International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes - Vacation Remorse
in the semi-dark, the ruins loomed outside her window in the early
morning glowthe arches of the basilica, like stone carcasses,
full of more holy ghosts than she had ever known. She wondered vaguely
if this was how it was to have ones soul as a guide. In the
bathroom, traversing the syrupy netherland, her eyes alighted on
relief sculpture in the dripping rug, the marbled emperors, senators
in their togas, endlessly pro-cess-ing . . .
Her boss said she
was indeed luminous when she returned to work that day. Hed left
a homecoming gift on her desk, a calendar of Venice paintings. "Its
about time wed gone," Marie said. When she closed her eyes,
she could still sense the "big pond" rolling out beneath her,
vast and placid. She and her husband Bill had always wanted to travel
overseas but had put it off for decades, always thinking they needed
the money for something else.
"Italy is a wonderful place, is it not?" her boss said, "I
was last there in 2000."
"Oh yes, wonderful," she said, gulping her coffee, admittedly
feeling heavier under the fluorescence, her molecules a bit disordered,
no longer quite floating on air.
"Lovely people," her boss said, heading back to his office.
"Yes, lovely," she said, almost choking on her coffee, unable
to contain the sly giggles emerging from her throat.
"To hell with you little girl," shed actually said to
a little Italian girl, the girls dark dagger eyes clearly enjoying
her and Bills state of helplessness one horrific day in Italy.
Itd been their sole day in Florence, a day so carefully reserved
and meticulously prearranged with a guide, whod then failed to
show up with their tickets. Marie had been practically in hysterics
when their Italian phone-card so arbitrarily refused to work in the
payphone. Shed begged some locals for a phone to contact the tour
company, only to be flatly rejected, scoffed and snickered at by museum
guards and shopkeepers alike. ("No use phone, senora; no, no.")
Bill hadnt fared any better. His rather feeble gestures, especially
as he attempted Italian, had seemed a great irritant to the tourist-weary
locals, many of whom had snubbed him, refusing to listen. Ultimately,
Marie had no choice but to slash everything from their itinerary except
the Uffizi Museum, joining the mile-long line of sweaty tourists flanking
its front. When theyd finally reached the entrance and managed
to make their way in, theyd had ten minutes left before closing.
Oh well, she thought, as she powered up her computer. At least theyd
been able to laugh, at least after that first day of their trip, when
in Rome. Theyd laughed about being exhausted jet-lagged tourists,
their fanny packs and money belts getting hopelessly intertwined where
theyd been tossed on the bedher money belt, as well as Bills,
so drenched in mannish sweat that shed become confused, outraged.
"Whats your fanny pack doing in my fanny pack?" shed
chided, at first in all seriousness.
food was great, wasnt it?" the new bookkeeper from
down the hall askedTrixie, or was it Dixie?
"Oh yes!" Marie responded, swooning a bit with the memory,
her blood running low on that wonderful roux of garlic, basil and
olive oil, her taste buds lingering over the perfectly fried lemony
anchovies, the pastas voluptuous glide, the tomatoes so red,
like succulent jewels in the mouth.
the two weeks theyd been away, her body had never gotten back
on schedule. Itd stubbornly refused to budge despite her packing
in the bread and pasta. Shed become increasingly worried, as her
sister had just been through several near-fatal bowel obstructions.
The last thing Marie had wanted was to be admitted to an Italian hospital.
One bloated morning in particular, before their tour of the Vatican,
things had gotten really desperate. Sensing then that everything was
clearly more impacted than obstructed, shed become more intimate
with her own rectum than any decent human being ever wanted to be.
"And oh so romantic!" Trixie/Dixie said.
"Oh yes." Marie feigned, fanning herself with that look of
Oh, it was just too much.
She and Bill had fought in Rome. And what a pity too, for the shutters
had been open wide in their centuries-old moon-lit pensione, the breeze
blowing in from the lovely piazza below. Thered been a light serenade
of Italian voices, reminiscent (yes!) of a long-lost Italian lover in
her youth. Shed felt inspired for the first time in years, her
body crossing the line from dry physicality to emotion, sweet, and sexy.
Shed ventured to tell Bill that shed like to try being more
aggressive. Bill, all horny by then, said, good-heartedly, "I like
it better when Im aggressive," his eyes dancing, not a clue
of the bickering to follow.
"I guess its good to be back in the good ole US," Trixie/Dixie
"Yes, good to be home," Marie said, struck now by her computer
screen, the headlines on the Internet: random mall shootings in Nebraska,
shootings in a Georgia high school, 100s more civilians killed in the
war, more floods and hurricanes, global warming, more powerful corporate
scoundrels so routinely exposed. Good God!she thought. No wonder
the Americans shed come across in Italy had been so kind to strangers.
Theyd so much to apologize for. Theyd been such easy targets.
Theyd been so tired their last night in Italy after yet another
small museum in Rome, another set of busts, portraits, last-minute sightings,
the Romanesque nose, the proud hard stare. Going out on the street,
seeing much of the same, itd taken her a minute to realize one
of them was approaching, his thin knife glinting between them. "Booosh!
Boosh!" He spit the words at them, pushing them into a dark alley.
"Lo siento, lo siento," shed whimpered in her high-school
Spanish. Hed had the decently to aim for their feet as he spit,
skirting off, refusing the worthless dollars theyd just converted
She held her tears as her boss came toward her. Damn you, you Europeans!she
was thinkingalways on your high horses! "I think Ill
go home after all," she said. Her boss agreed, though reminding
her about some spreadsheets due the next day.
She started closing down the software programs on her computer, still
shaking. Why!, she thought impatiently, did she need graphic design
Oh you Italians . . . time to get off your ancient bronze horses . .
She jerked a little, not wanting to see it, yet there it was in the
corner of her screen, the corner of her eye. She felt a sort of eery
panic, forced to look at it, her eyes latching on. It seemed to pulsate
in its great flatness: the Macromedia Illustrator iconthe face
of Venus from Botticellis "Venus on a Halfshell." Her
heart felt both hollow and full. Ten minutes to see her from across
the room. The copious serpentine hair . . . the gentle locking of gaze.
© Thea Zimmer October xxviii
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