Dedicated to Paul Auster

 
“You’ve enhanced my life,” Marcello whispers to Beulah as he walks her at Piedmont Park. “It’s not only about the exercise I am getting from walking you. It’s also about the new women I am meeting at the park. These women, Beulah, walk both their loneliness and their dogs on a leash.”

Beulah is amazed. She has come to believe that she and Marcello share the same instinct. Each time Beulah gets sight of a squirrel she chases it as if it is the first time she’s ever seen a squirrel. Marcello does the same with women.

Marcello, however, takes on a different approach when chasing a woman. He goes on a slow-paced pursuit, pretending he’s not interested in the prey, sparing her from the onslaught. This kind of chase is something that Beulah just can’t figure out. Sometimes the chase is successful, other times it isn’t. Beulah enjoys the moment Marcello approaches a woman because she gets to play with the fellow dog that the woman is walking. 

Beulah has found that when she’s growled at by a dog that ultimately rejects her, the woman wouldn’t talk to Marcello for long before rejecting him as well. Beulah doesn’t know why this happens. Neither does Marcello. A mystery unsolved.

Once she catches a squirrel Beulah plays with her half-dead body until she grows tired and leaves it behind, all in one act. Marcello’s hunting takes more than one act.  

The first act comes to an end right after the woman has given Marcello her “number.” Then comes act two –when Marcello calls the woman a few days after their first contact at the park. Act three takes place when that woman enters Marcello’s residence and retire with him to his bedroom. Sometimes the woman would bring her pet, which Beulah likes because it gives her the chance to play again with the dog that she first met at the park. Still, there are other times when act three won’t occur for reasons Beulah can’t grasp.

This afternoon Marcello is not being lucky. Each of the three women he went after was just unresponsive.

“I think I still am pissed,” he tells her, and mumbles other words in Italian, a language Beulah can’t understand yet. “Being pissed means that whatever I set myself out to do will go wrong, because I am kind of sabotaging myself, Beulah.”

Beulah knows why Marcello is upset. He was unfairly attacked and hurt during a verbal fight last weekend. Beulah was lying on the kitchen floor when, all of a sudden, this woman, Jenny, emerged from Marcello’s bedroom.

“You confuse me,” Jenny said.

“I confuse you? How?” Marcello said.

“You call me amore, which in Italian means love. But, do you mean it? Am I your love?

“I have affection for you. I am fond of you. These are feelings usually associated with love, right?”

“We’ve been seeing each other for a month now. Do you love me?”

Beulah sensed that a situation was building up. She opened her eyes and looked at Marcello.

“I care about you, I like being around you, I want you, too,” Marcello declared. “As far as I am concerned, this is love.”

“But you are not in love with me,” Jenny said.

“Being in love, as in wanting to marry and live with you?”

Beulah got up and walked up to Marcello. She wanted to make sure that if something bad was going to happen she’d be standing by him.

“It takes a long time to get there, amore mio,” Marcello said.

“See? You don’t love me. You’re leading me on when you say that you do.”

Beulah looked up straight into Marcello’s eyes perceiving his discombobulation.

“I do believe that I can love you as I do because it’s part of my character, it’s part of my culture,” he said.

“So, are you ready to have a monogamous relationship with me?”

“I am not ruling that out. It takes time, though. Octavio Paz says that love can only succeed if the surrender is mutual,” Marcello said.

Jenny took a deep breath. Beulah could relate to what the woman was doing because she did the same when getting ready to jump at her prey.

“Sounds nice,” Jenny said. “But, you know what? I think that you’re a snob and a player.”

“Why are you calling me that?”

“Because you’ve been doing and saying things that men in this country don’t do unless they mean it.”

“I mean what I say.”

“No, you don’t. You just are playing me to get what you want.”

“What is it that I want,” Marcello wanted to know as he rubbed his fingers against Beulah’s head.

“You just want to have sex with me and then toss me out. Or worse, you want me to be just another member of your gallery of women you like to sleep around with.”

Beulah could feel how this fight was corroding Marcello’s spirit. She was afraid for him.

“That’s not the way I look at it,” Marcello grabbed Beulah’s withers, an outlet for his increasing tension. She took this with understanding.

“You come to me with your Italian charm, your sweet accent. You get the doors and the tabs. You speak of movies, books and authors I’ve never heard of, like this Octopus Pass… “

“Actually, it’s Octavio Paz,” muttered Marcello, but Jenny was no longer listening to him.

“You do things that American men don’t do. You say my love too easily. You make me feel like a princess. But it’s all bullshit because I know you’re manipulating me. You just want to fuck me in order to feed your Italian ego. You are not serious about the relationship.”

Marcello released Beulah’s withers and scratched his head. Faking a smile he asked –“Why are you telling me this?”

Raising her voice Jenny answered –“Because it’s time someone calls you out on your crap.”

“You make it sound like you’re exposing a dangerous man for the world to see,” Marcello said.

“Eventually I am going to contact all your women friends on your Facebook and tell them about this conversation.”

“What the fuck?”

Now Beulah was upset. She just was mirroring Marcello’s absorbing the shock.

Marcello, outraged –“Perchè ti comporti in questo modo? Perchè sei talmente arrabbiata con me?”

Beulah recognizes this. Whenever Marcello is upset he speaks in this strange language.

Jenny, prodding at Marcello –“In English! Speak to me in English, you prick.”

“You’re out of your mind. Why are you going on such a rant? We just made love, ferchrissake. We were having a good time and all of a sudden you’re mad at me? What the fuck is going on with you?”

“I just can’t stand your kind. You’re a snob and a player. I won’t let you manipulate my feelings!”

Marcello, pointing a finger at Jenny –“I’ve been honest with you from the very beginning. I’ve never even insinuated anything that could mislead you as to who I am.”

Jenny, looking down to Marcello –“Insinuated? There you go again, the snobbish Latin lover.”

That was it. Beulah knew it was the end of the fight.

“I am not going to take your anger,” Marcello said. “It’s not my problem. Please leave my house.”

