Monday, December 17, 2007

Calypso of the Appenine Way

Continuing with chapter one of my novel:

Eva smiled pleasantly at Sacchetti and extended her hand. “A pleasure to meet you Signore.”

“ me Lorenzo”, tut-tutted the infatuated one. “Up close I see that you are even more beautiful than I had previously thought.”

I could not disagree with Sacchetti. Eva was a beauty--even if an understated one (unlike the majority of Italian girls). Tonight she was wearing a heavy red overcoat against the inclement weather but her petite beauty shone clearly through. Eva had the prettiest face imaginable with a lovely mouth and rose bud lips. Her skin was clear of any blemish and fair like alabaster. She liked to keep her brown hair short, but the style suited her very much. In addition to her beauty, Eva was also one of the most intelligent women I’d ever met, a polyglot who spoke nearly all the major European languages. She had helped me a lot with my Italian even though I was not a particularly quick student (being by no means a natural linguist like her).

Eva took her place at the table and ordered a pizza and a glass of red house wine. Lorenzo’s eyes hardly left her face as she stared down at the menu and spoke with the waitress. I had invited the man over as a joke, but now his puppy dog dedication was beginning to try my patience. Or was it a most unreasonable jealousy that I was beginning to feel?

“Tell us a little about yourself, Lorenzo”, I suddenly began. “Are you from Parma? What is your job?”
As the bald Italian began to speak, I noticed that his ingratiating smile remained fully directed at Eva. “Yes, I am from Parma. Last year I finished my engineering course at the university and now I am working for my father’s engineering company here. It is only my first year so I am mostly still learning the ropes.”

“And do you have some sweetheart?” I enquired of him mischievously. “No doubt a man like yourself, educated, refined, fortunate, will have committed himself to some beloved fidanzata many moons ago.”
I observed Eva almost choke herself on her wine as she listened to my words. Mario, on the other hand, appeared distant: almost as if he wasn’t listening to our conversation. Perhaps he was still struggling with the problematic situation to be faced with Ilaria.

Lorenzo shook his head. “No I am not currently fidanzato. While at university I had a close relationship with a fellow student called Alicia. However, after graduation we drifted apart. Her home is in Padova where she has now returned to live with her parents. Furthermore, I recently heard that she will soon marry the son of a close friend of her father’s. I wish her all happiness for the future. Our relationship had gone as far as it could have and both of us realised that we were not suited to a lifetime together.”

“What sort of woman do you think would be suitable for a man of your position, Signor’ Sacchetti?” I realised that Eva had asked the question in ironic jest, but nevertheless, I could not prevent a sudden jealousy freezing up my good humour.

Sachetti gave a big sigh. “Ah, what a question to ask! In my job, I need someone who could be trusted to always be dignified in my meetings with potential clients. Beauty and brains should go together. On the other hand, in our private moments, the woman I choose should be funny and playful: not afraid of initiating funny little games that would bring us closer together.”

“I’m sure you will have no difficulty in finding such a woman Signor’ Sacchetti.” Eva’s voice sounded a little cold and I knew that she had already tired of the game with Sacchetti. In spite of her unfailing good humour, Eva had no wish to be the prize wife of a rich and influential man. If such had been her ambition she would never have had anything to do with Sharokh or myself. She was the daughter of a Dusseldorf cobbler and she happily embraced her working class roots. More than anything else she sought stability with a man she loved, though that man was always most likely to be a vice addicted adventurer of a dubious type. Previously there had been Sharokh, now there

Sacchetti was shaking his head in response to Eva’s earlier remark. “You are wrong my dear very wrong! To find the right woman is the most difficult thing in the world. My eventual wife must combine the roles of ambassador, lover, playmate, friend, mother and confidant. Do you think it is so very easy to find a person like that?”

The cold boredom persisted in Eva’s voice as she answered the newly qualified engineer. “I think your world and the world of your parents, your family, must be filled with such admirable women Signor’ Sacchetti. No doubt they are raised to always put the needs of decorum before their own most intimate desires. I am sure you will find such a woman without difficulty.”

Sacchetti shook his head and looked confused. It was clear that he had perceived Eva’s cold indifference to him and his family’s fortune; and also that he was not used to being dismissed so easily as a potential suitor. I was sure he would make a direct attempt to arrange a date with little Eva and his next words confirmed my belief.

“Eva, you are a most beautiful and intelligent woman. It would give me great pleasure if you were to allow me to take you out for dinner at “Il Piccolo Diavolo” one night this week. “Il Piccolo Diavolo” was probably the best and most expensive restaurant in Parma: exclusive too, with tables always at a premium. Obviously Sacchetti was able to exert a little family pressure there. In spite of the bald one’s confidence as he spoke, I felt sure that Eva would disappoint him. Her next words confirmed this.

“Signor’ Sacchetti, you are really too kind. However, this is proving to be a busy time of year for me and I really don’t think I will be able to find the time. Furthermore, I doubt if my live in boyfriend, Sharokh, will be at all pleased if I leave him in order to take an expensive meal with a stranger.”

Damn her! Now she’d made me angry and jealous too! Sacchetti for his part looked like he’d been struck in the face and his words were cold and hard as he commenced to speak. “My dear Eva, please forgive me for my forwardness. I had no idea that you were already as good as married. Of course, I extend to you all my best wishes for a happy future with this man....?”

