Abroad

Looking desperately for love I wandered into Milan again, after swearing to myself some years ago that I would never return. I had no business there, you see, but I was desperate for love and wanted to be desperately in love, and I have an indecent habit of orbiting geographic places that brim with nostalgia. In this case, Mathilde and I, journeying there, years and years ago, me sullen and casting what I believed were surreptitious glances at all the rough Italian women and she unaccountably happy, sappily squirreling away our time on endless photographic opportunities, doodling in her diary while we rode the train. It was intolerable, her good humor.

Do not think me heartless, no, think of me as young and cloying and unsatisfied. By way of my father I am supernaturally suspicious, no less so while abroad and Mathilde simply gushed enthusiasm for our love and for the hot Milan summer that roiled daybreak to dusk, letting up only briefly in the queer gray floored and burnished skies, that bronze horizon on concrete and steel twilight that came on quicker than anything else that came in that old, but bustling, but barren, city.

So I came again to Milan, nowhere near as cynical as I was almost a decade ago, hoping to grasp that last gasping sliver of the special, last person who desperately loved me the way the young can. I didn’t feel young. In fact I felt miserably old. Even worse, ungratefully old; nothing soothing, nothing doing for me what it should. I missed trains and cabs; the weather could not wait the last few meters it took me to step inside the cafe before unleashing its unseasonal torrents; strangers flipped up their noses at my squalid Italian.

And instead of reliving those hushed twilights where her love cleft to me in her desperation I remembered only the years afterward, when the telephone never rang, never a word returned to my scores of letters, I drowned in the gurgling morass of my own desperation, and her silence – crueler than any indictment of my past callousness – repudiated my fumbling commitment, transforming it into outright villainy, and I lay exiled atop my woe like a fat dragon paralyzed by his ill-deserved riches.

There was little hope for me in Milan. I could not shamble out of that city fast enough. Embarrassed, I clutched at the window as the train left the station, watching the thin trees at the outskirts of the city pass. Ah, in that rushing moment only did I feel that deep ember stir. I was escaping again, glad to be rid of it, outward bound, parting. The dimming sun threw up a hand of light, sending forth a herald of dizziness to usher me beyond, both hero and fraud en route to glory, bound to the next whistle stop on the way the rails led.

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