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]


Anonymous said...

Simply beautiful. Fills my eyes.

Abhinav said...

If there is a word for it, that is magnificent. Undeniably lovely and breathtaking. One is just held in his tracks.

I notice this one thing about classical arts - they all turn narcissistic (that is not the word though it is the closest), so full of themselves that they need no other fuel to keep going - almost like a phoenix. Unaware of the populism and the markets.

BTW Puccini is a personal favorite so thanks a ton. :-)

Anonymous said...

...And you have doubts? Never doubt, write and then write some more. This is wonderful work.

Aine said...

Ahh, artificial expectations. Everything can be new if we erase those expectations. Though often overstated, it is "through the eyes of a child" that we find beauty.

Moving vignette. Thanks!

Sarah Hina said...

Thank you, Wayne.

Abhinav, your remarks about classical art are interesting. These works are more about expectation than fulfillment. Don't get me wrong: I liked the Botticellis when I visited Florence. But with reverence comes distance. I admired them, but they didn't reach out. There is something more visceral about modern art to me.

Oh, and I love Puccini, too. Particularly this aria. Thanks so much for your insight!

I think we all have doubts from time to time, easywriter. Especially during a low tide. But thank you for your encouragement! It means something coming from you. :)

Aine, you nailed it. I often think traveling is a rather artificial experience. Oftentimes, the expectations are not met, and we are disappointed. This character found solace not in places or things (even great things), but in a person. Will it be enough? Who knows. But the moment still matters.

Thank you, all!

Anonymous said...

The watcher in me would want to predict the effect of this child's spark in the dusty atmosphere. To embrace the fullest beauty of life, however, is not to predict it. I think she just learned that too as her predictions failed one by one.

Sarah Hina said...

I realized after finishing this piece, Jason, that it has a lot in common with your "Light" piece from a couple weeks ago. The question of hope's sustainability is pressing, of course, but a joyous moment should not be considered foreshadowing of someone's eventual contentment. It's still safe from the future, from memory. It's still sacred.

Hotwire said...

'she wiped her cheeks with it' really got me. this is masterful, to say the least.

Church Lady said...

I agree. This is masterful.

I felt like that tourist at one point. It is hard to feel new again, especially when looking outward. Those artificial expectations (what Aine said) can nibble at your spirit.

Sarah Hina said...

Thank you, Hotwire! :)

I agree, CL. It's so hard to shed those expectations, and find a new perspective. Sometimes we need some help finding that, too.

Thank you so much for your comments. :)

Jaye Wells said...

Sometimes we wander afar searching for something that was inside us all along. Great job, Sarah.

Sarah Hina said...

Thanks, Jaye.

I was lucky enough to go on a trip across Europe about 9 years ago. I wish I had been wiser about it, though. I had the checklist mentality of seeing as much "stuff" as possible, but learned very little about the cultures, or myself.

Can't wait to do it right someday. :)

Ello said...

I love Puccini. At first I couldn't grasp her maudlinness (did I spell that right) even though I can relate with the distance and disappointment of seeing some major pieces of art, but I liked the piece most for how you ended it. Because that is when you reached me emotionally and that I loved.

Shameless said...

I read this while listening to that beautiful piece ... bliss is what comes to mind. I was moved. :-) Thanks. Happy New Year, Sarah.

Billy said...

Your prose never disappoints. Just lovely!!!

Sarah Hina said...

I agree, Ello, that this vignette is rather flat and unemotional at first. I hoped that the ending would bridge that distance. Thank you for saying that it did! :)

Thank YOU, Seamus. :) I love that aria, and thought that its high drama served as a nice, ironic background to her desperate detachment.

Happy New Year to you, too!

Thank you, Billy! It took me awhile to get back in the swing of things, but I'm glad to be writing again.

Beth said...

What easywriter wrote, exactly.

Abhinav said...

I'm sorry for a delay. I'm having a tough time on the personal front. :-(

Actually when I was talking Classical, I meant Puccini. You thought Botticelli and I'm glad it made you speak more of your mind. :-)

Sometimes I think it is not at all what we say but all of how we say things. Sarah, you say things in a way that I can never get them wrong.

BTW Paul's blog is not up. Ask him to pull the ears of the guy who manages it for him. ;-)

Sarah Hina said...

Thank you, Beth. I really appreciate that. :)

I'm sorry you're having a rough time of it, Abhinav. And I hope things look up for you soon. Your comments here really buoy me, and I am always reminded of your kindness and generosity when you stop by. We may be halfway across the world from each other, but your warmth really radiates. Just wanted you to know. :)

Paul's blog should be up and working. Occasionally, the server does have problems, though. If you look at it now, you will probably be deluged with American primary politics. We're both a bit obsessed at the moment.