“Sharokh”, prompted Eva. “His name is Sharokh and he is a factory worker.”

This information was intended as an insult to the rich and well-connected Sacchetti and he took it as such. “Very good. Accept my best wishes once again for your future happiness.” Sacchetti looked at his expensive rolex watch and declared himself to be late for an important appointment. He rose to his feet and gave a little formal bow to us all.

“Good night my friends. I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening together.” Having bowed and said these words, the disconsolate and angry engineer left our table and manoeuvered his way through the crowded room to the distant exit without taking a single look back.

Eva flashed me an ironic look. “Do you think I’ve disappointed him? I feel that I stopped being a goddess somewhere among the mouthfuls of pizza.”

Somehow my mood had changed too and I was no longer amused by Lorenzo’s infatuation for Eva. “He is a stupid, pompous fool. Only an untutored ego would take its own worth for granted in such a way. You are worth ten thousand Lorenzos.”

I noticed that Eva’s brows puckered together at these words. She didn’t need me to tell her that she was superior to the likes of Lorenzo, but my heavy disapproval took the fun out of her ironic dismissal. For some moments, there was what is usually called a “pregnant” silence and then Mario asked Eva a question.
“How is Sharokh, Eva? Still working in that car factory?” Mario had always liked Sharokh, probably because his own problems were dwarfed by the Iranians’. Mario had failed his exams and gone to work in a factory. Now his father had given him a way out and within a short time he should be free to go to university or search for better work. In contrast, in spite of his wealthy beginnings, Sharokh seemed doomed to a hopeless life as a factory worker. In spite of this, he always remained positive and upbeat.

“Sharokh is fine, Mario. He is meeting me in the ‘Oktoberfest’ at a quarter to ten. I hope you will both accompany me there later and we can have a drink together.” Mario looked at his watch and seemed to make some calculations. At length he nodded his head.

“Yes, that is fine for me. I need to be up very early tomorrow morning in order to catch the train to Modena, but it’s really OK as long as I get home before midnight.” Eva gave me an inquisitive look.

“And you John? You don’t have any pressing engagement.” I smiled and shook my head with assurance.

“What possible engagement could I have? I suggest we stay here for another half hour or so before strolling slowly to the ‘Oktoberfest’ for 9:45.”

Conversation continued between the three of us in fits and starts, becoming ever more desultory, before Eva recognised an American guy she had worked with in the room. He was sitting with friends, so Eva merely waved over at him. However, he immediately left his friends and came over to say hello. I had met him once or twice and didn’t like him.

“Eva, so nice to see you here”, he gushed in his put on Italian style. “I know I’ve been trying to get you to come here for some weeks, but I’d just about given up on ever really seeing you sat here enjoying yourself with friends.” I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. I thought it was fairly clear that we weren’t enjoying ourselves and that we must have appeared morose to any outsider who had been observing us.

“Eva nodded and smiled. “Yes, well I finished a little late today and John and Mario kindly consented to meet me here. We will be leaving in a few moments as we have an appointment at the ‘Oktoberfest’.” Di Matteo (for such was his name), shot me a quick and inquisitive glance before continuing.>/p>

“That is a pity. I had hoped to introduce you to a few people over at my table.”

“Another time, Di Matteo”, I rudely butted in. We are just picking up the check before leaving. Don’t worry, we are well aware that you are mostly to be found hanging around inside ‘La Bussola’. We will find you another time.” The American gave me a nasty look before making a little formal bow, wishing us a good evening and withdrawing to his own table. As I paid the bill (which also included the cost of Zachetti’s beer), I spoke to Eva with some asperity.

“I really don’t understand what you see in that American idiot. You know that he is of the type who thinks a smooth word can get him whatever he wishes. By talking to him on occasions such as these, you are merely encouraging him to believe that he has a chance of going to bed with you.”

Eva’s eyes flashed her rage. “Sometimes you can be very crude, John. He is an acquaintance, a work colleague: nothing more. Let’s go.”

We stood up and retraced the earlier steps of Lorenzo through the crowded space. As we left, it was clear that the restaurant was far fuller now than it had been on our arrival, about an hour earlier. Outside, the January wind caught us in an unexpected gust that quite took our breath away after the cozy warmth of “La Bussola’s” interior. I suddenly realised that I’d left my umbrella inside the restaurant but felt insufficient concern at the cold and snow to go back and retrieve it. Eva was also without an umbrella.

Silently, each person preoccupied with his or her own thoughts, we walked back in the direction of the town and the birreria: the very same direction that Mario and myself had come from an hour earlier. It was snowing lightly and Eva and I snuggled closely together as we walked along in order to generate some body heat. Mario walked alone, a little distance in front of us. The streets seemed absolutely deserted at that hour and no doubt the worsening weather conditions had kept many would-be revellers indoors this night. Eva, Mario and myself were made of sterner stuff and a little bad weather was hardly likely to make us alter our plans even in the smallest degree. Both Eva and myself were hard bitten north Europeans who knew the very worst conditions that the continent could impose on weary travellers. And Mario? For the time being, Mario was an honorary north European!


Anonymous Ariadne said...


3:33 AM  
Anonymous 40enne mio67tiamopazzamente said...

mi piace, xchè è una bellissima composizione!

1:16 PM  

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