She watched over me that year.
It was a time in which I needed watching. I was only brave enough to love things from afar back then. I saw the beauty that surrounded me. It was there; a winged lion perched atop a fountain. It mingled with the breeze and danced across the terracotta roofs. It was the afternoon glimmer of fish scale cobblestones beneath my feet. But it was partitioned beyond my reach, an artist’s rendering in a museum.
True beauty waited for me to reanimate dust.
I remember her eyes exploring me from across the mercato. I’d go there to buy stamps and other staples. She was always in that same corner, quietly nestled amongst the singsong vowels and the laughter of the living. Sometimes I wondered if she waited for me.
Other times, I didn’t think of her at all.
I gathered with newfound friends in the agriturismo. We dined on rustic Italian fare and drank too much wine from chipped porcelain pitchers. Husbands met wives at those meals. Lifelong relationships were formed. A backdrop of mountains piercing the saffron sunset casts such spells.
I’m sure that she was there even then, probably at a small wooden table across the room. She belonged there after all, and her knowing gaze surely fell upon me.
I suppose my quietest nights were hidden from her. I’d sneak away to the upstairs balcony and listen to Miles Davis on my headphones. Lights were strung across the hills and mountains before me, and they mingled with the star-filled sky. I floated alone in the crisp air of this cosmos, a passenger on trumpet notes.
But in the mornings, she was waiting in the café. I’d drink my cappuccino and nibble a brioche, its delicate flakes collecting in my lap. We shared the comfortable silence of two old souls. And we watched as the man they called The Poet shuffled by in his three-piece suit. I always wondered what words he collected on his walks. Browning, Pound, and Papa Hemingway walked there once, and I imagined that their ghosts whispered to him.
I left without ever speaking to her. But I came to love the way she looked at me. I suppose it was her eyes. Something about their solitary pride and sadness seemed to understand me.
I’d like to get back to Asolo one day and take my wife. She’s the one who watches over me now. And by beginning where I leave off, she’s shown me a depth of beauty that I used to fear. Somehow, I think she and Eleonora Duse will get along famously for that.