On this final day of February 2012, I am celebrating the most successful month in the history of the blog with this final chapter. Have we seen the last of Mike and the Woman?
The two ate mostly in silence as the plates of fritto misto, calamari, and polpo alla griglia made their way to the table in a methodical and slow succession. The restaurant began to fill and the noise level was more than the couple could bear and continue their new dialog. Besides, as Mike had said, the food was the star of the show here; and of course the view.
Mike knew that the greatest part about a meal at Santos was the wonderfully chaotic arrangement of chaise lounge chairs strewn about the grass right at the edge of the sea. In the late spring and summer families pour into the restaurant for long lazy lunches then the adults spend the afternoon in a chaise, chasing elusive sleep while the kids play chase on the beach. Santos is a good place and Mike believed himself to be a good guy.
As the final beers and baklava were cleared from the table Mike ordered two espressos and leaned back in his chair looking at the woman across from him. She was taller than any Italian in the room and it was nice to speak to someone he could look at in the eyes as they walked out towards the chairs.
Puglia was Mike's home now and at the same time this woman reminded him of another place he once called home for years and that made him feel a warmth he thought was unable to return. Brain chemistry always seemed to get the better of Mike and at times he wished he could simply manufacture a reality; and he had tried.
Woman - this chair is so much nicer than I thought it would be, and the sun is so much less intense. I may fall asleep here
Mike - you will not be alone. I think the sea air is good for my road rash
Woman - why don't you put your knee in the water and set those barnacles free?
Mike - you are so funny, how did you master such a demure nature?
Woman - My Dad, or who I thought was my dad and his 3 lunatic sons
Mike - your brothers?
Woman - they were his sons by birth and therefore my adopted brothers. I would never tell anyone they were my relatives though
Mike - why, did they hold you down, fart on you, shit like that?
Woman - actually not at all. Dad was military and his boys were gentlemen all the way; and they treated me like I was some sort of special vase, viewed only at a distance and touched only when I needed dusting.
Mike - that sounds nice
Woman - it sucked! Dad and the boys played sports, went to games, ate burgers, wrestled, cussed, spat, fought, and clearly were the best friends in the world. My mom would try to convince me that I should be a lady, keep to myself, read EM Forster, and play with other girls
Mike - "Be soft, even if you stand to get squashed."
Woman - is that a quote?
Mike - EM Forster
Woman - Oh God! There is really something wrong with you. Are you straight?
Mike - to the point
Woman - did your Mommy make you read that stuff?
Mike - what, like.."a tomb with a view?"
Woman - (laughing hard enough to startle an old sleeping grandpa 10 feet away) Now that is so true. My god I wanted to play sports and run like the boys... I have not spoken to any of them since Dad's funeral
Mike - I am so sorry to hear that
Woman - I am not, I lost my Dad; they lost their best friend and cheerleader. My life got better, theirs I am sure is filled with "remember the times?" and "Dad would- haves"
Mike - man I love the feeling when the coffee cuts through the pasta and my blood lights up like July 4th. I feel like I could run for an hour while writing a novel in my head
Woman - you want t write a novel in your head?
Mike - well sure
Woman - then you are a fucking writer! I knew it, you are a sensitive little man who likes Forster and probably thinks he is Hemingway jumping about Europe looking for a war to affirm his suspect masculinity
Mike - what about you? what about you? I know you are lying about your husband and your fucking villa
Woman - yeah, you do eh? you son of a bitch, you drag me out here hoping to fuck my brains out on some grassy stretch of shore while never telling me who you are, and then you are going to fucking judge me?
Mike - I am not judging you I just see your car doesn't have a speck of dust on it. You don't speak a word of Italian so I know you didn't get it washed in town. You smell like a nice hotel or at least your clothes do. I am just saying, you are brash, and have some obvious Daddy shit happening..
Woman - look motherfucker, this is not cool, you don't know me, you don't know shit about me. You are some super-observant ass who gets his jollies..
Mike - don't say jollies..I hate that fucking word
Woman - see, see where you go with this, bait switch..I thought we were going for a walk. I thought we would keep it light and I would go down on you behind a column of marble or something. Don't you see that I Picked... You... Up and now you are missing it. You are missing the golden egg Mother Goose
Mike - why did you shrink when I said I'm your boy?
Woman - (loud enough now that even Italians are becoming interested) I don't want to cry here, take me somewhere else...fuck this!
Mike - I'm sorry let's walk...I just need to know what is going on
Woman - (through tears and not getting up) why? why does anyone need to know anything? I wanted a vacation I wanted my family to be here
Mike - they are, can't you guys try to work it out?
Woman - they aren't (bawling) they're not here at all. I wanted to find them, I prayed it could change things but it hasn't
Mike - I am so confused (Mike hands her a few of the napkins he took from the table for his leg)
Woman - they're dead.....all of them
Mike - (silence)
Woman - My husband, my daughter and my son are all...gone
Mike - did you...?
Woman - no...no I was lying...7 months ago we were planning a cycling trip as a family here and we were supposed to go on a training ride as a family . My daughter was very unsure of herself and my husband had been coaxing her to go on longer rides each week to improve her skill and confidence. I had the flu and could not go..and all of them...
(crying so hard her words are slurred and the tears and snot are finding their way all over Mike's arm)...she went over a train track and her tire slipped and the guys hit her from the back and all 3 went over the rails and into oncoming traffic just as a Schwann truck passed an SUV and he couldn't swerve..he hit all of them directly at 40 miles an hour.......(long pause) the hospital called and told me there had been an accident
....my son was still alive when I got there and they told me they thought he would make it........awwwwww....my husband and daughter were not recognizeable....my son saw me and ....and...and he he..he held my hand and asked if we were still going to come to Italy..I told him yes, yes of course... he said I am so sorry....and I said, you don't have to be sorry....he said - because I'm your boy?....I said...no, you are my little Man...
then there was an alarm and all of these people came running and he..he was shaking..shaking...and he said nothing else..he stopped shaking.....
Mike was holding her hand as tears streamed down his face. He used his other hands to wipe the tears on his leg forgetting about his knee as the salty tears stung his flesh and he gripped her hand tighter.
Woman - I did not take the trip insurance....and so..I stared at the tickets everyday for the past 6 months...I canceled the cycling part.....I had to come...why? why did I have to come? why did you have to talk to me? I have been here for 4 days..I have never left my hotel room till today...I just don't know why I am here...
Mike - maybe this was the only way
Woman - for what?
Mike - to let go...to find some part of you that is still alive? to try to keep a little bit of your path as a person...? I'm sorry I am not good at this
Woman - (wiping her face with her shirt)..who is? who the fuck ever is? I am going to have to go to the villa at some point...I was supposed to finally meet the agent today. He is a really nice old Brit and I have put him off for days. He has no idea what is going on and I could have canceled but I wanted so much to see it to perhaps release some ghosts into the chimney..to say something...besides just sitting in a hotel room crying for days and fucking days!
Mike - I'll go with you...I will go right now. I can call the agent and we will go
Woman - why are you here? I have to know this..I have to know why you are here and what it means
Mike - I am trying to write a book about a travel business that I owned here and could never really love as much as I should have
Woman - well why don't you write it?
Mike - because it is so pale and weak compared to life...my life has been a bowl of fucking cherries
Woman - I doubt it...no one's is - there is more to this...come on asshole I need to know...tell me!
Mike - she was not very old when we met...(choking back tears)
Woman - now...we are getting somewhere
Mike - (laughing through a cry) I don't even know your name