The villa is squared away. Nothing is out of place. The stucco is fresh, and free of cracks or any other imperfections. The sidewalk is swept clean of debris. The windows are spotless, perfectly clear. The flower pots are in precise formation. Order has triumphed over chaos. At the moment, everything is in harmony.
Vittoria came to me in the darkness last night. Not a dream, but her spirit. She hovered above me and whispered that she loved me. She came closer and kissed my forehead. Did my whole body ripple with the sensation of her touch, did I taste the sweetness of the universe in my sleep?
After that ghostly visitation I promised myself that I would respond to her long silence only with loving thoughts. I will continue to be supportive and affirming, but I’ll affect a certain mysteriousness, too.
A very wise woman friend of mine told me I need to fuck with Vittoria a little, to keep her guessing. She needs scolding because it makes her feel loved—unmistakably a daddy thing. Also, unconditional love demands I erase all anger and jealousy, and avoid jugdements. All of these things are inconsistent, but then so is life.
Vittoria left a message on my machine a long time ago. "Call me tomorrow," she said. Pause. "At nine o'CLOCK." And then she hung up. Her self-confidence and abruptness charmed me. She knew I'd do exactly what she commanded.
Little things about her filled me with great affection. I didn't understand how that worked. I tried hard to figure it out. The message she left on my machine was an example. It somehow rose far above what it ought to mean, or what it might mean to others, and it moved me deeply because it was simply HER.
When she opened her AOL account on my computer, she showed me the dozen or so e-mails I'd recently sent her. To preserve them, she'd clicked the "Keep As New" box, so each time she logged on, the familiar voice would say, "You've got Mail!" That neat row of my e-mails, saved just so by her, was precious.
Once she sat cross-legged on the floor in a white flannel shortie nightie, and had put on her straw hat just for fun. I admired the smooth perfection of her thighs. Her red silk robe hung in my closet. Her little treasure box covered with flowers was on my bureau. Her book about Princess Diana was among others on my desk.
Her games and impersonations were exclusively for me, her lover, her journalist-stenographer. She invented characters and situations as she went along. Freewheeling improvisations, like a circus high-wire act. She always insisted I must believe these stories completely. Write them all down, word for word. What better companion for a novelist?
I understood she could not express rage to her stubborn, blockhead father, nor to her silent enabling mother, nor to her husband, nor to her mother-in-law, nor to anyone else in that extended Italian family.
Not being able to attack them, she sometimes turned on me. Not directly, but sideways. She knew that she could get away with it because no matter how outrageous her behavior, I would always come back for more. She trusted the hold she had over me, and exploited it. And I thought: Why should I deprive her of that power?
Vittoria sought autonomy, to finally free herself of dependence on men like her father, her husband, and even me. She wanted to achieve an identity that was not in some way derived from a man in her life.
I said to myself, look, emulate artists and writers. Focus all your energy on your book, and for God’s sake don't close off a relationship just because it isn't conventional, or like the one you had for a while with Elizabeth.
Vittoria comes and goes, at her whim. When she’s here, welcome her, take her in your arms. When she says, "I've got to go now," just smile and say: “Goodbye, I hope you come back soon.”
You must accept Vittoria exactly as she is. As you must accept the transient nature of happiness…of love itself.