“Are you kicking me out?”

“Yes.”

Beulah saw Jenny grab her clothes and put on a t-shirt inside out. The woman rushed out of the kitchen into the living room and opened the front door slamming it in her way out, leaving a bad vibration into the air.

That’s what happened last weekend. Beulah can’t make sense of the whole incident. Why would a person first show comfort and closeness with another one and show the exact opposite a few moments later? Do they miss each other after they break apart? Does Marcello miss the women he had once captured but then let go? Sometimes Beulah finds herself  missing Elizabeth,  her one-time master who also got to be with Marcello until she let Beulah go with him.

There are so many things that Beulah can’t understand. But she’s okay with it.

Marcello stops at a park bench to catch his breath. Beulah jumps on the bench and stands wagging her tail. Marcello sits down still holding the leash. Beulah notices the sweat-drops on Marcello’s forehead and goes on licking them off. She likes to lick Marcello’s face because of its unique salty flavor.

Marcello seems to enjoy what Beulah is doing.

“Tuo amore per me è senza limiti.”

Beulah pauses and looks baffled at Marcello for a second before going back at licking his sweat drops.

“Can’t you get me in Italian yet, Beulah? Okay, here it goes –You’re the only bitch ever who loves me unconditionally for who I am.”

Beulah doesn’t know what Marcello is talking about. All she knows is that she must now follow Marcello, the leader of her one-dog pack.

Right after having her fourth glass of Cabernet Sauvignon of the evening Elizabeth comes to this conclusion –if she has to move back to Boston she can no longer keep the dog. Also, she has decided to terminate her relationship with Marcello. It is so clear in her mind now. Wine makes her think better.

Elizabeth thinks the world of Marcello, though. And so she tells him, “Marcello, I think the world of you. But, you add stress to my life.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I am at a bad place right now. I am sorry.” She pours more wine in her glass. She says no more. Elizabeth can’t pull herself together and articulate her fears. Only the flavor of the Cabernet Sauvignon makes sense to her tonight. What irks her is the prospect of letting go of the dog.

“I’ve tried to reach out to you, but you refuse my help.” Marcello says, a cigarette between his index and middle fingers absorbing the sudden stress.

Yeah, right, Elizabeth thinks to herself. There’s little Marcello can do to help her. At 41, Elizabeth is high-strung over the global financial meltdown. All of her savings and investments had come down to $650,000. She keeps saying that she’s broke. “I am broke, I am broke. I ought to file for bankruptcy.” Two years ago, Elizabeth had money enough to go into early retirement from a 12-year job as a business analyst in Corporate America. She had been quite lucky. She had built up an investment portfolio that had had pretty good returns. She used to consider herself the female version of Warren Buffett although to a microscopic degree. The Wall Street collapse is now pushing her back into the workforce. The problem is that Elizabeth just can’t find a position that would yield her at least $250,000 a year. “Oh my God.” Elizabeth had developed a life style that requires more than that amount.

Yes, it’s sad, but she can no longer keep Beulah, a Hungarian Viszla that she had adopted from the animal shelter six months ago. “Fucking high-maintenance dog,” Elizabeth whispers at the glass of wine. It’s strange, however, how much Beulah is fond of Marcello, that man who once told Elizabeth that he’s become petless by principle since his Pekingese died  when Marcello was 29 years old. He had gone his entire adolescence and first youth with his Pekingese whom he called Gene after Gene Hackman.  When Gene passed away of old age, Marcello was left so demolished that he had pledged to never have a pet again. Marcello, however, loved Beulah so much so that he had lifted the ban on pets at his condo in order to spend a few days with Elizabeth’s dog as she was out of town on business.

She hears Marcello mumble something in Italian, “Sono un stronzo,” but she doesn’t know what it means. Whatever, thinks Elizabeth as she opens the second bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon of the evening. 

“This is not right, goddammit.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Marcello wants to know.

Elizabeth holds the wine in her mouth, the flavor is fading away. She can’t get over with what happened the previous night. Her mind  in the immediate past, her wine-imbibing self in the critical present. She can see herself in her bed, Marcello on top penetrating her gently. She doesn’t move. Her mind is in Boston where she owns a loft that she had rented out to a struggling actress. Her tenant made a living working full-time for Washington Mutual. By the time the Wall Street catastrophe was building up, her tenant began to fall behind her monthly payments and eventually the amateuresse thespian was laid off. The ever expanding crisis drove many people desperate, hopeless or berserk. The latter was the case with Elizabeth’s tenant. Prior to being evicted from the loft in Back Bay the woman ripped parts of the hardwood floor with a hammer. On top of the monthly mortgage payments she has now to pay for the repairs, let alone finding a new tenant. No, Elizabeth doesn’t move. Her thoughts are trapped in Boston when she hears Marcello, “Amore, are you okay?” No, I am not, she says. Marcello pulls back and holds her. He says that he understands, that she’s been under much stress lately. He had emphasized, Much. He falls asleep while holding her. That was last night. Tonight Elizabeth is really pissed off.

“You know what, you are supposed to complete the job.”

“Uh?”

“You should have come last night. I was perfectly lubricated. Why didn’t you come?”

Marcello, the Italian lover –“I am afraid that I can’t do that if my lover isn’t into it.”

Elizabeth, the redhead under stress –“What the fuck are you talking about? There’ll be days in a couple’s life when one of them isn’t into it for whatever reasons. It doesn’t mean that you can’t come.”

“Sorry. If that’s the case then I can’t play along. I need my partner to be into it as well.”

“Fuck. Then it means that we can’t be long term.” It’s over. The sixth glass of wine is over, too.

Marcello, in his eyes there is something that resembles disappointment. So be it. Sometimes booze will shed light on matters that love is prone to ignore.

“Your Italian ego must be badly bruised. I am sorry, but I can’t go on with you.”

