Monday, July 22, 2019

A short story by Laura Frances Zaki

     The strange days were over or so she chose to believe. They came back to her in pieces, bits of memories here and there.   Her dreams were so real and vivid she almost believed she was back then again.  Back home with her family.  Traveling again to Egypt and Italy as she had always done.

     She was in a café in Milano just four years ago eating a pizza margherita.  Post divorce she had gone to Italy to try to forget.  After thirty years together how does one just forget?  If anything could make her happy it would be Italy. 

     What great memories she had of Italy before she met him.  In college she had spent time in Italy with two different host families.  She had found summer love with a young Italian banker named Giuseppe who she met on the beach and kissed in a vineyard.     

     It was time for new memories she thought as she turned to look at her son lying asleep in bed.  She promised herself she wouldn't cry in the daytime, he deserved a fun vacation.  It wasn't easy when your parents divorced in middle school.  Her older son hadn't taken it very hard but he wasn't the emotional type.  Yes, she would eat pizza in Milano and pesto Genovese in the Cinque Terre during the day and cry herself silently to sleep at night.  

New York City
    "How could he have done that?  she thought.  Just giving up after a lifetime together.  She wasn't the type to quit easily but he always had.  No matter what it was a business, a friend or now her marriage he always bailed when the going got rough.  It wasn't another woman as she briefly suspected after they separated.  She even thought for a moment that he might be gay.  But it seemed it was neither.   He had explained that they were no longer compatible.  That they grew apart.

     They were always very different from the first day they met.  True they came from different worlds.  He was from a modest family in Cairo and had come to the US to study ancient languages in New York City.  The son of a tailor with ambitions to do more.  She was from a middle class family in New Jersey.  She was in graduate school in New York studying international politics and was fascinated by the Middle East.  It was exotic she thought and just foreign enough to be intriguing.  And so was he!     

     He was charming.  She told him her mother had always wanted to visit Egypt and see the pyramids.  He joked and laughed easily.  He said "here is my number give me a call and I don't want to be disappointed".   That line worked with her and she called him.  Their first date was ice cream and a walk over the Brooklyn bridge.  From then on it was a whirlwind. 

Cairo, Egypt
     They were engaged in Paris.  On her first trip to Egypt, she was amazed by Cairo.  A huge city with endless traffic, crowded and bustling, exciting and exotic.  From the spice shops to the bazaars with all types of trinkets to the gold shops and hawkers near to pyramids it was all fascinating to her.  Her ears buzzed with the sounds of the lilting Arabic language and the calls to prayer by the muezzin echoing throughout the city. In a mix of modern and ancient, children rode donkey carts through the street while modern cars buzzed by leaning heavily on their horns in the Cairo cacophony of sounds. 

     She loved it all and she loved him.  They were different but they made it work.  When they first met they discussed music tastes.   He laughed as she told him what music she loved.  They never did see eye to eye on that or many other things.  But they made it work for 30 years. 

     Now he was gone and she was devastated.  Her children had told her to move on.  Her family said he wasn't any good for her.  True in the last few years of the marriage things had been strained.  But she thought they were in it for good.  She really should have known better!

Agriturismo in Piedmont Italy
     She didn't buy a home in Tuscany or in her grandmother's region Piedmont.  She just drove through the rolling hills and castles and vineyards spread out before her.  She talked and laughed and stayed up late at night discussing life with the owners of the agriturismo or little bed and breakfast where she stayed.  The food was delicious and all grown locally and home cooked.  The innkeepers were used to people coming to Italy to start their lives over.  No one really cared that she sat alone in the dining room after her son had gone outside to play with the cat and her kittens.  She sipped her espresso coffee and tried to think that someday she would be again like the laughing couples she saw before her.  She didn't really believe it, her pain was so strong and raw at the time.

     Italy did help.  The food, the people, the sites were wonderful and therapeutic.  Her son skateboarded through piazzas in Florence, Rome and Pisa.  They took in all the historic sites, ancient churches and squares, fountains and monuments to the past.  How many others had found solace in the charming Italian landscapes and cities?  They walked through the heat in Rome and stopped to drink at all the fountains.  Eventually it was time to come home.  Her Dad had major heart surgery when she was away and it was time to get back to real life.

(NEXT UP:  Crazy days, strange days through the purple haze)....

Purple haze, all in my brain
Lately things they don't seem the same
Actin' funny, but I don't know why
Excuse me while I kiss the sky
Purple haze, all around
Don't know if I'm comin' up or down
Am I happy or in misery?
(Jimi Hendrix)




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