In August on her large terrace overlooking the sea where the conversation lingers over the last glass of wine, Senora Lazzari will declare to her children in a reverent embrace of their surroundings that their father left the money for this, only to suddenly shift from the benevolent to the accusatory, “to keep everyone together because who knows if you even speak to each other during the rest of the year.”
On the other side of town, the house where she peeked out from behind her mother’s lace curtains to watch Mussolini’s soldiers file past like machines was long gone now. What stood in its place was surrounded by a garish fence, with windows tinted blind, making the mansion appear as if someone had poked its eyes out.
Andrea, the oldest, arrives with his wife and their three lovely daughters. Giulia comes with her husband Franco and their two rambunctious savages, and this time Tita stopped by to bestow on everyone kisses and presents. She drove her red convertible out of the hotel parking lot like a spark which seeks out the fire of its life, leaving the others standing and waving in the gravel dust, killing time against the interminable moments of boring silence that only someone like Tita can leave in her wake.
“Ciao Tita, Ciao!”
“How good it is to see you again! How is your beautiful family?”
Giulia remembered the woman’s name was Zorah.
“Do you have this dress in another color? I’m not sure if I like it in yellow.”
“Ma certo! Yellow is the color of cuckolding!”
Giulia turned to see a diminutive old woman sitting with her legs crossed in an over-sized blue velvet upholstered armchair. It could have swallowed her in one fast gulp, mistaking her for a raisin left on the seat by a child.
“Yellow is the color of cuckolding!”
“Thank you Madame,” Zorah said.
The woman kept staring at Giulia.
“Do you have a husband, my dear?”
Giulia could see her viscid glaucomatous eyes.
“Yes she does and a handsome one too!” called Zorah from the dressing room, holding its curtain to the side, inviting Giulia to enter quickly.
“She’s crazy, what can I tell you?” she whispered behind her hand before running off to answer the furiously ringing telephone.
A few well-remembered pop singers dressed to the nines walked out on the amphitheater stage to rekindle their top of the chart favorites. The nostalgia brought some of the fans to tears.
A trio of high-spirited jugglers tumbled out, and then a fashion show of looks for pre-teen girls. The timid mannequins done up like supermodels in ravishing hair and makeup struggled to contain their nervous giggles and adhere to the instructions of the mother in charge not to pop their gum.
The next act was a troupe of clowns.
“THESE ARE THE GREATEST CLOWNS!”
Giulia never cared that much for clowns, not even as a child. At once a gust of wind blew the hat off one and sent it into the audience. Someone in the second row caught it and eagerly came forward to give it back to him.
While they loped about in their enormous shoes, pausing to whack each other with tattered oversized handbags in a series of choreographed jumps and bumps accidentally on purpose, Giulia couldn’t help but notice how he stood out from the other clowns as he moved with the nimble intelligence of an artist devoted to his craft. His uncensored reactions to his companions and their schemes to harass and annoy him pulled the curtain back on the pretension and soulless politesse that she too had been fighting against for most of her life. It was the very truth of her existence.
After the finale she told the others to go because she had to go to the bathroom. The children were tired and wouldn’t walk. Franco just wanted to get them into their beds so there was no time wasted in an argument about why she couldn’t hold it in.
Meanwhile the two snobs stayed put in their seats to watch a small group hanging about the stage. A young tour guide mistook them for a couple of cripples and offered them a hand. They rudely dismissed her as they would a revolting insect.
“I imagine it must be rather flattening to see your star emerge washed of his character and wearing a wan expression of someone who just wants to go and eat rather than see you again.”
“So true, Cesare.”
“I know about these things, Beppe.”
Behind the stage among all the goings on, still in costume minus his red nose that he kept examining while turning in his hand, a slip of his foot against a snake-like tangle of cable caused him to look up to see Giulia standing there in her yellow dress.
The surroundings receded into a courteous blur. She walked over to him and kissed his moist flaccid cheek as if it had been a long time.
“I like your cleavage,” he said smiling when he came up beside her.
He looked the same without his makeup. Giulia wondered if this was the ability of all great clowns, to stay in their aura at all times.
Perhaps while they strolled along in the privacy of a secluded via or along the Borgo, or surely when they sat on the bench under that tree over there with the castle in the distance, he would kiss her like there was no tomorrow.
With pitiful determination she took him everywhere, only to end up in a crowded square where he delighted in a large-sized purple fruity drink while she pointed out the gallery of saints attributed to the work of an unnamed cousin of Pious II in thirteen hundred and something or other.
He interrupted her lesson by telling her he was going to America the next day to be in a film.
“No,” he said. “Nothing to do with clowns.”
At sunset if you climbed the old rose trellis for a better view, you would see beyond the pink a cruel picture where Giulia lay in her room crawled up into herself on her wide elegant bed.
Darkness brought in a raw sense of loss. It could hardly fit through the door, it was so enormous.
Copyright © 2012 by Denise Falcone