Marcello is not listening. Elizabeth sees him go to the living room where Beulah is lying on the sofa. She walks after him and catches him holding Beulah, whispering something in Italian in the dog’s ears.  For the first time in a long time Elizabeth is moved. “Do me a favor,” she says. “Take her with you. She’ll be better off with you.”

Marcello, a look of surprise. “Is it the right thing to do?”

Yes, it is. “She loves you, you know.”

Marcello nods. Elizabeth grabs the dog leash and hands it to him. Then she walks him and the dog to the front door. She stands looking out of the window as Marcello opens the car door to let Beulah in and then drive away.

Elizabeth hopes for a tear to emerge, but none comes.

 

 

 

 

Beulah now enjoys European-style breakfasts with Marcello

By Boris Trucco

Spring 2008
 
100_0084.jpg picture by Berutti63
 
 

 

 

Is it a dream?

All of a sudden, Marcello wakes up and realizes that he is writing in the garden of God. He can tell, just because he’s a goddamn writer. But, is it a dream?

Many times in his life he has wondered what the garden of God would be like. Marcello even wrote a treatment about it but he never had the guts to pitch it. He was concerned over how his audience would react, let alone the studio executives, they simply wouldn’t want to produce this script, Marcello had concluded. “The story is not consistent with the style that has made you successful,” someone had told him when Marcello asked for clues. 

Maybe I am dead and experiencing the after life. When and how did I die, though? I can’t remember dying.

Marcello, flustered by his increasing confusion, only knows that the garden of God looks exactly as he described it in the two-page treatment that is sleeping forever in one of his file folders. Incidentally, the treatment’s working title was, “Writing In The Garden of God.”

His arms resting on a round solid marble table as white as a word processor blank page, Marcello rubs his bare feet against the grass and the shamrocks. His seat, a hand carved marble bench that matches the table color, feels so comfortable. 

It must be a friggin’ dream.

He can see in the distance, an horizonless corridor cut through a forest populated with gigantic, unclassified trees, as if an immense golf court with no holes. The ornamental flowers between the trees, the plants, the shrubs, the topiaries. This is every goddamn writer’s dream, to see the product of his imagination come real –but, is it real? Or is it a dream?

It must be a fucking dream. I am not dead, am I?

Marcello, getting up and feeling all of his muscles sharp and stimulated as though he were the adolescent he once was, takes in the crisp air and sprints toward the buzz coming from about a mile away, beyond the trees. Marcello, running a race against the piercing questions in his head –Is it a dream? Am I dead?– finds out that the buzz has a shape, dozens of naked men and women following a six-foot, lanky man in white robes. They are chanting in celestial harmony, a song that Marcello, however, cannot fathom. It sounds like a chorus made of as many languages as there are on Earth.

And a few feet above the crowd, five winged women, just like Marcello once imagined angels would look like. Forget the sexless angels that his Catholic priest in Napoli used to lecture about as he brandished the New Testament reciting the gospel of Matthew. Marcello has long chosen to believe otherwise, angels must be unique females, the kind of Sports Illustrated models with wings, that is. 

“You seem lost, brother,” the lanky man in white robes speaks.

“As a matter of fact, I am clueless,” says Marcello as he waves and smiles at one of the angels.

“Then you should join us. Follow me and I will help you find what you are seeking.”

“Why should I do that?”

“Because you are as much lost as the others,” says the man while gesturing at the crowd that now has stopped chanting.

But Marcello is ignoring him, his eyes locked in the sight of a woman in the crowd, the woman he doted on when he was in college. The woman he many times told how much he loved her. The woman who was the epitome of unrequited love. Alas, the things a man does for a woman when he is young, his heart still in one wholesome piece. It is so weird, Marcello says to himself, to bump into her in these circumstances.

“Anna? Is that you?”

The woman is shocked when she hears her name. Not recognizing Marcello at first, she twists her head in a jerky way towards the voice that just called her.

“Marcello?”

“Anna, what are you doing here? Are you dead?” Marcello, a mix of frustration and fear starts to overtake him.

“I don’t know,” Anna says. “I just can’t remember what happened to me. I was home, winding down after a hard day. I fell asleep and when I woke up I was with these people. What’s going on, Marcello?” Anna, a shadow of despair in her words.

“Don’t worry, Anna.” Marcello starts towards the crowd but the lanky man blocks him with his long arm.

“You can be with Anna if you join us, Marcello. You can stay with her forever if you want. But you must come with us, Marcello. Follow me,” says the man.

Ignoring him, Marcello speaks to Anna.

“It must be a fucking dream, Anna. We can’t be dead. We still have so many things to do in life, don’t we?”

“Yeah,” says Anna. “Maybe someone is dreaming us, Marcello. How do we get out of this?”

“You must follow me,” the lanky man barks, the five winged women hovering above him as if ready to come down to his defense.

“Why do you keep saying it, dude?” Marcello, a drop of furious sweat on his forehead. “Who the fuck says that I must follow you? I am a free spirit. I live in America, ferchrissake.”

“This is not America,” says the man. “You belong to the community now. We have our set of rules. I lead. You follow. That’s what the Sacred Book mandates.”

“What happens if I don’t obey?”

“Well…” Surprise on the lanky man’s face. “You just remain on your own, away from our community, all by yourself.”

Marcello, almost coruscating with the fury of the free, hits the lanky man’s arm down, strides up to Anna, grabs her arm and takes her away from the crowd.

“Then so be it. We’ll be on our own,” Marcello says. Anna nods.

The lanky man in white robes shakes his head in quiet resignation. Now he raises his arms, now he looks up to the metallic blue skies, now he sings, now he sobs. And the crowd resumes the chanting and starts moving after his lead.

Marcello holds Anna, tightly, and he keeps doing so even after the crowd has dwindled to a buzz again, an invisible dot in the horizonless garden of God.

Marcello, his soul flooded with the joy that comes from getting a shot again at a long lost love, smiles.

“I know something for sure. We are not dead, Anna.”

“Then what are we doing here, Marcello?”

“I think that you are right” Marcello says. “Somebody is dreaming us.”

Then the two of them embrace and let their bodies frolic down the velvet grass.

