Couldn’t stand waiting for the phone to ring or the little red e-mail flag to pop up. Had to get out. Caught one of the tourist boats down at the harbor. Sat on the upper deck near the railing and stared at the glittering sea.
When Vittoria pulls her disappearing act, I feel like I did when mom and dad suddenly died in a boating accident. A feeling of abandonment. Made worse by believing their departure was not just an act of fate, but rather because somehow I was not worthy of keeping them.
But I try not to allow myself to think that way. I tell myself it’s just the sort of middle-of-the-night angst that creeps up on us once in a while. Evolution’s way of keeping us on our toes.
Vittoria needs to disappear when things get bad for her, that’s the long and the short of it. It worked before, and likely will work this time. I remind myself I’m not the only one who’s affected. Right now Giancarlo’s guts are all twisted up, wondering where in hell his wife has gone this time, and when—IF—she’ll come back. He’s probably on a site in lower Manhattan, four hours into overtime, nailing up drywall. Or working up a sweat turning the topsoil of his garden. Planting fresh rows of tomatos, squash, whatever. I shouldn’t be comforted by his misery. But I suppose I am.
I wish before she vanished I could have reassured her. Like: Sweetpea please don’t worry. This new information will not alter important facts: You are still their daughter, and they are your mom and dad. Listen, biology isn’t the thing. Sex is not a heroic act. Conceiving a child is probably the easiest thing anyone has ever done. It’s what happens afterward that defines a parent. It’s the decade or two of nurturing that counts. You know everyone in your family loves you. When they find out, they will not suddenly stop. Do you think I will?
But then it’s easy for me to believe there’s an up side to this. I remember the times she told me she felt different from all the others in her family. Not just in appearance, but in personality, and tastes. Nobody else loved to paint, or to read all sorts of books, or to listen to music for hours, or come up with wild and crazy schemes. So they always gave her that look.
When she told me these things I got the sense she felt guilty about being different. As if she had deliberately betrayed them all by choosing to be something they were not. Her brothers and sisters and others might have felt that Vittoria’s asserting her difference was a repudiation. That they were just not good enough for her.
But now! Well, maybe they’ll look back and see how wrong they were in thinking that.
When I got back from the long boat ride, I checked my answering machine. No messages. I checked the computer. Oh, yes, James. You’ve got mail! Then I began examining and deleting the spam messages one at a time, just in case something from my girl was among them.