I'm lulled and fascinated, wary and alert to something uncertain and brooding. Mount Etna breathes out a living mist of white clouds that hangs above its open maw, taking on a grainy patina that reminds me of an old black-and-white film, drawing me back to the hotel where Marina steps out on an upper balcony and looks out over the Mediterranean for a moment. Facing the sea running to shore far below, brilliant splashes of blue and blinding white reflections play between waves, while her two hands rest lightly on a black bannister that curves ever so slightly on the balcony landing. I catch her attention as she glances down at me standing on the open veranda. I don't know the sequence of events that brings us to this same juncture again and again, as if endlessly planned, but she is always there, looking down into the sea until our eyes meet, and we realize in some strange, orphic moment that the power of reason is incapable of ever reaching the truth.
Her balcony doors are open, my heart pauses in dread at the thought of dissipation, but my first glimpse of her revives me. "I have some clothes for you," she says. She encourages me to try on a pair of handmade, black boots and leather jacket. They fit perfectly. She smiles and tells me they belonged to a former lover who died in a plane crash running drugs from Mexico. "And you've brought them with you to Taormina?" The sun spreads an icy warmth over her mouth. She tells me her dreams are overrun with endless images of red, blue and purple bougainvillea. She chokes and gasps, startled and sweating. I try to calm her down, but she offers no explanation. A thin stream of perspiration covers her upper lip. I kiss her open mouth, and though distracted by anxiety, she always returns my kisses with renewed hunger.
We walk through a communal garden on our way to dinner. She insists I wear the boots and leather coat. Every few seconds she brushes her nose against my shoulder, as though to drink in some lost scent of her dead lover she hopes still lingers. I'm the credible facsimile of a dead man, wearing his boots and jacket that fit me perfectly. Corso Umberto is well-lit. The night creates a constant hum of words, laughter and music filling the background to our thoughts as we walk among throngs of people brushing us in greater and greater numbers. Marina lets go of my arm. I'm caught in the middle of a group of tourists snapping pictures. I stretch my neck over heads of meandering people, thinking she may have been carried ahead of me by the sheer momentum of human flesh. I notice a villa built above street level balancing on the very edge of a rocky outcropping and whose wide windows face Mount Etna, as if designed to drink in its mercurial light. I walk up the stairs to the villa. The front door is open. If Marina is looking for me, she'll find me here sleeping in a bed exactly like the one we make love in at the hotel. Perhaps she's as tired as I am and sleeping in another room, but I have no more strength to go on.
How is it the morning comes so fast? Why am I out of my clothes? I see my boots on the floor by the bed, my jacket hanging on the back of a chair. I hear Marina's voice coming from another room. She's been in the house all night and must have taken off my clothes while I slept. I call her name. Instead of Marina, a beautiful young girl answers my call. "How did you get in here?" she asks. I point to the door and tell her it was open, but she doesn't believe me. "Where are you going?" I ask, but she doesn't turn or acknowledge the question. I dress quickly and follow her, but she disappears. I follow a hallway to the rear of the villa where outside a long stretch of lawn disappears into the distance. Mount Etna is at some distance, so distant it's impossible to know how far. I see Marina with my boots and jacket in hand at such a distance, it almost defies reason she could have covered so much ground in such a short time.
writes: I am a poet and writer whose work has appeared in The Shore Poetry Anthology, Thalassa, Ivory Tower, Nit & Wit, Tomorrow, Ginosko Literary Journal, Maudlin House, Feile-Festa, Per Contra, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Foilate Oak Review, Vestal Review, Thrice Fiction
and Imperfect Fiction
. Five collections of poetry have been published — By the Hours and the Years
), Myth/A Poem
, 2002), The Art of Anguish
(2004), Last Poems
(2007), Figures of the Muse
(2012), in addition to a collection of short fiction, The Killing Sun