And they kiss and make love for the first time ever.

And they tell how much they have thought of each other more often than not.

And they kiss and make love again.

And they feel, for the first time ever, so uninhibited, so free, so true to themselves.

And Marcello is so inundated with the memories of a grand love, the kind of love that only exists in a dream.

WINGS.jpg Angels are women picture by Berutti63

By Boris Trucco

© Summer 2007

“So, how long have you been banging my wife?”

This was not supposed to happen. This was not what Marcello had in mind. He was to meet with the mystery woman at the bistro to say goodbye, it was fun while it lasted, thank you for helping me fulfill a fantasy.

It was supposed to be just the two of them. They’d order drinks and a snack, laugh a little at their uncommon experience together and, very likely towards the end of the encounter, reveal their names. This was what Marcello thought it would happen.

When he arrived ten minutes early, Marcello found that the mystery woman was already sitting at the table and drinking Pellegrino. It felt strange. Marcello joined her, surprise on his face. The mystery woman gave Marcello a cold look, a malicious smile was her greeting. They did small talk, Marcello teased her once, but she was unresponsive, unlike the previous times. Since it was a special occasion, Marcello ordered a Bellini.

Nicole, the server, delivered his drink in no time.

The man dressed in blue Armani suit came out of nowhere and took a seat at their table.

“So, how long have you been banging my wife?”

“Meet my husband,” said the mystery woman to Marcello.

“My pleasure,” said the man as he offered his right hand. Marcello refused the handshake.

“It’s my turn to play a game now,” said the mystery woman.

“I bet you are not familiar with that side of my wife,” said the man, a strong Spanish accent.

“We’ve been playing his game so far,” said the mystery woman.

“Yes, you told me so,” said the man. To Marcello: “So, how long have you been banging her? Two weeks?”

“Not that long Enzo!” said the mystery woman, giggling. “We met two weeks ago at the Atlanta Film and Video Festival.”

“I already know that.”

“When we met, we both knew we would end up having sex. So he suggested that, before getting into it, I should help him make a fantasy of his come true.”

“And that is?”

“One of his favorite movies is Last Tango in Paris. He wanted us to kind of repeat what the characters, Paul and Jeanne, do in the movie.”

“I haven’t seen that movie,” said the man.

“You should, darling!”

“So, what happened next?”

“Paul, the character played by Marlon Brando, refuses to know the girl’s name, nor does he want to reveal his,” explained the mystery woman.

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” said the man, with a guffaw that Marcello found disgusting.

“They have wild sex throughout the movie, but they never get to know each other. No names, Paul says all the time. That’s what this guy wanted, too. As far as I am concerned, he doesn’t know my name yet.”

“Do you know his?”

“Nope. His face is somewhat familiar, though. I might have seen him on a magazine, but can’t tell for sure.”

“So, you’ve been banging my wife and you don’t know her name?” Another disgusting guffaw.

“We rendezvoused for sex at cheap motels. It was his idea,” said the mystery woman. To Marcello: “Listen, I enjoyed your game. I thought you are going to enjoy mine. After all, we are consenting adults, aren’t we?”

Marcello looked away, his Bellini untouched. The scene had a paralyzing effect on him.

“This is my game,” the mystery woman continued. “My husband and I have a very open relationship with a twist. At some point into an affair, we must meet the third sex-party in person. It often comes as a surprise for the third party. As far as your face goes, I can tell you are very surprised, carissimo.”

A loud, obnoxious guffaw from the man in blue Armani suit.

Marcello, his eyes wide open, wiped his lips with a napkin.

“Let’s make the introductions,” said the man. “This is my wife Barbara.” As he pronounced her name the man grabbed her hand and kissed it, softly.

“And this is my husband Enzo.” A giggle.

Enzo and Barbara looked at Marcello. In unison: “And you are?”

Marcello sipped his drink in quiet exasperation.

“This is quite disappointing. I expected you to behave as the gentleman I assumed you were,” said the mystery woman, said Barbara.

“No hard feelings here,” said the man. “I am a businessman. This is what my wife likes to do and I respect that.”

“Next time Enzo wants to see me fucking another man.” Barbara.

“I’d like to see you fucking him. I like the guy. He seems discreet.” Enzo.

Barbara. “He said to me, more than once, that I am a great fuck. Unforgettable, he said.”

Enzo. “Then you guys should arrange a final meeting and I will join you. No worries, pal. I just want to view the two of you in action.”

Che schifo, Marcello thought, still unable to get himself over the moral beating. Marcello was contemplating leaving the table right away, willing to take the sour experience with him for many years to come, ready to review his take on having sex with complete strangers, maybe developing a more conservative approach, from fearless to fearing man. This very possibility mortified him, greatly.

“What’s your answer? Do you think you can make it?” asked the man.

Marcello held his head with both hands, as if saying, this is fucking unbelievable. As he turned to his left side, he noticed these three men in dark suits walking in line up to the table.

“Enzo Antonini,” said the tallest of them. “When they told me that I could get you busted in this place, I didn’t believe them.”

The man in the blue Armani suit spoke in his softest voice: “Can’t you see I am in a meeting?”

“Time for another one,” said the tall man. To Marcello: “I am U.S. Customs special agent Dave Keegan.” He nodded to the man behind him: “This is FBI special agent Kevin Sanchez.” Another nod to the man behind Sanchez: “And this is DEA special agent Joseph Bitar.”

Barbara looked at Keegan, Sanchez and Bitar in awe. Her mouth open, wordless. Marcello, his mouth shut, starting to accept the idea that there must be a God.

“Enzo Antonini. It’s been a while since the last time. This time you must respond for your attempt to sneak a cash-stuffed suitcase into Argentina,” said Keegan.

Sanchez fixed his eyes in Marcello’s. “Mr. Antonini was on an Argentine government-chartered flight.”

Bitar expanded the picture to Barbara: “It seems that he was a special guest of the Argentine delegation that was on that flight that made a one-day stop-over in Venezuela.”

