Harold and I stood on the curb and watched the Easter parade amble by. White puffs of fireworks smoke appeared in the bright sky. From a balcony an old woman in a black dress tossed confetti.
“The faces tell us we’re no longer in America,” I said.
“And the uniforms as well,” Harold replied.
“Do you ever miss it? Home, I mean.”
“Never. They’ll have to drag me back, kicking and screaming. And you?”
“I’ve developed quite a fondness for olive trees, palms, umbrella pines, the scent of wildflowers. And the view of the Mediterranean from my veranda.”
“It’s settled then. We’re here to stay.”
At the conclusion of the procession we took seats at Bar Maria. At that lovely outdoor café were more faces to study. The waiter delivered our espressos, along with the little cash register slip that indicated the amount we would pay.
“Nothing is free,” Harold recited, “whatever you charge shall be paid, that these days of exotic splendour may stand out, in each lifetime, like marble mileposts in an alluvial land.”
“Do you recognize the poet?”
“Wystan Hugh Auden. It's from his poem entitled 'Ischia,' dedicated to Brian Howard.”
“Auden rented a place nearby, didn't he?”
“Yes. As a matter of fact, he and his friend Chester used to take their morning coffee on this very spot.”
“You know my friend Sylvia?”
“Yes, I saw her the other day in the market.”
“She says she remembers them.”
“As well she might, since she’s been on the island how long?”
“Thirty, forty years.”
Harold lifted his cup. “Auden wasn’t the only writer to have been captivated by this little village. Ibsen also took up residence here. As did Alberto Moravia, Elsa Morante. And Pablo Neruda.”
“Sylvia says it’s the radioactivity that emnates from the thermal springs. Or electricity in the air. I know I was entranced, taken over, the moment the boat pulled into Forio Porto.”
We sat quietly for a while.
“Don’t look,” I said, “but those girls appear to be flirting with us.”
Harold grinned. “And why in hell not? What are we, anyway? Chopped liver?”