Passegiatta Pt. 12byAdrian Leverkuhn©
©2008 ©Adrian Leverkuhn
Ospedali Civili Di Genova
Tom Goodwin sat up in the hospital bed, his back propped up on a stack of stiffly over-starched pillows, looking at Margherita as she slept in a recliner by the window. His head felt better now that he'd managed to get some solid food down earlier that evening, but he still felt light-headed whenever he got out of the bed, and his forehead pounded if he tried to stand. He'd lost fifteen pounds in two weeks and was still as white as the sheets on his bed. He reached across for the cup of crushed ice on the bedside table and knocked it over; water spilled and the cup fell to the floor, waking Margherita from a light sleep.
"Sorry," Goodwin said quietly while trying to get up from the bed.
Margherita opened her eyes and looked around the room; it felt to her like bad memories were alight in the room, their beating wings filling the air over her head with hollow echoes, filling this room with dreadful purpose. She saw Tom struggling to sit up in the bed, and water running off the bedside table onto the floor, and she pushed herself awake. She tossed a washcloth on the table and some napkins on the floor, then stood up beside Goodwin and helped him sit.
"Tom, take deep breath." She caught his wooziness while she looked at the clock on the wall. "It's time for the medication. I am getting the nurse now." She rubbed her eyes while she left the room; Goodwin held on to the bed -- the world resolutely refused to stop spinning despite his best efforts to stop it -- and he looked down at his bare feet swinging just above the cold tile floor, trying to hold a fixed frame of reference.
The night nurse came in and Goodwin groaned. The woman looked like a professional wrestler and was usually about as pleasant, but what really made her attractive, Goodwin thought, was the dark moustache. It matched the circles under the woman's eyes, and her no less her dark mood. She spoke only a little English, and relied on Margherita to translate when necessary.
"Good evening, Nurse Ratchet," he said with his nastiest sarcastic smile plastered on his face. The woman looked at him helplessly and shrugged while she slipped a thermometer under his tongue; an orderly came in and mopped the floor while the nurse continued taking his vitals. She took the probe out of his mouth and read the numbers, wrote them down on his chart, then flipped over to read through the orders once again. She scowled, walked out of the room, and Goodwin sighed.
"She's so talkative and lovely," he said as Margherita came back into the room. "I think we're going to be good friends. Maybe even lovers."
"Shush!" Margherita smiled as she put her finger to her lips. "She doesn't want you to know, but she thinks you have a cute ass."
"I do have a cute ass." Goodwin smiled as she came back in and resumed her place by the window. "I think I remember you telling me just yesterday how cute my ass is."
"You are insufferable, you do know that, don't you?"
"Absolutely. Wouldn't have it any other way."
She said something in rapid-fire Italian and laughed, so he smiled, but then rubbed his temples with his thumbs; soon he lay back on the bed and a chill ran through his body. Another nurse -- probably an aide, he thought -- came in with a fresh cup of ice water and a half dozen pills and Goodwin tossed them down.
"I'd kill for a Coke," he said, and the nurse nodded and left.
"Are you feeling any better?" Margherita asked.
"Actually, I don't think so." He reached up and felt a bead of perspiration forming on his forehead. "Feeling kind of clammy again."
"Clammy? What is this?"
"Hot and sticky. Fever. I think it's coming back." Nurse Ratchet came back into the room; with a saline-filled syringe in hand she came over and flushed out the central line protruding from under his left collar bone, then swabbed off the fittings on a new I.V. bag and hooked it up. She checked the drip rate and made a note on her omnipotent and omnipresent chart. The aide brought in a cup of Coke and more ice.
"Coke good. You drink lots tonight, yes?" She looked down at Goodwin, her coal dark eyes full of unexpected compassion.
He didn't know why, but her eyes choked him up. They caught him off guard, and he felt himself starting to tear up. The nurse ran her fingers through his hair and smiled at him. He raced to put up the wall, raced to hide his feelings. "So, what is it tonight? More Vancomycin?"
"Si, doctore. You temp -- ah -- your temperature is high again. I get you ready for another lumbar puncture later . . ."
"Oh! Goddamn, fuck no, not another. . ." Goodwin started crying openly now, and Margherita came to him and took his hand in her own.
The nurse looked at Margherita, her smile traced with grim lines that radiated strength. "He be okay," she said in English, if only to reassure him. "You going to be fine again."
'Why am I here?'
Margherita Morretti kneeled over the washbasin as another wave of nausea washed over her sweating face. She shuddered and closed her eyes as the bile crept up her throat again; while this wave passed she looked at her reflection in the mirror with barely concealed contempt nauseously filling her heart. She knew she was pregnant but the sickness was coming in nonstop waves now, and the smudged mascara lining her eyes now felt preposterously out of place. She thought she looked hideous, and found the idea mildly amusing.
