I wonder where she is, that bride, today. Whether she’s still married and if she’s ever returned to Positano. For me so much has changed since. I’ve been clinging to my marriage, just the way those Moorish-style homes with their balconies overflowing with bougainvilleas and geraniums hold on to the steep slopes before me.
My eyes settle on the bay far below. Spiaggia Grande, drowning with sunbathers and their parasols in high-season, is now quiet. The playful screams of children, the chatter of tourists and the dialect of the locals are now only sounds that echo in my memory. Beyond this pebble-covered beach is the vast Tyrrhenian, taking me back to that first time we sailed onto it.
Bursting with the excitement of a schoolboy who has just discovered that he has access to a new toy, Howard brought up the idea of sailing us along the Amalfi Coast. As we sipped sweet Limoncello at the end of our dinner at Le Terrazze, his dark eyes radiated in the low candlelight of the all white open-air restaurant, set right offshore, high above the gushing waves which sound mixed with that of Italian ballades playing in the background. Even though my preference was to visit each village by foot, how could I object to a day at sea with the man I just married? I looked forward to what promised to be a perfect romantic escaped for newlyweds.
The following morning, a typical hot sunny July day in the Mediterranean, we boarded a rented white medium-sized inflatable dinghy. So began a perfect adventure for us newlyweds. While Howard navigated, I, in true Dolce Vita fashion, lay back sipping champagne, eating fresh fruit and smoking cigarillos. Throwing in the anchor somewhere between Conca dei Marmi and Amalfi, Howard joined me. He lay down, on the white rubber seat beside me, nestling his head on my lap. Looking up at me, a childish grin dominated the lower portion of his face. Slowly his mouth lost its silly shape and gave way to very adult eyes, focused on me, drinking me in. Caressing his hair, I stared back at him offering my timid schoolgirl smile. He closed his eyes and I leaned my head back, embracing the light breeze created by the rhythmic motion of the boat. It offered us some relief from the sun that beat down on us hot and heavy.
Once ready to resume our voyage, Howard returned to the wheel as I soaked in the majestic scenery. I felt tiny. A speck, in contrast to the steep massive cliffs, emerging out of the sea and rising high up into the sky. We passed village after village of white and pastel homes, carved out of the rock, with narrow stone stairways, or scalinatelle in Italian, leading up to their front doors. As we came face-to-face with large cargo ships we realized that we were approaching Salerno. It was time for us to head back. But the current had changed and we were faced with a fierce battle between boat, water and wind.
Every time we caught speed the bow moved up and immediately came down with a harsh thump that sent me jumping out of my seat. My heart tightened at the constant jolting of the dinghy. I reached for the rope on the inside of the boat and held on firmly. I closed my eyes, trying to shield them against the violent wind and the salty water that splashed my face. I worried that Howard who stood, while steering, would be thrown off. Fear was nowhere written on his face. Rather he wore a smirk, welcoming the danger before him. Trying to be heard over the roar of the motor and the vicious rustle of the wind, I screamed for him to slow down. He yelled back, telling me to hold on tight and insisted that if we were to go any slower we’d only see Positano by nightfall. After what seemed like hours its shores finally came into sight. As we approached it, I finally relaxed and let go of the rope that had dug deep red marks into my palms. Still shaken, I stepped off the water vessel the second we docked. I turned to Howard, who was chuckling and boasting how well he had managed the “rough seas”. His terrible pirate impersonation instantly ignited uncontrollable laughter out of me.
Howard and I laughed all the time when we were first married. Now, other than when our children are around or when our presence is required at dinners with friends or at some important business function, we seldom see each other. Long gone are the days we used to set aside an evening to ourselves, whether it be something as simple as going to a movie or something more elaborate like a romantic dinner followed by tickets to the theatre or the opera. I’ve recently realized, that Howard’s touch has become foreign to me. I have to search deep within my memory to recall the feel of his caresses or his tender mouth that would kiss me, at times gently, at others, hungrily. That’s how Howard was back then, hungry for me and for success. When I told him how once as a child I had seen a picture of Positano in a book and ever since had wished to visit this magical, romantic place, he made sure that we honeymooned there. Then when years later his career made a promising turn, after a very prosperous business venture he developed with some music producers in New York City, and the wealth poured in, he surprised me, purchasing this apartment, the balcony of which I now stand on alone. My dream of owning a property in Campagnia, Howard turned into reality.
We used to be happy. This summer home, itself, was witness to it. Its rooms seeing us spend memorable summer after summer here. Its doors always opened to our friends from back home, who visited continually, music and an abundance of food and drink a constant during the endless parties that would usually end with the watching of the sunrise; our children playing, chasing each other barefoot on the terracotta floor, their joyful shrieks and laughter echoing through its rooms and out onto the village, merging with the voices and footsteps coming from the endless strolling tourists, losing themselves within the maze of intertwining vie. Laughter and happiness were definitely residents here amongst the living. The locals welcoming and embracing us, as what they described a warm, loving, open Canadian family that made this little jewel of a village their cherished summer getaway.
In recent years, Howard started spending longer hours at the office. He attended more and more business dinners and travelled more frequently. The taste of resentment that had set on the tip of my tongue years before, when the children were young and Howard missed their dance recitals or soccer matches, and at times even a birthday, now filled up my entire mouth. But still I denied its existence. I noticed the distance that grew between Howard and I, but I chose to ignore it and indirectly allowed it’s slow gnaw at our relationship. I was too wrapped up in my own world, which Howard’s money had bought me entry into. It had opened up my pathway to many privileges. Lunching with New York socialites, attending high-profile charity galas and spending my husband’s money, whether it be shopping or traveling from one spa to the other, was my full time occupation. Only now, as I walk down Via Cristoforo Colombo, do I realize that they can’t fill the void from finding out that I have lost my husband.
December 15, 2008
Goose Lane Editions Launches New Online Media Resources
December 15, 2008
New From Gaspereau Press