e’re back in Milan from a few summer weeks at Lago Maggiore. Alberto has already returned to work but I still have a few vacation days left. This is a perfect time for housecleaning. Yesterday I threw out half of our old CD collection. Today I attack the bookshelves. Books pile up over the years. Some I read and didn’t impress me; others I got as gifts but weren’t to my taste. Now they just collect dust.
As I go about my cleanup I find a slender book by Richard Bach called “There’s No Place As Far Away.” Alberto sent it to me as a gift after his first visit to Canada. It was sweet gesture, even though self-actualization isn’t my thing and I never read Bach’s 1970s bestseller “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”
Though the book brought back memories, mementos generally don’t impress me. In fact, I’m not very sentimental at all. Toss it or keep it? It’s a keepsake after all, and it doesn’t take up much room. I decide to keep it.
I open the cover and the letter he sent with the book falls onto my lap. I open it:
I’m so happy for the days I spent with you… I can remember any second with you, any place we visited, any word you said, any kiss… I’m astonished in front of what is going on in myself and in my life, and frightened a little bit too.
I told you, ‘ti voglio bene’ (the words in the song “Caruso”): as I told you, it’s an Italian expression, not translatable, meaning more or less, you are so dear for me that I want you any good. But it was a euphemism: Now I’m realizing that I’m probably falling in love with you. If I’ve not been able to tell it, I hardly can write. Please don’t laugh and even worry! I can manage it somehow: I’m 41!! Even if, as you know very well I’m not an expert in love affairs, I’m not 20 in any sense.
In your previous letter you said: long distance love affairs are a good deal only for airlines and telephone companies… but you know, sometimes things happens in spite of you.
Feeling your hand looking for me for love and sex, falling asleep in the night after love, awaking with a kiss, drinking our coffee together beginning whispering a few words, and little by little… slowly beginning the new day. This make me the happiest man in the world.
I wonder if to write or not this kind of letter and I decided not to write. And here’s what I’m writing anyway.
You know I’m not a gambler, neither lucky, but I think I could take a chance.
Now I quit writing, but not before telling you how I miss you and how I hope to see you soon.
I wipe a tear from my eye, replace the letter in the book and put it back on the shelf. I look over at the photo of the two of us that’s stuck on the cupboard door. Each time I do I shake my head and smile. I remember feeling so grown up and mature at the time. We were so young. Years are only one way of measuring the passage of time and we have grown older together.
I sit down at my computer and write.
Thank you for your letter and having the courage to tell me how you feel. Yes, you did frighten me a little. I think I too felt that this might lead to something more than a brief, long distance friendship.
I didn’t know at the time, but because of you my life has changed. You are the person I chose to take my journey with. Along the route, we have shared sunshine and listened to the birds singing, traversed the bumps and sidestepped the mud puddles. Each night I have fallen asleep with your kiss and woken up to another in the morning. You are the man with whom I share a bed and have given my very delicate heart to care for. Thank you for choosing me as your traveling companion. All my love.
This fall Alberto and I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary — legally married in the small Canadian town of Cobourg, Ontario on September 16, 2005. I don’t have the slightest idea what to get him as a gift. On July 5, the anniversary of my coming to Italy 14 years ago, I gave him the official Mickey Mouse “Vintage” Watch. Four years before that, 18 years ago, that we met on rock in Mykonos.
So what to get him: Jewelry? Clothes? Electronic junk? I truly don’t think there’s a thing in the world he really needs or wants. Then it hits me. The best idea might be a dinner reservation at Piero e Pia. It’s friendly and in the neighborhood. It’s intimate. It’s someplace we’ve shared, and given the nature of the occasion that’s probably the most important thing of all.