The Italian Countryside and the Woman
One thing about a travelling vagabond is that they get to see the world the way it really is. He was sitting in a cafe in Sao Paulo when he heard a crash. He lifted himself from his seat and noticed the adolescent was semi-unconscious inside the vehicle. Moments later a police officer arrived, took him out of the passenger's seat, and dragged him behind the police car. He heard two shots and blood began to trickle down the street.
When you're dealing with other nations, justice can often be ambiguous. This is how he learned to gather his wits and think logistically in every circumstance that requires life and death. He needed to embrace some sort of change in his life. One has to learn about the old world even though the new world represents life. It was the freedom and tranquility that comforted and surprised him by taking this chance to travel to Sicily.
To realize what Italy is all about is to remain true to old things passing away. However the right of passage was based on a life on the road with his backpack exploring the Italian countryside. He felt he could be more creative and happy living in Italy with more opportunity to be driven with his own life. He wanted this opportunity to remake his life and consciously do away with the new world.
There are times when you make a promise and it’s hard to keep. The choices you make in life creep into your soul and steer you in a different direction. It is never far from the extraordinary gift one gives you; sometimes the dream itself becomes temporary. However, it needs to be honored. If it becomes an unfulfilled promise then the negative value of the promise can never be retracted. It simply hangs close to the person’s heart, and then comes to life for no other purpose.
His journey took him to a two-month stay in Sicily. He saved every penny he worked for to make this trip. It was summer and the sun seemed to be scorching everything. He stayed in the Sicilian village of Sutera for no other reason that it was cheap and affordable. There was certain simplicity in his routine: he would get up in the morning, cross the street, and sit in the local café alone. He would put his notebook on the table and simply pretend to write. He ordered the same drinks, the same food, and stared out of the piazza.
The waitress also had a routine. He was her only customer most days. She placed the beer on the table and sat across from him. She smiled, “You do nothing all day, what are you writing about?” He took a sip of his beer, put it down, and said absolutely nothing. He just wanted to hear her talk. “There are better things to do than to come here, eat, drink, and go to bed. You can do that anywhere, you really should go out and enjoy yourself.”
He smirked, “I am enjoying myself, I love the scenery.” She rolled her eyes, “Oh I get it, you think coming here impresses me? You think you can win me over by giving me tips? Is that it?” He leaned forward and looked at her, “You’ve got the prettiest dark eyes and I love the way your hair cascades on your shoulders. You have Wednesdays and Sundays off. The best thing you can do is take me out and enjoy the countryside. Perhaps tomorrow we can have a picnic? I can bring the food and wine. You know fully well that I’ll be sitting here staring at nothing, this town seems to be asleep.”
She annoyingly lifted herself from her seat. “That’s not the way to ask a woman out.” He left a big tip and went back to his hotel to fall asleep. The next day she drove up to his cafe, looked at him, and motioned for him to get inside her car. As she was driving he noticed the Sicilian terrain was surprisingly various. He pointed out the pristine sea around the mountains slicing through the middle and the valleys that seemed to complement the countryside.
She told him that Sutera was filled with farmhouses. Most of the farmers would make cheese out of goat’s milk. The real beauty was when the sun would gently sink behind the mountain, that was when the landscape would gleam and reach the heavens. They stopped; he was glad to see only one car. He spread the blanket next to a boulder.
She talked about her life and how she missed her brother who was serving a two-year stint in the army. She talked about her father and mother and how they meant the world to her. Off in the distance she heard something that startled her. She lifted her head over the boulder and saw three men walking. One of them had a pistol. She ducked down and told him to crawl off the blanket. She wrapped the blanket over herself and him. “If they catch us they will kill us”, she told him. They heard two shots and she began to tremble in his arms. He held her tightly. He gently lifted her hair and ruffled it. She told him to stop. He then plucked some grass and began to spread it over her hair. She smacked him in the arm, “I said stop that.”
He sensed her fear and tried to calm her down. He kissed her on the lips and she immediately smacked him again. She was very uncomfortable with him embracing her and told him it was time to leave. She tried to move away from him. “We’re not going anywhere”, he said. She looked up once more and saw the men begin to head back to their vehicle.
She opened her eyes and saw him smiling. She quickly pushed him away from her and lifted herself from the ground. “I never want to see you again.” Off in the distance she saw two men leaning against the car smoking a cigarette. She trembled and leaned next to him. He told her to kiss him and to make sure that she meant it. “Make sure that you pretend to love me, I’ll take care of all the talking.”
He opened the door for her and made sure to brush the grass off her hair. He made his way to the passenger door and the man began to approach him. The man approached him, “We’re hunting for wild boar. Did you hear any shots or see anything?” He smiled, “No. Are you hungry? I have some porchetta sandwiches that we couldn’t finish. I’m just tired.”
He handed the man the sandwiches. The man laughed, “Are you Americano?” “No, Canadiano.” He patted him on the back, looked at the other man, and smiled. “Let’s go.”
She parked at a farm house, they both got out of the car and she told him to stay put. The father came out, embraced him, and told him to come in and have some food. The mother placed the food on the table and the whole family joined the conversation. The father interrupted, “He should stay here, we have plenty of extra room and whatever you’re paying at the hotel you should just pay me.” He waved his finger, “But there’s one condition. I want you to wake up at four in the morning to help me make cheese.”
He grinned, “I’ll do better than that sir. I’ll give you more money than what I’m paying at the hotel and will also help you sell the cheese. But I have one condition: I want Wednesdays and Sundays off.” He looked across the table but she seemed disappointed. Her mother barked, “Get some more food and put it on his plate!” She sat next to him and her mother smiled.
On the way to the train station they said absolutely nothing to each other. They arrived and she took one of his bags. Before he left she kissed him hard, “I really did love you the moment you kissed me.” He looked her in those dark eyes, “I promise I will come back and make a life with you.” Her eyes began to water, “If you can’t come back, just finish the story.”
Years later, he received a package, it was from her brother. He opened it and smiled; it was grass tied with a ribbon. The letter said, “Maria Berti passed away at the age of 58 and was buried with her parents. Her last wish was to give you this.”
He sat down and started writing, ‘It was a precious gift and a precious covenant. She couldn’t leave her parents but managed to love a weary passerby that had secret hopes that never perished in the years gone by. The shadows of both lives did not fall; they came back to life. Those who live in shadows will rise again rather than taking refuge in the shadow itself. With all his success he made sure that even after he died flowers would be sent to her grave the day she was born.’
I finished the story and crawled into bed with my wife. I realized the woman I loved had loved Sicily more than the new world and I. I also knew I broke my promise, the new world was a lot stronger than I anticipated. I couldn't leave my family, they meant the world to me. I gave God and myself the only thing I can give, and finished the story.