To keep dark thoughts about Vittoria’s condition at a distance I often go to read at a private little spot overlooking the sea. Currently it’s Thekela Clark’s elitist wheeze on W. H. Auden and his lover Chester Kallan and their five years holding court here in Forio. Also Paul Theroux’s “The Pillars of Hercules,” about his grand Mediterranean tour.
The latter is tedious because it seems like the work of a writer who has fallen into a tired formula, who no longer is excited by his own discoveries.
In this quiet refuge it’s good to be into a book. Time passes quickly.
But then I find things to depress me. In the Clark book, for instance:
A nun would come in every morning, sit by her bed,
gossiping and beating up the yolk of a raw egg and sugar
until it was a frothy cupful.
Which reminded me of when Vittoria made this drink for me at my apartment in New York, only she added espresso. This surprisingly rich and delicious concoction seemed exotic to me, since I was in the early days of the relationship.
Nonna used to make it for her, she said. On the nearby island of Ponza. I’d seen some pictures of both Ischia and Ponza. A world of dreams.
Staring out at the sea I thought of my visit to Sylvia’s villa the other day. She’d had a few people over. You should have seen me sitting on the veranda with those folks. I was charming, and amusing. I made them laugh frequently. They had no idea whatever that I’m going through an awful crisis with Vittoria. That I am starting to fear that she’s never going to get better. And that I’m sad, depressed--and angry at fate for bringing this latest thing on.
When will it stop?
Thekla Clark quotes Auden: “Both grief and joy," he said, "ought to be private.”
Really? And so what were his poems all about, then? The varied virtues of a flat affect?
On the way back home I encountered a sack of rabbit chow, leaning against a stucco wall. Most assuredly a nutritious and balanced diet for the precious little animals you love.
I felt a pang. Vittoria wanted me to write a novel about her life, but then she wanted to try something on her own. A children’s book, she said. About an adventurous and naughty little bunny. She asked me once to find a suitable photo. I went to Google, copied a couple dozen.
But not one of them, she said, was what she had in mind.