Keegan to Barbara: “Your husband is quite bold.” To Enzo Antonini: “What made you think that you could get one-million dollars in a suitcase into Argentina?”

Sanchez to Marcello: “It appears that there’s something fishy going on with these Argentine officials, too. It appears that they didn’t expect the customs people at the Buenos Aires airport to check this particular suitcase.”

Keegan to Marcello: “Undeclared money. What a shame. Next thing he did, he just left the money behind. Customs officials couldn’t stop him because he hadn’t committed a crime but a mere customs violation. The man fled the country six months ago, his whereabouts unknown until now.”

Bitar to Barbara: “So, we understand that your husband is Venezuelan and has become American citizen five years back.”

Keegan to Enzo: “America, what a generous country.”

Sanchez to Enzo: “Alright, Mr. Antonini. Please follow us.”

Keegan to Enzo: “You can call your lawyer from the station. Sooner or later we’ll find out where that money came from and what it was for, right?”

Marcello and Barbara watched the four men leave the bistro, no words exchanged. Marcello, a feeling of poetic justice growing deep inside him, turned to Barbara: “You know what? I lied.”

“What?”

“When I said that you are a great fuck? You aren’t. You are plain ordinary, a woman who only knows the basic positions and has no initiative whatsoever.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“You are not a memorable lover. You are forgettable.”

Barbara, shock and ire enveloping her, clasped the glass of Bellini and threw it at Marcello, soaking most of his white Lacoste polo shirt. She pushed the table away and strode to the front door.

Marcello to the patrons looking at the scene, aghast: “I am sorry. She went mad when I told her that this time she had to pay.” Marcello left the scene right after tossing a fifty-dollar bill on the table.

Once outside he saw Barbara running to her Lexus SUV. Marcello ran after her.

Barbara climbed into the car, started the engine and pulled reverse gear.

Still running, Marcello’s right hand reached to his hip and snapped off the iPhone.

“Wait!”

Barbara heard him call out her name and stopped for a second, the passenger window rolling down.

“I need something from you,” Marcello said, panting next to the car.

“What the fuck do you want?”

“I just. . .” Marcello aimed the iPhone at Barbara and captured her shock and awe. “I just want a memento.”

“Fuck you!” she yelled at him, the car roaring out of the parking lot.

Poetic justice has strange ways to manifest itself, thought Marcello as he watched the photo of Barbara, the unforgettable player.

 

Poetic justice meted out on Barbara. Image captured by Marcello’s iPhone 

I can see regret in Marcello’s eyes. Regret for one love that could have been but was not.

After sipping his Bellini Marcello is ready to tell me his story, a story that sounds as a confession.

“Jordan. I had to let go of her. I had to let go of the woman that, for a perennial moment, invited me to question my lifestyle.”

Marcello’s disappointment must be significant. He speaks like a drunken poet.

“She’s almost perfect. She’s 25 years-old, refreshing, free-spirited. She loves indie films. She is hot.”

Jordan was Marcello’s first conquest on the internet. They met on myspace. Jordan requested him as a friend, and he accepted her two days later. “Her pictures impressed me as much as her own description. She claimed to read books by Paul Auster, Don De Lillo and Barbara Kingsolver, plus the whole Harry Potter’s series”. They exchanged messages for a week or so before agreeing on a date.

“The date took place at the Fernbank Museum on a Friday Martini night,” says Marcello. She was glowing in her metallic lace cocktail dress. “Jordan captured my sense of esthetics right away.”

Fascinated with his Italian accent, Jordan grilled Marcello with questions about Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. Jordan said that she had been to Venice and Rome, and that she found herself reduced to openmouthed wonder when she saw the Vatican, so much so that she was seriously considering converting to Catholicism. This task, however, had to be postponed. “It is hard to be the personal trainer to the wealthiest yuppies in town,” she said, something that took up much of her time leaving little, if any, room for self-exploration.

Marcello realized that it wouldn’t take much to seduce her. “This happened right after she heard about my preferences as a cook. I seized her heart when I told her about my insalata Caprese. Actually, I guess she fell for the way I pronounced the words rather than for the recipe, which, by the way, is gloriously simple –tomatoes and mozzarella with olive oil and basil.”

I read somewhere that the mozzarella should come from buffalo milk, not bison’s, if possible. To which Marcello nods yes.

That night they ended up being part of the few who danced the night away at the Fernbank, clasping each other’s hands. Jordan brazenly challenged Marcello to meet for dinner on the following evening. Marcello accepted, thus breaking a Don Juan’s cardinal rules –never go on a date with a woman the day after you met her. Never make the first date occur on a weekend. Never take a woman for dinner at the initial stages of the dating process.

It was inevitable that they would have a romantic dinner here at the bistro. “We sat at the table that’s right over there,” says Marcello, pointing his finger at one of the corners of the saloon. A nouveau riche and his bored wife are sitting at that table now. “Jordan ordered a calico couscous salad and ate just half of it.”

Marcello describes the evening as filled with flirtation and kino, revelations and hopes. Revelations –Jordan declared that she’d been engaged up until recently to a man that poisoned her life. This man was emotionally abusive and cold-hearted. “A cold-hearted snake,” she said, which reminded Marcello of an old Paula Abdul’s song. Hopes –Jordan explained how much better she felt now that she’d been single for a while for she was very certain that, if she fell in love again, she wouldn’t make the same mistakes. “My heart has healed and I am going to hang on to my dreams,” she proclaimed.

It was inevitable that they would wound up at Marcello’s around midnight. Jordan proved Marcello why she was considered among the best personal trainers in town. Jordan’s cardio skills granted her the ability to run a sex marathon. As lovers they were a good match. “Endurance was her game. The Art of Lovemaking is mine,” says Marcello, a man who knows how to tend to a woman’s body and mind, a man who still can, at his age, perform without Viagra coming to his aid. (At least that’s what he told me.)

