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November 19, 2019 | Rome, Italy

Vibrator

By | 2018-03-21T20:04:12+01:00 November 6th, 2016|Area 51|
Italy can seem like a red-light district.
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p high, when the earth below does its undulating samba, you think of sex. I do. Sex in the way cheap motel mattresses once started shimmying after you stuffed their bedside slit with a dirty old quarter. “¢25 for a relaxing massage,” said the bed. Hot middle earth doesn’t need a quarter. Every few months in these parts it massages everything for free.

I’m a veteran of the vibration. I’ve lived in Rome long enough to known when a seismic caress starts stops its sashaying foreplay and turns rough. A few dozen times over four decades I’ve been alone in my apartment — appropriately on my mattress — when the nearby inner earth, usually a little north, a little south, got to swaying, pushing my bed that much closer to Valhalla while opening a crack or two on bullied walls that can’t say no. There’s been a lot of this pushing and cracking lately.

Blame on Donald Trump, or ISIS, or the FBI. In truth, it’s all about the lascivious Apennines, Italy’s San Andreas-like spine, a long scrunch of edgy ripples that extend south-to-north from Sicily to Liguria. Appropriately, they belong to an erotic slice of geology known as a “fold and thrust belt,” a covenant of hot rocks eager to get their way near and under the Tyrrhenian Sea. Compression and conversion are the going scientific words, but take some license and you get the idea the African continent can’t get enough of pushing and shoving northward, prowling the fault-friendly Apennines for a place, anyplace, where it can blow off steam. Or worse.

Put these factors in a pressure cooker and your mattress acquires a head of steam. One afternoon paintings tremble, another night bookcases dance. At times Rome would seem to be asking for it. Yet it’s not.

If the east teases the south, seismic coaxing galore, the west is far more prudish, even Vatican-like, western fault-block mountains arrayed against the eastern fold and thrust. Which means Rome gets only heavy petting, notions of grope without the hand itself; intimations of destruction without the actual collapse. In Rome, panic takes over while the real thing has its way in the hills. That’s just the manner of things.

But it doesn’t stop books from falling, or the dog in the roadway from barking, or an old wall or two from letting fissures have their way. Nor does it stop people here and there from leaving their palazzos and standing in droves, dazed lunatics in front of giant entryways, gabbing about the end of the world while waiting for the thrusting to end, all the while excited by the unifying commotion.

I don’t join them. I instead peruse the arousing literature of earthquakes, finding lines like, “The Apennines are slumping away to the northeast into the Po Valley and the Adriatic foredeep,” lines that make me wish I could set aside the quarter-slot mattress and arrange a meeting with a “slumper” in the “foredeep,” promising not to look at its crusted halter-top. Vowing not to get the shakes. Just feeling my way around until one day my own geography indicates it’s sated, and all of me heads south for good.

About the Author:

Christopher P. Winner
Christopher P. Winner is a veteran American journalist and essayist who was born in Paris and has lived in Europe for more than 30 years.

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