Giancarlo eased into her bed and cradled her in his arms until she went back to sleep.

And then a week later, when Vittoria and I were talking on the phone, I heard Giancarlo’s voice in the background, and then I heard her say, “Oh, hi, hon.”

I couldn’t stand it. But what could I do? She was married to the guy.

A Novel Approach

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My dear Jack:

News? Well, there was great flurry of excitement the other day. A bank robbery. Details are sketchy. Sylvia says she saw the Financia cops pulling up in their Alfa Romeos and then shutting down traffic on the main island road. The two robbers took off in a rubber boat from Forio Porto, but then they ran out of petrol a few kilometers short of Procida. The loot was recovered, except for one bag, which they dropped as they rushed down the street. When I learn more, I’ll fill you in.

Not much is going on with Vittoria. She may come, she may not. We’ve settled into another status quo, one day leads to the next. When nothing really happens between us, the trivial occupies my attention. For instance:

I get seriously bent out of shape when Vittoria makes promises she doesn’t keep. Before she left for the shore last weekend she wrote in an e-mail that she missed the sound of my voice and would call. But then she didn’t.

Yesterday, she said she knows I’m not too happy with her but that something happened that she hoped would never happen again, and now all she can do is cry. I wasn’t moved. I thought it was just another of her lame excuses.

Turns out that she had a dream about Giancarlo’s brother being in a fire before a wedding, and guess what? It came true! She told Giancarlo about it beforehand, and he insisted she call the guy, because when Vittoria dreams something like this it usually happens. Her grandmother once told her, “Never dream about me, little one. Please.”

When Vittoria learned that Giancarlo’s brother actually had been in a fire and had been burned, exactly as she dreamed, well, she knew “it” had returned after being absent for 10 years. And it scared her, since she has a lot on her mind these days, and what would she do if she dreams she’s going to die? This, I presume, was an oblique reference to the undisclosed medical problem she has, but I can’t be sure.

Well, I wasn’t in the mood to hear any of this. To me it was just an elaborate rationalization for her thoughtless behavior, and I told her so. She replied I just didn’t understand.
“You promised to call,” I said. “but you didn’t. What’s there to understand?”
“Maybe it was because you didn’t want your family to know you are talking to me.”
“That’s not true,” she said. “Everyone knows about you. And wait a minute. I called you at Easter when they ALL were around. Remember?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Look it up in your diary. It’s in there. You write everything down, don’t you?”
Finally she said, “Well, I knew you were mad at me and so I picked up the phone. Even though I don’t feel like talking right now.”
More silence.
“Okay,” I said. “When you do, let me know. Goodbye.”

Half an hour later I called her back, because I realized I had once again fallen into the trap of believing her behavior is intentional and calculated, when in fact she probably is in the grip of ancient superstition, or worried about something, or pressed down by ten centuries of Italian culture, or whatever.

My Private Theory: Being unable or unwilling to articulate her mental state, all she can say is, “You don’t understand.”
Or, she’ll say, “Sure. You’re right. You’re always right.”
Or, “You will never get inside my head.”
Or, “I’m evil.”

A repeating cycle: Her behavior—which she does not plan and is largely unaware of—gets everyone upset. Since she genuinely does not intend to make people unhappy or disappointed in her, she has to believe some malevolent force controls her actions. But she doesn’t know how to explain it, how to put it in words.

Now, if there are no words for it, then she has to settle for the ones that come close.

This speculation makes my head ache. The man/woman, Venus/Mars thing. It’s all pointless. I’ll never fully understand her. Maybe it’s time to give up, and just accept her exactly as she is. I can see you smile, Jack. You’re thinking: “For James acceptance would be a novel approach!”

But enough. By now you must be thoroughly bored with this melodrama!

I’m so glad to hear that Lucy has recovered from her flu, and that Jennifer had such a lovely birthday party. The video was a joy. Please send me more. I can’t believe those kids have grown so much. Just the other day they were infants.

More later…my love to you all.