The sun shone doubly bright that morning. The wind swelled and with it came salt off the water to mix with the sweet scents of flowers vendors in the market had left out. I basked in the glory of the moment. Here, I felt freedom. Free of the rigors of a marriage doomed by blatant mediocrity, and a job with a ceiling far too low. My trade was dead, true news reporters were long since eradicated. We were replaced with those gifted with pearly whites and the attention of every males gaze on your bosom. It is a woman’s craft now.
But I digress, I won’t lose this moment in the wares of pity. I was on the French Riviera, supposedly vacationing, to churn out a more creative publication. I arrived, ditching bland old Tom Craft, in favor of a name I crafted for myself; Carter Bolton. It even sounded more adventurous. The money for such fine vacationing came from inheritance of people who never even knew me, and approved of my life decisions even less. Thank you, mom and dad.
So off I was, free of society and grabbing a real espresso. I kept wondering to myself why I would ever want to go back. I paraded around the market, laying my American accent on as thick as honey for the ladies of course. Playing the ignorance card worked well in my favor and granted me the attention a solo traveler desired. It was no wonder women pulled this card doggedly. I wandered towards the boardwalk to feel the spray and get a closer look at the lighthouse of Nice, a picture of beauty overlooking the villas across the bay and the ever magnificent mediterranean.
Moments like this particularly captivated me and infinite words to write became known to me. It led me through sonnets and stories rich in vivid color and detail. With these words forming sentences and wrapping stories around me, I strode forward eager for more.
My eager intentions seemed to stir something up that day, because that moment was when I first saw her. She was posing as a couple took her picture, the bay in all its glory in the background. But she was the picture, a true vision of perfection. Clad in a white sun dress and hat to match; she glistened in the sunlight. Her skin was darker, Italian I would soon figure out, and her lips painted bright red to match the flower in her hat.
As I moved forward I could make out a fierce complexion about her that I just couldn’t quite put my finger on. She seemed to be chiseled from stone; her high cheek bones flowed to her chin and neckline, cutting into marvelous collar bones which fell into her breasts.
My desire was unmatched. I had to have her. To know such beauty first hand. I moved forward, fidgeting with my shirt tail to behave itself. I could not keep my eyes off her and she caught my gaze with her hazel eyes. I stopped just short of her and put on my best bewildered tourist look.
“Excuse me, do you speak English? I’m a little lost and I-”
“Oh, I am not from here, I am vacation as well,” Her accent coated in Italian was every bit of cute I expected it to be.
“How did you know I was on vaca…” My voice trailed off as I realized how foolish I sounded, I needed to rebound after a nervous laugh. “Well, if you’d like I am going to have lunch, would you care to join…my treat?”
“Oh! Well, I…” She looked around uncertain and I gave her my most harmless smile. “ Alright, but only because you American cowboys have such cute accent.” She smiled brightly enough to damn near melt me.
I led her back down the pier and through the market where a tiny bistro was tucked in a corner. I had been frequenting here for three days straight. We talked and laughed for what seemed like minutes turned hours by the real world. She was here from Italy, vacationing with a still sleeping and longtime boyfriend. That would seem to just about kill a conversation, but we moved on as if it did not even matter. We had too much energy going back and forth to slow us down. At long last she was finally greeted by her boyfriend’s morning, “where are you” text message. Thus, a few minutes later she was sheepishly and apologetically walking back down the market corridor.
I sat for hours after she had gone, frantically writing on napkins, printer paper, and really anything I could get my hands on. I suppose I would afraid what it felt like unless I got it all down. Lyric and verse dripped from my pen in bunches of color that I had never seen in my writing before.
Naturally, I had to make a plan to see her again. We never spoke about meeting again, but I knew she would come back to the market. The way she lingered with her eyes, I knew she would be back. I made some brief preparations much to the delight of the locals and went back to my brief abode.
The next morning I was up early and out the door with new clothes and attitude to match, a man on a mission. I sat with my espresso and waited. And waited and waited and waited. I drew the look of many of the vendors as I sat there. And as most stories go, she showed up as I was about to pack it in.
Again, she looked ravishing, this time in a skirt and blue top. I kept my distance continually watching and waiting. It was apparent she was looking for something or someone, which made me smile. She wandered through the market, her head on a swivel, pretending to look at hats, purses, and other things vacationers find necessity in.
