I can’t stop thinking about the Florida girls. And last night I wrote this long, desperate, wondering post. But then I decided I had to breathe. I don’t know what I think and none of this is going away so I decided I needed to focus on something else.
And I finished this story I’ve been writing. It’s called ‘This Place I Don’t Call Home’. And two things were so strange. 1. to go back to the format of a short story, which asks you to do so many things differently than you would do for a novel and 2. to write for a different audience is, well, different. I find myself thinking in teen most of the time but this story has a different kind of voice and a different need. It is about adults facing a very small moment that means something bigger than what they see. But what I realized—the characters have the same kind of sadness as my teenage characters.
I wonder what that means.
The other thing is that I miss Italy desperately. Especially in the spring. Most of the story is set here.
And from my dim early morning Brooklyn apartment it is hard to believe that I spent two years going places like this for the weekend. Eating fresh pears on sea-smelling terraces and swimming in April off a Capri beach and learning to slice the skeleton out of a whole fresh fish in one swift motion, eating on a tiled terrace that hung out over the sea, taking night-time ferries to ancient towns and sleeping with our windows open.
Sometimes I get so afraid I’ll forget these things.
So here is a little bit of the story—so I don’t forget.
She remembers the day, one or a dozen days, when she came home from somewhere late at night—boarding school or college or a faraway job—and it was a black winter outside, the light from the sunroom emanated warmth and from the doorway, dropping duffel bags and kicking the snow from her boots, she could see her mom at the bright kitchen counter, framed by the funny faded gingham wallpaper… peeling apples or stirring spinach soup. She was always so hungry in that house—because she knew she could eat and it would taste like something she remembered.
After breakfast, after everyone is awake and dressed and has drank their coffee and watched the sea and the beach and piazza below them fill with families and busses of tourists, they begin their hike to Ravello. At first they ascend through the town—tourist shops boasting bottles of limoncello and loud t-shirts bearing bubble-lettered Italian phrases and even a tiny ceramic Amalfi built into the hillside—after all of this they truly start to ascend. They are climbing a steep hillside, rocky and wet and winding. Spring is bursting in green shoots and white and yellow blossoms. In some places there are steps and paths built of stones, in some places they duck under the green nets spread wide to catch falling lemons and through the backyard orchards of houses built into the hillside. At one turn they are shuffling through a sun-baked path hung with brass pots, scarecrow dolls and dried chicken feet.