“Boris, this was so fucking intense, no pun intended, that we ended up nearly killed by exhaustion around three-thirty in the morning,” says Marcello, a second glass of Bellini in his hand. “I conked out and, as far as I was concerned, so did Jordan.”

Moments later Marcello was awakened by the sound of bottles clanging. Reeling from the shock, Marcello flipped the light on and strode downstairs to the kitchen.

“There she was, rifling through my refrigerator.” Marcello asked if she was okay. Jordan mumbled that she was starving. “It’s fucking four in the morning,” Marcello said. Jordan just passed off the comment.

Marcello says that the scene felt so outlandish that he managed to grab his camera and snap a shot of Jordan as she kept ransacking his fridge, until she found a frozen food box containing tilapia with Hollandaise sauce, rice pilaf and green beans almondine. She ripped it open, tossed the box in the kitchen sink, used her fingernail to cut the wrap film, put the tray in the microwave, slammed it shut, and turned the heat on.

“She stood akimbo, her back facing me. She was staring at the microwave while flexing her feet, like she was trying to ease some pain. She said nothing. I said nothing. I just contemplated the smooth curves of her silky thighs, her pelvis punctuated by the soft cotton of her navy blue thong. A delicious frame topped off with those sweet, little blue-striped socks. That sight of her gazing into the microwave will never leave me. I just wanted to make love to her right there in my kitchen, but I had to hold myself back because she was devouring the food. I asked her if she was okay, and she said that she was sorry.”

So?

“Jordan said nothing else. She gulped off the dish like she was the next on death row. I must admit that watching her eat voraciously was a little bit of a turn off.”

It is a turn off.

With a soft smile, Marcello invited her back to bed. She was anxious. She turned and tossed in bed. Marcello hugged her in an attempt to calm her down. Marcello believed that she’d fall asleep eventually, but it was him who did. As he was sinking into sleep he was again awakened. The bedroom lights were stunning him. “What the fuck.” He saw Jordan coming out of the walking closet. She had on Marcello’s sweat pants and shirt, and she was barefoot.

“I must go out to exercise,” she said. “I’ve got to burn out the calories I just ate.”

Marcello was shocked. “But, it’s five in the morning.”

“I don’t care. I will be back in an hour or so.” She went down, opened the door, trotted down the hallway to the elevator, and exited the building. Marcello was left looking down to the floor, baffled, until the sleep overtook him one more time.

It was almost seven in the morning when Marcello was awaken by something that felt like a drill piercing his hypothalamus. It was the buzz from the intercom. “What the fuck.”

The surveillance camera displayed Jordan’s oblong face. “Will you let me in?” Marcello buzzed her in. Three or four minutes later, she walked in the bedroom, took the clothes off and dove in the bed. Jordan fell asleep right away. Marcello checked the time. No way was he going back to sleep.

“I dragged my feet down to the kitchen, made café au lait, and read the headlines from The New York Times. Then I took a shower.”

That Sunday morning Marcello had scheduled a creative working brunch with his colleagues at the bistro. He had to call them to cancel, a family emergency as the only explanation given, even though the people who work with and know Marcello know he has no family in the United States, but Marcello couldn’t think of a better excuse on such short notice.

“I was quite disturbed by this situation that, in order to cool off, I decided to go over old scripts I have in my laptop.”

Marcello says that, were it not be for this situation, he’d have never checked those old files where he found an idea for a tragicomic story, an idea he had forgotten altogether. It was about this environmentalist who was stung by a scorpion as he was hugging a tree during a protest in South America. Hours later, the environmentalist dies of a heart attack caused by the fright of the experience.

“It’s a good idea for a comedy, isn’t it?”

Absolutely.

Marcello was attempting a creative escape from reality when his cell phone rang the Miami Vice tone. It was Jorge, his Spanish friend who works as a news producer for CNN. Jorge sounded frantic. His wife just had beaten him, his head and face badly bruised. It was not the first time it happened.

“Jorge, I think you must come to terms with the fact that you are a battered man and need help,” Marcello said.

“Is it that bad?” Jorge asked. “I mean, do you really think I need professional help? I mean, am I in deep shit?”

“Yes, you are.”

“Jesuschrist Marcello! I just wanted to talk to you. You are my friend. I figured that if you asked Wanda to have a conversation with you about this, you know, like it’s a casual approach on your part, once she accepts meeting with you, you could bring up the subject. . .”

“What subject?”

“Wanda’s tendency to domestic violence.”

“No way will I do that,” said Marcello. “Jorge, you and your wife need help.”

“I don’t know how to broach the subject with her, Marcello! I don’t want to upset her.”

“Why don’t you just dump her? You are a good guy with a fine job. You’ll be able to get back on your feet soon.”

“Marcello, I can’t do that to Wanda. I can’t. I . . .”

“Jorge, I am sorry but I have to go now. I’ll call you back later.”

After flipping his cell phone shut Marcello realized that Jorge’s situation could be the basis for a story about battered men. He wondered if someone had ever taken this kind of story to the TV screen.

As Marcello was finally focusing on what he loved the most, storytelling, Jordan walked in the studio, startling him. Marcello smiled, not many options left at that point. She had her look nailed to the hardwood floor, the pearly glow of her being that had once enchanted Marcello was gone. Her doll feet flexing up and down, up and down, up and down, like she’s trying to pull herself together before jumping off a 35-foot high springboard into the abyss.

“If we want our relationship to keep growing there’s something I must tell you.” It sounded as a preamble to rules Marcello was very familiar with but unwilling to abide by. After a solid silence from Marcello, Jordan continued. “I am afraid I have been in denial until now about a problem I have.”

That’s not what Marcello was expecting to hear.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that I suffer a rare form of eating disorder. I know because I did some research shortly before we met,” Jordan explained.

Marcello embraces silence one more time. I wonder, is it bulimia?

“No,” Jordan said. “It’s called night eating disorder. I just wake up in the middle of the night and go to the kitchen for food. During the day I eat little, if anything. I’ve been skipping breakfast for nearly two months now, going on snacks and the occasional salad.”

