Walking is the best way to keep myself from yielding to gloomy feelings. I decided to go to the top of Punta Caruso, north of Forio. Up there on the promontory is a panoramic view of the San Francesco beach and Mt. Epemeo that is a favorite of the postcard photographers. A pretty nice scenic.
I took a seat on the low stone wall and watched a tiny figure in a kayak weave in and out of the breakwaters down below. A mini-van from one of the hotels came up the hill, parked nearby. Out climbed five people dressed in regular tourist garb—sandals, flip-flops, shorts, open shirts, sunglasses, straw hats, baseball caps. The driver began a speech in German, with a heavy Italian accent. I could make out words here and there. St. Vito. Punta Imperatore. As the driver spoke, a man put his disposable camera to his face and clicked off one shot. When the driver finished, they all climbed back in the van for the next stop on the whirlwind tour. I looked at my watch. They hadn’t been here for more than four minutes.
Earlier in the day I finally got Francesca on the phone. She had just gotten my e-mail in which I briefly described my last conversation with Vittoria. I told Francesca everything I could remember.
“Vittoria said she was very confused,” I said. “So I kept reminding her that her family loves her, and will always love her, and this adoption thing has nothing to do with it.”
“Did she believe you?”
“That’s hard to say.”
“So she must be really confused.”
“I hope she calls us soon.”
“She said she would never believe anything anymore, that her heart was now made of stone.”
“Yes. Her life has been turned upside down.”
“I said her heart isn’t stone, it’s just chilled a bit, and love will warm it back up soon.”
“I just wish she would call.”
“Several times I said that you all are going crazy with worry. But you know her. Once she’s decided to hole up somewhere, that’s it.”
“But she has every right to make us worry.”
“She told me about a dream. That I was holding her in my arms and wouldn’t let her go, so she whacked me on the head with a big frying pan.”
Francesca paused. Then she said, “So what does that dream mean?”
“I’ve been trying to figure it out. There’s an important message in there somewhere, but at the moment I can’t tell what it is. ”
“This is so strange.”
“Isn’t it? I asked her if it was all right if I told you about our conversation, and she said yes.”
“That’s good to hear. I’m happy that she’s OK.”
“Has your father said anything more about Maria Marrella?”
“No, he refuses to talk about it because he wants to tell her the whole story himself.”
“I tried to convince Vittoria that this explains more than it confuses.”
“Yes. It’s why she always felt she didn’t fit. And she always felt different from everyone else.”
“In time I think this information will be reassuring to her. I think eventually she’ll be rather proud that she has such a beautiful and headstrong and talented mother. Don't you?"
"I don't know."
We said nothing for a moment.
“My mom told me a story about Vittoria yesterday,” Francesca said.
“OK, let’s hear it.”
“She said when Vittoria was a baby, like not even a few months old, she held her breath until she turned blue.”
“Was she sick?”
“No. It was her way of getting something she wanted.”
“She always gets what she wants, doesn’t she?”
There was another pause in the conversation.
“All this is so unreal,” Francesca said. “But I see my dad crying and I know it’s real. He never cries.”
After a while I went back down the road, and walked the beach a long way. I stopped a couple kilometers before Forio’s harbor, and sat down on a rock near the shore. I looked up to my right at Punta Caruso, where I’d just been. From any direction, from any vantage point, this place is lovely. Still another metaphor in a place that abounds with them. It’s precisely how I feel about that vanished girl of mine. Maybe today she’ll call.