'Why am I here?' she asked herself again, here in this preposterously tiny restroom. Here as she struggled to hold down another rising tide confusion.
Marc was rehearsing for the big gig tonight; his group was going to perform on a hotel rooftop down by the Ponte Vecchio. Record producers were going to be there, and everyone was excited that this was the big break they'd worked for.
Marc's skills as a keyboardist had grown over the past year, and his group was becoming famous around Florence and much of northern Italy, so much so that they had been billed to open for Emerson, Lake and Powell on their upcoming European tour. They were even making money occasionally and living the high life all the time.
They were, Margherita knew all to well now, living too high most of the time.
The hotel room they'd checked into two days ago smelled of pot and whiskey, the sheets -- soaked with semen and a loose brine of urine-grazed orgasm -- lay on the floor in a ragged heap. She looked at the mess and stifled another heave, then ran her hands under the tap, wiped her face clear of sweat and even tried to clear the black smudgy circles from around her eyes. She stumbled into the room and slipped on fishnet stockings and red thigh-high boots, a short skirt of violet suede topped by a black leather vest. Nothing else covered the rest of her body, and her breasts jutted out proudly. She put on fresh lipstick and touched up her eyes, then hurried back up to the rooftop.
Marc and the guys were running through their progressive rock version of Camille Saint-Saëns' Aquarium sequence from The Carnival of the Animals; the piece had justly put them on the prog-rock map and their hopes of landing a recording contract tonight rested soley on how they performed the piece. Now she watched as Marc ran his fingers over the keyboard -- amazed, as she always was, at his daring virtuosity. She watched his long, slender fingers, thinking as she watched of how he played her body with the same precision, and she trembled at the thought of their making love again and again for all time.
As she listened to the upright bass and the piccolo and the mandolin layered over guitar and drums, she knew the boys were sitting on the cusp of greatness, and she marveled at the sudden turn her life had taken. Just a little more than a year ago she had been festering in that little village, her duplicitous mother infecting everything around their house with her treacherous lies and vasillating half-truthes. How her father had put up with it for all these years! But she had left all that behind now, and she felt like she was making her own run for the stars. She'd never once looked back, and never would, she told hersself. She didn't care if she ever saw any of of her family again, and she'd told them exactly that.
The boys finished rehearsing and everyone made for their room -- to ease up for a while before the big gig tonight -- to take another quick trip together, so to speak.
And while it wasn't a quick trip, it most certainly was a weird one. And almost a bad trip. . .
Whether it was the acid they'd scored from some kids at the university or the heroin a drummer from L.A. gave them, Marc got seriously fucked up while Luc, the group's vocalist, went out on a catatonic tour of the Milky Way for a few thousand years. When they were called to the rooftop as night fell over the city, they stumbled onto the stage and into the light and never once looked back.
Of the critics who attended the performance that night all were unanimous in their utter astonishment at the groups explosive virtuosity, the serious, indeed profound musicianship on display, and the almost painfully beautiful rendition of Saint-Saëns' Aquarium. Agents swarmed over them after their performance - but these parasites parted as representatives from Atlantic Records surrounded the boys. It was a new day now.
And two days later the boys were in L.A.
Margherita remained in Florence for a few days, then decided to head to Genoa.
She called Marc a week later, and he told her how well things had been going.
She asked what all these changes would mean. What would all these changes meant to their relationship?
He told her he'd been thinking a lot about these things, and it wouldn't be fair to make her go through all this Hollywood crap, that life was getting too complicated, and that it would be best to end things now.
Margherita felt violently ill the next morning. She was spotting and her belly was hot and tender. She took a taxi to the nearest hospital; later that afternoon she miscarried. She took a bus back to Portofino a week later and moved into a little flat Vico found her. She took a job cleaning hotel rooms and disappeared into the anonymity of the life that had claimed her.
And she remained good to her word and never told anyone in her family she had returned.
There was no need, really, and she knew it.
She was going round and round; it was like she was on a carousel now, and there was no way to get off.
She listened to Goodwin as he slept; she could hear the little trembles that shook his lips when he took a breath and she tried to smile. She looked at the half finished Coke on the bedside table and watched as little silver drips cued up at the bottom of the I.V. bottle and fell into the tubing that ran silently into his chest . . . and as she watched she felt utterly devoid of even the simplest hope. It was as if she was watching him die right before her eyes, yet she understood that wasn't really the case.
Maybe it was because the room smelled as it had twenty years ago. This building made her skin crawl every time she saw it -- even from a safe distance -- and to even bring to mind the simplest awareness that she was pregnant again and the world crushed in on her from every direction. She felt like she needed to run every time she walked the corridors of this personal Hell, but there was no where to go but back to Goodwin and to the hope she prayed would find her.
So the carousel just kept turning, there never seemed to be enough time to get off, and she felt as if her life was becoming bound up in circles and cycles beyond her understanding.
She watched sweat soak through his gown and started to cry.
