Sicily in Three Acts
Sometimes you have to fly over the still-freezing Irish seas and you have to spend the night at an airport hotel outside Rome Fiumicino. In Ireland there are many memorials to tragedies — to the Titanic, to the Lusitania, to famine, to people in the police force who lost their lives while on duty. The airport hotel in Rome is a Best Western, with an outdoor pool that wants to be useful, but no one likes to swim in the shadow of planes.
The train passes by a tennis court where children are playing and running and teenagers are sitting on a bench. A teenage girl waves at the train. I do not wave back, but she keeps waving, and I wonder if there is someone else in the train returning the gesture. The train slows as it rolls into the station and the girl continues waving, but eventually she stops and her hand drops. There are small hills and the houses look poor and decrepit, but if there had been sun they might have seemed rustic and charming.
On the beach in Cefalù there is a young man traveling by himself. When he first walks by, I notice that he has nice legs, his calves thin and muscular. Then I go back to my book, which is on my iPhone, that I’m holding up against the sun, and I don’t think about the man anymore. A while later I hear “buon giorno”, but it is repeated several times before I am drawn away from the book (my phone) and turn to look at the young man with nice calves who says: “Sorry to bother you. Do you have tissues?”
“Tissues?” I say.
I feel dazed, like I don’t know what tissues are, and don’t understand why he needs them. My feelings are confused because of the book I am reading, which is called The Idiot, but not the one by Dostoevsky. After a few seconds I say no, I do not have tissues, and his gaze leaps from me to my cousin, and he asks her: “and you, do you have any tissues?” She says no. Maybe one of us says sorry. The young man walks away and sits down on his beach towel. After a while, the wind grows cold and we all get up. He walks ahead of us for a while, and we lose sight of him. Sometime later I see him on the street, eating a gelato. We bypass him and I think about how it would be odd to say hi, or maybe just friendly, because we’d had a whole exchange about tissues we were not able to provide and I thought he had nice legs, but I am not the kind of person who would say hello under these circumstances. So we walk past him and go back to the rental we have up on a hill and I try to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew, using my home key, which breaks. I want to make a declaration like: “I can never go back now,” but that would be untrue, and in any case I can’t shake the feeling that, all this while, the door has been left unlocked.
Aube is a French-Chinese-American writer and the 2019-2020 Ivan Gold Fellow at the Writers’ Room of Boston. She is currently working on her first novel.
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