October 4th, 2002

Into The Deep

  Deep Sea Exploration I

“Hi,” Vittoria wrote.
“So you made it home.”
“Have you talked to your father?”
“No, when I got here this afternoon Francesca said Mom had taken him to a doctor’s appointment.”
“His blood pressure is too high.”
“Making up stories about having a heart attack is stressful, eh?”
“I guess.”
“Are you still nervous?”
“Not to worry. It’ll be OK. When he gets back talk to him.”
“Get the whole story. And try to see it from his point of view when he adopted you.”
“Now that you’re back everyone can relax a bit.”
“Not me.”
“Yes, you. What scares you the most about this?”
“Everything. My nerves are shot.”
“When is your father due back?”
“Soon. Everything is upsetting to me.”
“Was Francesca glad to see you?”
“Yes, she was.”
“So your dad forced Francesca to tell the story about his heart attack?”
“She doesn’t ever lie. But she had to. He made her do it. I’m too nervous to talk now. I’ve gotta go. I’ll e-mail you when I’m up to it.”
“Don’t be a stranger.”
“Who, me?”
“Yes, you. I’m on your side, remember?”
“Yes, I know.”
“Have you eaten?”
“No. Too nervous. I feel like vomiting. I need to go.”
“Take a long deep breath. Hold it to the count of four. Let it out slowly, and say to yourself: relax.”
“I need a dart game.”
“How will that make you feel better?”
“I don’t know. But I feel like throwing a few darts.”
“Go run around the block a few times. Get your blood circulating.”
“Fine. Fine. Fine. You win.”
“Do 20 pushups.”
“You think I can’t do 20.”
“You’re right, I don’t think you can. Women don’t have upper body strength. Which is why I can so easily subdue you.”
“You will never subdue me.”
“Why, I’ll wrestle you right to the ground. You’ll be powerless in my grip.”
“Keep on dreaming.”
“Go eat something.”
“No way.”
“A nice juicy steak.”
“I don’t like steak.”
“Surf & Turf. Lobster tail.”
“Oysters on the half shell. Slurp!”
“Remember the clam chowder I used to make for you?”

From the can. But I always added some heavy cream, and a tin of succulent baby clams. Freshly ground pepper. Some crackers on the side. Or, when she was in one of her bad moods, I’d bring out the big guns: My famous chicken soup. Chopped celery and carrots and potatos swimming in a rich chicken broth, big chunks of white breast meat and a bit of dark. Seasoning to taste. Served with butter-covered fresh crusty bread from the bakery. I have a videotape of us eating together, at my dining room table. I like to look at it from time to time, to convince myself that she’s not just a character I dreamed up for a short story.

“Yes, I remember your clam chowder,” she said. “But now I’ve got to go. Ciao.”

“Write to me,” I typed, but she’d logged off.

  Deep Sea Exploration II

Three hours later, Francesca came online.
“My dad made me do it,” she said. “He was standing right behind me when I was online with you. Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. Is everything okay?
“Not good.”
“Don’t tell me she disappeared again.”
“She doesn’t want to speak to him.”
“Why not?”
“She locked herself in her room. She wasn’t ready to face him.”

Francesca said that when he got back from the doctor’s, he tried to embrace Vittoria, but she pushed him away. Don Giovanni is on the one hand very happy that his wayward daughter has finally come back home, but then on the other he’s sad because she won’t speak. He tried to tell her about the adoption, but she put her hands over her ears and hummed a song. Then she began crying.

“Now begins the long silence.”
“Try to understand that this is huge for her.”
“Did Giovanni mention who her adopted mother was?”
“No, she didn’t give him a chance.”
“So what’s the plan now? Everybody sits around and says nothing?”
“She will come around.”
“It’ll take a while, eh? Meanwhile there is global warming. Glaciers are melting. By the time you all are ready to talk I’ll be in an old folks home, drooling.”
“That’s funny.”
“No point telling me the news then, I won’t know who in hell your sister IS.”
“My dad is calling me. I have to go. I’ll keep you informed.”
“I hope so. Bye.”

  Deep Sea Exploration III