John Palcewski (forioscribe) wrote,
John Palcewski

The Real Thing

 A Map & Crescent Moon

Jack, the lab in the village says pics won’t be ready until later in the week, so all I can give you now is this scanned montage. Plus a transcription of what I wrote in my notebook on my excursion to Isola d’ Ventotene yesterday. All this is subject to revision, of course. I may well change my mind about surrendering. Why? Because Vittoria changes her mind all the time, that’s why.

* * *

Domenica, 15 settembre. After a long morning of walking the deserted roads of Ventotene I took a Coke break at Hotel Cala Battaglia. When I popped the tab on the can, fluid gushed and wet the surface of the white plastic table. The cool carbonated drink was, as they claim, truly refreshing. I put the empty can back on the table. The wind gusted. The can twisted clockwise then counter-clockwise, back and forth on its vertical axis. Absent physical principles like fluid surface tension, or whatever, one might easily think the turning can was the result of the touch of a ghost’s hand, and not just the wind. I watched the movement for a while. Very strange.

Silence. No traffic. Only a handful of tourists. Via Olivi stretches the length of the island, and provides a splendid view of the sea. All along that road I could see the prison structure atop the tiny Isola d’ San Stefano. I took a series of photographs. Cactus in the foreground, San Stefano in the background. Then a pink villa and San Stefano. Then a hotel terrace and San Stefano.

Then…suddenly a ghost appeared, in a scanty red Bikini. She was an apparition of the exiled Giulia Agrippina, the wanton promiscuous daughter of Augustus, and with her was a small dog that sniffed my leg. I pointed to my Nikon. “Per favore?” I asked. She nodded. I asked her to move slightly, to the right over there, so that San Stefano would be in the background. Yes! A continuation of the series. Click-whirr, click-whirr, click-whirr. Finally she said, “Basta!” Enough. I told Giula thanks and she continued her dog walking.

Silence. Deserted villas. I said to myself: I must buy one of these houses someday, and enjoy the isolation and the great view of the sea.

I also thought: This is what I’ve needed—a change of scene, a fresh view of this part of Italy. Splendid and exhilarating. And so cheaply & easily accomplished. Only 19 Euro for the boat, round trip. The Coke cost one Euro.

At a jewelry shop on the staircase from Porto Nicola I bought a necklace. A crescent moon made of jade green stone, held by a thick black cord with a silver clasp. A magic moon from this magic Island, this hotbed of Stregheria. Vittoria said there are plenty of them here, but they keep out of sight. But I can feel them. The moving Coke can was irrefutable evidence that what she told me was true.

Before I became a famous novelist, I worked for a succession of magazines in New York. Nine to five, five days a week. Except when I was on assignment somewhere in the world. I was earnest, energetic, and hard working. I was seen as a productive citizen, a young man with direction and purpose.

Funny thing happens when you toss all that out in favor of the pursuit of art.

What does an artist, a photographer, a novelist, actually DO each day? That’s what regular people want to know. And the answer is: “Why, very little!” There appears to be no action, no drama, no conflict. You just sit there scribbling in a notebook, or tapping away at a keyboard, or clicking the shutter of a camera.

Yes, exactly. In Ventotene I am doing absolutely nothing at all. I am merely wandering the deserted roads. Then I sit at a restaurant table and eat and think and scribble. And when I finish my meal I go out wandering again and click the shutter of my camera when I see something that appeals to me.

I am documenting the real world with as much precision and clarity as I can. I’m creating a permanent record. Ecco! I have been here, and here, and here. These scribblings and these photographic images are proof that I am alive. That I have lived. Do you feel what this beauty made ME feel when I encountered it?

But then I realize the narrative of my involvement with Vittoria is slowing down. There is less and less to say. My passion, anxiety, and anger are evaporating. I sit in the warm sun on this restaurant terrace and eat my spaghetti, and gaze at the misty blue sea. A drowsy, peaceful place. No hurry. Enjoy, the waiter says.

So this is how I may love Vittoria. Accepting her silence, her distance. The ambiguity of our relationship. The uncertainty of the future. All right, I surrender. I need not struggle any longer.

The professor talked about the Christian metaphor of the hunter who seeks marks of the divine in the woods of the real world. He’s exactly right. I feel Vittoria’s presence here on Ventotene, and also on Ischia, on Capri, on Ponza. In that sense she is everywhere. She is mine already, in my mind and in my heart, and in everything I see. My scribblings, my images, prove this is so because deep love inspires them.

Now, as for that wanton slut empress Giulia, yes, she was an attractive woman. But I felt no sexual stirring. You laugh. But wait. This is what real love is. When you are truly in love you don’t care for substitutes.


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