How did she know she had that condition? I ask Marcello.

“Because I knew something wrong was going on when I found that I am unable to sleep without food,” she said. “Even if I eat before going to bed, I wake up in the middle of the night starving for food. I feel a sharp pain in my abdominal, and I became aware that food is the quick fix in relieving the pain. Besides, I consulted with a girlfriend of mine. She’s the secretary to a physician in Buckhead. She told me that she’s seen several cases like mine at her office.”

“Maybe you just are under much stress,” Marcello suggested. “Maybe you happen to be more sensitive to perception of life.”

“I also did some research,” she insisted. “I meet all the symptoms, Marcello.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

Jordan walked up to him, she no longer could contain the tears. Jordan sobbed as she held Marcello close. “Because I have strong feelings for you. This morning, as I was exercising, I realized that I am sick. If what we are experiencing now is the beginning of a relationship. . .”

Did she actually say “relationship”?

“. . . I must come to grips with my condition because I want us to be full of potential. Does it make sense?”

Marcello, his sense of compassion sharp and ready, held Jordan tightly. The void in Jordan’s life had given way to despair. It was a poignant scene. He gave permission to himself to shed a few tears.

Marcello, back to the years in Rome, when he was seeing his beloved psychoanalyst, dottora Silvia Lazzaro, and learned so much about the many streets and boulevards that the unconscious can take, was able to tell that Jordan was groping for self-meaning, thus devouring whatever came across, even a man whom she hardly knew –himself.

“Does it make sense?” she asked again.

“Amore mio, let’s not talk about it now. I say, I will drive you home so you can get some rest and we’ll discuss this subject later.” It was not a suggestion. It was the right thing to do.

Marcello held Jordan’s hand all the way down to the underground garage, opened the car door for her, and drove her to her place in East Atlanta, giving her a compassionate smile every now and then.

Marcello called her on Monday night from the bistro. He was sitting at the bar having a lemoncello. Marcello told her the truth. He felt that he could no longer keep seeing her as a lover, “Because the chemistry is not there.”

She pressed him to admit that what he was saying was a cop-out, that he was afraid of commitment, and that he ultimately just had wanted to have sex with her and dump her later.

“If that’s what you want to believe, I guess I won’t be able to convince you otherwise,” said Marcello.

She yelled on the phone, “I shouldn’t have told you about my condition. That’s what scared you away, isn’t it?”

“You didn’t scare me, I promise.”

“We had a great time. I could see in your eyes that I caused a good impression on you. Sex was great, too. Why do you say that there is no chemistry between us?”

“Jordan, I am an old dog. You need someone your age. Yes, we had a great time, but this is not what I want. I am sorry.”

“You are not an old dog,” Jordan said before clicking off on him. “You are a cold-hearted snake.”

Marcello gulps down his Bellini and offers me a melancholic smile. “Do you ever feel how heavy fate weighs on your shoulders?”

Why did you let go of her, really?

“For the same reasons that you’d have let go of her if you were in my shoes.”

Do you miss her?

“Sometimes.”

I wonder if you are still friends on myspace.

“Yes, we are. We don’t exchange messages often, though.”

I am curious –what is it that you miss about Jordan?

“Just the scent of her made me feel young again.”

I suspect that there lies the key to Marcello’s experience with Jordan. Sometimes you just can’t afford to feel young again.

                          

Ravenous Jordan about to ransack

Marcello’s fridge at 4 in the morning

Marcello opens his eyes when the morning is leaving, the April sun rays surfing through the bay window and bathing the bedroom of a lone man. Marcello, his hand groping for another hand between the sheets, only finds a cold 400-thread-count emptiness. Marcello, struggling to get off the bed, drags his feet into the kitchen. A Post-it note held by a magnet on the fridge reads, “I refuse to be the body you use to cram your ghosts in.” It is so poetic, thinks Marcello. A woman dumps him with a literary touch. Rather sooner than later they all leave, but none of them takes the time and effort to be creative in the farewell.  

Memories of Bonnie take Marcello by assault now. “Bonnie, why did you leave me, I was in love with you,” Marcello thinks to himself. If somebody asked him, do you remember the very minute you saw Bonnie for the first time? Absolutely, he’d say. It was last December, a day before Christmas Eve. Marcello was browsing books at the Borders that’s three blocks from his condo, lost in indecision, not sure about what to look for both in the bookstore and his writing life. He was feeling so disjointed, disoriented, discombobulated, when out of the blue this woman rushed by him, leaving a cool breeze that whiffed of orange flowers, soft sweet spices, violet and mimosa, and walked down to the bargain books section. She stood there, flashing in a purple drawstring top and knee-torn Abercrombie jeans. She stood there, Marcello experiencing a rare delight while looking at her flip-flop-wrapped feet, those feet that seemed to have been sculpted by the chisel of God. She stood there, giving a nonchalant glance at the bargains, her petite figure resembling a short model, not the Kate Moss waifish-type of model but Laetitia Casta, whose curvaceousness has been a subject of discussion in the world of fashion. She stood there, her honey-blonde wavy hair going down just past her shoulders. When he approached to her, intent on striking up a conversation, Marcello realized that there was something odd about her right hand –one third of her pinky finger was missing.

“What happened to your pinky finger?”

She turned to him and smiled. It felt as if they had been acquaintances for some time now, her emerald eyes piercing him with curiosity.

“I was in a car accident in Miami two years ago,” she said, her lower lip quivering. “It was a miracle I survived the crash, the car was wadded up like an accordion. That’s how I lost part of my digitus minimus.”

Right after softly speaking those Latin words, the word lover Marcello fell for her. It was so predictable, inevitable, unforgettable. Bonnie could be the woman for all seasons, a college girl whose motto was, “I set the rules, which are morally relative and shift according to my mental whims and physical needs.” A happy-go-lucky urban lady fond of smart casual looks with an emphasis on changing shades of yellow hair on a monthly basis. A spry, postmodern nymph capable of rambling for hours about coffee, Coke, chocolate, the New Imperialism and the latest work from Gianni Vattimo, her favorite thinker –never a blonde moment.

