Sunday, March 31, 2013

Chance meeting

     John Bolt drew a line in the sand, took off his shirt and prepared to run jingle jangles. Today would happen quickly then he would be with Sue and then, then he did not know what came next but he would be with Sue and that was all that mattered. He jogged around the open space that looked like a soccer pitch or maybe even sometimes a venue for horse racing and when he had completed his lap, he reversed course and sent a second lap counter-clockwise.
     The sweat began to build, and he picked up his pace, lengthening his strides as well as increasing the tempo.
     After checking his watch, he set the countdown timer to beep at intervals then hammered out a training routine learned from the Kiwi Rex Thompson, who was his first rugby coach and insisted that the key to finding space was catch, pass, run, evade. John had played inside center for the Air Force Academy and not only was he team captain but also named All American.
     Finished with his workout, he stalked to the shade of a solitary olive tree that rose from the base of a rock wall and sat down to gather himself before the jog back to his hotel. At his feet, running left to right was a simple double track with unruly grass defining the middle, across the road was another rock wall, this one in need of repair, and above the disorderly divider was unblemished blue sky. A single magpie flit-floated from out of those skies to perch in the gnarled tree at John’s shoulder. The bird’s eyes were round and shiny, and the sky was now empty but the pensive man did not notice. After placing his backpack against the tree for increased comfort, John closed his eyes and drifted into the future.
     “Your face was twitching. My cat twitches when she is having a nightmare. I knew to wake you so I blew on you.”
     John glanced up to see a young girl with big round brown eyes and a round face framed by dark brown hair. The air smelled of oleander and mimosa.
     “I hope you are not mad at me. I watched you when you were running and sweating. You look much like my father, only different because you have muscles. Have you seen the statues in Rome?”
     Before John could answer, a siren boomed from deep in the city and both looked, trying to follow the bad sound.
     “There was one yesterday. Did you hear it? They say a car and a truck caught on fire and now something today. There is always something. My name is Giada, Giada Cocco.”
     John shifted in order to remain in the shade. He checked his watch and said, “My name is John. Your English is excellent, Giada.”
     Giada sat down next to John in the tight shade. “I go to a very good school. Next year I will learn Japanese or maybe Chinese. When I am done with school, I intend to move to Paris and become a famous fashion model and then an even more famous actress and make movies in America. When I am rich, I will come home to Sardinia and help the poor. Do you think I can be a model?”
     John wiped his face with the back of his hand.
     “I already practice my walk. Would you like to see? I like to practice. It is a good habit. I was on my way to help my grandmother when I saw you. She is not really my grandmother but my mother’s grandmother. She is 102 years old. Did you know that Sardinia has the most people over one hundred years in the world? I think that says something. Are you married, John?”
     He smiled and said, “Yes. I am flying to Africa to be with her this afternoon.”
     “I love flying to Rome. Will you fly to Rome?”
     “I fly to Rome then Cairo.”
     “Do you miss her?”
     “Very much. It took me a while to realize but she is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
     “Do you have any children?”
     “No, but we will start a family soon.”
     All this fresh news brought a change to Giada, something like relief but also disappointment. “I wanted you to kiss me but now that you are married I will not ask you.” Giada paused. “If you were not married would you kiss me?”
     John grinned. “If you were older and I was single then I would kiss you.”
     “Thank you very much, John. It is important for a woman to know that a man will kiss her.” Giada adjusted to keep the shade and now their legs were touching his. “I think too that love is also important. Did you know that the heart is the greatest muscle? It never stops while you live. Women have good heart. It is our nature. That is why a mother controls nature. Sardinia comes from the word sarda, which means woman. It is my destiny, when my heart has grown, to change the world. Can I read your palm?”
     “Sure,” he said and shifted so their legs no longer touched.
     Giada took John’s right hand and turned the palm up. “Do you gamble?”
     “Sometimes I play poker.”
     “Did you know that every poker hand has been played so a good player knows the history of the game and becomes more expert? It is the same; every life has already been lived, just like poker.” She turned his hand over and then turned it back. She wrinkled her face. “I like history. Neither the Phoenicians nor the Romans nor the Nazis could break the men of Sardinia. We are great horsemen. I am taking riding lessons. The ancient warriors of Sardinia used to train their horses to run through the narrow streets so that invaders could not catch them but now the best horses have been sold to Switzerland for meat.” She turned his hand over again.
     “Is there something wrong?” John asked.
     “Your palm says that your time for love in your life is very short but this cannot be because you said you are married, and I see you are very fit.” Giada noticed the change but continued. “Your palm says all close have died and your world spins away and you cannot catch it. Is this why you were having a nightmare?”
     “I have always had nightmares.”
     Staring up at him, Giada touched his hand to her chest and then let go. “Everything grows old here. The island has an olive tree that produces at 3000 years, and I have told you about my grandmother. Will you grow old, John?”
     “I will live long enough to have many children, and I hope we have a girl just like you.” John stood up and sent down a hand. “I have to go.” He helped her to her feet before shouldering his backpack.
     “You think I am silly.”
     John smiled as he drifted to the color movies of Sue when she was about the same age.
     Studying with more than a bit of confusion, Giada removed a crucifix from her neck and presented it to the American. “I will never forget you,” she said and touched his hand.
     Accepting, John closed his palm around the gift, and they smiled at one another then hastened in separate directions as if reluctant. After a dozen steps, John turned and she was gone but her road went on ahead and then disappeared.

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