Twelve years since I sat in a loose chair on a piazza, staring off at the rooftops. I was finishing my novel. It seemed easy, after lunches of bresaolo and long walks.
Our bellies are full. N turns to me sometimes, a quiet smile plastered across her face. She has never been here before.
Squash blossoms, artichokes and a sun that spreads sideways into rooms are the language of Rome. I wander the ghetto, taking pictures of old men as they become silhouettes. We take a walk long after midnight, me still drunk on Arneis and wild boar. The city breathes us in, holds us for a moment then lets us go.
In Florence, there is a cold wind and a deep blue sky. I call E, making jokes, wishing her sweet dreams. She asks me what presents I have bought for her. I miss her terribly.
Before I left, I gave her my last red notebook. I wrote a message to her on the first page, telling her to fill it with stories I could read when I got back in a few days. Her chin slumped, tears splashing on the empty paper.
"I'll be ok, Pop." She said, nodding once.
I am starting my new book in Italy.
I told her I had to come to write it, just the first page.
"I understand." She whispered, squeezing my hand.