Image:  Laviniapaola De Naro Papa   

It is five years, my Vecchietta, since you left me and six since you gave me a gift that you yourself said I did not want. But now I, Cicciu the carpenter, am making a gift for you.

We were very different, you and I, Vecchietta and when I first came to your house to put up bookshelves – you were always in need of more bookshelves - I had never met a British person, let alone one like you. Fascinated, I asked if I could also come to you for some English lessons, for I had long dreamed of wider horizons. I found you attractive from the beginning but there was an 18-year age gap and when I started inviting you to the bar after our two-hour lessons it was genuinely to get to know you better. And soon I became entranced by your independence, your humour and your deep cultural knowledge and  yes, I started to imagine what it would be like to hold you in my arms.

How, I wondered at night, could a woman from a large city in a country like yours leave everything and come, alone, to live in a small town in Sicily? You spoke the language and had even taught it in your own country and when we went out you tucked into our scacce and arancini* like a local. But I also came to realise that at times you became frustrated, Vecchietta and I wanted to help you.

We are not used to fiercely independent women in Centochiese, Vecchietta and it took me, in turn, a long time to get used to you. You swore like a man when things went wrong and I found it disconcerting at the beginning.

“It's only a word”, you would say and then you would launch into one of the linguistic theories you liked to expound and I was hooked. I hadn't been around people who'd read much, you see.

And the lessons: I continued with them because my life was falling around my feet and I needed a distraction; my marriage was failing and I spent much of the working week living apart from my wife and children. I didn't want to lose them but I longed for someone who would listen to me. As we spent more time together, I began to realise that the someone was you.

Oh, Vecchietta – if only I'd been content with that; if only I hadn't pushed for a physical relationship.... You resisted for months, citing the age difference, my marriage, the fact that you enjoyed my company as a friend. But you felt the attraction too and sometimes, Vecchietta, there is nothing the two people involved can do about such a matter, except the obvious.

*scacce - focaccia bread (plural)
arancini - rice balls 

To be continued


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