From WITNESS, my memoir-in-progress:
The belated news came in the seventh year of my residence on Ischia, a volcanic island in the bay of Naples. At my usual table at Café La Piazzetta, Franco had just brought me an espresso doppio, and a small bottle of Pelligrino, when my cellphone rang. It was from Maria, in New York.
“I just called your father,” she said.
“Why did you do that?”
“Because I thought if I introduced myself and we talked, I might understand you better.”
“So what did he say?”
“I didn’t talk to him. I asked the woman who answered if I could speak to Chester. But she got mad and said no, I could not.”
“That sounds like Anne, his wife. My stepmother.”
“So I asked her, why can’t I talk to him? She said that he died five months ago. I said what? And she angrily spelled out the word, D.I.E. D., then hung up.”
I said nothing.
“That’s interesting,” I finally said. “Very interesting.”
After another long pause, Maria said, “John, are you okay?”
“Yes, don’t worry, sweetie. I’m fine.”
After that conversation I lit up a toxic Girabaldi cheroot, and slowly blew out a cloud of smoke. What was I feeling ? Or, what in this instance should I be feeling? It certainly wasn’t sorrow or grief or regret, but it wasn’t elation either.
Well, it was interesting that my father had been buried for five months, and no one in his second family felt obliged to let me know. Which actually wasn’t surprising. Merely interesting, as if my being deliberately kept in the dark by those people had happened to someone else.
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