A young girl ran over to her and handed her a flower. She was surprised, profusely thanking her, almost embarrassed by the kind act. She continued making her way from booth to booth, and in each case a flower was waiting for her. As she made her way down this lily covered gauntlet, a knowing smile creeped onto her face.
It took her awhile but she made her way all the way down and over to me, toting with her a dozen flowers. And soon again, we were talking for hours. This time no mention of a forgotten boyfriend and we even went walking down on the beach together.
She was great. Hell, maybe a lot smarter than I with those eyes staring right through me. I reveled in the intensity of those moments. I used English word play to my advantage, openly trying to impress and confuse and slip my way out of it. Then she would laugh, it sounded like a melody turned memory to me. Part of me wanted to believe she was seducing me, but she never had to try. I was knee deep already.
She eventually had to leave but promised to be back the next day, inferring a trip to the beach. We embraced on her departure, and in holding my lips back from hers I sealed that fate for tomorrow. My day was thus spent looking down empty glass after empty glass of liquid gold while I wrote lyrics to the song her laughter sang.
The next day I came prepared with a towel and champagne at the ready. A more perfect day nor perfect companion couldn’t have been asked for. She was dressed in white again, her body in a bikini seemed to burn up even the sand. We lay there for awhile drinking the sweet champagne out of plastic cups and laughing about it. Every once in a while we went to cool off in the water and in those moments I made my move. The first time I felt her skin against mine, hand on her hip, she stopped me with that intense stare I was obsessing over. The wheels in her head turned over and over until she acknowledged what was happening and allowed it.
Not to say I wasn’t nervous about this whole thing. Like a young school boy I plotted in my head every moment and a kiss, pleading with myself not to botch this one. I was dying to quench my thirst on her lips. Every smile she flashed made it that much harder. Another cup of liquid courage and we were back in the water. This time though I held on to her hip and pulled her close with a hand behind her head. This time I knew I had her. She didn’t pull away so I went in for a kiss. It was long and hard and full of more passion than I had had in years, and it felt so for her as well.
Not a word was spoken as she took my hand and I led her through the water, beach, and market. My door clicked shut and we were finally alone.
Such ecstasy cannot be understood by a collection of words, only felt. So natural and on fire this passion erupted, it exceeded everything I could have ever imagined it to be. Even after there were no words exchanged, we just lay there taking it all in. And then we were moving towards the shower, and back to the bedroom. Until we finally slept.
When I woke she was gone. All she left was a piece of paper on the stand, her lipstick mark stuck in the corner. It seemed she had, in fact, found my writing. A particularly good piece she knew was about her. I was secretly hoping she would see it.
In the late afternoon light, I lay up drinking, soaking in the memory and the alcohol. I slept to the most pleasant of dreams and put to paper even better ones. And then, she came to me. At four in the morning she appeared, waking me with her lips on my face. We lay together and slept, and once again she was gone.
These recurring rendezvous happened over and over during the course of the week. We spoke softly, whispering all the expected sweet nothings. She was leaving in a few days for yet another week vacation in Barcelona. I told her to stay with me, that we could go anywhere, do anything. I could see in her brown eyes how bad she wanted to believe it to be true. She desired more than anything to continue this romance. And then she would look down. Each time I pitched the idea to her, she looked up at me a little longer, hope blistering her face.
She couldn’t possibly love him. Not in the way she loved the moments she spent with me. But then the time came when she had to decide which way she would sway.
“I cannot come with you, I must leave. Yes, it was amazing; spectacular even, but not smart. This is where we should leave it, a beautiful memory. Reality calls, and we must answer.”
She left just like that. Back to a reality I did not want to go back to. Cold and bitter as it felt, her warmth stayed with me. A so-called broken heart from an affair that ran too short a course. And in that, the vacation was over. I flew home.
Ironically enough my wife found my writing and believed it to be about her. To her, it showed how much I missed being with her and that seemed to breathe some life back into a corpse our marriage had become. I went on to publish a collection of writing from my time overseas and after that alluded to my brief romance and it received a lot of attention. In particular, a critic said I had “transcended love for my wife.” I scoffed at the prospect, I wonder if I would have sold more or less if people knew.
Of course when I got home I looked her up. Her name was Gianna Silvestri, I remember exactly the way she said it that first day we met. I had an Italian PI that couldn’t find anything alluding to such a name younger than sixty. She lied to me, just as I did her. The cynical irony in that left me with a jaded smile. She truly was, and will always be, just love’s lost memory.