Vittoria and I talked yesterday. She said her father had persuaded her to go with them to her brother’s place out at the shore for the long weekend. A big crowd of family members showed up, and they all surrounded her and kept repeating that she truly is a member of that family, has always been a member, and will be a member FOREVER.
“The adoption doesn’t mean you’re not,” they all said over and over again. Vittoria endured three days of that noisy and insistent mob. All repeating the same line.
She told me that one evening she was on the beach and her dad sat down next to her. He didn’t say anything for a while. He lit up a cigarette. Looked out at the water. “Cara,” he finally said softly, “ to me you have always been the brightest shining star in the sky.”
“What did you think of that?” I asked.
“I believed him.”
“You should. He loves you very much.”
She reported that she had just come back from the clinic, where she got an iron shot and will have to get a few more until her blood is back to where it should be. She’s also eating the food her mother prepares for her. She hasn’t gained very much weight, but then she isn’t losing it either. She’s slowly building her strength for the upcoming surgery. Good news. Signs that she’s recovering from all the trauma of the past weeks.
“I had a couple of dreams about you,” she said, “and you’re lucky I’m not there with you.”
“Because I’d hit you on the head with a frying pan.”
“Oh, swell,” I said. “I can expect to be punished for what comes to you in a dream.”
“But they seem so real!”
“So what were the dreams about?”
“I got mad at you because you wouldn’t let me do something. We had a big fight. And then we made love. Want to hear about that?”
“You know the rule. No mushy stuff long distance. Only face-to-face. Here. Get it?”
“You’re no fun.”
“Rules are rules.”
“When I come will we go dancing?”
“Hell no. I hate dancing.”
“But I want you to take me to a club. Did you know that at my brother’s wedding they had a contest?”
“Let me guess. A dance contest, and you won first prize.”
“How did you know that?”
“I can read your mind. Sometimes.”
“I know you don’t believe me, but I have the t-shirt to prove it.”
“Sorry. I don’t do fast dancing.”
“With me you will.”
“No way. But a slow dance I can do. How about that?”
“Nope. A fast dance.”
“I’ll take you in my arms and we’ll move slowly to soft romantic music, and then late at night we’ll walk hand-in-hand in the moonlight up the mountain road.”
I told her on that narrow steep road is a villa surrounded by an iron bar fence, overgrown with ivy and white and red flowers. Now, every time I come to it on the way home from the grocery store, I go to the bars make a kissing sound.
“And then in a few moments she comes running.”
“Who? Your girlfriend?”
“Yes. A beautiful young cat, part Siamese. Blue eyes and light coffee fur, bright white fur on her front. She comes through the bars of the fence, and I pick her up, cradle her in my arms, and scratch behind her ears. She squints and purrs loudly. After a while I put her down and she goes to my grocery sack and sniffs. I’ve never fed her, but nevertheless she comes running every time I call. It’s the ear scratching and the cradling she’s after.”
“I love that about cats.”
“Each time I have that purring young cat in my arms, I say to myself—wouldn’t it be lovely if Vittoria were here with me to share this?”
“Oh, James, that is so sweet!”
* * *
“Oh, and by the way,” Vittoria said later. “My mother had a dream last night as well.”
“We were in the ocean. Some guy turned into a shark, and was swimming toward me, so to keep him from eating me up she grabbed me and threw me onto the sand. What do you think it means?”
“It means your mother sees me as an unwelcomed interloper.”
“How could you say that?”
“All Italians shun outsiders. It’s a centuries old tradition.”
“You aren’t an outsider. Everybody knows about you.”
The warm glow of the thoughts of slow dancing and a hand-in-hand walk with Vittoria up the mountain instantly vanished. Her mother’s dream brought me right back to cold reality. Vittoria is not mine, nor likely ever will be. She is and will remain locked into a marriage with Giancarlo, surrounded by a gaggle of family members determined to keep things exactly as they are.
We’re right back to where we started three, four years ago.
I didn’t want to talk anymore. I didn’t want to be reminded of how things really stood. “I’ve got to go now,” I said. “Ciao.”
And I logged off.