Marcello, his eyes opening wider, goes on a second reading of the note –“I refuse to be the body you use to cram your ghosts in.” Marcello, a lone man standing, clutches the note. “It’s just a misunderstanding,” he says to the fridge, as if he had to apologize to someone, anybody, for a minor blunder. Marcello, his hand twitching, reaches for the cordless telephone kitchen and dials the number that he had once jotted down on a to-do list that is now sitting on the countertop. Marcello, struck by disappointment, only gets a recorded message. “I am sorry this has happened,” he whispers on the phone and clicks it off. The fridge starts emitting its quiet, humming purr.

Bonnie loved cats, so much so that she had a Persian cat whom she named, not surprisingly, Fellini. Bonnie enjoyed writing long poems filled with melancholy over long lost loves. Bonnie, at 25, was worried about aging, and had Guerlain anti-aging cream in her bathroom cabinet –he noticed it on the night they first slept together at her flat, one week after they had met. Bonnie and Marcello rang in the New Year having wild sex in his King size bed, thus making a long fantasy of his come true at last.

Five days later they went for brunch at Bonnie’s favorite bistro. Bonnie, chowing down her eggs Benedict (with tomato, not Canadian bacon), looked at Marcello.

“Are you worried about the age difference between us?”

“Not really,” Marcello said.

“Say, if we were going to get serious, what would be more important to you, your career or our relationship?”

“Does one have to exclude the other?”

“Eventually, I want to have a baby,” Bonnie said.

“I have a daughter who’s a freshman in college.”

“Meaning?”

“I don’t know,” Marcello said. “I don’t know if I could afford it, emotionally.”

“A serious relationship?”

“To go through the experience of raising a child from birth all over again.”

“I love your Italian accent,” she said. “Do tell me more about your childhood in Napoli…”

Marcello, stirring up flashbacks of his childhood in Naples, redials the telephone number of his last and frustrated outgoing call only to get the same short recorded message. “Will you please pick up? I’ve made a mistake and I am sorry, ferchrissake.” The kitchen feels so cold now.

Winter had long overtaken the city, but Bonnie, always on the go, used to turn off the heat for the most part of the day. The house got warmed up at night, shortly before Bonnie retired to bed. It was on a chilly Thursday afternoon this January that Bonnie had invited Marcello over to have tea and chocolate with Duchy cookies. Marcello, the flavor of black tea lingering on his palate, noticed that Bonnie was quiet this time, and only giggled and moaned when Fellini mildly bit and sucked the smooth stub of her finger. Bonnie, a lukewarm smile on her face, gave Marcello a scrutinizing look.

“Do you ever feel like you are disappearing?” she said.

“Huh?”

“It’s the pain, it’s growing and I can’t stop it.”

“I didn’t know you were in pain, amore mio,” Marcello said.

“Do you know where we are headed in this relationship?”

“Well, it’s a bit early to know, isn’t it?” Marcello said. “We’ve been seeing each other for less than a month now.”

“I’ve been expecting for something, anything good to happen, for someone to fix me.”

Marcello, popping a piece of cookie into his mouth, held her hand. “Bonnie, amore mio, you are my inspiration. Your love has been driving me to develop great ideas for stories.” Marcello, a grin drawn on her face, dug the Moleskine notebook out of his jacket’s chest pocket, opened it and read aloud. “I am planning to write about this beautiful woman of Italian descent, she often engages visitors at the tasting room of her family winery, where she cannot talk about the wines without dancing. Isn’t it beautiful and hopeful?”

“If you can’t fix me in real life, do you think your writing will do?”

“I am my writing,” Marcello said.

“Do you love me?

“Yes, but I need more time”

“What for?”

“To find out if we are ready to live together. Love can only succeed if the surrender is mutual,” said Marcello, quoting Octavio Paz.

“That’s not what I wanted to know,” Bonnie said.

“You are confusing me.”

“You too,” she said, caressing the stump of her finger now that Fellini had walked away. “Marcello, I think we should call for a time-out.”

“A time-out, but why?”

“Will you take me to your place tonight?”

Marcello said yes. Bonnie put on a hooded black wind-breaker and walked to the entrance door, Marcello following her, no words spoken. They came outside of the building, it was cold and raining. Pit, pat, pit, pat, pit, pat, Bonnie and Marcello strode up to his Nissan 350Z. Pit, pat, pit, pat, pit, pat, Bonnie and Marcello clambered into the car and sped away into the night.

Bonnie, when entering Marcello’s condo, stopped for a minute in the living room, pulled her keys out of her jeans pocket and dropped them on the coffee table. Marcello looked down at the keys, then to Bonnie as she headed to the bedroom and dove in the bed and fell asleep, her wet clothes still on.

Marcello, opening his eyes shortly before the sun broke, found that she was gone.

The coldness of the kitchen doesn’t feel unbearable now that his call is answered on the second ring.

“I need to talk to you,” Marcello says. “I want to apologize. I was not feeling well when I said what I said. I was a bit drunk.”

“It’s much worse than that. Did you read my note?”

“Yes, but I think you are overreacting,” Marcello says.

“Marcello, this is humiliating. What you’ve been doing to me is indeed humiliating.”

“I never meant to hurt you. I –“

“Shut up, your defense is so pathetic.”

“If I hurt you I am sorry,” Marcello says. “I accept your condemnation.”

“Your soul is fucked up. You expect me to fill in the void of a relationship you are still obsessed about. I won’t do that because I am not her, do you hear me? I am fucking-not her.”

“Bonnie, let me come over to discuss this in person.”

“I am not Bonnie, you stupid prick! My name is Molly, motherfucker!”

Long after she has slammed the phone conversation to an irrevocable end, Marcello stands in the kitchen holding and looking at the receiver. It occurs to him that he should write away the whole experience before he even thinks of going over to the bookstore next week.

 

laetitia casta

This is what Bonnie looks like as per Marcello