About Nightfall in Verona

Welcome to a Great Story from a Loquacious Renegade...

In 1973 I had the great good fortune to be treated to a trip to Europe by two friends. We bought a VW bus in Frankfurt and wound our way over the Alps to Tuscany. A week and a half later I was in a train headed down the coast of Italy alone, embarking on what remains the adventure of my life. Nightfall in Verona is the memoir of my odyssey, written last year thirty-seven years out.

Friend Caroline Marshall, editor of the NPR Anthology Listening to Ourselves calls my book "fabulous."

The inimitable poet Ruth Mowry writes: "
Oh heartbreak and romance. This is incredible. You are a wonderful writer, and this has captivated me, just this chapter! Wow."

My friend and editor Jack Brooks says I've written a "glittering, lyrical tour d' force."

Thanks to all who spurred me on and served as my "beta" readers and editors: Caroline, Jack, Maureen. I'll be publishing the work through my imprint, Orfea Books with customary fanfare soon.

Use the archived links on the sidebar to access the chapters. Do leave a comment or two-- and thanks for reading me.

I post poetry at La Parola Vivace, and I blog on the issues du jour at Loquaciously Yours. You can contact me at jenneandrews2010@gmail.com .

Jenne' Andrews March 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chapter Twenty - Nightfall in Verona - Jenne' Andrews

Chapter 20  Intermezzo   A Walk Through Torino

Addio del Passato
Violetta's Aria,
La Traviata, Giuseppe Verdi,  Act III

Addio, del passato bei sogni ridenti,
Le rose del volto gia sono pallenti ;
L'amore d'Alfredo perfino mi manca,
Conforto, sostegno dell' anima stanca.
Conforto ! Sostegno !
Ah, della traviata sorridi al desio ;
A lei, deh, perdona ; tu accoglila, o Dio !
Ah ! Tutto, tutto fini. Or tutto, tutto fini !

Le gioie, i dolori tra poco avran fine,
La tomba ai mortali di tutto e confine !
Non lagrima o fiore avra la mia fossa.
Non croce col nome che copra quest'ossa !
Non croce, non fiore
Ah, della traviata sorridi al desio ;
A lei, deh, perdona ; tu accoglila, o Dio !
Ah ! Tutto, tutto fini. Or tutto, tutto fini !

Farewell, happy dreams of the past,
The roses pale with their turning :
I already mourn for Alfredo
The comfort sustaining my weary soul
The desire that rid me of my weariness
That weary one smiled at desire
Pardon her, forgive her, God....
All is finished, all now ends.

The joys have ended in sorrow
The tomb of mortality confines everything
No tear or flower will adorn my grave
No cross bear the name of these bones
No cross, no flower.
Ah, that weary one smiles at desire
Pardon her:  I accept you, oh God.
Ah.  All is finished.  Now, all, all is finished.

trans. jra.

Time had us by the throat.

Everything we had been dreading was about to come to pass.  We had lived, as Pepe had said, "una vita breve insieme," a brief life together, drawing out the beginning and the middle and deferring acknowledgment of the end. 

But we were approaching the end of the second act.

We stopped for strawberry gelato at a bistro near a Turinese fountain.  There was a poster in the window for opera season at the Arena di Verona, with the premier of a new staging of La Boheme in a few days. 

Pepe saw me look at it wistfully.

He smiled, leaning forward, clasping my hands. 
He was tired; we were both tired, from giving ourselves to life, holding nothing back.

“You are a beautiful woman, amore,” he said, stroking my cheek, moving closer to me.  “You are more Italian than American, with your poet's heart.”

I had not been at my best in certain moments over the past few days, confined to the dorm room, too much time alone with myself.  I had been distracted, irritable.  Perhaps it was the fractiousness of the family that made this bearable for him.  Perhaps he expected a woman to be emotional, moody, joyous one minute, sad the next.

