Thursday, September 15, 2005

Thurs. Sept. 15
Recounts a tour of Old Things and the Secret Plaster Rendez-Vous

Made a vow to rise at six, so rose at nine. Made a vow to get out of the Apartment of the Lilliputians quick, so about 11:00 we were on our way off to Fiesole, land of the Etruscans and Romans. And, of course, all the current people, who walked about the city in their ancient togas, or their military garb, helmets and all. Tradition lives.

First stop: the archeological site--Roman amphitheater and baths. A sign of the withering of the Empire by the sixth century AD was the presence of burial urns in the baths. When they were in their prime, though, they were as good as the old Sutro's Pools in San Francisco, with hot water, cold water, medium water. And the Romans had space for exercising. This was all on the same level, not 50 yards away from each other. Whatever the size of ancient Fiesole during Roman times (the city has archeological sites dating back at least the third or fourth century BCE), the Romans knew how to live. In the archeological museum were amphoras for wine, votive statuary, and urns with pictures of ancient Roman life.

Then lunch outdoors at a cafe called American Cafe, complete with mannequins sipping wine and beer at a nearby table. Molloy felt eerie at their presence, but he will include some pictures of them. The woman especially, a blue-eyed witch she was, staring at Molloy the whole time, as though trying to hint that he should sidle over and put one of his famous Molloyan moves on her. Molloy thought he saw her cross and uncross her legs several times. The lid came down slowly over the surface of that penetrating glass eye, unmistakable invitation. When her plaster companion went to the restroom (Molloy knew it would take him awhile, slow mover that he was), Molloy slipped into the chair next to her and used one of his most practiced lines: "What's a harrowing, shady, unblemished girl like yourself doing in a hilltop town filled with ancient soldiers and guys with togas?"
She hardly blinked--she was something else. But I saw the quiver in her fingers. She inched her arm in my direction. I could read her like a Ouija board. My stars were in the ascendant. Her soft voice was unmistakable: "I know my place; don't forget yours." Molloy felt the thrill of her charm, the softness behind her implacable, perfect cheeks and sharp-sculpted nose. Thousands of years in the future, archeologists will discover her, unchanged, the perfection of womanhood, and write books about the shapely women of 21st century Italy. My bones, wracked and tormented as those of the ancient Lombard whose 6th century tomb was restored though his flesh and savaqe human spirit could not be, will be stretched alongside, grasping her ankle, my forbidden Lady of the Pedestal.

Her male friend came creaking back. She winked again, another unmistakable message, ambiguous in its import, but clearly so. She nodded slightly toward the building under construction behind her. I was to rendez-vous there, with her; her male partner would hold the table until her return. I wondered briefly about the mechanics of their relationship--was he a brother/partner in incest? a lover/friend? a procurer? I thought the sixties and their "open" situations were past--but here they were again, rearing their morally complex heads, perfect teeth rattling. I rose to make my way into the construction zone, where stone cutters jig-sawed large blocks into place for a new pavement and machines dug mercilessly into the ground for a renovated piazza. Love on the piazza, I thought, and she could return without disarranging a single hair.

But the return bus pulled up, Leanne and I ran for it, made it, leaving Molloy looking back at the curious, motionless couple with their drinks the same level as before, clothes unruffled, in front of the American Bar of Fiesole.


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