Tuesday, January 1, 2008
She waited for over two hours to see the Botticellis. Standing before Venus’s half shell, she anticipated the swell of emotion that her guidebook promised. She waited a long time, becoming as still as the centuries. But no feeling materialized. Nothing was born.
She moved on.
Clutching some postcards.
Following her map through Florence’s streets, she reached the real David, and not the copy that would have been closer, but (somehow?) less desirable. But this David loomed too much like Goliath to her, and she left, dissatisfied. Her feet hurt now, and the sun blistered her eyes. She didn’t like the way the men on the streets looked at her. She didn’t want to be noticed like that.
She was no Botticelli.
They were not David.
On the Ponte Vecchio, she fumbled with the foreign money, draping an overpriced bracelet over her wrist, while a boisterous Italian lady oozed admiringly and caressed her moneybox with inflamed palms.
She had her limp souvenir.
That fool’s gold.
But it is difficult to clasp a bracelet with only one hand, especially on the most storied bridge in Italy. Tears filled her eyes, and she cursed, stumbling blindly to the rail, looking down into the smeary water of the Arno.
And remembering her Puccini.
George and Lucy, too.
These were her muddy motivations back in Dayton, when she had decided that change was necessary, that she was almost too old to ever turn new again. Other people’s stories. Old stories. All leading her to this bridge.
And here she was. Endings . . . beginnings. Could she not touch them? Possess them? But no—she muddled through more endless exposition, that bridge which stretched, infuriatingly, with her every step. This city was too old and terrible to return her slight caresses.
She was so sudden tired.
Her tears dripped into the river, which swelled to receive them. She tossed the bracelet into the water. Her guidebook was next. And then Venus, and the rest of the Botticellis. She would have flung off her clothes, revealing herself to be as naked as David before a league of Goliaths, but—
“Signora. Signora,” a voice chimed.
She turned from the dark waters.
A tissue awaited her.
She wiped her cheeks with it.
The sun spoke brilliant in the child’s eyes.
She found some spark of herself within.
And it was that she heard the bells of the campanile, slingshotting her higher than Puccini’s sopranos, and peeling—
New! . . . New! . . . New! . . . New! . . .
(It can take others,
We magnificent bridges.)
[Video of Maria Callas performing Puccini's "O, mio babbino caro" courtesy of CantStandYaCostanza]