Jack, Vittoria ever-so-casually mentioned this morning in one of her notoriously short posts that she will be arriving in Rome early in the morning on the 13th of next month, and will catch the shuttle for Napoli later in the day. She said she’d give me a call when she knows exactly what time she’ll arrive.
Later this afternoon I intend to go to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Loretta and ask the Bishop to fax Papa Giovanni Paulo that the age of miracles has not yet passed. This unexpected catyclysmic event must not go unrecorded in the Vatican’s Sacred Archives.
You’ve often heard me speak of my good friend the professor. A most learned fellow, whose brain I love to pick. The other day we were in Naples heading for Porto Beverello, and we cut through the vast Galleria Umberto. On the steps was a handsome couple, getting photos taken for their wedding album (see enclosed).
The professor and I had been talking about my inability to fathom the mind of Vittoria’s husband, Giancarlo. The man knows about Vittoria’s affair with me, has known about it for the past several years. Nevertheless, beyond that initial flurry of pounding and shouting at my door one afternoon, he has done nothing. I know that I would not remain silent if a wife of mine were similarly engaged.
“What goes on in his head?” I asked. “I just don’t understand his passivity.”
The professor laughed. “James, you’ve fallen victim to the fallacy of shared assumptions.”
“Please elaborate,” I said.
“In Northern Italy they’ve fully entered the 21st Century. In Campania, here in the South, they still cling to old ideas. And of course when you cross the Bay of Naples to Ischia, well, you go back in time another 50 years. That’s largely the island effect. Geographical—and thus cultural—isolation.”
“Old fashioned stuff, eh?”
“What do you think is the prime, fundamental institution of this country?”
“Nope. It’s The Family. That’s what it’s all about. Luigi Barzini in his book ‘The Italians’ says the law, the State and society function only if they do not directly interfere with the family’s supreme interests.”
“But I’m a threat to Giancarlo’s family, aren’t I?”
“Ah, but after two, three years of an affair with you she’s still married to him, isn’t she?”
“Then there’s another powerful cultural imperative operating here,” the professor said. “Denial. Italians like to call it ‘Looking The Other Way.’ Sounds much less pathological, don’t you think?”
And yet despite all that, Jack, Vittoria is finally coming here! Furthermore she said in her post that she has an open return ticket, meaning she might stay a while. Can you believe it?
I’ll keep you up to date as the days go by. Now I’ve got to go shopping for new bedsheets and pillowcases. Towels. A bucket, a mop. What else? My head is spinning.