Paul Goodwin lifted his suitcase up onto the scales; the check-in agent tisk-tisked and shook his head. "Three pounds over, sir. That'll be seventy five dollars extra, sir."
Goodwin smiled at the agent and put down the cash; he just managed to keep his mouth shut. He was enjoying this too much.
"I see you requested a window seat, sir. We can accommodate that request, but that will be an additional fifty dollars. Premium seating, you know."
"Really? Is the flight full?"
"No, sir. Shall I find you a cheaper seat?"
"Oh, no. Heaven forbid. I'm sure all your customers must love being ripped off like this."
"Sir, please watch your attitude. We're required to report all abusive remarks to the TSA."
"Yes, I imagine you are." Goodwin slipped a few more bills on the counter. "That enough? Anything else you can get me for?"
The agent smiled as he printed up the boarding pass, his sense of victory apparently complete, then he reached down to put the baggage tracking bar-code on Goodwin's bag.
"I thought I was headed to Rome?" Goodwin said, now enjoying this game even more.
"You are indeed, sir."
"Oh. Well, I wonder if you might put the correct airport designator on my luggage. You've got mine headed for Roanoke. Last I heard, Rome was in Italy, not Virginia."
"Oh! I am sorry sir. Let me fix that for you!" The man smiled as before, but Goodwin could see he'd deliberately made the switch. The agent knew he'd been caught.
"Thanks. Oh, by the way, could I have your name please, and employee I.D. number?"
"Well, see, I used to fly these things for a living, and for some reason they asked me to perform random courtesy inspections of staff whenever I fly. You know, fill out reports on folks who've been, well, helpful. You know what I mean?" He pulled out his corporate I.D. and flipped it open so the man could read it. "Actually, it's about the only thing I like about being retired." His eagle's eyes were leveled now, boring right into the agent's. Goodwin wrote down the man's information slowly, carefully, drawing out the agony as long as he could.
"Sir? Could I move you up to business class? No charge, of course!" the agent laughed knowingly at this little humor.
"No, that's alright, Bruce. I'm sitting up front tonight. Jumpseat."
"I hear they might be hiring at Wal-Mart."
Goodwin turned and walked off toward security. He whistled an old Disney tune as he got in line.
Trudi Blixen sat in Springer's cockpit, Elsie draped across her legs. She scratched behind the pups ears almost absent-mindedly while she looked at the water behind the boat -- even now almost expectantly. Several times the big male dolphin -- the one with scars behind the eye -- had shown up and looked around for a minute before moving on. There was no pattern to these appearances, but she had seen him three or four times, at least. Mary Ann Doncaster seemed to imply there was nothing unusual about this, and this assertion had flummoxed her. She had been quite simply dumbfounded by a few of the comments all the members of this little circle of friends had made about their associations with these dolphins, and she had become all the more intrigued when the one Malcolm called Two Scar began showing up in the marina.
Then there was the matter of the Doncaster's dog, Elsie. Despite the fact that Tom Goodwin was laid up in the hospital, the dog would not leave Goodwin's boat except to do her business. Then she pulled and strained to get back to Springer and seemed almost physically pained until she got back to Goodwin's bunk. After settling-in there for a while she'd be fine with climbing back up to the cockpit to resume her watch for Two Scar.
The first time the dolphin appeared she'd heard the dog jump down onto the swim-platform, and she'd run up from the galley to investigate. The dolphin and Elsie had been only inches apart and staring intently at each other. She looked at them for a moment and was left with the impression the two had -- somehow -- been communicating. Each subsequent time the dolphin appeared the two went through the same display.
'There's a link between these animals and Goodwin,' she told herself one afternoon after a particularly long encounter. 'He's come to see if he's back yet from the hospital!'
It was like peeling an onion! Remove one layer and another more supple layer appeared!
"How very strange indeed!" she said to Elsie that evening. The dog looked at her and smiled, then turned back to look into the black water.
A red-eyed Paul Goodwin arrived in Rome early Friday morning. He made his way to the train station and hopped onto the first express to Genoa and bought his ticket on board. After the train cleared the city he made his way to the café car and took a seat. A waiter approached and asked him what he wanted.
"Coffee. And keep it coming until we pull into the station."
The waiter had no idea what the disheveled American had asked for, but from the looks of him he could guess.
Goodwin looked out the window as the landscape slipped by smoothly; once out of the urban nightmare, he thought, it still looked pretty much the same as it always had. One thing was unchanged, and that was the sky. There was always a hazy tan quality to the sky around Rome that had bothered him for years
Coffee came and he took a sip and scrunched up his nose: "Battery acid! God I love Italy!"
The waiter stomped off -- hating anything and everything about Americans.
He looked as the coast came into view, and at the incredible blue water that still seemed so full of mystery.
He knew they were out there, waiting.
He just wasn't sure yet what he was going to say to them.
End Part XII or XIV