The street painters worked most of the morning on a large elongated STOP on the macadam in front of Bar Lucciola and on thick parallel rectangles of a crosswalk across from the sanctuary of Di Loretta. The markings remained brilliant white only as long as the stripped cones were in place. After that, traffic soon covered the brightness with gray tire marks.
For a while I thought Giancarlo would succeed in convincing Vittoria that he was the man for her, after all. And that she didn’t need a lover named James. And that she would become the wife he was entitled to, since he worked so hard in the city all day every day and thus was able to buy her whatever she wanted.
On her part, she didn’t mind all the attention and gifts. And she remembered one night when he came into her room to comfort her when she awoke from a horrible nightmare of a monster devouring her belly. He didn’t make any move on her at all, he just held her until she fell back to sleep. That proved his heart was in the right place.
“James,” she said.
“I’ve got to tell you something.”
“Let me guess. It’s bad news, right?”
“Yes and no.”
“All right, let’s hear it.”
“Promise me you won’t be mad.”
I looked up to heaven. Women!
“All right. I won’t get mad.”
“Giancarlo and I had sex last night.”
She glanced at me, then looked down at her hands clasped in her lap. She looked like a frightened little girl.
“So you’re telling me you’ve decided to break it off with me, then.”
“No. I’m not.”
“Oh, I see. You expect me to pretend that you and Giancarlo aren’t intimate again. You want me to be your guy on the side. Right?”
“No, no. It’s not what you think.”
“Well, then, please enlighten me.”
It was like this. Giancarlo had been soooo nice to her for such a long time now, she said, and it didn’t seem fair to just freeze him out. It wasn’t what she planned at all. One thing led to another, that’s all there was to it.
She put her hand on my forearm. “Sex with you is so sweet, and tender, and gentle,” she said. “But I was…”
“You were what?”
“Curious. You know? I wondered what it would be like with him.”
“It hurt. And I started to remember things.”
“Let’s just say that he won’t be coming into my room anymore. That’s it.”
My head ached. I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. We’d gone completely around the track, and we all were right back where we started. Nothing had changed. Absolutely nothing.
The only remaining question: Was I ready to go around again?