Or, If, Perhaps, If Only

Monday, any Monday, summer or winter

It was not yet eight. The worn wooden door, it really needed painting, opened to let a dog on a leash and a cane appear, followed by an elderly lady, a fedora covering her grey hair and the elastics of that mandatory mask. She took in the container for paper trash, or it might be the one for plastic and metal, depending on which day of the week it was, setting it inside next to the mailbox, it’s key lost long ago and now with the inner flap held open by an elastic cord.

It was early and the artisan next door, usually ensconced in his world of gnomes and miniature houses, had not yet opened shop.

She checked to be sure she had the keys in her pocket before slamming shut the door, wondering if the ants going back and forth on the plinth that separates inside from out noticed her comings and goings.

She crossed the street, or rather it was the dog who decided to cross the street and head for the walk along the edge of the cliff.

Half an hour later, back on the main street that cut the town in two, the street cleaning vans were loading up on water, about to take off on their pilgrimage of swallowing up the refuse left by people and their similars, the pigeons. She and the dog headed up towards the Cathedral, the dog sniffing here and there before stopping for a rest and general investigation of the piazza, with maybe a roll to relieve that itch on her back.  On their return home, along a side street, they greeted the Mago of Oz, never without his red beret and white and green t-shirt. As usual at this time of day he was munching on a fragrant freshly baked croissant as he hung his prints and posters on the stone walls on either side the entrance to his Aladdin’s cave of a shop.

Later on, when the sun had driven her indoors, or when the rain had begun with the dog trying to find shelter in every entranceway, she would have her lunch of melon and prosciutto, or warm up some lasagna her son had brought her. The apartment smelled of basil asking to be turned into pesto.

Then in the afternoon, it would be time for another walk and she might even stop at the art gallery where a friend had thrown a party to celebrate her birthday.

Tuesday, any Tuesday

She really hadn’t intended to go, but decided she should try and be more social.  After all, the dog could be left home, ensconced on the bed after having had her second daily walk.

The gallery was in a side street not far away from the city hall. Paintings lined the walls, some of jazz players from the Orvieto festival, others tender portraits of children. The artists seemed to have a preference for red which she found overpowering. These artists do know how to draw, though, she thought to herself. Inside a motley crowd was milling around. After capturing a glass of wine, a handful of nuts, she tried to worm her way through to wish her friend a happy birthday. Most of those around her were familiar faces, but some she couldn’t remember ever seeing before. She didn’t want to seem forward by introducing herself, but then decided it was up to her to take the first step. She wasn’t bad at playing the hostess. And it wasn’t the first time this had happened. Sometimes people are only interested in talking to those they already know and ignore any newcomers. There was one, a rather good-looking young man in his 40s, who was studying the paintings as he quietly sipped his wine. He did seem rather at a loss as to what to do and obviously didn’t speak Italian. So she went over and said hello .  . . .

Wednesday, or maybe any other Wednesday, but it had to be a Wednesday

It was almost three. She went down the steps and shut the door on the dark corridor behind her. The sun was already hot and she hurried along trying to stay in the shade, the cobblestones throwing back the blinding July sun at anyone who dared pass over them.  At least in the library where she was volunteering to explain the art collection to visitors, it would be cooler. An art collection?  Well, yes, but some of the paintings had undoubtedly been gifts from his patients to the doctor who had donated his collection to the city and might be historically interesting but were not masterpieces. Most of those who wandered in, (curiosando one would say in Italian) were Italian, perhaps students sent by their teachers, but occasionally a foreign visitor, impressed by this state of the art library, might stop by. The man scanning the shelves of the foreign language section was obviously not Italian. Wearing a suit and tie, he seemed more of a professional type.  Italians generally don’t dress that way, she thought, except for weddings. “Parla l’inglese,” he hesitatingly asked when he noticed she was looking at him. “I’ve been told you have an auditorium here – can it be rented for showing a film?” Indeed he was American, a university professor and he and his wife had recently renovated a ruin in a town nearby. Another chance encounter, the first of others which were no longer chance. And if it had been any day but Wednesday, which was her day to be on call?

Thursday, certainly a Thursday in summer

It was around six and was already dark.  The streetlights seemed to be on strike. She was supposed to go to a party for some new friends and she knew the street, Loggia dei Mercanti, but she couldn’t remember the number. She did have her iPhone, but all pertinent information was back home in her top drawer. She wandered up and down, looking at the names on the mailboxes but none rang a bell – so she couldn’t ring a bell either. Well, she thought, maybe if I sit on the bench in the piazza someone going to the party will come along and I can follow them. Sure enough, that was just what happened. Before long someone she knew on their way to the party passed by and she soon found herself climbing one flight after another of narrow rather steep steps. She had been told it was on the top floor but she hadn’t counted on it being a matter of 65 steps. Luckily she didn’t need a cane yet as she would later, although she was slightly out of breath as the door at the top opened onto a rather small room crowded with people, mostly expats, drinking wine and apparently already acquainted. Over to one side, a rather small elderly man, somehow fragile, seemed to be by himself. Maybe I can go talk with him, she thought. Sometimes chance does play a part, for eventually climbing steps of one apartment or another turned into walks along the cobblestone streets, ending up in tea for two. Now if she had given up on trying to get to that party . . .

Friday, or it might have been Monday or Tuesday or any other day of the week

The appointment was for twelve o’clock. The notary’s office was in a 14th-century tower on the piazza and she had been called in to translate for the couple who were buying a house in a small town outside the city. The notary was dressed “to the nines” in a bespoke suit and tie carefully matched in color. True, he was a handsome man, in his 30s, but he was all too aware of the figure he cut. It seemed to her the secretary knew more about what to do than he did. Especially, when it had to be explained more than once that the wife of the couple was American and that she was born in Washington DC, which was not a state, and that it was not the same as the state named Washington. Her husband was a Scotsman, with a wonderful shock of white hair despite his youth. Be glad to help out, she had said, for this wasn’t the first time she had had to go over the legal language of a contract for foreigners buying property in Italy. This time it was different though . . . .

Saturday, must have been a Saturday when she had asked her assistant to take over the shop

She had promised to take a look at the photographic exhibition on the caves her son was involved in. While there were captions in English as well as Italian, she knew not everyone read them. Standing near the entrance, she overheard two men commenting and decided to volunteer additional information. Turned out, they were interested in the city and the possibility of setting up a program for their college. One thing led to another and soon she was showing them possible venues. A few years later, they inaugurated a program that was to last for years. Now if she had not been there and had not heard them speak English . . .

5 thoughts on “Or, If, Perhaps, If Only

  1. Such vivid details….the photos and sketch speak for themselves–it’s almost like following you around and seeing through your eyes the ordinary details of days in Orvieto made extraordinary!

    Liked by 1 person

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