Italy in the russet sunset, burnished gold tipped with dusty pink and faded green, like the spine of an ancient leather hardback. We stand at the edge of a stone balcony overlooking... what.. that pinkgold emptiness, all the way to the mauve horizon, where the moon is bringing her tide of silver. There is a statue of David behind me. Not at the Academia, this one is a bronze replica and he stands in the empty golden aura above Florence, echoing that same faded green in the muscles of his back, his legs. Spires and cathedrals and hillsides on the horizon peeping in the spaces between his limbs.
There is a dinner party later and I am wearing a red skirt and there is a rose behind my ear. I still haven't outgrown this: for dinner parties, a skirt and golden shoes and a red rose. The essential evening outfit. I meet a brown eyed Egyptian tonight who the Americans in my party giggle over. I get nudged in his direction, we kiss outside the tent. My parents inside, laughing over some forgetable hillarity floating their way through the party. We have half an hour together. We spend it kissing and looking at Florence twinkling in the darkness.
Five years later we meet again and I we have two days which we spend in my tiny university room.
I should have left it to the lily pond, to the twinkling lights, and never looked back.
I will never see him again.
The first night in Italy I stand at the hotel balcony and look at a midnight blue sky with the sillhouettes of olive trees and a molten crescent silvering a wedge of sky. The hotel wallpaper is velvet blue. Faded. Satin to the touch. Roses everywhere, on every table, as if someone has stepped from a burning desert into an English garden and become deranged with the delicacy of the pink there. Every table in the lobby, along the corridors, in the restaurant, in every bathroom, by the telephone. When it is dark I slip out of a long sleep and find myself walking these corridors alone, feeling, strangely, as if my grandmother was nearby, her heart tripping just as mine is - nay, because mine is - at the pink, the blue, the moon, the olives, the roses roses everywhere and with their honey scent. The scent sticks to everything and I cannot remember Rome without also recalling roses - climbing roses, tea roses, old roses, every shape and size, pink, deep pink, rose. Everywhere except the jasmine garden behind the hotel, which is tapestry, wrought in blossoms, of the night sky. Deep stone walls with wave upon wave of star shaped flowers, coloured like the moonlight.
Even now, I just have to turn over in my sleep or fall into a daydream or shut my eyes and I tumble back into Italy.
I will always remember this.