This morning I went, as usual, to Café Mimi and I began to write Jack a letter. I decided it was about time that I tell him the bizarre and dreadful story of Vittoria’s repeated traumas, the whole thing. I know he's deeply disappointed that I have been holding out on him.
I got as far as “My dear and patient brother…” when two couples took a table next to mine. A gray-haired man and his blonde companion were in shorts, hiking boots, and baseball caps, and from the sound of their voices they were American, probably from Philadelpia. The other pair were in shorts, sandals and sunglasses. Their accent said England.
The gray-haired American put a book on the table. “Isola Verde,” the green island, one of the many tour guides of Ischia they sell in the shops.
After they ordered their coffees the Englishman said, “Well, how was your hike up the mountain?”
“Don’t ask,” the blonde said.
“We were exhausted when we got to the top, but they had deck chairs and blankets so we could take a nap.”
“But it was COLD,” the blonde said. “And pretty soon it got so foggy that we couldn’t see anything.”
“The food was good, though,” the man said.
“I didn’t know they had a restaurant up there,” one of the Brits said.
“Oh, yes,” blondie said. “We had what do you call it? Tomatos, basil, chopped garlic and olive oil on top of slices of fresh bread.”
“Yes, that’s it. But today I don’t want to hike anywhere, I just want to soak up the sun.”
The waiter brought a tray of espressos. Blondie tore open two packets of sugar, stirred them into her cup.
“There was supposed to be a breathtaking view of the entire island,” she said. “But all we saw was a white fog.”
“Clouds, actually,” the man said.
“What’s the difference? It was a whiteout. Couldn’t see a damned thing. I’ll bet when we go to Yellowstone next summer the geyser won’t blow on time.”
“Now that I think of it, the very same thing happened to us when we went to New York. Remember?”
“At the top of the Empire State building we couldn’t see anything either.”
“Have you been to the ancient spring at Nitrodi?” the Englishman asked.
“Another big disappointment,” blondie said.
“It's much smaller than we expected, just a couple lead pipes sticking out of a stone wall. There was an old man, stripped down to his underwear. He stood by one of the pipes and let the water run over his arms, which were covered with bright red sores. Ugh! It was awful. I said to Larry, ‘Come on, let’s get the hell out of here before we CATCH something.’”
They went on like this for another ten or fifteen minutes, then they packed up and walked off toward Forio Porto. I tried to go back to Jack’s letter, but couldn’t. Instead I wrote down the conversation I’d just overheard.
Complaints. Repeated disappointments. Matched my mood perfectly.