The professor put on his glasses and peered at the photograph I’d hung on the wall by the bookcase.
“Pompeii?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “I think it was in either the house of Vetti or another one, I don’t remember.”
“I’d say it’s the Fourth Style, 60-some AD. What drew you to take this particular picture?”
“The expression on the woman’s face. She looks like she just had a premonition of the eruption. As if she knows exactly what’s coming.”
“No doubt about it James. You have a most active imagination.”
I nodded. “Thanks.”
Vittoria told me about her premonitions and dreams of the future, which very often came true. Everyone in the family knew about her powers. Nonna in Ponza once told her, “Cara, please don’t ever dream about me!”
So it wasn’t too surprising that on her first visit she felt Pompeii was familiar, as if she’d been there before. She and her cousin Columba walked through the city. A few times, when they were on some deserted street away from the tourists, Vittoria thought she heard whispering. Later they giggled in the house of Vetti when they saw Priapus weighing his enormous organ. “Men,” Columba said. “That’s how they see themselves.”
Before they left Pompeii she used a nail file to scratch their names on a stone wall. “Vittoria e Columba, Agosto 2000,” she wrote in small block letters.
Naturally on my own excursion not too long ago I looked for Vittoria’s inscription. I knew if I managed to find it I could take it as a portent, a symbol, a sign.