 As we were talking I realized that I had never asked him about the women in his recent or distant past.  Nor had he asked me about other lovers. We had been utterly absorbed in each other. It seemed a bad idea now, to intrude that element on a present as delicate as a butterfly, so susceptible to the rending of its wings.

Children splashed in the fountain-- small brown Italian girls with tousled, glistening hair, in bright summer dresses.

Their parents stood nearby, arm in arm, watching, calling out to them.

Pepe kissed me. 

“Ti piace ormai un bambino?”  “Would you ever like to have a child?”

The look on my face made him laugh.

“Certo,” I said, collecting myself.  “Certainly.  Un bel di.  One fine day.  Per non or'…” But not right now.

He wrapped his arms around me. 

“Tonight, my love, don't use that thing.” 

I buried my face in my hands.  If anyone had ever abruptly found herself between Syclla and Charybdis, I had, with a vengeance.  I knew that to give a Calabrese in any way to understand that you didn't want to bear his child was a devastating blow to the pride.

“La ultima notte,”  I said, begging off, buying myself time to cope with the surge of love and terror within me.  On our last night. 

I teased him, hoping to distract him.

“Why would you want to be a father in the middle of medical school.”

He was at the ready with a riposte of answers.

“There is no perfect time to have a baby. We love each other; we can face everything.” 

Then he gave me one of his sweet, lingering kisses that bruised my mouth and made it ache.

There were roses in full bloom all around us, great pink lolling blooms belying that in hours, days, their edges would begin to brown and curl. 

The bei fiori, the beautiful flowers, would be leached of their nectar.  Their perfume would have spent itself on other lovers gathered at dusk at the tables of the bistros.

As if they knew their season was coming to an end, the moisture of their petals would evaporate; they would begin to shed drying petals, dying back to buds.

The life of the rose bushes would seem over, but it would be dormant.

If I were a rose, I thought, I could permit the flower of my heart to preserve itself in this way, to bloom again, to open again at the kiss of spring.  Perhaps I could tuck away my love for Pepe, press it between the pages of my journal, take it out and reconstitute it by holding it against my heart. 

He had been watching the children in the fountain, smiling out at them, his hand shading his eyes when he turned back to me and saw the pensive shadows on my face.

“Tu sei un bel fior,”  he said, lifting my chin, his eyes memorizing me.

He ordered us each a glass of white wine, and we sat in the dusk.  Pigeons soared overhead and over the tiled rooftops of the rows of villas and the tips of the cypress trees, the paling tangerine sky.

We huddled together while throngs of people passed us.  From within the cafe a soprano was singing “Addio del Passato,”, Violetta's exquisite farewell to life.

We were young, in love; our flesh was ripe, full of life and responsive to desire.  We were not dying of consumption on a fainting couch in the third act, despite the fact that we had been writing and living our own libretto, an opera in real time, all of Italy our proscenium.

We made our way back to the dorm, stopping off to recover a telegram from Julia.  She would arrive to take us back to Verona the following day. 

Halfway there, Pepe realized he had forgotten his jacket.

It had begun to rain, and I waited for him in a doorway.  Someone walked by talking to himself.  A couple passed, laughing and kissing.  Through the rain I looked out at the fading antiquity of Torino.

He came back and we went in to sit and wait out the rain shower.

It had begun to rain within me, and I fought back tears.

The time before parting is bitter-sweet with inference, like the licorice-scented mist arising when one pours Pernod over ice. 

As we were sitting in public he could not conquer my grief with a storm of lovemaking.  We would have to weather it, rocking together in the blue boat of our intimacy.

We would need to trust that the sea would support the boat,  that we would balance it and it would not capsize, that when one of us faltered, the other would take over.


I’ve slowed the posting down for a bit, as the opera begins the third act.  Hope you enjoy.  Check the sidebar for links to preceding chapters.  I’d appreciate comments via FB messages or in comment section of last chapter at end.  Love,  Jenne’

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