He had the AC on. He waited for his chance to claim his spot on the highway. He had the radio on. Retro song. He heard the Spanish word colitas in the lyrics. He thought of the language he hadn’t spoken in years. The lilt of her Spanish lived inside his head. Music opened a door that he didn’t want to enter right now. Papà was gone. She was gone. His eyes burned. He had to change the station.
The drive, this embryonic sac of life inside a mechanical beast, would last only so long. He’d have to open the door and take on reality soon. For now, though, for now he’d enjoy the reverie, something on the radio.
The news reported an earthquake in México City. Thousands were missing, feared dead. He heard it in the reporter’s voice. Farrugia deplored this morbid fascination with natural disasters. He heard 8.1 on the Richter scale and the geologist’s analysis. He was thinking concrete and dust. He was thinking Guadalajara cartel, pesos and dollars, cocaine and guns. Those things never slept or died. He turned to another station.
A Ramazzotti tune hurled him back in time. The singer, popular with southern boys such as himself, came from a working-class neighborhood. Ramazzotti had Rome and he, Isidore Farrugia, had San Luca of the Sticks. Different places, but they both shared the same nihilism. He turned the dial again.
He settled into some American music. The synth sounds of Duran Duran recalled parties off the base. Girls with glossed lips and guys with outrageous hair. The synthesizer made its appearance again, rolling in this time with Sting’s breathy ditty about a possessive lover, or was it his homage to Orwell? Never mind. He listened to it anyway.
Madonna made him think of music videos. Video Music, the music channel, was the trend for kids now. He’d see them huddled around a television set, eating up Berlusconi’s programing. Dallas and Dynasty—shows RAI stopped televising after three episodes because of their alleged corruptive power. And he hadn’t forgotten how odd, how cool it was, to have commercials interrupt movies. So fashionable, so chic and cool, so very American. So not RAI.
The sea came into view on his right. Blue raced parallel to the car. The Strait of Messina threatened ahead. He thought of the earthquake he had heard about earlier on the radio. Messina was known for seismic activity. “It could have happened here,” he said to himself.
Soon, he’d see the two rock formations. Homer had sung of Scylla, who ate men and dolphins alike. Scylla had been born a nymph. Glaucus, a fisherman, had fallen in love with her, but had made a terrible mistake; he complained about his unrequited love to Circe. The witch’s brew transformed the attractive girl into a hideous monster with six heads. She raged against the sea from her home in the cliff.
Across from her, there was Charybdis. She was the dutiful and loving daughter of Poseidon. She rode the tides like a California surfer for her father in his war against Zeus. Women always paid the price for men. Zeus exiled her to a cave, to live under a fig tree. Three times a day she’d drink in the sea, ships and sailors with it. Farrugia could hear his old chum Corrado now.
There’s an abundant poetic metaphor for you, Isidò. The Strait of Messina is nothing more than a blue vein between Italy and Sicily. Things are not what they seem, though, because neither blood nor veins are blue. No, they are not. Any kid in elementary biology could tell you that, but we forget what we’ve learned in school. It’s all an illusion. Blood is blood and blood is always red, even when it is starving for breath. Farrugia admitted it; he preferred poetry to science.
Excerpt with permission from Winter Goose Publishing, 2016.