The Trevi Fountain, Rome. Throngs of tourists tossing coins, and Mary wearing sandals slips on slick cobblestones as she hurries toward a side street where shade suddenly blots out the bright sun.
In a hurry now, into a small shop she pokes her head and beckons: “Hello? Ciao. Buon Giornio. Hello?”
An old man emerges, hunched and gaunt. She, in her American way, presses with urgency, “Post cards. Do you have post cards? We are leaving for the airport and must mail them back quickly!
The man shrugs. “Look,” she says, “I have a taxi outside and we must leave immediately. I need at least one postcard and a stamp and I need you to mail it for me. I must have that memory. I do that everywhere I go. To not do so would mean very bad luck. We will probably never set foot in Italy again.”
She reaches out and places a 100 Euro note and a slip of paper in his hand. “Please mail a postcard to this address later today. Do you promise? Do you understand? Capisce?
The man shrugs. Nods. “Molto bene signora” and pockets the money.
She backs out into the narrow street, looking over her shoulder, wanting to trust the man. His eyes are honest. They speak of a long life filled with both joy and sorrow. Earnest lines crease his forehead as small drops of perspiration glisten in the furrows.
From the cab, an annoyed voice screams, “Mary, get in the cab you crazy dingbat. We’re going to miss our flight! Forget about the post card. Don’t you have enough of those already?” “No, she blurts. I don’t have one from Italy and you know how important these are to me Harold, so don’t get me started.” She clambers in and the cab roars away, dodging pedestrians, weaving and swerving.
The shopkeeper watches and shakes his head. “Pazzo.”
On a shelf filled with curios, porcelain dolls, paper fans, and countless sundry items, dust covers the figurines that appear as if they haven’t been handled for years.
Ever since Sofia died he had lost his ambition. The only reason he opened the shop was to revel in her memory. She loved the place. And so he was content. One thing they never sold was tacky post cards.
But he had promised and so he looked.
Under an old copy of Bocaccio’s Decameron he finds a faded sepia post card of a young woman carrying what seems to be bread in a basket. Her head is down and she’s striding with a determined gait. Her gentle face is grimly darkened by a veil from which her eyes peer sadly. This was pre-war. Perhaps 1930. Old. The woman is frozen in time.
Good enough, he thinks while tucking the small card into the same pocket as the 100 Euros and the note.
He carefully locks the door pulling the shade down first and shuffles down the narrow street toward the ufficio postale.
To be continued…