Madonna shrines are everywhere. Some are plain and simple. Others are elaborate edifices built with green tuffa stones, filled with small paintings or statues illuminated at night by either candles or tiny electric lights. And lots of flowers, either fresh or silk or plastic. They’re maintained by pious grey-haired women in black dresses. This one is up high, on a building façade above Forio’s main street. Crowds pass by and never look up at it. Yesterday when I raised my Nikon to take this shot, a big red-faced man in shorts and sandals pointed his Sony videocam at me, and then upward.
Iconography, churches, shrines. Such religious manifestations are strangely comforting, even for a Stregone like me. It’s all of a piece, isn’t it? Representations of yearning, longing. A determined search for the serenity that seems to elude us. Very frequently on my jaunts to the village I’ll continue past the grocery store and the tiny palm-lined city square and out to the chapel of Soccorso, and sit in the cool darkness, and meditate.
Yesterday I tried not to, but I thought again of Vittoria and her birth mother. Sylvia says she knows Giovanna, a friend of relatives of Maria Marrella, all of whom still live here in Forio. But why, Sylvia asked, was I so interested in that movie star?
“I saw her on TV a while back, on the red carpet going into the Venice film festival,” I said, echoing the professor’s words. “And she was a remarkably beautiful woman for her age.”
“I’ll probably see Giovanna tomorrow,” Sylvia said, “Call me and I’ll let you know what I find out.”
Sylvia looked at me closely. She knew something was up. Which I wasn’t sharing.
That was a week ago, and I haven’t called. Why? Because Vittoria has resumed her silence. I was sure that she was about to come in out of hiding, but apparently not. She likely has decided to abandon her family—and me—permanently. She is building a new life altogether. With whoever is helping her hide. So what’s the point digging up information for her? She said she doesn’t want to hear about her birth mother. Or anything else.
But if she were really intent on never reappearing, then why did she bother to call me last week? Perhaps she enjoyed raising my expectations. As she obviously always delighted in provoking my frustration and anger. She’s an adrenaline junkie. My anger gives her a rush. And her dream that she related to me: I held her tight, but then she whacked me on the head with a frying pan.
It’s not funny. It hurts.